You Don’t Need to be Ashamed of Being Hospitalized for your Mental Illness

Why is it that we’ve normalized being in the hospital for physical illnesses; but when it comes to mental health you’re immediately labeled crazy for being hospitalized. Society has played out hospitalization for your mental health in a negative way. Only the “crazy” people go into the psych ward.

I’m here to tell you that is wrong and the stigma needs to end. I was embarrassed and ashamed for a long time that I was hospitalized for my mental health. I kept it a secret from family members and friends because I was so embarrassed. I knew the negative stigma it had behind it and I didn’t want to be labeled as the “crazy” girl who spent time in the psych ward.

If you’re in the hospital for a physical illness it has a completely different stigma and no one is quick to judge over that. But God forbid you go into the psych ward people will immediately judge you for being crazy.

I committed myself into the psych ward when I was 18 years old. I was at an extremely low point with my depression. I was struggling on a daily basis with suicidal thoughts & self harm, and I knew that if I didn’t go to the hospital to get help I was going to harm myself.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me when I was in there, but I knew I needed the help. I didn’t know much about a mental hospital except for what I read in psychology books and some movies like One Flew Over’s the Cuckoo’s Nest. My perception was completely wrong and that’s why more people need to speak up about being hospitalized. If I weren’t hospitalized I probably wouldn’t be here writing this today.

I stayed the full 72 hours in the mental hospital and it was an experience I would never forget. My first day there I was a little scared because I was the youngest in the adult ward. I was admitted into the “crisis” ward since I had tried to kill myself and was with others who had struggled with suicide like myself. I was surprised with how normal everyone was though. In books and movies they make it seem like everyone is bat shit crazy going off their rocker screaming random words every second. That is not at all what it’s like.

Yes, there were some in there with more severe illnesses than others, but it wasn’t as bad as society makes it out to be. They had separated the sections to where it was a female section of the psych ward along with a male section of the psych ward. We were allowed “rec” time once a day for an hour where we got to go outside and socialize with everyone.

They had taken most of my belongings when I was admitted, so I was without a phone for those three days. There was a small library so, I did a lot of reading while I was in there. I also got to know the other women in my area as well. They were all very nice & welcoming towards me. It was interesting hearing their own stories, some were rape victims, domestic violence victims, been on and off medications, and just wanted help & support.

I’ll admit I was a little quick to judge my first day there and kept thinking to myself, “I don’t belong in here. I’m not crazy at all like the other people in here.” But the more I got to know the others, the more I realized they were normal too. Just because we’ve struggled with self-harm and have a mental illness doesn’t mean we’re crazy and should be an outcast to society.

Having spent the three days in the mental hospital taught me a lot. The biggest lesson it taught me was to not be so quick to judge. Each one of us is doing the best we can to survive and it is perfectly okay to reach out for help. It helped me accept my own mental illness and to receive the help I needed for a long time.

Regarding Stigma and Addiction

I have been researching a lot lately about addiction and recovery as I have come to realize that most of my struggles and pain from living a mental illness life were caused from the stigma of mental illness and my addiction to the Benzodiazepine, Klonopin for over twenty years.

Regarding stigma–it was not the illness itself that caused most of my problems–it was the stigma of mental illness that created the hardships and roadblocks along my painful destructive life. If my illness was treated with understanding and compassion like most other illnesses, I would not have lost my career, friends, relationships with my family, my dignity, respect and my own identity. Those would have all remained intact while I battled the pain from my illness. Instead, the stigma of mental illness–being shamed and shunned for the name of my illlness–ripped out my soul beyond repair for years. I am in the process of removing and repairing my shame.

Image result for stigma and addiction

Regarding addiction–my physical dependency on Klonopin caused increased anxiety, depression, insomnia, mixed bipolar like episodes and suicidal ideations for years of my life. Instead of realizing Benzos were the culprit, Psychiatrists, my now ex-husband and family blamed me–my weakness, character flaws and my mental illness labels–they thought everything was all my fault.

I also blamed myself and hated myself for taking extra Klonopin and overdosing. I never understood why I did it. I was never told or learned until now–now that I am finally psychotropic medication free for over a year that it was caused from being addicted to the prescription medication, Klonopin my doctor prescribed me for over twenty years.

Image result for klonopin withdraWAL SYNDROME

Additionally, I unknowingly experienced Klonopin withdrawal syndrome for years. Going through complete Klonopin withdrawal is a hell like I had never experienced before. However, it is a hell I would gladly go through again now that I survived and know how amazingly beautiful it feels to be free from all Benzodiazepine use. After suffering for over twenty-six years there is nothing better than feeling mentally clear and a peaceful serenity inside my body.

Taking Benzodiazepines and other psychotropic medications for over twenty years at a high doses actually damaged my brain. The magical beauty and miracle is that the brain can heal. It can transform and repair itself back to a new normal. It takes time but it happens. While you take medications like Opioids and Benzodiazepines, schedule II and schedule IV drugs your brain adapts to them and changes. When you stop taking those medications your brain must relearn how to function without them again. It takes time for your brain to transform, and recover, but the beauty and gift is that it can heal.

I know everyone is different. I share my story to inform others of the possible dangers of some medications as I do not want others to go through what I did. I share my story to inspire hope that recovery and mental wellness are possible. I am living proof.

It has been a year after my near fatal suicide attempt–

a year of being psychotropic medication free,

a year of no hospitalizations,

a year (minus three months of the excruciatingly painful recovery from Klonopin withdrawal syndrome) of living with mental wellness.

It has been a year of new discoveries

and a celebration of life and living–

My Life is a celebration over death.


Just an FYI–my psychiatrist has completely removed the label of bipolar disorder from my medical files and charts. What????

Wow. It has been a process but I am beginning to accept this as true. My psychiatrist says I was misdiagnosed for over twenty-six years and do not have bipolar 1 disorder. My diagnoses instead are borderline personality disorder and PTSD which were on my long list before. Two diagnoses are enough. He kept BPD as my diagnosis because bipolar disorder and BPD have similar symptoms and people with Borderline Personality Disorder can learn to cope with symptoms and can recover. Bipolar 1 Disorder and generalized anxiety disorder have been removed from my list of psychiatric disorders. A weight has been lifted.

Whether or not I was misdiagnosed, I will never know for sure. The point is I do not have symptoms now and my new psychiatrist believes most of my behaviors and severe symptoms came from taking high doses of the Benzodiazepine, Klonopin for too long–over twenty years. I will elaborate more on my process of accepting a misdiagnosis on a later post and…

I believe when there are no explanations–

IT MUST BE GOD!

Healing is possible.


Copyright © 2019 | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved

Partial Hospitalization Program and IOP

I wrote a blog post a few months ago detailing my experience with modern day mental health hospitalization. You can read it here. It was a nightmare experience that exposed the glaring holes in America’s mental health care.

Since then, I’ve enrolled in an intensive therapy program. They call it a Partial Hospitalization Program, but that’s just the insurance code used. It’s not as scary as it sounds. I’m not hospitalized, I’m not locked in a facility. Basically, I go to intensive group therapy everyday of the week from 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM.

Then there is a step down program called Intensive Outpatient Program. Which is, essentially, going to therapy 3-4 days a week from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM. The difference between PHP and IOP is that PHP is to figure out the causes of thought distortions and to integrate with the the skills taught in the program. It can last from 2 weeks to 4 weeks.

IOP is practicing the skills learned and getting stable on medications. IOP is still intensive, but is a step down from PHP. Usually IOP lasts for a month or two. But it can end sooner.

At the facility where I’m at, I’m free to leave if I want, but I’ve found I don’t want to. Normally I shy away from group therapy. I don’t like interacting with others and never feel a connection with the other patients. But this time, it’s different.

I’ve fully committed to my treatment plan. I’ve fully committed to getting better. And that means going to group therapy and interacting with others facing the same issues I am.

I have to admit, my first week, I wanted to just go home. I was withdrawing, existing in my head through most group therapies. I retreated into my intellect. Each day we check in with a mood rating, the emotions we’re feeling, struggles we’re having, and topics we’d like to discuss. Then we move into mindfulness exercises. And this is where my intellect collided with the therapy.

I always found mindfulness new age hokum. It’s taking Eastern meditation and reinterpreting it as some psychological self-help crap. I always resisted it.

Until now.

After two months of intense therapy, sometimes not wanting to go in at all, wanting to isolate, but making myself to go in to therapy I can say this program saved my life.

I was at the bottom of a deep, dark depression. I was isolating and abusing substances. Thanks to Compass, I learned the skills I needed to work my way into a functional life. They didn’t fix me, but they gave me the skills and methods to start making things better.

They helped me find a great outside therapist (my current one being useless), worked with my psychiatrist on getting on the right medications and regime, and things actually look hopeful for once.

I have to say, if you are struggling, if you are hopeless, and you are scared of inpatient hospitals, please, please, please look into a Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient Program. Don’t let the names scare you. There is no hospital, you are free to come and go as you please.

But these people are professionals and truly care on you getting better. They know how to get things started and get you help. They will not treat you like scum or something unworthy of help. They truly care.

