Living With Mental Illness is Like Swimming With A Great White Shark Lurking Nearby

Recently, I have been waking up every morning and thinking, “Another day. Ho hum. Just another day,” while feelings of melancholy fill my heart and ache my soul. Although writing this reminds me that it is not just another day. It is more than another day and I am blessed to be in this day, blessed to be alive. I need to remind myself that every day is a precious gift and I need to find a way to celebrate it and find a way to celebrate me and love myself.

However, the truth is often times mental illness wins and is stubborn, shuts me out and obviously has a mind of its own. The reality of depression hits hard as I try to fight to keep my sanity before it wins and destroys once again as it has done so savagely in the past, before it overtakes what I have battled to win.

My PTSD triggered some depression and memories of regrets and mistakes I have made after mental illness struck. Besides the painful symptoms of mental illness I often must fight through the painful reminders of the destruction that mental illness caused in my life, the mistakes I made while I fought to survive a disease that was killing me from the inside out. I must fight how the stigma of mental illness reared its ugly head through the years in many subtle and blatant gruesome ways.

Countless times my brain was in so much distress that I was not living but was surviving, doing anything just to make it through another day. I made many mistakes along the way. and behaved in ways that I would “normally” not do. I felt like if I did not do this or that I could not go on. It was the only solution and it was better than the alternative of not making it.

Presently, I am battling through the destruction that living with mental illness for over two decades has caused. I am looking at how my life turned out because I had the misfortune of getting mental illness. I grieve for what life would have been for me and who I could have become.

I grieve for friends I would have had. Instead I do not have any friends. Not one. Again let me repeat, not one.

Part of the problem with that is that I am afraid to make friends and have friends because I really do not know how to after all these years living a mental illness life. I also fear getting hurt. Living a mental illness life caused me to be hurt so often and so deeply I cannot touch that pain again. It frightens me so intensely that I stay away from it.

Today I do not feel like I am likeable. Who could like someone who has lived through what I have and has done the things I did for survival or not. I am not a good person because of the pain I have lived through. No one wants to deal with what the truth is. No one wants to hear it. It is too much. It is too much for me. I have to battle through it and no one else needs to or deserves to listen to what I have endured for too long. The pain that a mental illness life caused is beyond what most people could even remotely comprehend, so they don’t. They don’t want to know that kind of pain.

I can pretend for a while, but after a while the memories resurface and I have to fight through them. I try not to live in the past but that is where I am today. I will stop visiting my past soon and will keep soul searching. I will get beyond my melancholy so I can enjoy the beauty of living again. I will work through it because I have no other choice.

I will work hard to be present today. I will live for today. I will appreciate that I survived and overcame more than I like to remember.

Today melancholy causes me to want to and need to be alone. I will bask in my solitude. As I fight through the darkness melancholy is causing, I will search for the flicker of light. I will let the sun shine in on my gray mind and heart.

Melancholy is an old friend I have known since I was a child. It’s familiarity sometimes brings a peaceful contentment, but the reality of sightings of the great white shark lurk nearby.

© 2020 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: Photo by Alex Steyn on Unsplash

An Unwelcome Itch – a poem

Mental illness is a bitch

that leaves an unwelcome itch

I cant scratch away.

Believe me. I’ve tried all day.

Can’t remove this crud

that entered like mud

after Hurricane Fred

entered inside my head

and very soon spread,

multiplied and bled

throughout my insides.

Been swept away by the tides

of depression and anxiety,

maybe triggered by PTSD.

Who knows. Doesn’t matter

as long as I don’t splatter

and get any fatter

by eating from the platter

of anger and disgust.

Piss me off in the dust.

Come back coping strategies.

Do your healing thing, please,

before it’s too late

and love becomes hate

and I deteriorate

inside my crate of fate

which lingers and looms

above the darkest of glooms

and deciduous tombs.

Help me. I cry.

Like a sty in my eye,

you are unwelcome here.

Your presence I fear,

quick departure I cheer.

Oh, I pray it’s near.

Ready to be free of this mental illness bug

Such a cruel, heartless, destructive thug.

Why me?

Why not me?

Just flee out of me.

Mental illness let me be.

I’ve had more than enough

of your disgusting stuff.

I’m tired

and wired

like a barbed wire fence

poking me and hence

the discomfort and pain.

