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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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:


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

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