Give Us George Clooney’s PR Person.

If you are well enough to be following the news, you know that Sony scrubbed the release of the movie The Interview. That had Twitter lighting up like a Christmas tree. Now George Clooney has a story circulating about a petition he and his agent Bryan Lourd circulated among top people in film, TV, records and other areas to garner support.

I find it interesting how one main story can generate other stories that grab headline attention.

Well, we have a story. Benzodiazepines cause brain damage. It was documented 30 years ago. And of course there are our stories: lives disrupted, lived ruined and lives ended because of a medication we were prescribed to take.

I can’t understand how there are millions of us around the world suffering from some degree of benzo damage, yet Twitter isn’t lighting up like a Christmas tree about it. Perhaps it is because many of us feel ashamed that we were taking an anti-anxiety drug. Perhaps we are ashamed that we (through no fault of our own) became physically dependant on them. Some of us are ashamed of the symptoms we must endure as our brains heal from the damage: the psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, anxiety, terror, fatigue and the inability to function as normal human beings. Not to mention the enduring bone and muscle pain that keeps many of us sidelined.

I wish we had George Clooney’s public relations firm handling our story. I wish that some big media company would expose the dangers of benzos so that doctors would be informed to stop prescribing them for more than a few days, and that people would be educated to not take them.

I wish the benzo story was finally told and that everyone was aware of the dangers in taking them, and understood the heroic effort it takes for some of us to reclaim our brains and our lives from the damage they do.

 

 

 

Resilience Survey plus Indigogo Page

If you would like to help the research project, please take the time to answer the survey questions. It takes about 10-15 minutes.

Any questions? Post a comment or drop me a line.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/resilientresearch

If you know of anyone who would like to help fund the project please visit:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/resilience-across-america/x/9402841

 

Thank you for helping make this a reality. Let’s learn more about resilience. And as I travel, I am sure I will be putting benzo withdrawal on the map as well.

Much love

Jennifer

Resilience Across America Checklist. Prayer Request.

A few weeks ago I posted I was going to take a road trip and meet some of you fine people who have been my family for, what, four years now? Then God whispered, “Since you are going to be on the open road, do some serious research. Get back to work.” I can’t very well say “No!” to the Big Guy.

I’ve got a great team working behind the scenes to help me. Here’s where we are now.

1. Website overhaul √ (drjenniferaustinleigh.com)
2. Indigogo crowfunding video made √
3. Indigogo page created √ (goes live Wednesday or Thursday.)
4. Perks for crowdfunding decided and parts ordered √
5. Survey Monkey research questions composed √
6. Van rented √
7. Camera bought √ (Sony A6000)
8. House sitter arranged √
9. Triple AAA membership √
10. Route Planned √

That’s the checklist to date. I am excited to be able to do this research. I’m also very scared some moments of the day when I stop and ask myself, “What in the world am I doing?” but… I know something magical or miraculous is going to take place on this trip. Just the fact that I get to meet some of you is a gift beyond my wildest dreams.

My close friends are throwing a launch party here on the 28th. I’ll try to get some video of it and post it here. I’m asking people to please write a prayer for my safety and for me to stay open and receptive to God’s grace and gifts while I am traveling. I’ll out all the prayers in a box and take them with me to read when I get scared, lonely or discouraged. (Which I am sure will happen more than I wish.) If you would like to send me a prayer, either email me or leave one here in the comment section. I’ll print it out and put it in the box.

I feel very called by God, (call it what you like, spirit, the universe, higher power….) to undertake this journey. I know that if I stay open and receptive to his will that all will be fine.

I’ll post a link to the crowdfunding page here. The survey will be up and ready to go soon too.

Please send your prayer when you can, if you are so moved to do so.
Blessings to you all… keep fighting.

Jennifer

Sweet, Sweet Sleep!

I have been waiting and waiting to sleep through the night. It HAPPENED LAST NIGHT!

My head hit the pillow around 11 P.M. and I was fast asleep. When I woke up, I looked at my clock and it was 6.33 A.M. I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy. I did a little victory dance under the covers. I am sure my dog Shakespeare, asleep at the foot of the bed, wondered what in the world was going on.

SLEEP!! I slept! I feel like shouting it from the rooftop. It’s been over FOUR years since I slept through the night.

Let me take you back a few years…. during my taper I would fall asleep at 6. A.M. Yuppers, you read it right. SIX A.M. I slept until 8, 9 or if I was lucky, 10 A.M  It was bad (or so I thought, until I had something far worse to compare it to!). Then, after my cold turkey, I would sleep for *maybe* three hours in the night, but would wake up every few minutes in total and utter terror. I remember wishing I could go back to the sleep I had when tapering.

