Book reviews

Book Review: Shame Ate My Soul

book cover: Shame Ate My Soul by Sue Walz

Shame Ate My Soul is Susan Walz’s personal story of rising above stigma, suicide attempts, addiction, and misdiagnosis, and eventually finding recovery. I’ve known Sue, who blogs at My Loud Whispers of Hope, since the beginning of my blogging journey.

The book opens with a heartbreaking conversation with 2 of her 3 children, as they tried to persuade her to accept help in her depressed state. She told them she wouldn’t kill herself that night, and she “knew it to be true because I promised myself, I would never kill myself without writing letters to my children first. I was far too tired to write my good-bye letters tonight.” I know that kind of thought pattern all too well.

The book then shifts to her early life and the trauma she experienced from being punished for ongoing bed-wetting problems. Sue describes how symptoms of mental illness appeared and continued to worsen into her 20s.

She then became unexpectedly pregnant and endured a traumatic birth that left her “an empty carcass of a human being pretending to be real.” Unsurprisingly, she developed postpartum depression. At that point, she was prescribed Klonopin (clonazepam) by a psychiatrist she would end up seeing for many years.

Things really began to fall apart after the birth of her second child. Her psychiatrist diagnosed her with bipolar, but my guess is that he slept through the part of school where they taught about medicating bipolar. At many points throughout the book, I wanted to jump through the page and smack him silly.

Readers will probably also be inclined to jump on the smack train when she describes the horrible way she was treated around that time by her (now ex-) partner, her employer, emergency services, and the hospital. At one point, she writes that “I was imprisoned in the Psych Unit for ten days until they released me, until I served the mandatory sentence for my crime of having a severe mental illness and pissing off my husband.”

Sue writes about the stigma that she experienced in multiple contexts. For example, when she missed a couple of appointments with her obstetrician, she got a call from the clinic threatening that her baby would be taken away if she kept missing appointments. She was also wrongfully fired from a job when they found out her history of mental illness, and ended up homeless with a young daughter to care for. She explains how she developed self-stigma as a result of the stigma she was exposed to. Her experience really captures the harm that stigma can cause.

The gong show of psychiatric ineptitude continued, and her mental health declined. Every step of the way people just kept dropping the ball when it came to her care. It would be farcical if it wasn’t so tragic.

The book then arrives back at 2018, where it began in the first chapter. Sue explains that giving up the fight to live brought her “a new kind of peace I never experienced before.” I’ve felt that same peace when in that situation, and Sue’s description gives a good insight into that mindset.

The book includes the suicide note that Sue wrote after taking a bunch of pills. She posted it on her blog. That’s a part of the story that I already knew. I read Sue’s blog post early that morning, several hours after she posted it. I found the city where she lived on her Twitter profile, and called the police. The calltaker said they’d already been notified by another online follower, and they were already with her at that point. The book includes my response to her tweet, letting others know that help was already with her.

Besides worrying about further stigma she’d be faced with after the suicide attempt, she had to go through being cut off Klonopin cold turkey and experiencing a terrible prolonged withdrawal.

Finally, though, Sue was able to turn a corner. Her recovery has been truly remarkable, with the help of her faith, becoming a grandma, and finally finding a doctor who was able to give her the right diagnosis and get her on the right treatment.

Sue has had a very difficult journey, and she’s captured it really effectively in this book. It has a loud and clear anti-stigma message, as well as a very hopeful message for recovery. This is a very powerful book and I highly recommend it.

You can visit Sue on her blog, My Loud Whispers of Hope.

Shame Ate My Soul is available on Amazon.


I received a free copy of this book from the author.

You can find my other book reviews here.


book cover: Managing the Depression Puzzle by Ashley L. Peterson

My newest book, Managing the Depression Puzzle, takes a holistic, everything up to and including the kitchen sink look at how to put together the pieces of your unique depression puzzle.  It’s available on Amazon and other online retailers, as well as the MH@H Store.


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24 thoughts on “Book Review: Shame Ate My Soul”

  1. That’s so sad. I can’t imagine feeling so let down by people who are supposed to help and protect you. I’m so happy you were there to help her when she attempted to take her life. You’re so good x

  2. Wow what an upsetting story. Having been in such a low place myself I am glad she had you there, would loved to have had you by my side! Brilliant review, definitely going to have to read it x

  3. Ashley. Thank you for such a kind, positive and well written review of my book. This means the world to me and you already know from my repeated praises of you how much I appreciate you and adore you. You are simply THE BEST. Much love and respect always, Sue

  4. Through others’ struggles we can grow and learn. I really want people to never have to go through what I did and to be inspired to know that recovery and healing are possible. Thanks again Ashley and keep being a bright light, hope and wise voice in the mental health community. We need many more like you.

  5. Oh geez, God bless, this sounds so difficult and idiotic on the end of her caretakers. Perhaps to some extent we can all relate to getting horrible care when what we desperately need is a lifeline. I saw a psychiatrist shortly after college, when I was still working on campus, and told him that I felt too sensitive, as if I pick up on too much of everything around me. He prescribed me Klonopin, and it made me walk funny and feel weird. I googled it and found out it was for anxiety, and I kept thinking, “I’m not anxious! Why’d he prescribe me this?” Then I ODed on it but didn’t go to the hospital, and I wound up wide awake for, like, four days. That was interesting. [Shaking my head and rolling my eyes.] Anyway, I quit taking it after that. But nothing makes me as mad as psychiatric ineptitude, especially when it’s combined with a huge ego, with the psychiatrist thinking he’s some sort of genius who can figure it all out in five minutes. That guy was awful. This memoir sounds important and worth reading. Great review!

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