PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) – Renee Schuls-Jacobson is a local artist and life coach. However, her path to get there wasn’t always clear-cut.

10 years ago, Schuls-Jacobson underwent a medically-supervised withdrawal from an anti-anxiety medication prescribed to her for years.

She later developed a severe brain injury from that withdrawal, called an iatrogenic injury, which hindered much of her basic motor skills.

In nearing a full recovery now, Schuls-Jacobson uses her talents from the time she picked up a paintbrush to empower others and raise awareness on a topic often stigmatized.

In 2012, Schuls-Jacobson began weaning off her low-dose prescription of Klonopin, a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

Within a year, that withdrawal would present significant damage to her brain, limiting her ability to walk, talk, eat and sleep.

“For me, it was literally like a door or window slammed shut on August 1, 2013. I was basically bedridden and very severely disabled for a long period of time,” said Schuls-Jacobson.

Those symptoms carried the same intensity for about three years, forcing her to leave a 20-year career teaching English.

During the course of her recovery, and with limitations on doing much of anything, a friend lent her some art supplies.

What started as a newfound passion turned into a new career, and a different way of connecting with others.

“I always tell people this was not a business plan. This was a coping skill. I did not know this was the right path per se, I just knew this was something I enjoyed. It was effortless. People seemed to like it and responded to it,” said Schuls-Jacobson.

Schuls-Jacobson says art has aided in her rehabilitation. Over time, she began selling her prints and has since coached hundreds experiencing benzo withdrawals as she did.

“There’s tens of thousands of people who have been harmed in the same way. It’s just that there’s so much stigma around this that people don’t share,” said Schuls-Jacobson.

Each one of her works depicts a different and unique message, often based on the stories of real people.

“You can be at your lowest, lowest low and you just have to hold on and wait for the miracle. I believed I was never going to get better, and I have,” said Schuls-Jacobson, “I don’t know what people are looking for when they want to see a miracle, but this is a miracle. I don’t think I’m special, because I’m seeing it all the time.”

Schuls-Jacobson teaches art classes for many ages. Her work can be found online and at various shows in the Finger Lakes and Central New York regions.

For more information and to view Schuls-Jacobson’s work, visit her website.