Almost everyone asks me, “What if my underlying anxiety (insomnia, pain, panic, depression, dystonia, etc.) comes back? It’s so easy to think that the symptoms you are experiencing in withdrawal mean that your pre-existing condition has returned. It’s a scary thought, I know. I was convinced that the anxiety and panic attacks I felt in withdrawal meant that my old anxiety disorder had returned. I can’t tell you how much pain and fear that thought caused because I knew I could never swallow another benzo for relief. I thought for sure I was going to be anxious and panicky the rest of my life.

I’d spend hours remembering just how awful my pre-existing anxiety was. I’d think on all of the times I had to have an IV drip of beta blockers to slow down my heart rate from a panic attack. I convinced myself I would have a miserable life without medication. And then, an amazing thing happened. My anxiety slowly went away on its own. I learned how to deflect a coming panic attack until one day I realized no more were coming. I was a brand new person! I was a calm, loving, rational person! I did not have an “anxiety disorder!”

The truth is, I was never “dis-ordered.” I was traumatized. That was the cause of my old anxiety and panic. There was nothing amiss with my brain, even though my doctor insisted that I had a “bad brain.” The courage that it took to navigate the anxiety and panic (and all of the other unbearable symptoms of benzo withdrawal) forced me to learn how to not only cope with anxiety but to stop it before it gathered steam. That’s one of the gifts of benzo withdrawal. We are handed the profound opportunity to work through our issues without the help of a pill. And it is a gift, even though at the time it may not feel that way!

I’ve heard over and over again from hundreds of people, that their pre-existing condition either didn’t return or that it was so mild as to not get in their way. There is something about going through benzo withdrawal that changes us, heals us. If you are concerned that your pre-existing condition will return, please know that the chances are very good that you won’t have to deal with it once your brain has healed. If you do need help and support for it down the road, you’ll be in a much better place to learn new skills than when you were taking a benzo. Benzo’s don’t allow us to learn new skills that we need in order to heal. They only mask our emotions.

Do your best to hold onto the knowledge that you are healing in every way a person can heal: emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually (or energetically, if you like that word better). The symptoms you are experiencing now in benzo withdrawal are due to the chemical brain damage the drug caused. They are not indicative of your pre-existing “condition” returning to ruin your life. Keep an open mind and an open heart. Practice extreme self-care and radical acceptance. One day you’ll look back and realize just how far you’ve come. You’ll see the healing that has been taking place. You’ll know that the past won’t matter. You’ll have a new way of being in the world. You won’t need or want a benzo!

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