No wonder I’m stained.

~written by Susan Walz

© 2020 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Oops. I Forgot to Take Care of My Physical Health

It it imperative to take care of both our physical health and mental health. For years I have worked diligently on my mental illness recovery and recently maintaining my mental wellness. In the process, I recently overlooked taking care of my physical health.

Soon after I began teaching at my new job with the little ones, I got a cold. I powered through, kept going and thought I beat it. A few days later, I thought I must have gotten a new virus or my symptoms became worse. I had severe joint pain, body aches and respiratory junk but thought it must just be another virus. There was a lot of stuff going around and many of my students were sick.

I had too much to learn and do at my new job. I felt like I was too new to miss work. So, I just kept working even though my cold symptoms continued to get worse. They wouldn’t go away but it was not the worst thing I ever experienced so I kept working and doing everything I needed to do. As soon as life became easier and slowed down a bit I would go to the doctor.

Some days my symptoms felt better and I thought I was improving, but it just wouldn’t fully go away. Other days I felt plain miserable but powered through and went to work despite how awful I felt physically. I had to keep going.

Besides being busy with my new teaching job, Christmas was fast approaching and there were many preparations for that. I put up my Christmas tree and decorated my house, made cookies, went shopping and wrapped presents. I also helped  babysit my four month old granddaughter and sewed projects for my daughter’s dance studio. It was a lot, but I never wanted to let people down again. I had done that for too long and too often when I was ill with my mental illness symptoms throughout the years. I was mentally well now and wanted to help everyone I could.

I went to Minneapolis for Christmas to be with my family and help my mom with all the cooking. We had seventeen people there on Christmas and I had a wonderful Christmas despite being sick with my respiratory junk. I knew I was getting worse but pretended I was well as I could. I was a master of pretending to be well when I wasn’t. It wasn’t easy but was a skill I mastered living with mental illness for many years.

The day after Christmas, I couldn’t do it anymore and drove myself two and half hours to the Urgent Care in my town. I had pneumonia.

I was sick, fatigued and couldn’t breathe. Even though I was so physically miserable, it still felt better than being ill with mental illness symptoms and from the side effects from psychotropic medications. I have had other physical illnesses as well but I still feel there is nothing worse than mental illness. Not in my experiences anyway.

I was physically sick but at least my brain was still functioning well. I was still me and didn’t have the interference from psychotropic medications interfering with my ability to recover and live.

Lesson learned for me is to not overlook my physical health again. I need to be proactive with my physical health as much as I am with my mental health. Bottom line is I need to take care of myself better. Some people overlook their mental health but in the process of maintaining my recovery and mental wellness I overlooked my physical health. I must work on that.

After taking a course of antibiotics, three days of Prednisone and a lot of rest, I am feeling well and can finally breathe again. Hurray.

Mental, physical and spiritual health are EQUALLY important in maintaining optimal health and well being. Something I must always work on.

Stay healthy. Keep fighting bravely.

Find your hope. Live in the moment. Love deeply.

And always remember…



© 2020 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Sarah Rose and the Mental Wellness Club

We held hands and smiled at each other as we walked to her room. “What does that say?” I asked her as I pointed to a plaque outside her room.

She studied it for a few seconds and it was as if a flicker of light went off inside her as she proudly grinned and said, “Sarah Rose Johnson.” Proud of herself for remembering, proud of her name or a little of both. Only she knew for sure or maybe she didn’t know.

As we continued walking into her room, her eyes widened with delight as she recognized people in the pictures on her wall. Beaming with pride she said, “Those are my children.” Pointing at each one as she said their names. “Bill, Daniel, Michelle and Joy.” Staring into the mirrors of younger days she added, “But that was a long time ago. They were little then. ”

“You have beautiful children. You are very blessed Sarah.”

“Thank you.”

“I bet you were a great mom. They are blessed to have you as their Mommy,” I say trying to keep this rare moment of clarity going as long as possible.

Sarah quietly studied the photographs as if she could hear them speak to her. I let her take it all in as long as I could.

“Okay, Sarah we need to go into the bathroom now.” I said as I gently lead her away from the photographs into her bathroom to complete the mundane routine I was there to help her with. I wished I could have visited with her longer but unfortunately, I did’t have time to do that as I had many other residents to care for during my shift.

