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

A Prescription Drug Addict – a poem

Taking Klonopin for over twenty years,

caused many heartbreaking tears.

When a doctor first gave me mine.

It was better than a fine wine.

I started using

and then abusing.

Sometimes taking more than I should.

Then trying to stop as hard as I could.

Called K-pins on the street.

The name is not discreet.

Take one, two or five

it makes you come alive.

Gives you a little high,

but you’re not sure why.

You know you must have more.

Some prescriptions filled at the store.

Some buy them on the street.

Twenty bucks will buy the treat.

Regardless of where, how or why

the outcome will make you cry.

If taken more than fourteen days,

it wreaks havoc in the most painful ways.

The brain and body become dependent.

An addiction no matter the route you went.

I’m no different than the drug addict on the street,

except I look different as my appearance is neat.

And my drugs were ordered the legal way,

by the doctor’s prescription and insurance pay.

Inside our damage and pain are one and the same.

The only difference is how they give us our name.

Please be kind and don’t judge.

It may be you that you smudge.

~written by Susan Walz

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Please remember, this poem was written because of my story and journey and it does not mean it is or will be yours. We are all different to our reactions to medications. Our stories are all uniquely ours. We have similar experiences and this is the beauty that helps us not feel alone. I am only trying to increase awareness of possible dangers for some people, like myself.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my story, I just wanted you to know I am no longer using or abusing Klonopin. Hello, my name is Sue and I am a Benzodiazepine (Klonopin) abuse survivor and I am in recovery. I am just like other “addicts” and substance abuse survivors. The only difference is that there isn’t a group to join, not in the area I live anyway.

No matter where you are in recovery from anything you need to recover from always remember every day, every hour and every minute is a great accomplishment and achievement and is a huge step in the right direction on your journey of recovery.

Happy recovery everyone.

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Copyright © 2108 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved