The Mental Illness Box

When I was a very young child, my brain and mind were free and open to see and create beautiful visions for my life. I had a lifetime to make my dreams come true.

There was no box.

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After a few years passed and the abuse began, I saw the box and visited it occasionally to protect myself from the pain caused from the outside world I knew.

This box was always there for me and protected me and kept me safe within my mind, but I could still get outside my mental illness box.

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After I gave birth to my first child, a large box swallowed me whole, entrapping me inside. The box encompassed me and left no windows of hope or opportunity to see through. My life and view of the world became very dark.

After a few years I saw a glimmer of light shine through a small opening. I saw hope and soon my window of hope gradually increased in size until I could peek through an opening of my life knowing there was a chance to escape from the darkness of this mental illness box.

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After being diagnosed with postpartum depression and bipolar 1 disorder 25 years ago,  I have never been able to completely break free from the confines of my box. Many times my box had great big windows of hope and opportunity. Hope was within my reach and I held on to that rope of hope with all my strength. Sometimes only one side of the box remained, so my sight opened up to a better day and a brighter tomorrow.

Imagine being in a large box that is closed shut. It is very dark. Blackness surrounds you.

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Sometimes, a small horizontal rectangular window of light opened up so I could peek through. My rectangular window of hope varied in size and dimension throughout the years depending on the wellness of my brain and mind and which bipolar pole I was in or near.

My rectangular window and view for my life changed from day-to-day. The larger my rectangular window became, the more hope I had. The greater the vision of hope I had, the more beautiful the picture of my life became. My ability to function and live my life depended on the size of the window of hope inside my box. I was still living, but my vision and living had been obscured from this mental illness box that surrounded me throughout my life.

After many years of living with this mental illness box surrounding me, my box grew darker and my window of hope destroyed. There were no more windows to see out of or to bring light back inside my mental illness box of life. I was gone. I left. My brain had died. I had no more light to see. I had no hope.

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When I did not have the ability to hope or see clearly, my brain shut done and took away my rational thoughts and ideas to live. My thoughts did not seem to be my own, but they were the only ones I had and the only reality I knew. My perception of reality was wrong and my brain fired lies at me that I could no longer fight.

I began to listen to the illogical lies my brain was telling me and soon I could no longer stop the words I heard inside my mind and dark mental illness box. I obeyed the commands inside my head. They ordered me and I obeyed with the inability to stop the demons and darkness inside me. I followed the commands inside my mind. I thought there was no other choice but to end my life.

That is what happened to me and my brain on the morning I should have died, after my last suicide attempt. After surviving my suicide attempt, my brain and I felt dead for days until I began to see a small flicker of light peek through the blackness of my mental illness box. My spark of hope began to flicker. My window of hope inside my dark mental illness box grew larger every day until I saw beautiful visions of hope and faith.

I could finally see outside my mental illness box. The view was beautiful. The more beauty I saw the greater my hope. The more hope I had the larger my window of opportunity became. As soon as my window of opportunity became large enough I jumped out my window head first and never looked back.

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I still see glimpses of my mental illness box in my rear view mirror, but my visions of the mental illness box continue to decrease on my beautiful journey to recovery and wellness.

I dream of one day living my life free from the stigma of mental illness and…

free from inside a mental illness box.

~written by Susan Walz

Be brave and…

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If you are living inside your mental illness box, please keep fighting and try to live outside of the box. I am not saying to live without mental illness. I am saying do not become stuck inside your mental illness box. Break free and learn to live near your box and use your mental illness to enhance your life in any way you can. Please do not let mental illness consume you and stop you from living a purposeful life. Don’t let mental illness stop you from seeing the beauty of the world.

I know when you are in the stuck inside a mental illness box and can only see blackness and darkness it seems like you will never see the light of life again.
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I am here to tell you, there is a light. Look for that flicker of light and hope and when you find them never lose sight of them—no matter what size they are. When you see that flicker of hope, hang on to that rope of hope for dear life. At first your hope might just be a thread of hope but I promise you soon it will grow into a large rope of hope. 

