because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Raising Awareness About The Dangers of Benzodiazepines

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I’ve been consulting with people in benzodiazepine withdrawal for nearly a year now. It’s something I do quietly, privately. Right now, I have four or five people who call me regularly for emotional support. Each of them shares a similar story.

They were going through a difficult time in their lives – usually involving profound loss or grief – when they started to experience somatic symptoms. Rather than being sent to therapy to discuss their life experiences, these individuals were sent down the psychiatry route.

After a short meeting with a psychiatrist, their behavior was determined to be pathological or disordered, and they were told to take was medication which would help alleviate their symptoms.

In each case, they were prescribed benzodiazepines which, they were assured, would work for them like magic. And for a time, they did. However, just like any drug, these drugs lose their efficacy and individuals find themselves needing to take more to achieve the same results. Some people become tolerant more quickly than others, for whom reaching tolerance may take years.

It doesn’t matter.

The end result is the same.

Once you hit tolerance, you’re in trouble because you can’t stay on the drug, but you cannot get off without scads of horrifying side effects.

Today, I received this message via email (shared with permission):

I had a severe seizure in the late afternoon yesterday. My eyes spasmed and blinked uncontrollably. My mouth twisted and stuck in a contorted position. As my jaw moved with violent force from left to right, my bottom lip moved up and down up and down. I felt dizzy and sick. My eyebrows went up and down, my neck convulsed, along with my lips. My teeth chattered nonstop. I feel violated by my own brain and body.

This has been going on since for over a year!

I am hopeless and in despair.

My primary doctor has destroyed my life and murdered me.

I am suicidal & asked for a closed casket.

I don’t think I will make it. The stress is slowly killing me.

I don’t know what to do.

If you are having an adverse reaction to a drug that can’t be stopped, how do you get off of it? How?

This woman is a warrior.

Her brain is zapping her; her body is betraying her. She cannot walk or talk or watch television or listen to music. She cannot enjoy a casual lunch with a girlfriend or go to the beach. She’s homebound and isolated, having to endure thousands of horrifying symptoms.

The fact that people are continuing to suffer is unacceptable.

Pharmaceutical companies have known about the dangers of benzodiazepines since the 1970s and ill-informed physicians continue to prescribe benzodiazepines longterm without understanding their efficacy, and patients continue to be harmed.

Up until now, I’ve used my art work and my blog as vehicles to bring attention to this travesty.

Moving forward, I’m offering education and individual case consulting for medical personnel.

I’d like to visit medical schools and speak to future doctors about my experience and the experience of so many people who have been harmed by psychiatrists who have mistakenly deemed certain drugs as “safe” and “tried and true.”

For more information on how I can help you better help you, your loved ones, or your patients, please contact me HERE.

Permission to Feel Sadness Leads to Joy

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Last night, I shared with a new friend how someone hurt my heart this weekend.

I explained how I’d been dancing on the beach, basking in the sunrise, grateful for the opportunity to plant my feet firmly in the sand and be so close to the ocean. “I selected the spot carefully,” I said. “Off to the left of the only sunbather on the beach.”

I told him how I’d popped in my headphones, so I could tune out the world and tune into my body.

Fifty months ago, in the throes of acute benzodiazepine withdrawal, my body was in continuous pain. Unable to walk or talk, or take care of any of my most basic needs, I was confined indoors (mostly) for over a year.

I never thought I’d heal.

So there I am, quietly expressing gratitude to the Universe when this woman ~ this stranger ~ tells me to move myself down the beach. She tells me I’m distracting her.

“Your ass is in my face,” she says.

Obviously, she didn’t know about what I’d been through ~ but it felt terrible to be shamed for feeling being myself, for expressing my joy.

“Aw babe,” my friend said. “Don’t cry. All that’s over now.”

The rabbis teach that to truly know another person, we must not know only their pleasures and their successes but also the sorrows they bear.

Burying my face in my friend’s shoulder, he stroked my back. “If you need to cry, it’s okay,” he said. “Cry long and hard.”

The moment he gave me permission to share my sadness, my burden was cut in half, and I didn’t feel like crying any more.

I don’t know if he realizes the gift he gave me, but I do know these tiny interactions are what life is all about.

And I believe it is our charge to remember to do that for someone else every day.

Be on the lookout for someone to help today.

Who/what helps you feel better when you’re feeling low? 

