Don’t Forget MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

I have been encouraged by the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement and pray it will make a positive change in America and around the world. It is time and it is necessary. Please keep in mind as you read the following words I do NOT want to EVER take anything away from the Black Lives Matter movement. I am listening and I am learning and my heart is bleeding with everyone else during these difficult times all over the world.

Seeing so many people protesting is encouraging to me because after far too many years of oppression for people of color, people of all races are finally listening to the fact that racism exists and must stop now. I see the images of protesting on the news and see them as a symbol of unity and love. The rainbow of races in the crowds is beautiful to me and is how the world should look.

Hearing the many struggles black people face daily from being discriminated against due to the color of their skin makes me angry and at the same time reminds me of each time I was treated poorly because of the labels of mental illness I was branded with. Again, please know I am not comparing the two because I know they are different but at the same time have many similarities.

The stigma of mental illness exists and is the biggest interference in the recovery of mental illness. The stigma of mental illness is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a mental health condition, illness, disorder or any other word you want to add to mental health. The words are all the same and by no means ever take away from the negativity and bias mental illness carries with its name.

The stigma of mental illness exists and is the biggest interference in the recovery of mental illness.

In my new memoir, SHAME ATE MY SOUL, I share examples throughout my book of the many times I was discriminated against and treated unfairly due to the stigma of mental illness. So, even though I am not black I can relate to the pain and shame people of color experience. I have been discriminated against not because of the color of my skin but because I was diagnosed with mental illness. I know it is different but in many ways the pain and shame it causes are one and the same.

I can also say I was treated unfairly by the police because of mental illness stigma. I share some examples in my book but the one I am going to share with you today is not in my book.

A few years after my diagnosis I got divorced and had joint custody of my two children with my ex-husband. My son was about five years old at the time and was a mama’s boy (and still is). When he was at his Dad’s house, he would call me on the phone repeatedly crying hysterically. It broke my heart every time. One day I felt so sad for my baby boy and was worried about him that I drove over to my ex-husband’s house just to check on him and give him some love.

I was sitting in my car holding my Keagan on my lap when my ex-husband came out to the car and pulled him from me causing him to hit his head on the car as he pulled him out. I was so heartbroken and worried seeing my Keagan so sad, I called the police to check on him to make sure he was okay.

The police officer was very cordial when he spoke to me outside. Then he went inside my ex-husband’s house to speak to him. When the police officer came back outside it was a different story. His demeanor with me had changed and he handcuffed me, arrested me and put me in the back of the police car.

He told me I was arrested because I should not have come over to to the house when it was not my night and charged me with a disorderly conduct. I called the police on myself. What? I was not disturbing anyone or loud or anything.

I was pregnant with my third baby at the time and cried the entire way to the police station. I told the police officer I had never been arrested before.

“What?” Really?” the police officer was shocked.

“Well, no. Never.” I said through my tears.

“Oh. I thought you had.”

“Why?”

I could tell he genuinely felt bad now like he wished he hadn’t arrested me. I wondered why he thought I had been arrested before, like I was a regular. I don’t look like your stereotypical criminal (not really sure what that is, but I don’t think I look that.)

I got bailed out and did not have to stay in jail overnight or anything. My charge was written down from disorderly conduct to a fine/forfeiture but still cost me $90.00. The worst part is that disorderly conduct was on my permanent record even though it was written down to a fine/forfeiture. I could not afford an attorney to get rid of it. It was and always has been humiliating to have to explain this charge and relive the experience every time I interviewed for a job.

Today, I realize I was arrested from the conversation the police officer had with my ex-husband who told the police officer I had bipolar disorder along with many more stigmatizing comments related to mental illness.

So, the sad truth is I was arrested because I had a mental illness. The police officer from my angry (at the time) ex-husband’s comments gained a new and different perspective of who he thought I was from his initial meeting of me, because of the stigma of mental illness and my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. His demeanor changed after he spoke to my ex-husband. Nothing I said mattered anymore and who I was didn’t matter. I became a mental illness — the stigmatized version of who he thought people who live with mental illness are.

On a side note — I have a heavy foot and tend to drive fast. Later, I was pulled over by this same police officer two other times for speeding and he NEVER gave me a ticket. My thought was because he knew he wrongly arrested me for NOTHING before. He felt bad and never gave me a ticket.

It’s a blessing to educate yourself about mental health versus experiencing it.

There is stigma and mistreatment that exists with people who have mental illness and police officers, just like there is for people who are black or brown. I know it is not the same or as bad.

I imagine how awful I would have been treated if I had a mental illness and I was black. Actually I can’t imagine.