After we finished, I helped her walk down the hall to sit back down on the couch in front of the television set.

From a distance, I saw two residents having a conversation. It looked like they were good friends having a great conversation about current events or gossiping about an old friend. When I got closer I heard Amber say to June, “The balloon varies widely after red and small between the elephants but I eat the darkness.” June smiles back at her as if she understood.

These are just a sample of the type of experiences I encounter working as a resident care assistant in a memory care unit. I am happy I can help the residents as I try to make some of their last days be as happy, good and love-filled as I can. Every day I am devastated and fascinated at how the brains works as it functions and deteriorates inside the minds of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Even in the midst of my mental illness, I have always been fascinated with our brains–the enormity of what it can do when it is functioning normally and optimally and how it can destroy lives in an instant from a chemical imbalance, defect, or disease.

Our brains are the control center of our beings and yet we minimize the impact mental illness has on people’s lives. Everyone needs to take care of their mental health and we urgently need to end the stigma of mental illness and end the notion that we are bad, unimportant, inadequate, worthless, stupid or weak when our brains become ill. Mental illness has NOTHING to do with who we are as people and it is not our fault.

In fact, all the negative words associated with mental illness are far from true and instead people with mental illness are some of the strongest, most resilient, smartest and most compassionate people I have ever met. We must have those traits in order to survive living with mental illness.

If you are living with mental illness, you need to pat yourself on the back every day and tell yourself how wonderful and strong you are because you made it through another day. Each day you survive and make it through to another day you are one day closer to achieving mental wellness.

The road to recovery and wellness is not a straight path because sometimes the journey has pot holes, u-turns and dead ends but the point is that each day you survive you are closer to wellness.

Recovery and mental wellness are possible: I am living proof. After over twenty five years of living with severe mental illness (postpartum depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder) and sometimes being incapacitated from it, I have finally achieved mental wellness. It is a beauty and joy that I am astonished and blessed to experience.

I’m not saying every day is perfect or easy, because it isn’t. Like everyone diagnosed with mental illness or not, I must work at maintaining my mental wellness. Just like you must work to maintain physical fitness we must realize there is also a mental fitness– a workout for our brains to keep them working and functioning optimally.

Keep fighting. Exercise your mental fitness. Increase your mental endurance and strategies to cope with the difficult runs. You will make it to the other side of wellness. You can do it. Stay strong and become part of the mental fitness and mental wellness club.  Do you want to join? No membership dues required. It’s a free club. Anyone and everyone is welcome.

Keep working hard on your recovery and join the…

mental fitness and wellness clubs.

Welcome to the…

Mental Fitness and Wellness Club 

Thanks for joining.

Photo credit: Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

© 2019 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

My Story’s the Opposite of EVERYTHING We’ve Been Taught About Mental Illness

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

One year, six months and eight days ago I was in the worst state I have ever been in during my over twenty-seven years of living with mental illness. I was severely suicidal and had been for many days and months in a row and was experiencing an elated mania mixed episode.

One year, six months and eight days ago I attempted suicide and thought I was leaving earth forever. I strongly wanted to and was ready. I faced the reality of what death meant and I was there…

Those were scary and heartbreaking words to write especially because…

today I am beyond blessed to be alive and I feel better and happier than I ever have in my life. I feel inner joy, a peaceful spirit and a mental wellness I don’t think I ever felt before…

My suicide attempt was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to go off Klonopin, a Benzodiazepine, the only psychotropic medication I was on at them time. Because I overdosed on Benzos (as well as other psychotropics I had saved and stored in my home for years), the psychiatrists in the hospital would not give me anymore Benzodiazepines while I was in the hospital. And after staying in the hospital for two weeks and beginning the severe horrible hell of Klonopin withdrawal syndrome, I knew I would never take another Benzo again.

After I was forced to stop taking the Benodiazepine, Klonopin, I never looked back.

After surviving the severe beyond painful and debilitating neurological like impairments for over two months from the withdrawals from Klonopin after over two decades of their use, overuse and abuse, I am mentally well. I made it.

After the damage caused from taking Klonopin and the many other combinations and cocktails of Psychotropic medications and after having over a hundred ECTs over a twenty-five year period, my brain continues to improve and rejuvenate every day. I keep improving both physically and mentally even at my ripe old age of 56. My arthritis is even improving. It is uncanny and unbelievably amazing.