Becoming Real

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BECOMING REAL is a 16×20 multimedia painting featuring acrylic paint, vintage papers, oil pastels & colored pencils. Reproductions are available by request.

Four years ago, after weaning off a powerful anti-anxiety medication, I had a seizure in my kitchen.

Lying on my back, I stared up at the ceiling, baffled by what was happening to me.

For months, I suffered hundreds of physical and emotional symptoms that kept me locked in a state of constant terror.

No one knew how to help me.

In February of 2014, I flew out to Arizona, to The Meadows of Wickenburg, a rehabilitation facility where I watched shattered people heal…while I remained terribly ill.

No matter what I did, my brain remained scrambled.

I had absolutely no evidence that I’d ever heal.

While in rehab, I spent a lot of time in the art room. I painted a tree and a house and a bird. A boy told me my picture was pretty, so I gave it to him.

Back in Rochester, I kept painting: hearts & animals, monsters & sad-faced girls.

My paintings got bigger and bigger. I created The State of Undress Project and connected with dozens of people, exchanging life stories and forging friendships.

Three years have passed, and I just had my very first art opening. People I’d previously only “known” online showed up and introduce themselves in person. A childhood friend I hadn’t seen in over 30 years drove over an hour to be there. My parents were there, old friends and new, and I felt loved and supported by everyone who was in attendance.

Sitting here this morning, I received payment for a commissioned painting I have not yet painted. People are buying my work. They tell me they like my goofy videos. I have travel plans to look forward to. Work plans. Artist friends who generously answer my newbie questions. Patrons who are actively collecting my paintings, if you can believe it. And yesterday, a new artist friend asked me for advice.

Recently, after completing a whimsical painting of a funny looking critter, my cousin commented that he reminded her of The Velveteen Rabbit, a book I’d many years before. Upon revisiting it, I see what she means. The book offers many lovely themes, but the one that had the most resonance for me is its reminder that It’s Important to be Real.

(Rabbit doesn’t need the garden rabbits to tell him he’s Real, and he doesn’t need the Boy to keep loving him in order to stay that way. Once he recognizes his own Realness, the Rabbit has the confidence to be his own person.)

It sounds like it’s easy, this ‘being real’ business.

But it isn’t.

And I see it now, how I’d fallen off my path.

How I’d stopped creating, stopped loving, stopped trusting the voices that guide me.

How I was surviving but not thriving.

How I was spending my days living the way others wanted me to live.

A way that wasn’t my way.

At all.

How I’d stopped being real.

The Velveteen Rabbit also reminded me to remember the people who have helped me.

(Even after he’s Real and living with the garden rabbits, the Rabbit still comes back to visit the Boy whose love gave him life. He could have easily forgotten the Boy, living in Rabbit-land, but he doesn’t. The Velveteen Rabbit teaches us to never forget the people who made us who we are, even when we’re living in two different worlds.

So I’m thanking all of you: my parents, my family, my friends ~ new and old ~ my patrons, my followers… (Even those of you who have hurt me ~ and you know who you are ~ you taught me something. I may be a slow learner, but I’ve definitely learned from you. Better late than never, eh?

It’s time to stop focusing on the past.

Why? Because it’s happening.

I’m becoming real: a full-time creative who gets to express herself in color and words.

It’s a dream come true.

Tweet me at @rasjacobson and follow me on Facebook at rasjacobson originals.

Press Release For My Art Show on 9/16/2017

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Here is the official press release which I’m sending out to anyone and everyone here in Rochester. If anyone has contacts at the New York Times, the LA Times, or the Chicago Tribune, I sure would like to get some national exposure. This is not about selling paintings. It’s about raising awareness about the dangers of psychiatric drugs. So many people are suffering in silence right this very moment, their voices unheard. I’m grateful to be able to use my art as a vehicle to share my story, which is the story for so many of us.

• • •

Reproductions of this piece are available as wall art, on magnets & coasters, as well as porcelain trivet tiles.


Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s Art Represents her Healing Journey

Toward Mental Wellness & the Struggle of Others With Invisible Challenges

 August 1, 2017 – Rochester, NY – Whitman Works Company in Penfield, New York is pleased to present “THE STATE OF UNDRESS PROJECT: THE HEALING OF RASJACOBSON”. The exhibit’s opening will take place September 16th with a reception from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at 1826 Penfield Road, Penfield, NY. This exhibit represents Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s on-going healing journey after becoming disabled as a result of improper treatment and withdrawal from a powerful anti-anxiety medication.

During her illness, Jacobson realized there was a profound disconnection between how she looked and how she felt. While speaking with others who were willing to admit that they, too, were struggling to overcome invisible obstacles of their own, she became interested in the tension between outward appearance and internal reality, creating impressionistic portraits based on the stories people shared.

As a result, Jacobson’s art reflects this duality, and her colorful crowd of characters is enigmatic. Despite her use of a cheerful color palette, her subjects often appear deep in thought, even a little sad.

Jacobson hopes her artwork (and the accompanying non-fiction narratives) will allow people to speak more freely about their own insecurities and invisible disabilities which are, to some degree, present in all of us. She also seeks to educate the public about the dangers associated with psychotropic drugs, like the one she was prescribed.

The artist will be in residence for the opening of the exhibit on September 16, 2017 from 6 PM to 9 PM. The show will continue in the Whitman Works Company Gallery through October 7th. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM. For additional information please visit the gallery shop in person at the address above or online at



My First Gallery Event: THE HEALING of RASJACOBSON

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I’m going to be one of those artists who actually gets some love while I’m still ALIVE!

The opening is set for Saturday, September 16, 2017 between 6-9PM. at Whitman Works Gallery in Penfield, New York.

A small reception will be held, and – if I know me – there will be much weeping and hugging.

My greatest wish is that every person who is currently suffering the debilitating effects of benzodiazepeine withdrawal will see this and continue to hold on with the understanding that, eventually, the suffering ends. It ends. Healing is real, and it is proof that the Universe is truly looking out for each and every one of us.

I’m sharing the formal press release information here, in hopes that you will save the date on your calendars. I hope you will schedule me into your fall plans.

I am truly grateful for your support as I continue to rebuild my life.


Whitman Works Company in Penfield, New York is pleased to present “THE STATE OF UNDRESS: THE HEALING OF RASJACOBSON”. This exhibit represents Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s on-going journey to mental health after becoming disabled as a result of improper treatment and withdrawal from a powerful anti-anxiety medication.

During her illness, Renée realized there was a profound disconnection between how she looked and how she felt. In speaking with others who admitted that they, too, were struggling to overcome invisible obstacles of their own, she became interested in the tension between outward appearance and internal reality, creating impressionistic portraits based on the stories people shared.

Renee’s art reflects the duality between appearance and reality. Her colorful crowd of characters is enigmatic. Despite her use of a cheerful color palette, her subjects often appear to be deep in thought, even a little sad. For the full story, read her bio at

The artist will be in residence for the opening of the exhibit on September 16, 2017 from 6 PM to 9 PM. The show will continue in the Whitman Works Company Gallery through October 7th.

Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM. For additional information please visit the gallery shop in person or online.

More information about the paintings is being made available on My Patreon Page where, for a minimum of $1 per month, you can read my entire story, as I write it, and receive special content that no one else can see.
















On Solitary Confinement: A Post-Divorce Update About Apartment Life

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The first night in my apartment building, the upstairs’ neighbor’s toilet clogged and overflowed. Bilgy water rained down from the ceiling, soaking my new bathroom mat. I’m not a squeamish person. I can touch spiders and snakes. I don’t mind getting dirty. But I was completely unprepared for brown water dripping on my head. I didn’t know what to do or who to call.

At the time, I didn’t even own a mop.

That night, I stayed up very late with a dear friend who’d come over to help me unpack. Together, Sara and I furiously unboxed my housewares, strategically placing what few pots and pans we could find all over the bathroom.

After Sara went home, I climbed into bed and wept.

For hours.

The next day, I packed until dinnertime. After I’d washed the dishes, I decided to hang up some artwork. It was early, and, outside my windows, the sky was still light. If I had to guess, I’d say I hung up three paintings.

So maybe 15 whacks with a hammer.

Maybe 20.

The next morning, I found a handwritten note that someone had slid under my door.

“Too loud!!!” the note read in cursive. “Do not make noise after 5PM!!!”

I stewed for a little while, wondering which neighbor had left me the note. Eventually, I tossed the note in the trash and decided to venture out. The wait for the elevator took forever. When the doors opened, I stepped into the lobby area. It’s a formal space, and even after two years, it feels more like a hotel than anywhere I’d ever call home.

The doorman pointed at me. “You’re the new girl everyone is complaining about,” he said. “The loud one.” 

It. Was. Awesome.

(And by awesome, I mean it sucked.)

It took me a year to get brave enough to buy a stereo speaker and actually play some music. Because, seriously, screw them. I’m not going to bed at 8PM.

Since my first day, I’ve received more notes. Apparently, I don’t empty the lint trap in the dryer well enough. And while I enjoy having a diverse group of friends, it seems some folks don’t like “the colored girls” coming round.

Another year has passed, and I’m still rebuilding. Apartment living for me is a lot like solitary confinement. The nature of the work I do (writing and painting) is isolating. I spend a lot of time in other people’s backyards, gardening, helping to decorate their patios. I’m still looking for a house, a community, people with whom to share a heart connection. I have Sara, thank goodness, and my parents, and the reality is that very few people check in on me with any regularity. When I need a ride to the airport, I call a taxi.

What does my life look like now? I get up, shower, make my bed, eat a little breakfast, lunch and dinner. Somewhere in there, I paint, write, do some yoga. I take long walks and learn something new every single day. (Thank goodness for NPR podcasts.) I help one person in benzo withdrawal every day. I clean, do my laundry, and try to connect with another human being in real life.

Weekends are hard.

Click on the blue jar to see this sticker, available at RedBubble!

I spend time going to garage sales in search of abandoned picture frames and Mason jars. I never had a thing for glass before I moved into an apartment, but I especially like the ones with rusty metal lids. I relate to their weatheredness, their fragility.

So here I am. It’s early, and I’ve run thru my entire bag of tricks. I’ve painted and shopped. Walked and cleaned. Visited with friends. Got a carwash. Made dinner.

I don’t cry every night anymore, but I’m still not smiling as much as I’d like.

I’m on mission to find a new home. My son will graduate from high school next Saturday. He’s ready to fly, and I’m so excited for him. Unlike my son, I don’t feel quite ready to launch. I need to do a bit more research, poke around and decide where I want to start the next chapter of my life.

A triangular girl, all I know is that living in a rectangle is not for me.

If you were starting over, where would you go and why? Got any suggestions?




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This photo was taken on July 30, 2013.

I was in Florida with my (then) husband.

We were out to dinner with his cousin when the world tipped sideways.

This is not an exaggeration.

The world suddenly shifted, and it would not be right again for 36 months….

• • •

So many people have been reaching out to me, asking for help. They want to know what my life was like before benzos, how much I was taking, for how long, how I weaned, how fast, what my withdrawal was like, how long the symptoms lasted, and what my life is like now.

I can only speak to so many people a day, and it’s never enough.

And that is why I decided do something completely different.

I’m sharing the full story of my battle with benzodiazepines at Patreon.

And you get to read the story as I’m writing it.

It’s taken me nearly 4 years to kick benzos’ ass!

You will too!

• • •

If you’d like to read more, contribute to MY PATREON PAGE at For $1 per month, you can read all about my story. I will post relevant art, writing & videos at least 4 times a month.

Please help me share my story!


Finding Humility at the NY State Fair

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2012-08-29 14.50.48 (1)

My family went to the New York State Fair every summer. We visited The Dairy Building to check out the enormous butter sculpture and, afterwards, waited in a ridiculously long line to get a free baked potato, topped with butter and sour cream. We admired the plants and flowers, the oversized fruits and vegetables, the goats and cows and swine. I looked forward to sipping fresh-squeezed lemonade out of a chubby yellow straw.

The last time I attended the State Fair was August 29, 2012.

My son and I and met my parents there. We stopped at the US Army exhibit where officers encouraged passers-by the try a pull-up challenge. When no one was participating, they demonstrated how “easy” it was to do ten pull-ups with pronated hands.

I’ve always admired that kind of raw strength.

I watched a few people struggle to do even one, and I remember thinking, “Wow, these people are really weak.” (Not so nice, I know. but that’s where I was.) And it was with great swelling pleasure, I stepped up to the bar and showed the world how a 45-year old woman could do 7 pull-ups.

No problem.

Just a few weeks later, I got sick.

Very sick.

I couldn’t go to the gym for over 2 years, and my muscles wasted away.

Now that I’m back to taking care of my body, I’ve been lifting weights again, trying to regain all that I lost.

When I was going thru benzodiazepine withdrawal, I never thought I’d ever be able to leave the house again. The symptoms lasted for months and years, and I didn’t know a single person who could tell me that my symptoms – though horrifying – were temporary. There were no support groups. Doctors told me that my illness was evidence that I needed to stay on the medication. I just keep holding on, white-knuckled.

Going to the Fair was a goal I set for myself this year.

I never thought I’d ever be able to do it, but there I was doing it.

I parked my car, figured out how to get in, walked to The Antique Tractor display…all by myself. I met some people and, together, we walked to the Iroquois Indian Village, watched men and women dance in slow circles as elders beat a drum and chanted. We walked around the midway,  saw the cows and goats and horses.

It was as if nothing had changed, not one moment had passed.

I remembered how I’d once easily completed those pull-ups, how my father had commented on my strength, how the men and women in uniform had praised me and joked that I could have a career in the military, so when I saw the familiar US Army exhibition, I was curious to see if I could still do it, three years later. Tossing my purse on the ground, I stepped right up. The bar was higher than I remembered, but I grabbed it.

There was no turning back.

I’ve always prided myself on my physicality. I was a dancer, a gymnast and a cheerleader. I was graceful and strong. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d helped my father use a chainsaw to take down some thick branches.

Using all my strength, I found – to my horror – I couldn’t complete a single pull-up.

Not. One.

The Agony of Defeat.

So there I was.

And here I am.

Feeling humble.

Realizing I’m not be as strong as I once was.

That it is unlikely I’ll ever be that strong again.

And yet feeling strangely grateful.

I mean, at least I have arms.

I can embrace people that I care about fully.

I can touch and hold and offer.

And I’m laughing.

Because it’s important to remember to laugh at ourselves.

(Y’all, I looked like a doofus.)

And I’m realizing that despite my lack of physical strength, well… I can celebrate the fact that I’m growing my inner strength, how all this adversity has proved that I am a survivor.

(Even if I never make it on the TV show.)

It feels good, this coming back to life.

I’m a baby phoenix.

This time, with each failure, I realize I’m learning to fly.

When is the last time you embarrassed yourself in public?

tweet me @rasjacobson

The State of Undress Project: A Longterm Art Endeavor

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Some of you know me as an artist; others of you know me as a writer or a teacher or a professional organizer. However, you know me, I’m guessing you’ve heard about how I’m healing from damage to my central nervous system caused by Klonopin, a medication prescribed to me by my doctor.

I’ve come a long way, but I still struggle with my executive planning function, a part of my brain function, which has been damaged during my traumatic withdrawal.

Once a mover and a shaker, I now experience nerve pain that has forced me to slow down.

 Despite my daily challenges, I’m still here.

After a 3-year hiatus from the formal classroom, this summer I’m teaching a memoir class once a week, and…

I’ve found a way to unify my passion for combining words and art in an effort to inspire others.

I’m calling my latest endeavor The State of Undress Project, which — when complete — will feature 18 paintings of women of every age, color, and social class. 

To be part of this project, women must be able to articulate an invisible obstacle they have overcome (or that they are actively working on) and be willing to frame this challenge as a strength. They must be willing to pose in some state of undress – lingerie or bathing suit, or slip (of their choosing) — and have their likeness painted as an impressionistic piece of art. 

I’ve completed 6 paintings so far, 2 are in progress, and…

I’m looking for 10 more female volunteers.

Posing semi-clothed requires immense vulnerability, bravery, and trust. Please know, I believe that every woman’s body is beautiful, and I can promise that I will turn your photograph into a fabulous piece of art.

If you’re interested (or if you know of someone who might be interested), please compose a paragraph in which you explain your story to me and send it to: by August 15, 2016. I’ll contact you we can talk about my timeline and the next step.

If you’d like to monitor my progress on Facebook, you can find me at:

Would you ever consider posing in a state of undress? Why or why not?

tweet me @rasjacobson

My Video for #WorldBenzoDay

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Today is World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day.

This is my contribution.

Note: I should have probably taken a moment to think about dressing up, or putting on makeup, or doing something with my hair.

But you know what? This is 100% authentically me, speaking honestly about a topic I know way too much about.

I respond to all comments left here on my blog. Please feel free to leave one.

NOTE: It is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume he/she knows how to do it well even if he/she claims to have experience. Doctors are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. It’s important to educate yourself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care. 

tweet me @rasjacobson