They saved my life. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or fears. I’ve been through it all. And I’m now better for it.

photo Credit: unsplash-logoMartha Dominguez de Gouveia

Shhh… That is Stigma

With all the illnesses in the world to pick from I had to get mental illness. I had to get the only kind of illness that condemns you and destroys you for having it. If mental illness does not kill you on its own the stigma related to its name will eventually destroy you.

I am hurt and deeply saddened today for many reasons but one of them is because my own mother has been slowly killing me for twenty-five years because of stigma. My entire life my mother only loved me if I was good and perfect. There was no unconditional love and if she had it she did not know how to show it.

When I was diagnosed with mental illness twenty five years ago that was the day my mother’s daughter died. I was dead in her eyes. She never saw me the same again. I saw that look of disgust and pity in here eyes each time she looked at me. I felt the pain I caused her every time I spoke to her. She could never hide it and I could not forget it even though I tried desperately to. I always tried to make my mom happy and love me. Everyone wants their own mother to love them but mine did not have it in her to even try anymore.

Image result for not talking about it is stigma too

Her views of mental illness have always been archaic. She was old school. Mental illness was something to laugh at and be ashamed of and fear. This is what her oldest daughter had become.

My mother’s way of dealing with my mental illness was to not deal with it at all. Maybe if she pretended like it was not real and I was not real, we would both go away. Just don’t think about it and it will all go away.

The problem with that was that I was very real and I did not go away and neither did my mental illness. While she was pretending my mental illness was not real my mental illness became more severe and real nearly killing me many times. My mother continued to stay away and pretend. It hurt her too much. My mental illness hurt me too much too, but I could not leave the “too much” as I was the “too much.”

My mother is a very smart woman, but she chose not to educate herself about my bipolar disorder . Don’t talk about it. She said things like, “Nobody talk about Suzie’s mental illness. Shhhh… Don’t say anything. Don’t bring it up. Shhh…”

Let me tell you what shhhhh… does.

Shhh… belittles.

Shhhh…. shames.

Shhh… humiliates.

Shhh… detroys.

Shhh… makes you feel like you don’t matter.

Shhh… makes you feel like NO ON CARES.

Shhh… makes you feel like you aren’t worthy of anyone’s words, care or concern.

Shhhh… slowly kills.

The other day my mother complained to me about how awful it was that none of her children came to her Ovarian cancer meetings. I visited my mother in the hospital many times and sent her beautiful flowers and many cards. I painfully reminded her that for 25 years she never once came to my mental illness family meetings. She never once visited me in the hospital even when I was near death. She never once bought me flowers. I am her daughter but she couldn’t find it in her heart to care enough to even visit me in the hospital. She barely acknowledged the illness that is and has been killing me for years.

I thought after 25 years she was better, but I was recently reminded how I was sadly mistaken. Yesterday over the telephone my mother was making fun of my “crazy” (great) Aunt Lilly. Great Aunt Lilly was never spoken about and my mother only told me about her five years ago. That was how shaming it was to have an Aunt Lilly in our family. She was the relative you held your index finger up to the center of your lips and said shhhh… That was how Aunt Lilly was referred to. Her family, my family, put her in a psychiatric hospital (Insane Asylum) and threw away the key. My poor beautiful Aunt Lilly never got back out. She never got to go home and died in the Insane Asylum.

Image result for stigma hurts

I am the “crazy” Aunt Lilly in our family today. They didn’t lock me up in the Psychiatric Hospital, but maybe only because they couldn’t today. Mental illness stigma has decreased and treatment of people with mental illness is better—at least that much better.

My family still calls my beautiful Aunt Lilly “crazy” Aunt Lilly and laugh about it. It breaks my heart. Don’t they understand? Don’t they care?

Why can”t my mother and the rest of my family understand that when they laugh about “crazy” Aunt Lilly they are laughing at me?

Why don’t people understand that when they make fun of people with mental illness they are making fun every person with mental illness?

Will I be known as “crazy” Aunt Sue? In my family, I think so. I am trying to help them understand and I keep trying, but my family has a very hard surface to break.

Will stigma only end after the older generation dies. Maybe.

I believe the younger generation will be much better about treating people with mental illness wisely and compassionately. We need to end mental illness stigma now, so we do not have to wait another generation for it to improve.

We need to end mental illness stigma now, so we do not have anymore “crazy” Aunt Lilly conversations in this lifetime.

Start normalizing the dialogues about mental illness.

Let mental illness become part of a “normal” every day conversation. Mental illness is  much more “normal” than you realize.

~written by Susan Walz


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