Fighting for Recovery at Work – Part 2

Guest blogger Ashley Smith continues her series on 5 Steps to Fighting for Recovery at Work:

Third, ask for accommodations at work. When my symptoms were bad, I reduced workhours. While this option is controversial because we may not want to disclose the fact that were having health issues, seeking accommodations should be considered. Accommodations may look like reducing hours, workload, taking more breaks, and sick leave.  How can somebody work when they cannot function?! Also, some companies offer mental health or self-care days, employment assistance programs, and benefits that is family and medical leave. 

Steps 4 and 5 to follow in second blog entry.

The fourth step is vital to the recovery journey. That is your support system. When going through it at work it is important to stay connected to others. Loved ones may ask: are you okay? You looked stressed out? Do you need to take a break?  Therefore, let your friends and family know that you need more support. Lean on more than two people that way you’re not putting too much on one individual. Stay in the loop with people by text and other electronic channels. Send a selfie picture for them to see your hair, eyes, and facial expression—these may seem like subtle cues, but your loved ones know when you’re off balance by your presentation, which other people might overlook.

Also, your punctation in text messages may seem different. Do a video call or just talk on the phone. Your tone of voice could let your closest supporters know you are going through something. When you visit them in-person carry out activities that you both enjoy. For example, cooking, playing cards, walking, watching your favorite shows or movies, etc. Other ways to get involved may include getting involved in a support group, going to the park, and coffee shop, etc. Staying connected is very important. It is critical to the recovery journey because we all need support to thrive in life.

Finally, acknowledge the need to change your routine. In the past, I recognized how my self-care routine was not a priority and this effected my overall wellness. Therefore, I practiced the tips I outlined above: 1) look at your early warning signs, 2) discuss concerns with your health team, 3) seek accommodations at work, 4) gather supporters for assistance, and 5) develop a new routine. Being intentional about self-care needs, support, and treatment are essential to fighting for wellness at work.

Again, I encourage you to look at therapy to strengthen coping strategies. I’ve created many coping tools with my therapist over the years and even though I may become challenged at work or in other areas, I recycle wellness activities. In fact, my top self-care priorities right now are prayer, therapy, journaling, walking, checking in with a family and friends, and resting. Everybody’s focus may be different, but the struggle is real, and symptoms are too. Still, stay hopeful and connected with your network. If necessary, ask for accommodations. Continue to believe you will overcome situations with mental health and get back to work in a good place.


To learn more about Ashley Smith visit her blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia and purchase her lasted blog book, What’s on My Mind? Volume I, Revised Edition. The blog examines her life in recovery. Ashley discusses symptoms and alternative coping strategies. She empowers others with hope. Her blog book, What’s on My Mind? Volume I, Revised Edition, is a collection of blog articles from Overcoming Schizophrenia (2008—2013), that explores how she learned of her diagnosis, became a mental health advocate, and manages recovery. Ashley Smith is a former state NAMI Georgia board member, state trainer, and group facilitator. She serves on the advisory council of the CURSZ Foundation. Ashley works as a peer counselor known as a certified peer specialist (CPS) in Georgia. Read more about Ashley Smith:

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5 Steps to Fighting for Recovery at Work

Today I’m featuring a two-part series of blog entries that guest blogger Ashley Smith is taking over to post. She has been blogging on her own for over 10 years. Here Ashley writes about how to fight for recovery at work. Steps 1 and 2 start off the series.


5 Steps to Fighting for Recovery at Work:

Fake it till you make it. That’s how others tried to motivate us to get the job. This mindset motivates us in the short-term, however, it doesn’t meet the demands living with mental illness. Symptoms vary, but no matter the struggle they are all severe because it effects the ability to function in the workplace.

I understand the challenges all too well. Despite living with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, which is schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined, I aim to manage employment. Yet, working continues to present problems because the illness affects my thought process and behavior. Some of the symptoms I experienced over the years included suspiciousness, anxiety, bizarre beliefs, catatonia, seeing and hearing things that others don’t, high energy, and depression. I take medication, but pills can’t control all the complexities of a brain condition. Still, I fight for wellness and tackle symptoms with support.

What do you do when symptoms make your job difficult to manage? Here are five steps to pressing forward in your recovery: 1) Identify the early warning signs, 2) talk to your treatment team, 3) discuss accommodations with your employer, 4) rally your support system, and 5) create a new routine.

First, common early warning signs of mental health may look like poor sleeping patterns, a change in appetite, challenges with maintaining house chores, and a shift in moods that effects relationships and performance at work. Whenever I’m not sleeping and eating well, I suffer through the workday. How can someone work long hours, concentrate on tasks, and complete their job duties effectively when they don’t feel well? Generally, I keep my home presentable. However, a cluttered house can translate into a cluttered mind. Eventually, poor management of self-care, house chores, and eventually work performance. Prior to symptoms at work, you may have exhibited some of the early warning signs of imbalance. Seek professional support.

Second, discuss changes in meeting daily self-care needs, work deadlines, and other challenges with your treatment team. I’ve had to adjust the dosage of my medication. And later recognize that I wasn’t taking my medications as prescribed. Once, I took a medicine that is best taken at night with other prescriptions in the morning that effected my energy level at work. Other times changing dosages and medication didn’t resolve issues. In addition to that, I increased therapy sessions to process daily stressors. I encourage everybody to consider therapy because it is a great asset to recovery.

Steps 3, 4, and 5 coming up.

Reentering the Workforce After a Breakdown

Ashley Smith blogger extraordinaire is featured today as my Guest Blogger talking about:

Reentering the Workforce After a Breakdown.

In her own words she’ll talk about her experience plus give tactics that could help peers.

How to Reenter the Workforce After a Breakdown:

I worked many jobs prior to my first breakdown at age 20. I started working when I was 14 years old. I struggled to maintain jobs, but didn’t understand why. I didn’t know I had a diagnosis. My last breakdown occurred in 2018. There were a series of stressful events that led to my meltdown.

After the hospitalization I participated in weekly therapy sessions and developed an extensive health plan. I worked hard to build myself up to return to work. I carried out a range of steps to restore wellness. I managed a daily routine which consisted of walking around my neighborhood for 15 to 45 minutes, journaling, listening to entrepreneur empowerment talks on YouTube, and reciting affirmations along with my prayers. I kept all doctor and therapy appointments and continued to take my medication.

I developed a variety of projects such as my book, Coping Takes Work. I also took on small jobs as a freelance writer and blogger. When I built up my confidence I steadily applied for jobs. I utilized my network and let associates know that I was looking for work. A great resource that I utilized for my job search was reading Christina Bruni’s book, Working Assets. The book is filled with important tips and strategies on how to re-enter the workforce while living with a diagnosis.

It took several months to get back into the workforce due to my health concerns, COVID-19, and job availability. I didn’t take the first job that was offered to me, because I weighed my pros and cons. I was mindful of my family needs and the demands of the position. When I accepted my job I made a commitment to focus on stress management techniques to maintain wellness in order to work.

Yet, keeping a daily self-care ritual is challenging. However, I learned to recognize when it’s time to change my routine. Currently, I manage my health by practicing stress management skills. My stress management plan consists of self-reflection time, confidence-building activities, and participating in therapy.

Finally, as I reflect on my experience I urge peers to create an individualized plan of action to maintain their wellness and jobs. I support alternative healthy coping skills that help people. Lastly, I define recovery as staying in your good place, therefore, create that good place by managing your stress and taking control of recovery and life as best you can.

–Ashley Smith

Read her blog at Overcoming Schizophrenia here.

Coping Takes Work

I gave Ashley Smith the author of the book above a review of her book for the back cover.

I recommend you buy What’s on My Mind? Coping Takes Work. The book gives great information about coping with challenges while living in recovery.

While I do reveal details of my own life in my 3 blogs I carefully choose what I write to send out to everyone in the world.

Ashley Smith’s unvarnished honesty is the selling point of her blog and her books.

Coping Takes Work is even better than her first book that I wrote the Foreword to.

We need more peers like Ashley Smith who are willing to stand up and speak out to tell our stories

You can read her Overcoming Schizophrenia blog. I have been reading her blog since 2008 when she first starting keeping it with no photos and using an anonymous name.

For 12 years she’s been going strong as a go-to blogger on the topic of mental health and recovery.

Coping Takes Work Amazon page.