This is great news and I thought everyone would be happy to hear it and receive the inspiration of hope from my story.

However, my words now are sometimes more difficult to share with the mental illness community than when I shared my thoughts and feelings of the pain from being suicidal. I am happy I could do that then to help others, plus writing about my pain was very therapeutic for me.

Maybe more people could relate to my posts about heartache, loss, pain and despair because that was what they were going through, as well. Maybe it is harder to hear the blessings of wellness because it doesn’t seem possible to them. Recovery and happiness seem so far away and out of reach many people don’t think it could happen to them.

I must reiterate a million times that recovery is possible and is in everyone’s reach. Some people must stretch further than others. But recovery and happiness are possible for everyone.  Keep going. Keep reaching for that first grasp of success and recovery. You can do it. Once you grab on to recovery never let go.

For years, we have been taught that mental illness means:

  1. Continued struggles and ups and downs with recovery.
  2. Mental illness diagnoses are forever.
  3. You will need to be on various psychotropic medications for the rest of your lives.
  4. Mental illness is a life sentence.
  5. You will never be normal.
  6. We can get you to live a functional life. Ugh.
  7. You must accept your diagnosis and use of medications as the first step in recovery or you will never achieve it.
  8. You must accept that this will be a lifelong battle.
  9. You must lean how to deal with the knowledge of this permanent life sentence before your journey of recovery can begin.

At lease those were some of the things I was told. Yikes. No wonder so many people struggling with mental illness attempt or die by suicide… There is not enough hope and sometimes there is no hope…

We must have hope for survival, recovery and wellness.

I want to help inspire that hope.

At first, I was so excited to share what I had learned and the positive experiences that happened to me. I thought people would be happy and receptive to hear what I had to say.

I received mixed reviews. Although people are happy for me they are very skeptical. Some think I am manic and that is why I feel well today. They think I am “crazy” and that this can never happen. I am living proof but it is almost like they can’t believe it.

I want them to believe it. I know it is true because I am living it and I must share my story. What else can I do? I hope people will listen and find hope from my story.

Some people get upset with me for making it sound like I am promoting for all people to be psychotropic medication free. This is not the case. Medications are necessary for many but maybe not forever for some people.

Psychotropic medications are not ALWAYS required, necessary or healthy for all people to take for the rest of their lives. The use of psychotropic medications needs to be evaluated more often on an individual basis for people after diagnosis. The pros and cons need to be addressed much more often than they are and the damage these meds can cause needs to be looked at very closely–ALWAYS.

Please think about this regarding the use of psychotropic medications…

We repeatedly hear…

“Everyone is different and responds to medications differently.”

If that is true then why do we hear the blanketed statements, “Psychotropic medications must be taken for the rest of your lives. Never stop taking your medications.” If everyone is different than why do we assume EVERYONE will need to take their medications for the rest of their lives. We DO NOT know this to be a fact. Not yet anyway.

We also hear and read, “Bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are lifelong chronic illnesses. You will have bipolar disorder, for example, for the rest of your life.” If everyone is different, how do we know this to be true for sure? I don’t think we do. We do not know this to be a fact as they do not have all the answers about mental illness. There are still learning as they go and we are currently their subjects.

We need to keep an open mind and keep the possibility and hope that mental illness is not ALWAYS a lifelong illness.

Also, some people don’t like it when I talk about the dangers of Benzos and other psychotropic medications. I know everyone is different, but still the dangers are very real and affect everyone differently.

I share my story to inform, educate, increase awareness and inspire hope.

Some people are not receptive to what I have to say. It is a very sensitive area. My story conflicts with what we have been taught about mental illness.

My story is the opposite of EVERYTHING we have been taught about mental illness. I share my current story about how…

  1. My recovery continues to improve and I have reached mental wellness.
  2. I no longer have bipolar disorder (I was told it was a misdiagnosis.)
  3. I am psychotropic medications free for over a  year and a half.
  4. I have less anxiety symptoms than before starting Klonopin and other medications (withdrawal symptoms from Benzos can cause an increase in anxiety like symptoms worse than anxiety was. We blame increased anxiety on mental illness when in actuality it was from withdrawal effects of Benzos and possibly other psychotropics).
  5. I feel like my old self before my initial diagnosis of postpartum depression 27 years ago. This continues to improve every day and is a welcome joy.
  6. I enjoy working again. I am a resident care assistant for patients with Alzheimers. I get paid to give love again like before my diagnosis when I was a special needs teacher.
  7. I am joining church groups and signed up for an adult tap class.
  8. Slowly I am learning how to be social again and I welcome that as well.
  9. Nothing is permanent.
  10. My mental health improved. I am better and can live a beautiful, productive and meaningful life (BEYOND FUNCTIONAL).

Once I was given a mental illness diagnosis, it was drilled into my head that it is permanent and will never go away. I was told I will HAVE to take psychotropic medications for the rest of my life. “You must NEVER stop taking your medications,” I was repeatedly told. “You will never be normal. We can get you to live a functional life but you will never be normal.”

These kind of things are also said to many people after being given a mental illness diagnosis. The rest of your life seems like an awful long time to endure the type of hell I went through. Maybe that is why there are so many suicides. People with mental illness diagnoses are not given enough hope.

I was diagnosed with mental illness over 27 years ago and have been mentally well about a year after the Klonopin withdrawal symptoms finally subsided enough to enjoy the beauty of living again. Maybe my recovery  took 26 years, but the point is… it is possible and it happens. Regardless of the length of time it took, reaching recovery and mental wellness is a huge beautiful glorious blessing and is worth every pain and heartache.

Keep going. Keep fighting. You will make it too and once you do you will know it was all worth it–every painful step and pothole of your journey matters.

The pain and suffering from mental illness does not have to be forever. It really doesn’t. It will get better. You will get better. You can do it. You can make it. I am living proof.

Never forget…

You are loved by many.

You are needed.

You are important and you matter.

Your life has value.

You can live a long, successful, happy and productive life.

You can and will make a positive impact on many people’s lives.

You can and will enjoy the beauty of living…

and hopefully one day without the interference of mental illness.

I pray that for all of you.

Never give up.

You got this.

When you don’t feel like you can do this…


Much love, Sue

Photo credit: Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

© 2019 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved


As I was washing my hands at the bathroom sink,

I glanced up and saw a nameless faceless image in the mirror.

Quickly I averted my eyes from the reflection staring back at me

and looked down into the sink and took a moment to comprehend what I saw.

I didn’t recognize the unfamiliar face with a large body attached.

There was once a beautiful vibrant young woman staring back at me.

She had so much potential. Where did she go?

Bravely I looked up again to see the image that has become me.

Staring at my image, I took me all in.

Reminiscing of who I used to be and what I have done,

everything my image has accomplished, conquered and survived–

the mistakes and successes,

the good and the bad, happy and sad.

The years passed by quickly and all of a sudden I am here at the age I am–

seemingly, missing much of the living my body did.

Never giving my body permission to live some of the life I lived.

But, there is no going back now.

No erasing the past.

Many years of living blended together and transformed me into my new image

staring back at me.

Like art, I have become more valuable from the years of living I have lived.

Not a monetary value, but the value from my experiences and wisdom I have gained.

Beauty lies within one’s spirit and soul,

and is in the eye of the beholder.

Even if I am older,

I must dust myself off,

pick myself up,

hold my head high

and love the new image staring back at me

which has been wonderfully transformed

from all the living I have done.

I am blessed to be alive

to enjoy many more years

of living.

~written by Susan Walz

“I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less and less an issue and what you are is the point.” ~Susan Sarandon

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

~Pablo Picasso

Photo Credit:  Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

© 2019 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

The Blurry Lines of Mental Illness

“There is no greater joy than being freed from the captivity of your mind.”

~Susan Walz

The escape from the interference of mental illness frequencies that affect your inner being, spirit and everything you think, breathe or consume is exhilarating and a blessing beyond many.

Life is lighter, brighter and everything is shinier compared to the contrast of the heaviness, darkness and pain of mental illness. The contrast causes happiness to be happier and brightness to be brighter.

Mental illness burns nearly every aspect of your life–turning everything dismal and dark.

If you have never been held captive inside the prison of mental illness, you can never know or experience the sharp contrast that the release and freedom recovery brings.

So, am I luckier to have experienced the severe pain of mental illness just so I could know my new present joy, peace and love after surviving and achieving recovery and mental wellness? This is a question I sometimes ponder.