You can break free from living inside a mental illness box. Freedom from living inside your mental illness box is necessary for your survival, recovery and wellness. You can do it. Rip that box into shreds and live the life you deserve to live outside of the confines of your mental illness box. 

It is okay to have a mental illness.

It is okay not to be okay, but please remember never give up.

I am here to tell you and PROMISE YOU that recovery and wellness are possible.

I am an example and living proof of that.

Much love and hugs, Sue

A comfort zone is a beautful place, but nothing ever grows there.” ~ unknown

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Copyright © 2108 SusanWalz | | All Rights Reserved

We Need to Talk About ALL Deaths by Suicide—Not Just When Celebrities Die by Suicide

I am saddened by the two celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, that died by suicide last week. However, I am glad it has increased the discussion about mental illness and suicide. I wish people would discuss the severe epidemic of mental illness and suicide before celebrity suicides occurred, but at any rate we are talking about it finally.

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After listening to people speak about mental illness on the news and other places, I have come to the realization that most people do not have a clue what mental illness is. Too many people have said that these two people who died by suicide had everything going for them and had everything to live for and yet they were not happy.  These comments make me think that people really don’t get it.

Mental illness is not a choice. Mental illness is not a character flaw. Mental illness is not always determined by life’s circumstances. Mental illness is not caused from negative self-talk. Mental illness is a brain disease. Trauma can increase the likelihood that you may develop a chronic depression, PTSD or other mental illness but it is not an absolute determining factor. Everyone is different.

Mental illness is not determined by the kind of life you live or what you look like or how much money you have or don’t have. So, why are so many people surprised that these two celebrities had sorrow, pain, heartache, mental illness, depression and died by suicide? There are no “looks” that people with mental illness have or people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts have.

What do people think mental illness and people who die by suicide look like? Do people think that people who have suicidal ideations look and act differently—like someone or something in a horror movie? What are they expecting to see? There is no look.

I guarantee you that most people who are suicidal are going to hide that from you. Having suicidal thoughts is not something you freely share with others. You don’t want others to know. Stigma prevents that and inhibits our ability to do that.

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The suicide hotline numbers are very important and crucial to display and post everywhere, but people need to know that is not enough. We must be honest that many people who have severe mental illness symptoms and are suicidal are very ill at that time and are incapable of making a decision to pick up the telephone to call the number or ask for the help they need to survive.

When people are suicidal their brains are usually lying to them for many different reasons. Suicidal thoughts can be triggered from PTSD, medication side effects, severe depression, an elated mania, a psychotic state, they hear voices and many other reasons. There are many contributing reasons why a person becomes suicidal.

The huge problem is people who are suicidal believe the lies their brain is telling them. The perceptions about their life becomes misconstrued. Their perceptions of reality are blurred. Sometimes they may have reached an elated mania or a psychosis which means they are not themselves and are not in their own reality. Their brains are telling them lies that become their truth and the only reality they know.

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You cannot see brain disease. Just because their reality becomes abnormal does not mean their appearance and mannerisms will change. They can change but sometimes the changes are very slight. You need to pay close attention and do not ever assume there will be obvious signs you can see or should have seen them.

Sometimes people who are suicidal plan ahead of time when they will end their lives. They will not tell you and they will not show signs because they want to hide it from you. Sometimes they have suicidal thoughts off and on for years. Sometimes they have suicidal thoughts that they thought they could fight and they have for a long time but one day they lose the battle. The suicidal thoughts became too strong and overtake their mind and desire to live anymore. Sometimes they have an elated mania and are happy before they decide to end their lives. They may hear voices or think God is telling them it is time and this brings them happiness.

That is what happened to me before my last suicide attempt. I had been fighting severe suicidal thoughts for months. Often a person, especially in a manic state, refuses to believe and accept how sick they are. They think they can keep fighting whatever is happening to them. Before my last suicide attempt I had an elated mania episode and felt very happy. God told me it was time and I was ready. After I survived my suicide attempt and remembered the moment I took my handfuls of pills the reality of that moment is very scary because there was a powerful force that was out of my control. It overpowered me. Too many people say it is a choice but for me it was not.