I also self- stigmatized a lot and sometimes still do. Since I have been feeling well, am psychotropic medication free and one psychiatrist even told me I was misdiagnosed and never had bipolar disorder but had PTSD and was addicted to the Benzodiazepine Klonopin mostly instead, I do not self stigmatize as much and the burden of shame has been lifted. It is a great and freeing feeling.

We can never forget that MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS hugely

and we MUST END THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS today.

We all must continue to share our stories and continue to educate and fight kindly and bravely to end the stigma of mental illness.

Even though there are troubled times for everyone around the world,

WE MUST NEVER LET PEOPLE FORGET ABOUT US: THOSE WHO LIVE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS.

Please check out my new memoir SHAME ATE MY SOUL. I realized how shame was instilled in me at a young age and increased after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Shame was one of my biggest problems. I needed to give it back… and get rid of it. So, I did. That was a huge part of my recovery and healing.
My book is available on Amazon
and Barnes and Noble
as an Ebook and paperback.
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Photo Credit: Photo of top featured image by Brandi Ibrao on Unsplash
Copyright © 2020 by Susan Walz of My Loud Whispers of Hope

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 | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved

Photo by boram kim on Unsplash

A Tiny Little Pill – a poem

I wrote this poem about a month after my near fatal overdose in February of 2018.

I took Klonopin (Benzodiazepine) usually as prescribed for over twenty years. After my overdose the doctors stopped giving me Klonopin cold turkey, which is never the way you are supposed to stop it and it could have killed me. Either way, I survived over two months of severe Klonopin withdrawals which is a pain and suffering worse than anything I have ever experienced before.  Once again, God saved my life. I am beyond happy and blessed to be alive and my overdose was a blessing in disguise.

I hope you enjoy my poem…

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A Tiny Little Pill

The more you take, the more you need.

The more you need, the more you speed

to take more, this desire not an intentional creed.

You become trapped and unable to be freed

from the spell and power of a tiny little pill.

You become stuck,

held captive,

in bondage,

a slave of the master of a tiny little pill,

causing a messy brain spill,

dangerous enough to kill.

Innocent,

naive,

unaware,

blind to dangers of this tiny little pill.

There were no warnings,

no sign of danger.

Blaming me,

others,

and everything else,

except this tiny little pill.

It took a near fatal mistake

for the alarms to awake

and capture this tiny little pill.

Finally, the answers,

the mystery,

and the puzzle almost solved

of how my brain has evolved

into an unfamiliar,

dangerous,

organ in a body

that was once mine.

Klonopin is the name of this tiny little pill.

Stopping Klonopin has awakened my mind,

to an unbroken, new and much clearer kind.

Now that I’ve stopped Klonopin,

I can live the way I should have been.

~written by Sue Walz

Please know I wrote this poem after my own experiences. I am not trying to tell anyone what to do, but I just want to increase awareness of the possible dangers of Klonopin and other Benzodiazepines for some people. 

Much love and hugs, Sue

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Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved

The School of Hard Knocks Opens the Door to Recovery

If you have been following my blog or story for a while and are familiar with my story, I apologize that some of this post repeats my story and journey. In case, someone is reading my blog for the first time, I didn’t want to confuse them by leaving out pertinent information necessary for clarity. So, I repeated information about my life I have shared before. Sorry about that, but please keep reading because there is new writing and information in this post. I promise. There is even a (silly) QUIZ at the end of this post (just for fun). Please keep reading. Thank you. Much love and hugs, Sue


Living with bipolar disorder is difficult in many ways, and one of them is the unpredictable nature of this illness. I have bipolar 1 disorder with rapid cycling and mixed episodes and my mood poles used to switch often from a hypomanic mood pole to a severe depression, sometimes many times within the same day. Because of that I have learned to keep an open mind about life.

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I had the same psychiatrist for about twenty years until he retired. Even though my psychiatrist was the one that initially prescribed my Klonopin no matter how many times I overdosed on it, I do not blame him. He tried his very best and truthfully saved my life many times, maybe unknowingly killing me at the same time, but hindsight is 20/20. He helped me more than anyone ever has — never throwing me away like many others did over 25 years of living with a severe mental illness. It helped me tremendously to know he was there for me — even calling me sometimes at 9:00 at night. He truly cared about his patients and humanity.

He was a rare gem of a man. I used tell him, “You are Jesus like. You save people’s lives through your compassion, kindness, and genius.” He was a very humble man and my complimentary words usually made him blush.

He had a severe illness but worked until he could no longer work and had to retire about 5 years ago. I have not had a Psychiatrist since that time. It was not for a lack of trying. I tried for a little while, but couldn’t find the right one for me at the time.

One P-doc said I was ADHD because I was shaking my leg. What? I did not know that was how you diagnosed it. I was probably shaking my leg because of my anxiety or side effects from my medication at the time or experiencing withdrawal effects from the Klonopin I was attempting to reduce the dose of and eventually wean myself off of. I was unaware of the dangers of doing this at the time. Back to the ADHD diagnosis. I knew the last thing I needed was another medication, especially a stimulant that would make me fly higher and faster internally more than I already was.

The next P-doc was a handsome young man and resembled Lin Manuel the creator of the Broadway musical Hamilton. I have to be honest. At first, I thought it would be a nice bonus to have a good-looking young Psychiatrist. At my first hour-long appointment I told him an overview of my life history. I am older and mine is very long. Plus, I talk too much so that appointment took even longer than it was supposed to.

As I was leaving his office, I heard him say as a by-the-way comment, “Oh, and I know how to get you off your Klonopin.”

Those were the last words I ever wanted to here. I thought, “What? Go off my Klonopin? No way. I love my Klonopin. I need my Klonopin. It is the only thing that helps me and it doesn’t have side effects.” So, I put a kibash on that doctor. I thought he was wrong and stupid to try to take me off my Klonopin. Klonopin and I went together like two peas in a pod — so, I thought. I was having nothing to do with going off Klonopin or him.

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At that time, I decided I could do this on my own and felt I had to at the time. I ended up going to the county health department to make sure I got my Klonopin and Trileptal. I saw a psychiatrist there a couple of times but she wasn’t very thorough or effective and I saw a nurse every once in a while to get my medications. The effectiveness and success of my treatment at that time in my life was partly my fault. I didn’t tell them my whole truths as I didn’t completely trust them or maybe even want their help at the time. I told myself the lie that I could do this on my own and I was going to be okay. This worked for a little while, so I thought or told myself the lie that it was working. Actually, it was not working at all and my mental health was slowly deteriorating right in front of everyone’s eyes.

After about a year, I was forced to stop taking my Trileptal — a mood stabilizer used to treat bipolar disorder that I had taken for over eight years. The Trileptal had caused severe adverse reactions that could have killed me, so I was forced to stop taking that medication cold turkey. This is a link to my post titled, “My Bipolar Medication Nearly Killed Me Because I Didn’t Get My Sodium Levels Checked,” which describes the syndrome in case you are unfamiliar with it.

I only had one medication left to take. I took 3 mg. of Klonopin daily to treat my bipolar, anxiety, and PTSD. I found out later, the hard way, that Trileptal actually had been helping me more than I realized. Taking only Klonopin was not working. I never realized that the severe symptoms of anxiety and suicidal ideations were caused from the fact that I was messing around with my dosage of Klonopin because I wanted to see if I could stop taking it. I took two mg. Klonopin at night for sleep and one in the morning. I had already decreased my prescribed Klonopin use from 5 mg. to 3 mg. on my own.

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I was on a quest to take even less. I tried nearly every day not to take them. Little did I know that I was putting myself in a perpetual withdrawal syndrome by adjusting my dose without the guidance of a medical professional. I didn’t understand that when I took less after two days my brain and body went into withdrawals already and cried out for more. The withdrawal symptoms mimicked severe anxiety and suicidal ideations, My brain was hurting and slowly becoming destroyed from my own doing and the power of my Klonopin-Benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawals. I had been unknowingly abusing Klonopin and was addicted to it for over twenty years.

“Hello, I am Sue and I am A Klonopin addict. I am a Klonopin abuser. I survived Klonopin withdrawals,” I would say at the meetings I would go to for Benzodiazepine/Klonopin addictions if they had them where I lived. I sure wish they had those kind of meetings because they would be very helpful for me. I must admit that I was a substance abuser and a drug addict for over twenty years. They were prescribed to me but I was still physically addicted.

I overdosed many times on Klonopin. My body and brain craved Klonopin every day of my life. It was a strong force and craving that overpowered my mind.  I never understood what was wrong with me for always overdosing. I sure wish I knew then what I know now. I NEVER would have taken Klonopin to begin with if I knew the damage it can and did cause to my brain, body and life for over twenty years of use and misuse.

The lesson here, of course, is something I needed to know then and need to always remember. It took my severe suicide attempt to realize I must keep an open mind and I need help. I cannot do this on my own.

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Being medication free is new and foreign to me, but it is something I want to continue. I strive to remain medication free. I am keeping an open mind and will pay close attention to my mental health. I feel better than I have in over twenty years.