Being beyond blessed to achieve recovery and mental wellness does not mean that I crossed a line that I have never and will never cross backwards over again and if there is a line, it is a blurred line at best.

Occasionally, I still cross the blurry line back into the world of mental illness but I never cross far or stay there long enough to lose sight of the line of mental wellness. I always know it is possible to reach the line of recovery and mental wellness again for I have been there before.

And it is not to say I never suffer from mental illness symptoms. I have moments that define I still have PTSD and anxiety. Plus, I have many scars that exist that remind me where I have been and how far I’ve come. Stronger yet is that it reminds me I never want to visit that place of mental illness captivity again.

I fight hard to stay proactive and have not been overcome to a place that I am trapped and stuck in bondage unable to break free on my own.

Years ago, the stigma and treatment of mental illness caused me to lose myself, my identity, my self esteem and my dignity. I was locked inside my own mind where I needed outside help of psychotropic medications, hospitalizations and ECTs. Locked behind those bars caused me to be imprisoned behind more bars of stigma and people making decisions for me. I never want to lose my identity, dignity or my freedom to make my own decisions again.

When I start crossing backwards over the line of mental illness away from wellness, I fight hard not to go too far back into that space of mental illness. The further back I travel into mental illness and the longer I stay there the harder it is for me to break free.

For over a year now, I’ve been fortunate not to have traveled too far back and get lost behind the bars of mental illness–where I spent the previous twenty-five years. Instead, I fight hard to cross back over the line of mental illness and stay as close to the blurry line of mental wellness as I can so I can feel the joy, peace and love of life that recovery and mental wellness create in me.

Everyone’s line between mental illness and mental wellness looks differently. There may be no line at all but a gradual blending of hues from dark to light. As in a graphite pencil drawing, the better the shading the more realistic the image.

For mental illness, addiction and recovery the slower and more gradual the process of recovery the more permanent and lasting the recovery and wellness will be.

Good luck on drawing and shading your masterpiece–YOU.

Take your time. Go slow and don’t be afraid to erase some lines and start over.

Don’t be afraid to color outside your lines…

You are a unique masterpiece.

Remember… the more unique the art

the more valuable it is.

You are valuable.

Make sure you have a good frame for your completed work of art–YOU!

You are beautiful.

Keep working on you.

You are loved.

“There is no greater joy than being freed from the captivity of your mind.”

~Susan Walz

Photo credit:  Photo by Nicholas Kwok on Unsplash

© 2019 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

I Still Have Anxiety

I had severe painful anxiety and panic attacks in my early twenties (thirty years ago) and have had anxiety off and on ever since–increasing in severity after my postpartum depression and bipolar diagnosis and the start of being giving the revolving cocktail of psychotropic medications.

Medications never helped my anxiety, but instead made it worse. Klonopin helped and rescued me initially but after a while my anxiety and other symptoms of mental illness increased. Also, I was super sensitive to the side effects of other psychotropic medications and had adverse reactions to many of them.

I was one of those people who could not take psychotropic medications, They never seemed to help me but instead made me feel worse. Medications help many people. I was just not one of them.

I stopped taking Klonopin one year and five months ago and soon after stopped taking all psychotropic medications (medically supervised). When I first went off Klonopin, it felt like I didn’t have anxiety anymore. This surprised my Psychiatrist as he has helped many patients go off Klonopin and other Benzodiazepines and noticed great improvements in all of them. However, he said they still had some anxiety.

After finally stopping Klonopin, the contrast and beauty of feeling the difference of inner peace and well being (for me) was so sharp that I thought I no longer had anxiety. Recently I’ve learned I am still experiencing some anxiety but much less significantly. My anxiety is manageable and I have learned better coping techniques than I had before.

After reading, researching and watching many videos on the subject, the light bulb finally went off in my head. For years the increase in my anxiety, manic like symptoms, insomnia, depression and suicidality was blamed on me and my own increasing mental illness and inability to cope with it.

Instead the severity of my mental illness symptoms increased because of the side effects and my adverse reactions to the large cocktails of psychotropic medications I took for over two decades of my life.

“You do not have Bipolar Disorder,” said Dr. S., my new psychiatrist about a year ago. “You have PTSD and borderline personality disorder but you do not have bipolar disorder.

