Building Confidence. Part Two. Patience.

My tapering process was, how shall I say it… hell. When I made the decision to cold turkey after the addiction “specialist” said it would be a “piece of cake,” I was so ready for something easier than being bedridden and in a state of fear around the clock. Well, we all know how that went, don’t we? If I thought my suffering while tapering was unbearable…

I remember telling friends once I was home from the hospital, that I would be well in 6 months. That was what my doctor told me and I wanted to believe him. At four months off, I decided to jump back into my old career. I opened an office, gave a free talk, hung out a coaching shingle and ….quickly deteriorated into the full depths of Dante’s inferno; cold turkey benzo withdrawal.

Looking back, I wish I had been able to practice patience in those early months off.  I could have saved myself thousands of dollars and saved myself a lot of emotional turmoil and anxiety too. Truth be told, I’ve never been good at practicing patience in my own life. I’m as patient as they come with other people. But apply patience to myself? Hard to do. Or rather, it used to be. Now I’ve learned more skills and I can take things slow and easy. I encourage you to learn a few patience skills too, especially as you begin to rebuild your life.

Many of you know that I am in recovery from alcohol as well. I’ve learned in the rooms of recovery to “Take It Easy.” I’ve learned what it means to live “One Day At A Time.” I also know what it means to “Keep It Simple.” All of those slogans help me slow down, calm down, and do what needs to be done next, (The Next Right Step) and not get ahead of myself.

Patience is a virtue. I believe that! As you begin to rebuild your life, I hope that you can practice being patient with yourself. Set realistic expectations and goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your life won’t suddenly all come together at once. It takes small and steady moving forward to build a new life. Take it easy. Just as you had to trust the process of healing from benzo damage, trust that your life will rebuild, as you want it, in time.

One way to know if you are going too fast as you rebuild is to check your symptoms. Are you starting to have waves again? Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Is your sleep starting to decay? Check in with yourself and do an honest assessment. Scale back your activities if they are exacerbating any lingering benzo symptoms you have.

I’m not advocating that you simply sit and wait until every symptom is gone. It’s good to challenge ourselves a bit and to push. That’s what life does. It pushes itself out into the world. Watch any weed growing through asphalt! Please just take it easy as you push forward. You’ll get there. There is no need to hurry. All of the things that were in place to support you while you were in withdrawal are still there. You are okay and everything will be okay.

Keep it simple. Take it easy. Do the next right thing. One day at a time. Trust that you will regain your life and it will be wonderful. After withdrawal, life is sweet indeed.

Building Confidence. Part One. Positive Attitude.

Once your brain is more recovered from the chemical damage it incurred from the benzo (or “z” drug) that you took, you are ready to become involved in your normal life again. However, for many of us, the trauma and devastation brought on by benzo withdrawal makes us feel a bit overwhelmed and under prepared to dive back into life.

The first step is to make certain you have the correct attitude. Viewing the world and your place in the world in a positive light will help you.

I can’t tell you how much I suffered when I allowed myself to wallow in negative thoughts once I was on the road to healing. (In withdrawal, having control of your thoughts is very hard for most of us. It is normal to think negative thoughts while our brains are still damaged.) I always did better when I had an “I can do!” attitude.

One of the most powerful things we do every day is say, “I am….” Whatever you finish that statement with becomes your reality. I ask you to please be mindful to finish that statement with something positive.

Shakespeare said “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Create your reality as a positive one. See everything in a positive light. I know it seems like a simple, or even corny concept, but being positive is an amazingly strong and powerful force that makes life good.

When you view yourself and the world around you in a positive light, you’ll have more confidence to take risks, and to start the process of rebuilding your life. Accept any limitations that you may still have, view them as positive stepping stones to your future, and start your journey. Any missteps that you make are okay. Keep going!

You’ve survived a very challenging illness. You have already proven you are strong, brave, patient, and have stamina and endurance. You have nothing you need to prove now. You have a life to step back into and enjoy as deeply and as fully as you can! Be positive with every step. Every decision.

If you feel inadequate at any time, simply say to yourself, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Know that God made you and I can assure you, He doesn’t make junk! You are amazing! You can do what you set your mind out to do!