My sleep has slowly gotten better as my brain has slowly recovered from the damage benzos caused. The past six months I have been sleeping fairly well but waking up usually twice, sometimes 3 times a night. I was able to (usually) fall back asleep but I never felt rested when I woke up. (Partly that is due simply to being “benzo sick.”) I had been feeling like it wasn’t going to be too much longer before I slept soundly through the night again.

I still have a lot of body symptoms, pain, burning, tingling, etc., but I get on with life. I know that it will all go away one day, just as the sleep disturbances are going away.

If you are suffering from benzo withdrawal insomnia, please be patient and hold on. It will get better. It will get a lot better.

Hope this post gives you some hope. Big hugs to you all, my dear benzo buddies.
Jennifer

Lisa’s Bravery Will Help Others.

Imagine if everyone suffering from benzo withdrawal made a video about the nightmare they are having to survive. Maybe then doctors would take notice that they are harming people, and sometimes killing them, with these drugs.

Lisa faced her fear of someone finding out she was on a psychiatric drug and going through severe withdrawals. She posted this video on Facebook. I post it here with her kind permission.

I hope more of us recovering from the brain damage these drugs cause will speak out about the dangers and speak out about the horrific withdrawal process.

Thank you Lisa for the courage it took to make this and post it. It will help many!

Color Coding Your Emotions

I’ve had numerous people reaching out this week asking 1. if their emotional response was normal in withdrawal and 2. how to cope. Here is a little tool I used to ride out the intense emotions that broadsided me on a very regular basis. I also did this with certain body sensations.

I color coded my emotions.  The deep, dark, dank depression? Easy…. that was black. The empty in my chest feeling of hopelessness? That was brown. The grinding feeling I felt in my body when joy was starting to kick in but it was too big and too fast? That was orange. Memories of past abuse and shame that flooded me? That was blue. Twinkles of hope? It was yellow.

When I felt those things, I would say to myself, “Oh, that’s the brown stuff. Or, “Hey, this is just that orange stuff.” What that did was two things. 1. It identified the feeling as a “thing” separate from me. That’s important in being able to ride out intense emotions. 2. It gave me a sense of control over my emotions since I could see them as “things.” I knew they would have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Color coding the strange and intense emotions is withdrawal really did help me hold, distract my attentions from them, and keep going. That’s not to say that I wasn’t very uncomfortable at times with my feelings. I was. But it did help me hold on.

What colors would you attribute to your emotions? Or, maybe you want to identify them as textures, or shapes. You can label them however works best for you, so that when they come along, you can say “Oh, right. This is just that ……” and you will know  its NOT you, its just “that stuff” and it will go away.

One of the biggest fears and challenges we face in withdrawal is the belief that the way we feel is forever. When you label your feelings you can better see that they come and they go. Eventually, ALL of this nonsense in withdrawal will go away. Forever.

I am curious if this little trick works for you. It sure did help reduce my suffering. Just the other day I felt that old weird tug of depression and I was able to tell myself, “This is just that brown stuff” and within a few minutes I had forgotten about it and it had passed.

I’m having more yellow days now for sure. Joy! And the sense of hope that the future will be bright? That’s green. And the deep satisfaction I have knowing my life is now more healed than ever before in my entire 56 years, that is purple, beautiful luscious purple.

Resilience Across America

USA map with statesDear Benzo Family,

My research project is shaping up. I have a team of people helping me. Paula Kravitz is my strategist. Francine Gordon is helping design the research questions. Rob Cala has shot and edited video. Bill Daul has connect me to a group who will broadcast my blogs/videos. I’m already getting feedback from organizations that want to know my findings when I return. I’ll be posting a crowdfunding page to raise the needed money to keep me on the road for three months. (Please don’t feel you have to contribute. I know how hard it is in benzo withdrawal. If you can share the page with your social network, maybe someone you know will support the project.)

I am excited to discover what are the core common factors that make people resilient. What are the barriers? And most importantly, how can we teach schools, relief organizations and helping professionals to help others be resilient?

I’ll be listening to your stories, as anyone fighting benzo withdrawal MUST be resilient in order to survive. We have to dig deep and tap into an inner strength, and at the same time, surrender to what is.

I appreciate all of the offers to host me in your homes, to feed me, allow me to shower (no bathroom in the van I am traveling in) and to connect me with others who have a story about bouncing back from hardships.

I am offering to speak at churches or schools for free about the spiritual side of bouncing back and recovery. If you would like me to speak at your church, please let me know.

I’ll be blogging and uploading video as I go. You can follow along at drjenniferaustinleigh.com

If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

 

 

It’s Part Of Withdrawal To Feel Hopeless. Hold On. It Goes Away.

There are so many hallmark symptoms of benzo withdrawal: the tingles, burning, fatigue, dizziness, muscle pain, bone pain… the list goes on and on. The psychological symptoms are brutal, too: severe depression, off the charts anxiety, terror, de-realization, de-personalization, extreme paranoia… the list goes on and on.