“But I had all the symptoms of bipolar,” I replied dumbfounded.

“Borderline Personalty Disorder has similar characteristics and in time people can learn coping strategies so they no longer need medication,” Dr. S. replied.

“But I was so sick. My symptoms were so severe.”

“That was caused from the Klonopin. Klonopin can cause a lot of damage, especially when using it as long as you did at such high doses.”

It was a lot to take in at first but in time I embraced the release of my bipolar disorder label.

Since becoming psychotropic medication free, I feel better than I ever have since I became diagnosed and labeled with many labels of mental illness over twenty-six years ago.

Once I was thrown into the mental illness club and psychotropic medication club, they were hard to leave. The mental illness club is an exclusive membership and it seems once a member always a member. The psychiatrists never want you to leave and say you can’t. I was brainwashed until I believed and accepted I had bipolar and other mental illnesses. I had no choice at the time, but to accept it.

“You will never be normal. We can get you to live a functional life, but you will never be normal,” said a psychiatrist soon after my initial diagnoses.

“You must take these medications for the rest of your life. You can never stop taking bipolar medications.”

Those are devastating, destructive, defeating and heartbreaking comments for anyone to hear, especially at the prime of their life–like I was.

Today we are finally more informed and we do have a choice. I fought my diagnosis for years for a reason. The reason being… they could be wrong and they were wrong. I was misdiagnosed.

I just wanted to add… This is my story and does not happen to everyone. I just want to increase awareness and give people hope if I can. Please always remember everyone is different and everyone’s journey of recovery is unique.

I am psychotropic medication free, mentally well, am living a good life and am fully capable of doing anything I want currently in my life. My only problem is now picking up the pieces from the destruction after living a mental illness life for two decades.

After I became medication free, I realized that my anxiety is very manageable and I don’t have other symptoms of mental illness. Therefore, my severe symptoms were not caused from mental illness but were from the side effects of psychotropic medications and MOSTLY from my physical addiction to the Benzodiazepine, Klonopin and the withdrawal effects from it.

When I first started taking Klonopin twenty five years ago, after I had been using Klonopin for a few months, my body adjusted to the levels of Klonopin in my system and cried out for more–mimicking increased anxiety. My doctors and I blamed my anxiety while all along it was the adverse reactions, side effects and withdrawals from Klonopin.

There is no other explanation. There just isn’t. My pain and severe symptoms and years of suicidality came from the damage caused by using Klonopin and other psychotropic medications for too many years.

To reiterate, my psychiatrist believes I was misdiagnosed and that I never had bipolar disorder. At first, I didn’t believe that but now I do. I have PTSD and borderline personality disorder but no bipolar disorder.

There are many people misdiagnosed with bipolar when they have PTSD instead and/or borderline personality disorder.

I lost years of my life and yes things could have been different, but this is my reality and I will make the best out of the rest of my life. I will keep fighting and finding new joys and purposes for my life.

I know how blessed I am and am enjoying the beauty of living.

Recovery is possible: I am living proof. 

© 2019 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

Photo by boram kim on Unsplash

Wishful Thinking

Most of my life I lived behind “wishful thinking.” I thought when this or that changed, my life would become better and I would be happy.

My “if only” thought pattern began when I developed symptoms of mental illness. Life would have been better and easier if I did not have mental illness. This was and is true and always will be. Everything in life is easier if mental illness pain and the side effects of medications are not interfering with the quality of my life and ability to function.

Of course, it is still possible to find the best you even while living with mental illness, but it is a fact, for me anyway, that my life would have been better, easier and happier if I did not have to live with the interference of mental illness for over two decades of my life.

Sometimes living with the thoughts of “if only” and “when I get through this” was necessary to make  it through a painful and difficult moment. Believing that happiness was around the corner helped me survive. I was in such severe pain that I had to believe tomorrow would be better because today was unbearable. Hope came from my dream of a better future.

Also, most of my life I always wanted to be thinner even when I was thin. Today, I desperately need to lose weight and still have the mindset that if I lose weight I will feel better about myself and my life will improve.

Today, my mind tells me if my book was published then I would be so happy and proud of myself and my children would be proud of me. My life would improve and have value and my mental illness journey would have a purpose and would make more sense to me–everything happened for a reason.