People need to stop saying suicide is a choice because sometimes it is not a choice. The mental illness can overtake the person’s mind at the time and there is no reality to stay in because they lost their own reality. You can’t see this shift in reality or severe suicidal thoughts that are occurring inside a suicidal person’s mind.

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Suicide is very scary, but people need to know the realities and the truth. Sometimes there is no mind over matter. There is no more mind that matters. I want people to be aware of the many possibilities in the mind of someone before a suicide attempt. I know it is depressing and hard to hear, but it’s a very hard truth people must speak about and people need to listen to. It is imperative if we want to save lives and end the increasing suicide epidemic all over the world. People need to listen and know the painful truths surrounding it. It is time to end stigma and it is time to stop suicide.

Another untruth I want people to stop thinking and saying about suicide is that suicide is a selfish act. That is hogwash and the ignorance annoys me. Most people I know that have died by suicide or are suicide attempt survivors thought people would be better off without them. They are being selfless not selfish. They wholeheartedly believe people would be happy that they were gone. They think people would be better off without them. They feel like they are and have been a burden to others. They think they are helping loved ones and the world by ending their own lives. So please stop saying suicide is a SELFISH act. When you say things like that it is stigma and it hurts and negatively impacts the families of people who died by suicide and suicide attempt survivors.

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According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,965 Americans die by suicide every year. For every suicide, there 25 suicide attempts. On average, there are 123 suicides per day in the United States. There are more deaths by suicide than car accident deaths per year. These statistics are from data from 2016 and the suicide rates are increasing at alarming rates today. According to the World Health Organization—WHO, it is estimated that one million people die from suicide a year. This is an epidemic that needs immediate attention.

People do not seem to pay attention to the alarmingly increasing rate of suicide until a celebrity dies by suicide or mentions they have a mental illness. Something is grotesquely wrong with that picture. Please pay attention to everyone. No one is immune to mental illness or suicide. Please listen, look, see, read, inform, talk about it, help others and love others. This is an emergency. Stop the stigma. It will save lives.

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Please stop telling people to “just get over it” and “don’t be so emotional.” We need to be emotional. We need to stop hiding our emotions and pretending we are okay when we aren’t. Hiding our feelings and who we really are is hurting people. Stigma prevents people from seeking help and getting the help they need to live good lives. Stigma kills. Stop stigma and prevent suicide. Do not wait for another celebrity to die by suicide. Help everyone now.

Everyone who has a mental illness and everyone in the world needs to have people support them, care for them and be their eyes for them. People need to look out for each other, but especially people with depression and other mental illness. I say look out for everyone because some people have mental illness but have not been diagnosed yet. They may be in denial or afraid to tell people the truth about their feelings and pain. Unfortunately, stigma puts up a wall between people’s ability to seek help.

Tear down that stigma wall one brick at a time. Start yesterday.

~Written by Susan Walz

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Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | | All Rights reserved

What’s Behind a Smile?

On a news report after the suicide of Kate Spade her friend said, “The Kate I knew always had a smile on her face.”

A smile can be an illusion.

A lot can be hidden behind the mask of a smile. A smile is not always what it appears to be. A smile is not always authentic. Unfortunately we cannot always trust the appearance of a smile.

Only the person wearing the smile knows the true reason for their smile.

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There are many reasons why I smile:

  1. I smile to hide my pain.
  2. I smile to disguise my anger.
  3. I smile when I am sad.
  4. I smile when I am happy.
  5. I smile because it makes me feel a little better.
  6. I smile when I am nervous.
  7. I smile when I don’t know what to say.
  8. I smile hoping my smile will remind my brain to be happy and feel happy.
  9. I smile to make other people happy.
  10. I smile to comfort other people.
  11. I smile because I love my children.
  12. I smile when something is funny.
  13. I smile when I feel peaceful and content.
  14. I smile to welcome you into my soul.

A lot is hidden behind a smile, but the eyes can never lie.

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You can never disguise your eyes completely. I wear make-up to make my eyes look pretty and try to disguise my pain, but pain is hidden in the eyes behind the smile. The eyes are the window to the soul and my soul holds the truth of all my secrets.