One of the symptoms we all get sooner or later, is the sense of hopelessness. There doesn’t seem to be an end to our suffering. We feel we will be stuck in our fucked up, altered reality forever. The Groundhog day existence wears on the soul, waking up to endure the same suffering over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

I was there. I dreaded going to bed at night. Dreaded having to wake up and face the laundry list of symptoms I suffered. I dreaded the fear, the terror, the looping thoughts, the intrusive thoughts, the obsessional thoughts… all that craziness that comes from the damage to the GABA receptors that benzos cause. I felt it would never, ever end. I knew I was permanently damaged, no matter that the people who had healed kept telling me I wasn’t. I didn’t believe them. How could I? I had zero evidence to support the theory that I was healing.

And then, I woke up one day and realized I was better. Not healed. But better. Life began to take on a new feel. Of course there were the “waves” of symptoms that would knock me off my feet, but the windows kept getting better and bigger. The hopelessness I felt finally gave up the ghost, just like the benzo veterans told me it would.

So I’m telling you now. This hopelessness you feel is part of withdrawal. It’s part of recovery. It’s a lie your brain tells you, because your brain is damaged and can’t cobble together a positive thought if it wanted to right now. But wait. Give it time. It will be able to think positive thoughts, feel joy and happiness, and enjoy crazy creativity again.

As I put together the “Field Trip”, the resilience research trip I’m taking, I can honestly say I am brimming with hope. Brimming with joy. I’m full of wonder and curiosity again. And the good news is, I am better than pre-benzos. I’m sober, I’m not scared of life anymore. I’m not feeling broken or ashamed from the abuse of my past. I’m about as solid as I have ever been. Pretty cool, don’t you think, after years of living in benzo withdrawal hell? Even cooler? You are going to join me on this side of the pain. I can’t wait to welcome you.

Keep fighting. Keep holding on. Stay alive. Every moment of every day, your brain is doing its best to recover from the damage the benzos have caused. Cheer it on!

The hopelessness fades away and something darn near spectacular takes its place.

Just don’t give up. Okay? Promise Me?
I’ll be posting from the road in January. I can’t wait to meet as many of you as I can. I will be honored to listen to your stories. Jennifer

The Pin Points On The Map

Hello my benzo buddies!

Thank you to all who have written and offered couches, beds, baths, food and friendship.
I have pinpoints on the map for Calif, Colorado, Texas, Ariz, Fla, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas and Illinois.  (I may be forgetting some. My brain is still not up to snuff with memory. But it’s getting there!)

I’ll be researching resilience. I want to know more about what the common core elements are. I’ll be posting stories and video to social media along the way so you can follow and learn as I learn.

I’ll be writing a new book about my findings when it’s all said and done. I’m eager to get started and so very grateful for everyone has reached out with words of support.

It’s amazing to me that I have so many dear friends in far away places that I have never met, yet love and trust so very much. I couldn’t have healed without all of you. We benzo survivors are a family in the strongest sense of that word. I am lucky to have you all.

I’ll keep you posted on the travels. If you know of anyone who isn’t a benzo survivor but has bounced back from adversity and would allow me to interview them and possible video too, I’d be honored to listen to them. Of course I want to hear your stories too! Bouncing back from benzos is a hard life challenge, for sure.

Im reaching out to media outlets like OWN, Ellen, Huffington Post and Upworthy to hopefully share some of the heartwarming stories and inspire hope and healing. More coming soon…..

Across America. Its ROAD TRIP time. I’d like to meet you!

I am seriously considering taking a road trip for 2015. My agenda is to bring forward stories that are hidden that will help others heal from addictions, loss, or illness and to deeply research resilience.  I will:

1. Meet and talk to as many benzo withdrawal survivors as I can. I want to hear their stories and give help/hope.

2. Go to as many AA meetings in different cities as I can. I want to hear recovering alcoholics share their stories of resilience.

3.  Give free talks at churches and organizations about the spiritual practice of bouncing back from hard times.

5. Indulge in my hobby of taking pictures of people’s adopted dogs and share their stories of bouncing back from their hard times.  (adopteddogsoftheusa.com)

I’ll be blogging, writing, filming, and taking pictures along the way.

Would you:

1. Like to meet with me and share your story? (I’d be honored to share a cup of tea or a meal with you and listen.)

2. Be able to connect me with a church or local organization that would like me to speak for free?

3. Be willing to allow me and my service dog Shakespeare to crash on your couch and shower for one night?

4. Be able to share the road trip as it unfolds with your social media network?

5. Know of anyone who has bounced back from hard times who would allow me to listen to their story?

I am beyond excited about this opportunity. I’ll share more about the details as things unfold. Right now, I just need a show of hands of people who would like to connect with me in person so I can plan my route.

Please email me at adopteddogsoftheusa@gmail.com

It’s wonderful to be well enough to be able to conduct this type of research and sharing.
Keep fighting the good fight.

Jennifer