Believe. Be positive.

Building Confidence As Withdrawal Recedes. A Ten Part Series.

I’ve always been a bit impulsive. When I get an idea, I don’t always take the time to think things through, I jump in the deep end and start swimming. It was no different when I started feeling better as withdrawal receded. At three years I jumped back into life as if nothing had ever happened to me. I pushed myself, eager to make up for “lost” time. But I wasn’t healed enough. I had one of my very worst waves. It almost took me down.

My first bit of advice to you as you rebuild your life: make CERTAIN you are well enough to deal with life/work stress before you dive back into normal life.

After the wave of fear/terror/anxiety/depression/intrusive thoughts/suicidal ideation/panic/derealization/weakness etc., left I decided to be more loving and kind to myself and ease back into life. (And then I decided, what the hell, and rented a van, and am driving across the USA, but that’s another post!)

How To Build Your Confidence

When I think about rebuilding confidence, I see a picture in my mind of someone assembling a bicycle. They are sitting in front of a zillion parts, a bit confused and maybe overwhelmed, but they know that once they put everything together, they will have a great vehicle that they can ride to where they want to go. So let’s look first at the parts you will need to assemble:

1. Positive attitude
2. Patience
3. Listening skills
4. Humor/Playfulness
5. Purpose
6. Faith
7. Forgiveness
8. Gratitude
9. Service
10. Financial plan

I’ll be posting over the next few weeks about each of these parts and how they play a role in you being able to get back out into life to rebuild and to be happy and healthy.

I will be holding a webinar on building confidence this spring, when I am back home in California. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me.

Blessings to you as you continue to heal. I can’t wait to greet you on this side!
Jennifer
 

Freedom Is So Sweet!

As my brain and CNS repairs itself, I find being benzo free such a sweet, sweet state to live in!

I can honestly say that my life now is the best it has ever been. I know who I am. I know that I can withstand the slings and arrows of life without medicating the pain, sorrow, anxiety, fear or anger away. I can cope with life on life’s terms.

I also know that my old calling to serve God, the call that got obliterated by benzos and booze, is alive and well and cannot be ignored. My professional life is shaping up to use my doctorate in psychology, social neuroscience, the Twelve Steps of recovery and my Christian faith as I help those in need of hope and healing.

God allowed me to suffer through benzo withdrawal because the process polished me. It stripped away my old ego that was preoccupied with myself, my fears, my resentments, my desire for material wealth and prestige. In its place he gave me humility, gratitude and a desire to be of service and obedient.

I have brought back Soulreminders.com. I am well enough now, to keep the site going every day. I am also coaching and offering spiritual direction to those who are in need of hope and healing. I’ve created a prayer group too.

I am simply showing up everyday and asking God to take me where he wants me to go, to introduce me to who he wants me to meet, to tell me what to say and to help me get out of his way. It’s a good way to start every day.

I’d like to share this Gaither Band song with you. I listen to it as a reminder that I am free! Free from a pill that damaged my brain and body. I am free from my old fearful ego and my need to numb my pain with a pill or a drink. I am free to face life whole and strong in the knowledge that I am serving my God to the best of my ability. I can’t find the words to tell you how good that feels!

If you are still suffering in benzo withdrawal, please know that it does come to an end. I still have a ways to go until all of my body symptoms are gone, but I know I make progress everyday. I am grateful for the journey benzo withdrawal took me on. It was definitely hard, but it turned me into the person I always wanted to be, the person I was on my way to becoming before the benzo and the booze cut that journey short.

I share my faith because it feels like the right thing to do. Please know that whatever your faith is, I honor you and your path to the God you love.

I don’t know how I would have survived withdrawal without my garden and my God.

I hope you enjoy the song. I play it whenever I feel lost or lonely, or when I need to just revel in the goodness that God has given to me. Freedom!  What a joyful state to be in!

 

Matt Samet’s Latest Post. Please Read. Share. (I Edited The Link)

Matt Samet posted a new entry at Mad In America. It is the best, by far, of any explanation about withdrawal, that I have ever read, or tried to write myself.

Please click the link, and read. Please share. Everyone needs to be warned of the dangers of these drugs.

Thank you Matt, for sharing your writing talent with us. You are an amazing wordsmith.

http://www.madinamerica.com/2015/01/burden-proof/

Medications In Withdrawal.

Remember, I am NOT a doctor, and my words here are my opinion based on information from the Ashton Manual and from talking to and reading about others in withdrawal. I share my opinion in an attempt to encourage you to do your “due diligence” when it comes to medication use in benzo withdrawal.

WIth so many doctors uneducated about withdrawal, their first reaction to hearing our symptoms is to pull out their prescription pad. But taking other medications in withdrawal can be risky and can prolong our suffering. Dr. Ashton reports that antipsychotics do not help in withdrawal and after talking to many people who tried them in the throes of withdrawal, they can make us worse. We are not “psychotic” in the normal sense of the word when we are in withdrawal. We simply don’t have enough working GABA receptors (and God knows what else the drug has changed in our brains) which will in time correct. Antipsychotics cannot magically restore our receptors. They do not seem to stop the intrusive thoughts or the repetitive thoughts. They do not stop the anxiety, fear, terror, etc. (Zyprexa, in particular needs to be avoided as it contains a benzo, and would surely make withdrawal worse.)

Doctors often want to prescribe antipsychotics for sleep. They can indeed, make you drowsy, however, in the long run, they can damage the brain and the body. (Google the metabolic side effects.) They are powerful drugs that come with a very long list of side effects and dangers. Many people find help with sleep issues in withdrawal with melatonin or antihistamines. (There are reported problems with long-term antihistamine use as well, so use caution.)

Pain meds in withdrawal can be tricky too. I personally refuse to take even OTC pain relievers and chose to soak in warm baths, walk, stretch, or use heating pads or ice to combat my pain. (Yes, still have some, but it’s much better than it was previously.)

Sleep meds such as Ambien and Lunesta are chemically close to benzos, and are considered “baby benzos” by many. Obviously, they should be avoided in withdrawal.

Neuroleptics, which are prescribed for seizures, are sometimes offered as “mood stabilizers.” These medications have their own withdrawal issues. Some can cause life threatening allergic reactions.

Antidepressants (both old and new types) have been used in withdrawal with mixed success. Some say that they have helped smooth out some of the depression and anxiety associated with withdrawal, while others say that they made them more anxious, or suicidal.

Neuronton  (gabapentin) and its “souped up” cousin, Lyrica, has been used by some with limited success to take just a bit of the edge off, but the side effects and the withdrawal from both have been reported to be “difficult.”  Suicide ideation can be a problem with both medications.

Please use any medication with caution. Please check with others in withdrawal to find out more about the medication your doctor is recommending. Don’t depend upon your doctor to understand withdrawal because chances are good that they don’t. Even some of the “best” addiction doctors don’t fully understand. I was offered Lyrica, and Neurontin and Zyprexa from TWO different “experts” who knew nothings about GABA receptor damage. When I pressed them for their knowledge about GABA and medications, they both told me “You are more educated about that…”

Withdrawal is a challenging time, no doubt. However, we do eventually heal from the damage the benzos have done to our brains and bodies. Please, please, please, use caution if you decide to try to “medicate” away any withdrawal symptoms. Do your homework before you blindly swallow a pill. (Isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place?)

You can read more about the problems with medications if you read some of the stories under the resource page here on this site. You can also find out more information in Dr. Heather Ashton’s manual. She was a pioneer in the field of benzo withdrawal and ran a clinic for many years, helping people come off of their benzos.

The only known cure for benzo withdrawal is time. Please hold on and wait for your brain to return to its old pre-benzo state. It will. Please be extremely careful with any medication in withdrawal. Some can make us far worse off than we already are. (Hard to believe, I know!)

Remember, this post is my opinion. I am not attempting to practice medicine, or to diagnose or treat any medical problem. I am sharing information to encourage you to take charge of your benzo recovery and to do your homework before you try anything to medicate the symptoms away.

Blessings as you heal…

Jennifer

From Sea To Shining Sea.

First, let me say if you missed Don’s post on the 14th, please scroll down below for it. His book is finally out!  I am so proud of him! It takes a lot of discipline to write and publish a book. I appreciate his efforts to help make visible the suffering in withdrawal and to share his experience, strength and hope. I can’t wait to get home and order one to read. I know it will be good.

I am now back at our family farm in Georgia after a week of being beachside in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (I traveled from sea to shining sea!) I didn’t post anything while I was there as it was very sacred time with my parents. It is tradition to hunt fossils that wash up on the beach. It is extremely relaxing, yet tiring, as you walk hunched over, and have to bend to pick up anything that is shiny/black to discern if it is a fossil or not. My mother has been a rockhound since I was a little girl, and she got me into the fossiling.

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I had a few benzo symptom flare ups from the effort it took to find the fossils, but I am so grateful I had the opportunity. I used to think I would never be well enough to travel and visit with my parents ever again. That thought was just a lie that my very damaged brain told me. I have been receiving a great many emails from people who are still quite benzo sick, asking if I worried I would never recover. Of course. I think most of us have that fear. I had it for a very long time, as my recovery took years. I know I still have some healing to do, and I trust that it is going on every day. I know I will be healed.

I firmly believe what the scripture Romans 8:28 (KJV) promises: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I can look back now on my years of suffering and know that God was using the experience to polish me, to make me better, to make me whole. Often we can’t see that what appears as disastrous or negative on the front end, ends up as good on the back end. I’m reading the most excellent devotional, written by Os Hillman, http://www.marketplaceleaders.org/tgif/ (online) (Purchase)  http://www.tgifbookstore.com/TGIF_Pocket_Devotional_p/bk-1015.htm and today he speaks of this very thing. Perhaps you may be able to see, in time, that your walk through this “valley of the shadow of death,” was a path that took you to greater things. I know it may sound hard to believe right now in the midst of your suffering, but trust me, God can use your suffering to a much greater end. I know he is in my life.

I start back on the open road soon. I am waiting for the weather to warm up as I don’t want to drive in unsafe conditions. I am writing, speaking to people by phone, and savoring every moment with my parents. Shakespeare, my service dog is doing well and we have bonded deeply. I am so very grateful for him and his help.

If you are still suffering, please hold on to the hope and the TRUTH that it does indeed, get better. I’m sitting in the sunroom, looking out over the forest behind the house. The bare trees are covered in ice from a storm we had last night. The ice is slowly melting, small chunks falling down now and then. Our healing is much like that. We slowly “thaw” out, back to, or even better than, normal.

Nothing stays the same in life. And this season of suffering you are in will surely give way, and God will lead you to something better. I truly believe that. I hope you do too.

Blessings to you all on this icy Tuesday in northern Georgia.

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Jennifer

The Book Is Finally Published

By Don Killian

When I started writing a book eleven months ago about my psychiatric experiences and recovery from them, I was fairly certain that the writing itself would be the hardest and most time-consuming part. I thought editing would surely take a few weeks tops. In reality, the editing process was very lengthy because it required extreme attention to detail and often rewrites of large portions of text. Then there was the endless proofing by the author and anyone else who was willing to read looking for errors or points of confusion. Then there was the formatting of the entire book to make sure it “looks” right.

I learned a few other things as well. I found out that you can’t print quotes from songs even if you cite them properly. You must ask for permission and then, if you get permission, pay the “owners” of the quotes whatever they demand. Somehow, the concept of having to pay someone else for advertising their work for them didn’t seem right. So, I took all such quotes out. When using brand names of products, you must be careful not to infringe lest you risk being sued. Of course, there was also the dust jacket to design. That was probably the most fun.

Nevertheless, I was educated in many things having to do with being an author. Perhaps, they will come in handy if I ever attempt writing another book.

The most awesome part of this is that, when I was in withdrawal, I was almost literally brain dead. I could not read. I could not write. I could not do the simple math of balancing a checkbook. I was essentially non-functional in every aspect of my life. I could not conceive of ever being the capable mathematician, scientist and technical writer I had been for decades. In my wildest dreams, I never would have believed I would (or even could) write a book about anything let alone the very thing that caused me to be brain dead for over two years.

Following is the announcement I placed in one of the FB groups announcing the book. Baylissa kindly posted it on her FB site as well (Bloom in Wellness). No use reinventing the wheel.

This is the first “formal” announcement of a newly published book entitled, “Home and Dry”(subtitle: A Story of Addiction, Misdiagnosis, Survival, Hope and Healing). It is in the form of a novel and is about how I ended up on psychotropic drugs and part of my struggle to survive that part of my life and reach a place of amazing wellness (where I now reside). It is written in the third person about a guy named Lee (which is my middle name).

It is written in two parts. Part 1 is a portion of the “suffering” part of my life (including early life tragedy, alcoholism, psychiatric misdiagnosis and drugging, tolerance withdrawal, and the first night of a three-week stay in a psychiatric hospital under suicide watch). As such, it may be a bit intense for those currently navigating through the anguish of psychiatric “treatment” or withdrawal from that treatment.

Part 2 is written from the perspective of Lee “looking back” on much of the happenings/episodes/feelings described in Part 1. It includes many of his own informed perceptions of what he endured and how he kept hope alive during those years.

The book is hardbound and 247 pages in length. It is currently being printed and will be available on Wednesday, February 18. A limited number of copies will be available unless there is a great interest in the book.

I will be taking and filling orders from my home for now. The price of the book is $24.95 plus shipping/handling and sales tax. For now, there will two methods of payment – either by check or through PayPal. Requests should be sent to the following email address: canofpaint53@yahoo.com

o Specify your name, address, email address, and how you will pay (check or PayPal).
o I will return email with a total price (book price, shipping/handling, and state sales tax) and instructions on how to pay.
o Once I receive payment, the book will be mailed.

Deep In The Heart Of Dixie.

I left Tennessee and made my way to my parents farm in northeast Georgia. I was pretty beat up by the time I arrived last Tuesday. The constant brain engagement of driving for weeks had taken a toll on me. It was wonderful to be able to rest and relax in the comfort of a home that I have loved for many, many years.

I’m much better now after having rested for a week. My bone and muscle pain is now back to levels I can cope with. The fatigue and dizziness is much better too.

It feels almost dream-like to be back in a home that I love so much, surrounded by family. There were times when I was so benzo sick that I thought I would never visit our farm again. I couldn’t imagine being well enough to travel. But here I am, enjoying myself and enjoying the company of my parents.

My mom and dad and I travel to Florida in a few days to stay in a condo at Ponte Vedra beach. (I grew up in Jacksonville.) It is a family tradition to walk the beach and hunt for fossils. We find fossilised sharks teeth, inner ear drums from porpoises, horse teeth, tapir teeth, sting ray barbs, mouth pieces from puffer fishes, and other fossils. It is good family fun and exercise. While I spent so many years on my couch in benzo recovery, I used to go through my fossil collection and dream of the day I could travel to Florida and walk the beach again. Now that dream is coming true. I can’t tell you how excited I am!

I know other dreams will come true as well: Finding a partner to go through life with, rebuilding my career, writing more books, and reclaiming my life and financial success again. When I was deep in the throes of withdrawal, the future looked very bleak. I was so deathly mentally and physically ill from the damage the benzo did to me, that I didn’t think I would ever recover enough to have a normal life. It’s exciting to see my life now coming back together in a good way.

One of the lessons I have learned in withdrawal is to let go and trust God. I know that God is using my suffering over all those years in benzo withdrawal for good. I know that the experience polished me as a person. It helped me grow closer to God and to appreciate God’s work in my daily life. I don’t take any of God’s creation and power for granted anymore. I am totally in awe of God’s amazing love and grace. I am grateful for my life. Grateful for this day, this moment, this inhale and exhale, this heartbeat.

If you are in the southern states of the USA and would like me to stop by on my way home, please let me know. I doubt very much I will attempt to make it up the east coast. The weather has been so bad that I don’t want to risk driving there. I am saddened to not be able to get up to the people I wanted to see, but I am putting my safety first.

I am learning a great deal about resilience from the people I am meeting and talking too. I am learning so much about the people battling benzo withdrawal. I am deeply honored to listen to your stories and to shoulder your pain with you.

I do hope my journey gives you hope that you too will heal and be able to reclaim your life. I was sick for so very long. I am well enough to travel and slowly rebuild my life. I am grateful.

When Will They Learn?

WARNING:trigger alert. This post could cause fear, anger or sadness.

I just finished watching the movie, The Normal Heart. It took me on a journey of so many intense emotions: outrage that our government didn’t do more sooner, amazement at the courage of the men and women who fought for funding and research, and grief over having to relieve the deep loss of my dearest friend Ken Camenson to AIDS in 1991. We were both 33 when he died.

I am curled up on the couch at the house I am staying at in Tennessee. This is day three of a wave of intense bone and muscle pain, weakness and dizziness and of course, my never-ending tingling. I watched the movie and couldn’t help but wonder why those of us so badly harmed by a prescription drug that continues to be handed out by uneducated doctors to harm more people aren’t rallying together to protest and to educate. As I lie here on the couch with every bone in my back and chest, neck and hands aching, I can’t help but be angry that this illness so many of us have is being perpetrated on others every day. And other than those of us who have lost our jobs, our friends, sometimes our homes and all of our savings because we can’t work due this illness, no one seems to care. I think that is sometimes the hardest part of this horrible illness. No one, other than other benzo sufferers seem to care. There are no protests at city hall. There are no letters or calls to the mayor and the president. There is no civil disobedience. There are hardly any news reports at all about benzos. Why?

Why isn’t the fact that doctors cause this monstrous illness by prescribing a drug that mangles the brain in about 40% of the people who take it newsworthy? How many millions around the world have suffered over the past decades due to these drugs and how many have died because of them? Since I have started this blog I’ve stop counting the ones who died. It was too painful to keep count any more.

Dear Doctors, Dear Friends And Families… we are sick. We are hurting. We are tired. We were damaged by a medication given to us by a doctor we trusted took the Hippocratic oath seriously: First Do No Harm. We don’t want any others to have to suffer through this illness. We want doctors to listen to us. We want them to be educated about the brain damage these drugs cause. We want them to know that many of us are sick for years as our brains and bodies recover. We want to be heard. We want to be taken seriously. Or at least I do. I’m tired of being told by “experts” that withdrawal can’t last this long. I am tired of being told by “addiction specialists” that benzos can’t cause this degree of illness.

We live in the time when communication is instant and far-reaching. Why can’t we get the medical profession to take this illness that they cause seriously? I wrote this blog to help me hold on through an unimaginable nightmare I had to survive because I trusted my doctor and swallowed a pill as directed. Now I write in hopes that one day, my words and actions can help change the prescribing of benzos. I hope that one day enough of us will have genetic testing so we can understand why some of us suffer brain damage from these drugs and others don’t. I hope that one day, there will be no more benzo withdrawal, that people won’t take these drugs and risk the chance of getting sick from them, or dying from them.

What will it take to rally together enough voices to be heard? What will it take to make the doctors listen to us and to understand that they are the ones causing this?

I’m tired of waves of debilitating pain. I am over 3.5 years off of the drug and my body still has yet to totally recover. My 85-year-old parents drive across the country in 5 days. I took over two weeks to drive from San Fran to Tennessee and still it was too much for my body. I have to rest and recover. I continue to have to pay a price for attempting to live a normal life.

I am sad and outraged that this illness, benzo withdrawal syndrome, exists in a world where information rules our lives. By now, doctors should know the harm these drugs can cause. What will it take to get them to learn? Will we need to start litigation? Will it only be when we hit their wallets that they listen, because at least for now, it sure doesn’t seem like we are hitting their hearts. They don’t seem to care about the human suffering they cause. It’s hard to suffer from an illness that no one understands or cares about. We become invisible. It is as if our lives don’t matter. But they do. All of our lives matter.

I wish the FDA and the AMA thought so. I wish too that our friends and families understood better. It gets tiring fighting for a normal life all on your own.