I have heard many people say after someone dies by suicide that when they looked at pictures of them they could see the pain. It was there. They say they should have looked closer. When we know what to look for and after we know the truth then it’s easy to see it. Hindsight is 20/20.

Robin Williams and the singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park are two celebrities that died by suicide. Their sadness was visible if you looked closely into their eyes. If you look at pictures of Robin Williams or Chester Bennington from Linkin Park you can see the sadness in their eyes and in their face, especially if they are not hiding behind their smile masks.

Look closely into people’s eyes. You can see a lot in their eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul and there is much beauty inside the windows of the soul.  The soul  holds our truth. The soul holds the blueprint of the person God intended us to be. We are still in there regardless of other masks we hide behind. The soul always lives behind the interference of pain, illness and trauma.

When you look at someone really look at them. See them. Look into their eyes and fully engage with them. Look closely into someone’s eyes so you can see how they are truly feeling and who they are. See and know their pain if and when it is there. See and feel their joy and love if and when it is there. Look into people’s eyes and get to know who they are.

Don’t settle for the masks of outer appearances. Dig deep and look deep into the heart and soul of people. There is much beauty and stories behind pain, mental illness, other illnesses, trauma, a bad day, heartache and so much more. Search for people’s true identity. Find their inner beauty. Everyone has it. God put it there. Sometimes we have to look deeper to find their beauty, but it is there. Be patient and I guarantee you will find it.

A person’s true beauty lies behind the eyes and lives within the soul.

~written by Susan Walz

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Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

Escaping the Stigma

Even to those of us who don’t live with a mental illness, it’s no secret that the history of mental health is extremely complex and somewhat tragic. While it’s true that we’ve made great strides in that area and the general public no longer has a pearl clutching response to talking about it, the stigma surrounding mental illness is persistent and can still be very harmful to our society and those that do struggle with these issues.

To understand the modern stigmas that plague our society regarding mental health, it’s important to consider the history of dealing with mental health. For instance, depression, which most people experience at some point in their lives is one illness with a significant history of stigma surrounding it. This illness, commonly referred to throughout history as “melancholia”, has been recognized and recounted as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, but for most of that time was considered a result of demonic possession and was commonly “treated” with execution. The same can be said of those who suffered with bipolar disorder, which was generally referred to as “mania” and lumped in with depression as a sign of demonic possession.

Even after people began exploring and trying to understand mental illness, there was a long road of misdiagnosis and “treatment” options that ranged from silly to downright abhorrent. As late as the 1950s, women were often misdiagnosed with “hysteria” for a variety of symptoms including faintness, nervousness, extreme sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, muscle spasms, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of food or sexual appetite, and (you might want to sit down for this one) “Tendency to cause trouble”. Yes, you read that correctly. Women were “treated” and even at times INSTITUTIONALIZED for a plethora of things that one might experience during a particularly infuriating menstrual cycle. It’s baffling.

What passed for treatment (and I use that term VERY loosely) throughout history was similarly mind-boggling. We’ve already established that straight-up murder was a common solution to mental illness, but the crazy train doesn’t stop there. Other common practices meant to address mental illness throughout history included trephination (a quaint term referring to a process in which someone would REMOVE A CHUNK OF YOUR SKULL), bloodletting and purging, isolation and asylums, insulin coma therapy, metrazol therapy, and lobotomies. If you’re unfamiliar with any of those practices, I encourage you to look them up if you want to feel all of the heeby jeebies at once.

Thankfully, we’ve finally progressed to a point in our society where we have a more solid understanding of mental illness and it’s many forms and causes, and people are no longer being murdered for having too many ghosts in their blood, but that’s a whole lot of ridiculous to get over and our society is still suffering as a result. It’s not surprising based on the early and continuous reactions to mental illnesses that it developed a sort of taboo. I’d definitely be less inclined to talk about my mental state if it meant risking someone jabbing around in my brain and/or throwing me into a bible fire to scare away the demons. But, the idea that mental health shouldn’t be discussed is damaging to our understanding of mental illness and the people who suffer from it.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are approximately 40,000 deaths by suicide each year, just in America. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 4 people worldwide will be affected by mental or neurological disorders as some point in their lives and that around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, making mental illness one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability across the globe. With such staggering statistics and so many people dealing with mental illness, it’s almost unbelievable that there could still be a stigma attached to mental illness, or that people would be reluctant to talk about it. However, even with more resources and readily available treatment than any other point in history, nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional.

Many of us still feel embarrassed to admit that we are struggling. We still deal with the social stigma and personally imposed stigmas, because we’ve been ingrained throughout history with the notion that mental illness is wrong, or taboo, or evil and it’s still hurting us. As far as we’ve come in understanding and treating mental illness, we clearly still have hurdles that we must overcome.

We won’t be able to change the climate of the mental health conversation overnight, but if we commit to being open and honest with each other and advocate for those who don’t yet know how to advocate for themselves, we can change the world and save lives.

**If you’re struggling with mental illness and need help, please seek out local resources and see a health professional. They can help diagnose and establish a treatment plan for you.

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. 

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.

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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.

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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 | | All Rights Reserved

Stigma – A Skewed Perception

Many people have a skewed perception of what mental illness is. This skewed perception comes from people making generalized and uneducated statements about mental illness. Negative terms are used to describe or make fun of people with mental illness. People use mental illness related terms to describe someone or something in a negative and belittling way. For example, “She is so bipolar.” This demeans mental illness and the people who live with it. This is stigma.

Stigma is a mark of disgrace and shame associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Stigma causes people who live with a mental illness to be biased, shamed and  discriminated against for an illness they never wanted to have. Mental illness has nothing to do with a person’s character, or determination, yet people are blamed for getting the illness and not being able to make it go away.

Getting a  mental illness diagnosis is forever life changing. Living with a mental illness is daunting and debilitating. Learning to cope with the symptoms of mental illness become a life-long struggle. Facing the stigma related to mental illness is degrading and instills shame and fear hindering many people’s wellness and treatment.

Imagine finding out you have a chronic illness. Besides just having to live with the struggles and pain of having a severe illness you also have to face the daily stigma associated with the name of your illness. You are scrutinized, belittled, discriminated and shamed for the type of illness you have. My ex-husband and his wife called me names repeatedly telling me I was a horrible mother, a loser and I was crazy (and worse things) just because of the name of my illness.

They tried to take my children away from me for over thirteen years until my children turned eighteen. I went to court repeatedly to fight my ex-husband for custody because of the name of my illness. I had to spend money I didn’t have on court fees just because of the name of my illness. I had to prove I was a better mother than most just because of the name of my illness. As hard as they tried they never won. They lost every time, but I had to live with their cruelty, nastiness and the trauma of going to court to defend myself and the illness I have only because of the name of my illness.

The name of my primary mental illness is bipolar 1 disorder and I also live with generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. I must live with the stigma related to the fact that I am a numerous suicide attempt survivor. As debilitating as my mental illnesses are and have been, stigma became another destructive illness I had to face and live with every day and continue to live with today.

I was fired from a special education teaching position and am no longer able to teach in the area I live because of the name of my illness. I won a wrongful termination suit and the school attorney admitted that school districts do not want teachers who have severe mental illness in their schools because parents do not want teachers teaching their children who have a mental illness. The money I won was only a band-aide because the humiliation, shame, pain and the damage was already done.

Cut stigma out of our lives.

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Stigma needs to stop yesterday. We can help end stigma by educating others. One way to educate others is by telling our stories. There is a ripple effect that occurs after one person shares their story. One person shares and then another person says #Icantoo. They share too and it continues until everyone is sharing their stories about  mental illness and soon conversations about mental illness become the norm and accepted as a good dialog and conversation.  Soon mental illness will not need to be feared or shamed.

The ripple effect will turn into waves of glory.

I think it is imperative that we aren’t afraid to share our stories. If we have fear and shame of ourselves and our own stories than we become part of the stigma. When we are uncomfortable with our own illness and story, how can we expect others to be comfortable with us. Each time we share our story it becomes easier to tell. Each time we read a story it helps us know we are not alone.

I started my campaign to find ways to get people to share their stories. I even said they did not have to disclose their names because just sharing your story is very freeing. It is a great release to share what you may be afraid to disclose.

We will never end the stigma if we do not stop being part of the stigma. I understand the fear of not disclosing stems from stigma. This has become a vicious cycle that we need to break. Just start out by sharing a little at a time and I promise you it will get easier and will be a very integral part of your recovery.

For those of you that have already shared your stories on my blog, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I greatly appreciate all of you.

I appreciate all of you who are still reading.

We celebrate all of you.

Please join my campaign.

Be a part of the solution to end stigma.

Share your beautiful story and help change lives.

“There’s Glory in Sharing Your Story”

Your story is an account of past events in your life.

Your Glory is something that secures praise,

 worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving,

a distinguished quality or asset,

great beauty and splendor,

magnificence and a height of prosperity or achievement.

“There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Maya Angelou

No matter what your story is,

you should be praised and honored for sharing your story,

for surviving the life you live,

and for the amazing person you are.

You need to be celebrated and I want to celebrate you.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

and in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month

I want to celebrate you by sharing your story on my blog.

During the month of May my goal is to share one story per day.

I will share more stories after May as often as I get them.

Please let me know if you are interested.

Here is a link for the directions and suggestions on writing your story.

When we share our stories it’s an opportunity to educate about mental illness, reduce stigma, reduce fear and reduce shame.  It teaches people what it is like to live with a mental illness.

When we share our stories, we show our support of others who may be going through similar struggles. It allows others to see that they are not alone.  We can share advice, suggestions and examples of what helped us the most to achieve recovery. Sharing our stories is very therapeutic for ourselves.

Sharing our stories will help more people feel comfortable about mental illness. It will fire up the conversations about mental health, which will ultimately help end stigma.

By sharing our stories we can be an inspiration to others to never give up. We can be an example of courage, strength, survival, perseverance and resiliency. By sharing our own stories we can help end stigma and save lives.

Let’s celebrate each other.

Please reblog this to get the word out

so we can all share and read more glorious stories.

stigma free

Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

Will the Mental Illness Stigma Ever end?

A Conversation About the Mental Illness Stigma

I wanted to open this blog post with this, the stigma surrounding mental illness is real. I see it every day. It is all over the daily news. “This person did this horrible act because he/she was mentally ill.” While this is true in some of the cases, mental illness is not an answer to a question. It is an uncontrollable imbalance in our minds. Those of us who live each day, often hiding behind our disease, it can be hard to have peace because we fear what people would say.

When people say, “Why don’t you get over it. Everyone deals with anxiety and depression every day.” It hurts more than you know.

To some this dialogue is true. Millions in this world suffer from temporary depression or anxiety. The problem, millions more deal with depression and anxiety every day. When people say “get over it” it stems from a dialogue that becomes every day speak. It trivializes the entire mental health community when people say in a glorification manor, “Oh, I am feeling Bipolar today.”


I don’t know about you, but I have never told people I am feeling Bipolar when I am in the worst parts of my illness. When someone says, “I am Bipolar” but uses it in a general sense, it continues to trivialize. It takes away from the people who struggle with the extreme nature of Bipolar Disorder. It changes the narrative in a wrong way. Then when someone is Bipolar and fighting, they become fearful of saying they are Bipolar. The fear and backlash from people who have normalized the disease.

Not in a million years would I chose to be Bipolar. It sucks. I live every day of my life with a truth no one should live this life. I am one lousy depression cycle away from going down the darkest of paths— suicide. No matter how well I am doing at this moment, until the day I leave this world, suicide will always be a possibility in my life. I live with crippling severe anxiety and insomnia that makes life not worth living— and yet I try and find ways to continue to fight. I tell myself daily “Always Keep Fighting.”

Ending the Stigma Through Education

That is why I am writing my memoir. Sharing my experience is one part of the equation. The other half— is to inspire more people to share their own story. I connect with so many people on a daily basis that tell me they are happy to have at least one person who understands. That it is “so much easier to hide behind the stigma than to face people saying get over it.” I have shared my fellow mental health bloggers many times because it helps show the real side of the many facets of mental illness.

Interview Features – The Series

Trust me. If I could “get over it” in an instant, then I would.


I envision a world where the mental illness community is this open place where we talk about real life. Mental illness and the stigma can only end with dialogue, empathy in the community, and understanding. We as a community are the most significant voices. I understand, so many of us have a hard time sharing our real lives with those closest to us. It’s easier to be here and talking, but I have found that the most significant thing I give people that love me, is education.

I recently completed a Diversity class for my degree, and in that class, my project focused on mental health stigma related to college minorities. My idea was particular to the project— mental health literacy. In a real-world scenario, I would start with classes for middle school students that focus on identifying mental illness and at the same time explore the connections with Bullying and Mental Health.

I think most roads start with real mental health literacy. As a society mental illness is ever increasing issue that most of the time is swept under the rug. Part of the problem is that many of us in the struggle don’t want to be on the outside of society. So we hide behind the stigma, which only makes things more difficult not only in our own lives but also for those just beginning their journey. So I wanted to share this part of me.


I write under a pseudonym because it is easier for me to share my story. Even as good and open as I am, I never thought I could write under my real name. I am part of the problem. So I thought why not tell the truth.

My name is David. I am Bipolar. I write under my pen name because it’s easier, but I will no longer hide behind it. I am David. I am James Edgar Skye. I am The Bipolar Writer.

If at this moment all you can do is write under a pseudonym than I understand. If you can do more, that is good. I am no longer going to hide behind J.E. Skye because that name is a part of me. It is me, but my real name is just as important.

I believe the stigma can end. The mental illness community has a real shot at making real noise.

Always Keep Fighting.

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoRamy Kabalan


unsplash-logoRoman Mager

unsplash-logoGuillaume de Germain

No More Blame, Bias or Shame

I have bipolar disorder. A mental illness one in the same.

The kind of illness that some still whisper its name.

Diagnosed with mental illness you are blamed, biased and shamed.

Given treatments and medications that sometimes make you too tame.

Drugs that change parts of your personality, spirit and game.

It’s time people with mental illness are given praise and acclaim

for their strength and resilience to overcome what they have overcame.

People with mental illness deserve to have their dignity and respect reclaimed.

Mental illness stigma needs to be stopped and renamed.

End the discrimination, bias and shame

for having an illness we never caused or wanted to claim.

I will continue to fight mental illness stigma. This I will always proclaim.

Speaking proudly and loudly. I am not ashamed. My illness is only a name.

I am not bipolar. I have bipolar.

I am not my illness. My illness is only a part of me

and has formed many good traits of me for you to see.

It is my passion and aim

to address and rename

mental illness in a positive beautiful frame

with an educated compassionate domain.

It’s time to burn out the negative hurtful flame

with a positive light associated with its name.

Make a choice

and be a voice

to decrease and stop stigma.

lt would be so very awesome of ya.

~Written by Susan Walz

Terminated by Stigma

They cast me away,

with obvious dismay.

Nothing to say,

not even to pray.

Discrimination and bias displayed,

ignorance and disapproval conveyed.

There were no fundraisers or sympathy cards,

no get well wishes, balloons or shiny gold stars.

I was blamed,


and shamed.

Never again treated the same,

after my mental illness came.

At that time, bipolar disorder was not accepted for a teacher,

parents do not want their children taught by that kind of creature.

I was told that by my school attorney,

during my teacher termination journey.

Won a wrongful termination lawsuit,

but it was only a band-aide, as I got the boot.

My humiliation was intense,

sorrow and anger immense.

This is bipolar stigma related pain,

band-aide gone, wounds remain.

Their actions are done,

but I have only just begun.

 I have became stronger,

won’t put up with this any longer.

I am still a teacher teaching,

but with a different kind of preaching.

End mental illness stigma now,

so we can proudly smile, curtsy and bow.

~written by Susan Walz