I would love to take a moment to explain how the concept of PsychLife Tee Co. was born, but to do that, I need to tell you a little bit about myself.
I am from Auburn, Alabama...WAR EAGLE! I received my Bachelors degree from Florida State University...GO 'NOLES! When I initially went to college, I was Pre-Med Psychology, but it didn't take me long to convince myself that I was not "good enough" in math and science, so I quickly changed my major to something completely different - International Affairs with a minor in Religion.
I moved back to Alabama after graduation and began working in the insurance industry. I convinced myself that climbing the corporate ladder was "good enough" for me, so I obtained a Masters in Healthcare Administration to make myself more marketable for the company. After changing roles several times within the company, I noticed that something was gnawing at me. Something deep inside my heart was yearning for something far greater than what my employer could offer me. My heart wanted to care for people. I wanted to truly touch lives from a clinical perspective.
I shared my heart with my husband and with his support, I decided to go back to school for nursing. Since I already held a graduate degree, I decided I would pursue an Associates' degree to become a registered nurse. I graduated in 2012 and started my nursing career in the NICU taking care of tiny babies! It was a wonderful experience in the NICU, but after a year, I left and began working at a rehabilitation hospital where I cared for patients at the opposite end of the spectrum. I cared for older patients who had suffered broken bones, heart attacks or strokes. I enjoyed taking care of my patients, but what I noticed was that the yearning feeling described earlier still had not gone away. I was finally doing what I always wanted to do which was to work in healthcare and touch peoples' lives, so why was I still longing for something else?
I started looking for a new nursing position again and on the hospital's website was a position in acute psych. I was immediately excited about the opportunity. I was so thrilled at the thought of being a psych nurse as I recalled how I loved psych patients when I was in clinicals during nursing school. I was offered the job and off on a NEW JOURNEY!
From day one, I knew I was finally "home" because that "feeling" was GONE! Once I oriented to psych, I spent most of my time on the adolescent wing. We cared for kids who were wards of the state. The kids' backgrounds varied, but the common denominators were hurt, rejection, abandonment, and fear. When you add a mental health diagnosis on top of the aforementioned descriptors, it can make for very unhappy adolescents who don't know how to trust, don't know who to trust and certainly don't how to love or who to love due to deep wounds from broken promises and trauma that one can only imagine.
After a year in the adolescent unit, I moved to Texas with my family and started working at an acute psychiatric unit at the Veterans Hospital. The first thing I noticed when I began working with the adult population was that it was eerily similar to working with the adolescents, but just on a grander scale as the symptoms of the mental illness were more pronounced. The common thread between populations was that they were people who felt dejected for more reason than one. Additionally both populations expressed shame for their mental health illness. They expressed how they looked down upon and treated differently because of their mental health illness. Both described feeling ostracized for something beyond their control and my heart ached for all of them. Each time I listened to their stories, I walked away wondering - What contributions can I make to the world to prevent people from feeling this way?"
I returned to school in 2019 in pursuit of becoming a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and graduated in August 2021 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham...GO BLAZERS! After graduation, I took some time to SELAH and thoughtfully consider how to impact mental health. This is when PsychLife Tee Co. was born. It was my desire to create a positive experience for those who felt "different" by normalizing the conversation around mental health. My challenge to all mental health professionals, PMHNPs, psych nurses, social workers, psychologists, pastoral counselors, mental health counselors and nurse assistants is to keep going and to start a movement UNTIL THE STIGMA IS NO MORE!
Ashley P. Evans, MHA, MSN, PMHNP-BC
CEO & Founder PsychLife Tee Co.