I fantasize that getting my book published would lead to more writing opportunities, many speaking engagements and more money.  Having more money would allow me to give my children everything they need and deserve to have, and I would be able to complete my bucket lists of traveling.

The fist thing on my bucket list is to travel to England and attend a Wimbledon tennis championship. Next, I want to travel to New York and go to the U.S. Open tennis championship and also see Broadway shows.

It is always great to have goals and dreams especially if and when they give you hope to keep fighting and living. Never forget anything is possible.

Today, I must remember my “if only this or that then I would be happy” thoughts are not necessary and are a lie because the truth is that my happiness is possible now–today at this very moment in time.

While I seek contentment for today, I will still never give up or stop searching and working for more and better. There is always room for improvement in ourselves and in our lives–nothing is ever perfect.

My happiness does not need to be contingent on losing weight first or finding a publisher. I can have happiness and a good life even if those other things do not occur. I need to remember to be happy for today and live for the moment while still always striving to become the best possible me–whatever that might be.

I am continuing to improve my memoir and am working diligently to find a traditional publisher, and improving my mental and physical wellness is a life long quest. During the rest of my journey, I will always give my best effort in everything I do and will ALWAYS let God’s love shine through me and touch others.

Today I am living the dream of mental wellness. I made it.

“Yesterday’s future is my today.”

I am blessed to have learned coping techniques and can say I am on the other side of mental illness–I have achieved mental wellness.

“If I think I crossed the finish line of anything, I find a new race.” ~Susan Walz

© 2019 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

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You Are So Brave…

“You are so brave to share your story,” many people have said to me throughout the years.

“Thank you,” I would humbly reply and never felt like I was brave.

Each time I share my story of living, surviving and overcoming severe mental illness it becomes easier and the need to be brave becomes less. Additionally, the statement of “I am so brave to share my story” becomes even more inaccurate and untrue.

“I never felt brave. I was just being me–the only way I knew how to be.”

I know when people say I am brave to share my story of living with mental illness, they think it is a compliment. However, sometimes it doesn’t feel like a compliment. It reminds me I am different than them, when I don’t feel as if I am and I don’t want to be.

“I just took a different path that brought us to the same place.”

I feel like they think I am brave to share what is wrong with me and how I am different than them. It sounds like they are saying they think my story is so unbelievable and different that it must take courage to speak about it and I should be ashamed of it.

I, on the other hand, am not embarrassed or ashamed of my life or myself. I am proud of who I have become–my strength, courage, determination and resiliency to overcome my illness and many obstacles along the way.

To be brave you must be fearful of something first and it must be difficult for you to do. But, it is not difficult and I am not afraid to share the story of my life. I tell my story to increase understanding, make people happy, share love, inspire hope and encourage others that recovery is possible and that life is worth living and fighting for.

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When someone says I am brave it makes me feel like I should be embarrassed and ashamed to tell my story and share who I am, but I want to share my story and who God helped me become. I am not ashamed or embarrassed. Instead I am very proud of being a survivor and know I am beyond blessed to be alive.

Some people may think I am brave to share my mental illness journey because it is difficult for them to share their own stories. The reason people have to find courage to share their stories and even talk about mental wellness and recovery is caused from the stigma of mental illness.

Stigma puts fear in people to share their own stories. I pray one day people will feel free and uninhibited to share their stories and NEVER have to live in shame. We all need to hold our heads up high and feel free to share our stories without fear of judgement or condemnation of any kind.

People who live with mental illness need to understand and truly BELIEVE that mental illness is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It is an illness that you acquired and is never your fault. Instead of being ashamed of having a mental illness you must be proud because you are truly a survivor and an inspiring hero every minute of every day to keep fighting through the pain and stigma of mental illness.

The fact that I am alive to share my story is a miracle in and of itself. First and foremost, all the praise and glory must be given to God. I must share God’s goodness and grace to all I meet. That is the main message that needs to be shared and heard. I strive to always let God’s love shine through me and touch everyone I meet.

Additionally, the praises and compliments need to go to the listeners and readers of my story. I am thankful and beyond words grateful that I have an audience to listen and read my story.

Thank you for reading and listening. I hope I helped and inspired you in many ways. I share my gift of life with you so that you can live and thrive in your own life and enjoy the pure beauty of living and the precious miracle in each breath of life.

© 2019 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved