My Story’s the Opposite of EVERYTHING We’ve Been Taught About Mental Illness

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

One year, six months and eight days ago I was in the worst state I have ever been in during my over twenty-seven years of living with mental illness. I was severely suicidal and had been for many days and months in a row and was experiencing an elated mania mixed episode.

One year, six months and eight days ago I attempted suicide and thought I was leaving earth forever. I strongly wanted to and was ready. I faced the reality of what death meant and I was there…

Those were scary and heartbreaking words to write especially because…

today I am beyond blessed to be alive and I feel better and happier than I ever have in my life. I feel inner joy, a peaceful spirit and a mental wellness I don’t think I ever felt before…

My suicide attempt was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to go off Klonopin, a Benzodiazepine, the only psychotropic medication I was on at them time. Because I overdosed on Benzos (as well as other psychotropics I had saved and stored in my home for years), the psychiatrists in the hospital would not give me anymore Benzodiazepines while I was in the hospital. And after staying in the hospital for two weeks and beginning the severe horrible hell of Klonopin withdrawal syndrome, I knew I would never take another Benzo again.

After I was forced to stop taking the Benodiazepine, Klonopin, I never looked back.

After surviving the severe beyond painful and debilitating neurological like impairments for over two months from the withdrawals from Klonopin after over two decades of their use, overuse and abuse, I am mentally well. I made it.

After the damage caused from taking Klonopin and the many other combinations and cocktails of Psychotropic medications and after having over a hundred ECTs over a twenty-five year period, my brain continues to improve and rejuvenate every day. I keep improving both physically and mentally even at my ripe old age of 56. My arthritis is even improving. It is uncanny and unbelievably amazing.

This is great news and I thought everyone would be happy to hear it and receive the inspiration of hope from my story.

However, my words now are sometimes more difficult to share with the mental illness community than when I shared my thoughts and feelings of the pain from being suicidal. I am happy I could do that then to help others, plus writing about my pain was very therapeutic for me.

Maybe more people could relate to my posts about heartache, loss, pain and despair because that was what they were going through, as well. Maybe it is harder to hear the blessings of wellness because it doesn’t seem possible to them. Recovery and happiness seem so far away and out of reach many people don’t think it could happen to them.

I must reiterate a million times that recovery is possible and is in everyone’s reach. Some people must stretch further than others. But recovery and happiness are possible for everyone.  Keep going. Keep reaching for that first grasp of success and recovery. You can do it. Once you grab on to recovery never let go.

For years, we have been taught that mental illness means:

  1. Continued struggles and ups and downs with recovery.
  2. Mental illness diagnoses are forever.
  3. You will need to be on various psychotropic medications for the rest of your lives.
  4. Mental illness is a life sentence.
  5. You will never be normal.
  6. We can get you to live a functional life. Ugh.
  7. You must accept your diagnosis and use of medications as the first step in recovery or you will never achieve it.
  8. You must accept that this will be a lifelong battle.
  9. You must lean how to deal with the knowledge of this permanent life sentence before your journey of recovery can begin.

At lease those were some of the things I was told. Yikes. No wonder so many people struggling with mental illness attempt or die by suicide… There is not enough hope and sometimes there is no hope…

We must have hope for survival, recovery and wellness.

I want to help inspire that hope.

At first, I was so excited to share what I had learned and the positive experiences that happened to me. I thought people would be happy and receptive to hear what I had to say.

I received mixed reviews. Although people are happy for me they are very skeptical. Some think I am manic and that is why I feel well today. They think I am “crazy” and that this can never happen. I am living proof but it is almost like they can’t believe it.

I want them to believe it. I know it is true because I am living it and I must share my story. What else can I do? I hope people will listen and find hope from my story.

Some people get upset with me for making it sound like I am promoting for all people to be psychotropic medication free. This is not the case. Medications are necessary for many but maybe not forever for some people.

Psychotropic medications are not ALWAYS required, necessary or healthy for all people to take for the rest of their lives. The use of psychotropic medications needs to be evaluated more often on an individual basis for people after diagnosis. The pros and cons need to be addressed much more often than they are and the damage these meds can cause needs to be looked at very closely–ALWAYS.

Please think about this regarding the use of psychotropic medications…

We repeatedly hear…

“Everyone is different and responds to medications differently.”