The mystery or possibly the obvious answer is that I stopped taking Klonopin cold turkey almost six months ago after a severe overdose. I do not take any other psychotropic medications and I have not started therapy yet (I want to but have not been able to get in yet). My life is basically the same except I finally feel much happier, clearer, more focused, grounded and feel more at peace than I ever felt. My brain moves slower and is not overcrowded from rapid-firing thoughts at all times of the day or night. I believe I feel the way a person with a “normal” brain may feel. 

I do not have an explanation for this. Doctors do not have a sure fire explanation for this. I have been medication free for six months but suffered severely for two months going through Klonopin withdrawal syndrome. That is a horrific painful story for another day. These are the possible reasons for my psychotropic medication free mental wellness for over four months. 

  1. I am psychotropic medication free after over twenty-six years.
  2. My brain/brain chemistry changed favorably after years of taking psychotropic medications.
  3. My brain/brain chemsitry changed favorably due to having over a hundred ECTs (Electro-convulsive therapy treatments) over a twenty year time period.
  4. My brain/brain chemistry changed favorably due to the aging process.
  5. Menopause changed my brain/brain chemistry favorably. I just now went through menopause.
  6. Years of using and misusing Klonopin caused many of my adverse symptoms.
  7. I was addicted to Benzodiazepines for over twenty-six years and did not know it.
  8. I was wrongly diagnosed and treated. This one baffles me because I had too many bipolar symptoms. I had them all. At the time I tried to fight the diagnosis, but it was as if I was a poster child for bipolar. It was like the diagnosis was written for me because I had every symptom listed for the bipolar one diagnosis.
  9. Prayer always works.
  10. God healed me.

These are possibilities, but there are no definitive answers. The answers would help me solve my mystery but they do not really matter because it is as it is. My life is the way it is. I accept it as it is and I am truly happy and grateful for my new life and brain as it is right now.

Don’t get me wrong because I still have occasional setbacks. I am unsure at this time if they are symptoms or are from learned behaviors of living a mental illness life as long as I have. Hopefully, some questions will be answered at my next P-doc appointment. I am going to have some genetic testing done then and hopefully that help answer some unresolved questions for me. We will see what it can tell us and how it can help me. I will let you know.

Until then, please let my life and situation be an inspiration that life will get better. I am living proof of that. Keep keeping on and keep fighting. There is hope.

Also, don’t forget to pray. Prayer works. It sure helped me. God bless you all.


Please take the following quiz. It’s easy…

Please remember when reading the questions and taking this quiz that these questions and answers are for me. They are appropriate for myself and for my life at this stage of my life.

Everyone’s journey of mental illness, recovery and wellness is different. Everyone takes a different route. Everyone has a different time frame for healing. Everyone has a different treatment plan and medication plan . Everyone’s answers are their own. Everyone’s answers are correct. There are no wrong answers as long as you are trying your best and YOU NEVER GIVE UP.

Please remember to study hard. Learn everything you can about mental illness and wellness, about your treatment and medication options. Study hard. Retake your quiz of mental wellness as often as  you need to get it right. Take your time.

Always remember to be proud of your achievements.

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Quiz:

What are the changes that occurred in my life since my overdose four months ago and are the reasons for my positive recovery, growth and mental wellness. Pick the best answer or answers:

  1. Writing my blog and memoir are extremely therapeutic for me.
  2. I have five amazing children (two are married to my children).
  3. I am almost finished writing my second draft of my memoir, which encourages me to keep fighting and gives me hope.
  4. God healed me to the point he wants me to be healed.
  5. I do not take any psychotropic medications, right now (but those doors and windows are always open).
  6. When I help others essentially I am helping myself.
  7. I am blessed beyond words and measure.
  8. God healed me to the point he wants me to be healed.
  9. This is my mantra… “People need love the most when they least deserve it.”
  10. All of the above.

Correct answer/s:

10 – ALL OF THE ABOVE 

What answers can you choose or write for your own life?

How do you score on your school of life exam or quiz?

Write your own material. Write your own quiz. Study hard. Take the test. Learn more. Always keep learning new ways of living and thriving. Retake your test as often as you need. There are no right or wrong answers for your life.  Write new questions. Make new answers. You can never fail as long as you keep fighting and doing your best. Your best is the right answer. Just find out what your best is and achieve it over and over and then overachieve it and surpass your goals. Make new goals. Keep on keeping on.

Remember recovery and wellness are possible and beyond achievable.

I am living proof of that. 

We never graduate from our college of life.

Every day is new and every day there is something new to learn.

Never quit fighting, learning or growing.

Keep on keeping on. Keep surviving. Keep living. Keep thriving.

Much love and more hugs, Sue

Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved