These are the frequently asked questions I receive on a regular basis. They are in no particular order.
Did you taper?
Yes. But I became so bedridden I eventually was cold turkeyed off my benzo by well meaning addiction specialist. I was given pheno to keep me from having seizures.
Did you have intense or irrational fear in withdrawal?
Yes. It was unbearable. I wanted to die to make it stop. (I am glad I didn’t die as now my life is amazing.)
Did you have depression and did you try medications?
Yes and yes. My depression was pitch black hell. I tried an old tricyclic but after a few days I felt I was worse. I also tried an SSRI when I had a severe wave of symptoms at 36 months off. I stopped after a few days as it was causing severe anxiety. (I will never take a psych med again as long as I live.)
Could you work in withdrawal?
No. I was physically and mentally incapacitated. I didn’t know how to work my computer or do simple tasks. I felt utterly broken and handicapped.
Did you have intrusive or dark thoughts?
Yes. I obsessed about death daily. It was one of my worst symptoms. I had no control over my thoughts, no matter what I tried. I despaired that I would ever have a quiet mind or normal thoughts again. It took a long time, but that symptom finally faded away. Thank God. (Literally.)
Were you able to feel love for your children and friends?
No. I lived in an altered state. I felt mostly fear, doom and gloom, anxiety and a blackness that I can’t describe. The world held no goodness or joy for a long time. I remember when I felt love again for my children, I broke down and sobbed, I was so grateful.
Did you worry you were going insane?
Yes, of course. Benzo withdrawal is such a horrible thing to have to experience. The fear that you are truly insane can be overwhelming.
Did you have insomnia.
Yes. At one point I slept from 6 am till 8 or 9 am. Once I began sleeping at night time hours, I would wake up every 45-90 minutes in utter terror. It took many months until sleep got better and years before I slept through the night uninterrupted.
Did you have physical symptoms?
Oh my yes! My laundry list of symptoms was long. I don’t like to think back on those days to be honest. I was very sick and in a great deal of pain. I still have weakness, fatigue, head pressure, tingles, some burning skin, dizziness and gastro symptoms but they are manageable. I do believe that one day I will be much better.
What helped you the most?
I gardened in my front yard and met many people walking by. My flower garden became a healing resource for many people. Having it to tend to gave me a purpose which I needed.
What did you try or do in withdrawal that you wished you hadn’t done.
Very good question! I wish I had understood from the beginning that my healing journey was going to be a very long and arduous one. I attempted to open an office and return to coaching four months after my cold turkey! Of course I had to shutter the doors and I lost a lot of money on the office. I wish I had been more patient. I also wish I had never seen a doctor while in withdrawal. Not one had been educated about withdrawal and I was given some very bad and harmful advice. I wasted a lot of money seeking cures and treatments when the only cure is time.
Did you ever attempt suicide?
No. I wanted to die, and I prayed for death, but I never made an attempt to end my life. I am so grateful I didn’t. Life is so good now. Mentally and emotionally I am the best I have ever been in my entire life.
Did your original anxiety return?
My original anxiety showed up in withdrawal symptoms for sure. However, once my GABA receptors returned to a more normal state, I can honestly say that I do not suffer from my original anxiety. Very little disturbs me now and when it does, I have tools to work with.
Did you have a fear of God in withdrawal?
Yes. Some of my irrational and bizarre thoughts and fears were about God. My work now is to help people become reliant on God so clearly that has all gone away!
Did you ever lose hope or believe you wouldn’t heal?
Every day! I was riddled with doubt but I trudged on. I hoped I would heal but I wasn’t always convinced that I would. But we all do.
Did foods bother you?
Yes. Many foods caused my body tingling to get worse. Garbanzo beans were a big offender as was any type of protein. Salmon was a big offender too. Most of that is gone away now.
Did you get your DNA tested?
I only had a test for the MTHFR mutation, I do have it. I am not taking anything for it.
How long did your worst symptoms last?
Too long! I was in bad shape for a good 2.5 years. Then was hit at 3 years with a wave from hell that lasted 5 months.
What do you wish others knew about withdrawal?
I wish with my whole heart that the medical community would wake up and realize the very real dangers of these drugs. Lives are lost because of them. Lives are put on hold because of them. The withdrawal I experienced was far and above anything more severe than I ever experienced before being on the drug. I was also in tolerance withdrawal for many, many years.
I also wish that others in withdrawal could be patient and not keep seeking treatments or cures. There are none. Time is what heals us. Other medications can make us worse, especially antipsychotic medications. (We are not psychotic, we are in withdrawal.)
Do you have any regrets?
I try to live my life in the present moment. Having said that, I regret that I ever saw a doctor about my anxiety attacks in the first place. I wouldn’t have been given a benzo had I learned that they could be have been controlled by other means.
Will benzo withdrawal really end?
Yes. It will. One day. Even if you still have some lingering body symptoms down the road, you will not continue to suffer as you are now. I was able to drive by myself across the country, 8500 miles, and I managed very well. I am back at work and able to do all of the technical work I used to do before withdrawal. In fact, in many ways I am now better because I suffered through benzo withdrawal.