If that is true then why do we hear the blanketed statements, “Psychotropic medications must be taken for the rest of your lives. Never stop taking your medications.” If everyone is different than why do we assume EVERYONE will need to take their medications for the rest of their lives. We DO NOT know this to be a fact. Not yet anyway.

We also hear and read, “Bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are lifelong chronic illnesses. You will have bipolar disorder, for example, for the rest of your life.” If everyone is different, how do we know this to be true for sure? I don’t think we do. We do not know this to be a fact as they do not have all the answers about mental illness. There are still learning as they go and we are currently their subjects.

We need to keep an open mind and keep the possibility and hope that mental illness is not ALWAYS a lifelong illness.

Also, some people don’t like it when I talk about the dangers of Benzos and other psychotropic medications. I know everyone is different, but still the dangers are very real and affect everyone differently.

I share my story to inform, educate, increase awareness and inspire hope.

Some people are not receptive to what I have to say. It is a very sensitive area. My story conflicts with what we have been taught about mental illness.

My story is the opposite of EVERYTHING we have been taught about mental illness. I share my current story about how…

  1. My recovery continues to improve and I have reached mental wellness.
  2. I no longer have bipolar disorder (I was told it was a misdiagnosis.)
  3. I am psychotropic medications free for over a  year and a half.
  4. I have less anxiety symptoms than before starting Klonopin and other medications (withdrawal symptoms from Benzos can cause an increase in anxiety like symptoms worse than anxiety was. We blame increased anxiety on mental illness when in actuality it was from withdrawal effects of Benzos and possibly other psychotropics).
  5. I feel like my old self before my initial diagnosis of postpartum depression 27 years ago. This continues to improve every day and is a welcome joy.
  6. I enjoy working again. I am a resident care assistant for patients with Alzheimers. I get paid to give love again like before my diagnosis when I was a special needs teacher.
  7. I am joining church groups and signed up for an adult tap class.
  8. Slowly I am learning how to be social again and I welcome that as well.
  9. Nothing is permanent.
  10. My mental health improved. I am better and can live a beautiful, productive and meaningful life (BEYOND FUNCTIONAL).

Once I was given a mental illness diagnosis, it was drilled into my head that it is permanent and will never go away. I was told I will HAVE to take psychotropic medications for the rest of my life. “You must NEVER stop taking your medications,” I was repeatedly told. “You will never be normal. We can get you to live a functional life but you will never be normal.”

These kind of things are also said to many people after being given a mental illness diagnosis. The rest of your life seems like an awful long time to endure the type of hell I went through. Maybe that is why there are so many suicides. People with mental illness diagnoses are not given enough hope.

I was diagnosed with mental illness over 27 years ago and have been mentally well about a year after the Klonopin withdrawal symptoms finally subsided enough to enjoy the beauty of living again. Maybe my recovery  took 26 years, but the point is… it is possible and it happens. Regardless of the length of time it took, reaching recovery and mental wellness is a huge beautiful glorious blessing and is worth every pain and heartache.

Keep going. Keep fighting. You will make it too and once you do you will know it was all worth it–every painful step and pothole of your journey matters.

The pain and suffering from mental illness does not have to be forever. It really doesn’t. It will get better. You will get better. You can do it. You can make it. I am living proof.

Never forget…

You are loved by many.

You are needed.

You are important and you matter.

Your life has value.

You can live a long, successful, happy and productive life.

You can and will make a positive impact on many people’s lives.

You can and will enjoy the beauty of living…

and hopefully one day without the interference of mental illness.

I pray that for all of you.

Never give up.

You got this.

When you don’t feel like you can do this…

GOD HAS YOU.

Much love, Sue


Photo credit: Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

© 2019 Susan Walz | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved

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39 Replies to “My Story’s the Opposite of EVERYTHING We’ve Been Taught About Mental Illness”

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! I am absolutely delighted for you. I am so happy to read something that I too believe. It IS possible to get better. It IS possible to turn life around. I’m thrilled for you. Katie x

    1. Thank you Katie. I appreciate your affirmation and enthusiasm for me and for your like-mindedness about the possibilities of recovery. I pray recovery and wellness is happening for you as well. Much love, Sue

  2. This post gives me some hope. I am on a real cocktail of medications : antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers, other anxiety meds and benzodiazepines. I’m not stable but I’m not in the worst ‘place’ mentally that I’ve been either. I feel that the meds are subduing my emotions to the point that I don’t understand how I really feel anymore. It’s like an emptiness and affects my sense of who I am too. Sure, my thoughts are pigeon holed rather than the ‘busy head’, thoughts unbridled feeling which left me overwhelmed and confused; but I want some spontaneous thought. I want to have something to feed my creativity like before..

    I ask if I can try reducing the medication but the psychiatrists are frightened of what might happen. My family worry what might happen too…

    I can’t continue like this forever.. Ellory X

    1. I’m sorry you are struggling and are on so many medications. For years, I was also on many medications at one time and probably have tried every medication and combination of medications there are. I was one of those people that medications never really worked for but they kept trying. I became increasingly ill on the medications but they kept trying new and different and more medications never considering whether or not I was becoming increasingly more ill due to the amount of meds I was on or from the mental illness. They of course blamed the illness. I believe and my new psychiatrist believes my severe symptoms were mostly related to the medications and he says I do not have bipolar nor did I ever have it. Of course, I am not a doctor and I can only share what happened to me to increase awareness.I just think we have to look at other options of care sometimes. Now they are doing med washes on people so they can start from scratch so to speak. I think is a fantastic idea so they can truly determine whether or not you still need the medications. Instead of trying one medication on top of the other before the first medications are out of your system. Psychotropic medications help and damage at the same time. I am sorry you are going through this and I pray they figure it out for you very soon. Keep fighting and keep hanging on. You will make it. It will get better. I promise. Recovery is possible. I am living proof. Sorry for the long ramble, Much love, Sue

      1. Ellory. Just be completely honest with everyone about how you feel. It is your body and your life. If they change and/or reduce your medications they just need to keep a close on your behaviors and mood. You can make it. You need relief. You are in my prayers.

      2. Thank you for your encouragement! I think, like you say, that it has gotten to the point that it’s difficult to say which med is doing what. I would love to do a washout. I know it would be tough but if it even just resulted in me taking less meds then it would be a success in my opinion.

        It’s great that you have found stability and a doctor who is willing to look at other options rather than just continuing to add meds. Also that he even doubts your previous diagnosis – Things are looking bright for you!

        Thank you for sharing and offering some hope to me and others! Love Ellory X

      3. I definitely believe in the med. washes. You would have to take time off from your normal routine/work and be ready for possible withdrawals but it is so necessary to determine if your brain chemistry and hormone levels etc. have transformed overtime. I don’t believe every doctor does them but you should look into it. How do we EVER know if we never do this? People that have been on meds for a long period of time should do this. How else can we know? There are no blood tests to determine if we need the large amounts of medications we are on. People may be so pleasantly surprised of the results. I am so blessed today and it is possible for you as well. I pray you will get better soon. Much more love. Keep fighting through…

  3. Hi Sue, thanks so much for sharing your story and unique perspective. I agree we don’t hear enough about what it means to recover and I always appreciate hearing about people living well even after a diagnosis, gives me lots of hope 🙂 <3

    I was curious reading this, was going off the Benzos the only thing that you feel led to your ultimate recovery? Were there other factors?

    I hear your overall argument saying we shouldn't let a lifetime diagnosis control our destiny. I agree that we can fall into the trap of getting defined by our mental illness in a toxic way. However I tend to think of mental illness as lifelong for most people including myself because there are so many ups and downs, so many situations that affect us different than others that can trigger a down spiral even after many years of remission. Or it could never come back-everyone's experience is so different.

    I'm glad to hear though that things are going well for you and that your experience has turned into a positive one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece and look forward to hearing more.

  4. Excellent very well written post. I write about benzo’s to. I get very little love when I advocate the dangers of long-term use. Question: being of similar age and having taken, used and abused them, and gone through the hell of withdrawal, and having rebound anxiety ten fold. I am afraid to go off it. What was it like for you? At 60 is it worth going through 2 years of hell?

    1. Hello. Thank you for reading and for your great feedback and questions. I am happy to meet another advocate to help rid the world of Benzos. I lost twenty years of my life not because of mental illness but because of Klonopin. My quest is to not let anyone else have to go through the hell I experienced but it is not easy as people are not as receptive to the information I must share. Every second of Klonopin withdrawal pain and hell that I went through is worth the way I feel today. I am not sure if what I am experiencing feels even more beautiful because I know what it is like to be dead while living. Maybe the difference between being on psychotropics to being med free is so extreme that the beauty of living is magnified hugely. I cannot fully articulate how blessed I am and thankful I am to be alive. I know it is from being psychotropic medication free. I believe I may have needed meds at first after severe postpartum depression but NOT for 25 years. Yes. Yes Yes. it is worth every second of hell to know even a moment of peace and calm and joy the beauty of life without the interference of medications brings. I heard it takes two years at times but it was mostly two months of hell and for me and continues to get progressively better every day since. For me it was the first two months that were a hell I can’t explain (hugely neurologically impaired ) You only live once and I wish you could know what it is like to be Benzo free. It is hell at first but it is worth it. When you feel like you can’t get over it or make it one more day that is when you have almost made it. After the worst the best begins. You are 60 but you can live at least another 40. Anyway. Sorry for the ramble but yes I would highly recommend doing it under a doctors guidance of course. Much love, Sue

      1. I appreciate you sharing your experiences, I genuinely have Generalized anxiety disorder and the medication helps but it has affected my cognitive ability. I hear you, and it appears I have to face it head on.
        I appreciate your encouragement. Also you write very well, your a natural. Keep it up

      2. I truly thank you for the compliment of writing. It’s something I always strive to get better at and it has become something I love to do. If and when you start to taper off your benzos you will notice an improvement in your cognition and memory very soon. Let me know if you have any questions. Good luck with everything.

  5. Truth be told I am prescribed 3mg a day, but sometimes take 4 or 5 mg a day. If I go into a rehab they will take me off if not instantly within a week
    I can’t do that. What’s a taper that in your experience is doable? . I find “we” benzo sufferers know more than physicians. For what ever it’s, you may have had a profound on someone’s life. If that’s why you blog, there’s is no monetary value you can put on that. You have a natural gift, it’s no wonder you have so many followers. BTW my ex-wife’s name is Sue. Lol

    1. Well, Sue is a lovely name. I am sorry to tell you Bruce my withdrawal was not done correctly at all. Because I overdosed (suicide attempt) on Klonopin (and other medications) they stopped my Klonopin cold turkey and I know now I could have died. I was not aware of any of this at the time. Since they had already stopped it after my overdose I kept it going and never looked back I cold turkeyed off of Benzos after over twenty years of overuse and abuse… and I am blessed to be alive to tell my tale. I survived and it was a hell I never experienced before and is difficult to articulate properly. Maybe it was the correct way as my withdrawals were shorter than others I have heard about . Maybe because I did it cold turkey my symptoms more severe and extreme initially but were shorter in duration. I do not know for sure. That worked for me but is not how it is supposed to be done due to the possibility of it causing seizures. From researching this the best way is to decrease the Klonopin or Benzos from .25 a week until you are med free. something like that but I do not have experience of this. My biggest advice is that when you think you can’t make it anymore you have to look how far you have come and you never want to go start over or go back. You will survive. I couldn’t work or barely function for the first two months but IT IS WORTH IT. I promise you. Please let me know when you will begin the withdrawal process. I will be your cheerleader and help in any way I can. Cheers and hugs.

      1. Thanks, I appreciate it, and I’ll call back. It was kinda a rhetorical question. I posted a blog called how to taper of benzodiazepines and there’s a chart with week by week instructions unfortunately U. S. Doctors won’t do it this way. Check it out for future ref. If you like. Also do you sponsor posts?

      2. Yes. I often reblog posts and can do that. I only have about 2300 followers on my own blog My Loud Whispers of Hope. I’m a contributing author on this blog The Bipolar Writer with 12,000 (or so) followers. You could ask James if you could be a contributor or be a guest author if you want a lot of people to read your words. I think some doctors taper slowly like that… don’t they??? Few but some?? I know my new p-doc does…

      3. What state are you in? Do you know an email address I can reach him at?

      4. I’m in Wisconsin. His email address should be on his blog The Bipolar Writer. Sorry. I don’t know it off hand. Let me know if you find it. Thanks.😊

  6. Since my accident i struggle with my mental health every single day of my life! Awesome read! I started my blog up April 2019. I can’t work to brachial plexus injury (right arm doesn’t work) & severe head injury in 2013. Since then, I had a baby in 2017, married 2018, another kid 2019. I would love to interact if you get a chance! aquoonline.com or https://www.facebook.com/aquoonline/ 🙂 have a lovely day! Xx

    1. Thank you for reading and for sharing your wonderful feedback. I appreciate it. You are an incredibly strong person. Wow. I peeked at your site as well and it is very good. I would love to interact with you. Keep fighting and being strong and being a great Mommy. There is nothing better than being a Mommy. My children saved my life repeatedly and are the reasons for my breath.. Much love always, Sue.

  7. As someone who has suffered from major depression and suicidal tendencies, I have been on and off antidepressants a couple of times in my life. I was prescribed a half-dose as of April, but I decided to quit taking it this month. My doctor doesn’t know I stopped abruptly. She warned me of high chance of relapse but that hasn’t happened yet. I’ve been antidepressant-free since August 3 and managing it fine.

    The reason I was able to quit is because exercise releases the endorphins which boosts my serotonin levels naturally. That’s what this pill has been trying to mimic but exercise has been way more effective, and in its own right. I do HIIT to manage my depression which is what keeps me going every day. And it doesn’t make me nauseous and sick to my stomach like the med did. 🧘‍♀️💕

    Can depression be cured? I’ve had mild depression my whole life and only when it shifted to major depression, that’s when I needed the antidepressant. Can depression be managed without meds? Definitely. In order to reap the rewards, I now work out 6 days a week now doing high intensity Pilates. I used to think it was silly and a waste of time but not anymore! 💪🔥

    There is hope for all of you who are suffering from chemical imbalances. Whether it’s too much or too little of a neurotransmitter that’s throwing you of balance, it doesn’t have to stay this way forever. 🙏🏻💕

    1. Thank you so much for reading Hilary and for the awesome feedback I have to be honest that I had to look up what HIIT was. I didn’t know. I think it is fantastic that you found what works for you. Exercise is great and I know it would help me too. I just can’t seem to do it. You must be a strong person. Exercising is something I need to start doing for sure. I always try in my head lol but that is as far as I get… Losing weight and exercise are my next goals in seeking mental wellness. I am still working on it and never giving up on losing weight etc. I so AGREE with you that the chemical imbalance does not have to stay forever. We just have to figure out how to transform it. Medications are not ALWAYS the answer. Thank you and keep up the great work. I admire you for being so strong and exercising as much as you do. You are both mentally and physically healthy. Congratulations. Much love always, Sue

  8. I was meds for a while when I was younger. I stopped taking them because I had a bad reaction once and I don’t feel like myself on them. I feel like there is a different person in my body. I don’t feel like I will ever recover from depression and anxiety to where it is normal but your story gives me hope that someday it will happen. I have read many stories like yours to know that it does happen for some people.

    1. For me I believe my hormones always played a big role in my mental health and of course my PTSD as well. ECTs helped me I think. Also, after many years I finally learned better coping strategies like simple mindfulness of living in the moment, for example, and removing negative people and thoughts from my life and distracting myself from the pain of mental illness as much as possible. After I surrendered myself completely to God my recovery began and the ripple effect of recovery continued. God, my faith and prayer helped a lot. Recovery is possible. I pray it happens for you soon. Much love, Sue 💗😊❤️

      1. I’ve thought about becoming more religious to help as I have never believed in religion before. Writing has helped

      2. Me too. Writing was my life saver. It still is. If I struggle with anything, writing seems to help me work through it. Primarily, I believe it was my faith that helped the most… Plus, I love this blogging community. We all help each other in many ways…

  9. Hi Sue, I agree with you. Mental illness does not have to be life long. There really is hope. For me, I starts with AFFIRMING the opposite – AFFIRMING what I want to be true – AFFIRMING that I am free of mental illness. The more I affirm that, the more I grow into it. The more my inner wisdom leads me to the next right action. I too am weaning off of medication. I don’t want to be chemically dependent and I don’t want to treat symptoms. I want to use my therapy to heal the root traumas. When I change my thoughts, I change my brain. I also don’t believe anymore in “ups and downs,” in “forwards and backs.” Every struggle is a step forward, because the context has changed. It’s just the next challenge, like leveling up in a video game. Super Mario shoots the same mushrooms in every level, but the circumstances get harder and harder. It doesn’t matter if the behavior is the same; the circumstances are different. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Wow. That was beautifully stated. Thank you for sharing your words, experiences and wisdom. It was all lovely and I appreciate it and YOU. We need to keep spreading the word that there is hope for recovery and that recovery does not always need to include the interference of medications. We deserve so much more. Much love always, Sue

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