Winter is my favorite time of the year. Life slows down and we turn toward each other as the holidays come into view. Every year I fixate on one Christmas carol, humming it over and over. This year, it was “Do You Hear What I Hear?” sung by Andy Williams. “Do you hear what I hear, said the night wind to the little lamb? Do you see what I see, way up in the sky, little lamb?” Even though spring is now knocking on our doors, I’m still humming that Christmas carol from time to time. I was humming it this morning when I received two emails from people in benzo withdrawal asking me about their vision problems. One wrote, “Did you see what I see?” What good timing, I thought to myself. Perhaps I should write about vision problems in benzo withdrawal.
A trip to the optometrist.
My vision problems began soon after I started tapering. (I was having eye pain/pressure long before in tolerance withdrawal.) When it was dark, bright flashes of white light appeared in my peripheral vision when I blinked. When I looked at my laptop screen, the colors in the images would float off the screen and dance in the air. It was a strange kind of light show. I made an appointment to see an optometrist. After dilating my eyes and putting me through a bunch of tests (I hate the puff of air thing that they do!) he told me my eyes were in tiptop shape. There was nothing that he could see that could be causing the problems. I scratched it all up to benzo withdrawal and did my best to not let it bother me.
Suddenly there were two!
I managed to mostly ignore the flashes and strange aurora borealis going on around my laptop and got on with the task of tapering. One day, while sitting at the front window, I saw a friend walking toward the house. I smiled and waved. When she waved back, she magically split in two! I closed my eyes and shook my head to clear my vision but when I opened them, there were still two of her. What in the world was happening? Was I having a stroke? Then, I remembered I had read that benzo withdrawal could cause double vision. From that point on, I saw double from time to time. A few times I even had triple vision! Whenever the double vision started, I knew it meant I needed more rest. My nervous system was way too stressed.
I guess my nervous system didn’t think that I had enough vision problems on my plate. It added “Vaseline vision” to the mix. I could see things in focus, but it was if I was looking at them through a filmy haze of Vaseline. Nothing was “blurry” in the traditional sense. Things were in focus, but yet, they weren’t. It was hard to describe other than I didn’t see things crisp and clear as I normally would. This symptom was hardest to cope with at night. I didn’t drive a lot, but on the rare occasions I had to be behind the wheel after sundown, I was exceptionally cautious!
Another trip to the optometrist.
The double vision was freaky enough, but the Vaseline vision bothered me. I worried that perhaps something other than benzo withdrawal may have been afoot, so I went back to the optometrist. He did another battery of tests on my eyes and could find absolutely nothing wrong with them. A bit relieved, I went on with doing my best to cope with the vision problems brought on being in benzo withdrawal. I managed pretty well, and then things took a turn for the worse.
How do I describe it?
By far the hardest benzo withdrawal vision symptom for me to describe was the frame/pixelation view of the world. It was as if I was taking in the world frame by frame, pixel by pixel. Reality was not fluid. I was conscious I was “seeing,” and the “seeing” had a lag time in my brain. It was very hard to describe, and it was very uncomfortable. I hated it more than the double vision because it made me feel as if I wasn’t in the real world. It felt as if it were a physical manifestation of derealization, which I had to different degrees at any given time. On top of the strange perception, my right eye began to twitch often, rather painfully, I might add. And the sunlight was painful, too. Any bright light for that matter was too much for my eyes.
Seeing the matrix.
if I thought the frame/pixelation vision issue as weird and hard to describe, well, the matrix stuff was even harder! When I opened my eyes in the morning, or if I looked at a light source, I could see in my field of vision, thousands(?) of weird little shapes all connected to one other like a web. It was as if I was looking at the very fabric or the matrix of life. Or was it that I was seeing the inside of my own eyeball? I have no idea. But it was beyond strange, and unsettling. And I’m not talking about floaters, which I had by the handfuls at times. This was a pattern I looked through to see the world in front of me. Nor was this strange pattern the result of an ocular migraine, which I had a few times. Those caused a lightning bolt pattern across my field of vision. Inside the lightning bolt was a moving, fluid wave. (Benzo withdrawal sure can create some odd visual symptoms!)
The eyes have it.
For me, my eyes were a strong indicator as to how agitated my nervous system was at any given time. Rest didn’t always make them better, but I knew that rest couldn’t hurt. I did my best to avoid too much screen time, or too much “people” time (since being around people usually jacked up my nervous system). I did my best to cope with my vision problems—to view them for what they were—symptoms from being in benzo withdrawal, instead of thinking of them as indicators of serious health problems. I had to work hard some days to create a positive narrative about my vision problems, but I did my best, otherwise, my mind would run wild, telling me that I had a brain tumor or an aneurysm or some other horrible thing!
What are your eye symptoms?
The list of possible vision symptoms in benzo withdrawal is rather lengthy. People report pain and pressure in their eyes, floaters, ocular migraines, twitching around the eyes, double/triple vision, flashes of light, blurry vision, “Vaseline vision,” “frame/pixel vision,” “matrix vision” problems seeing well at nighttime, increase in how long it takes for eyes to adjust to the dark, seeing strange aurora borealis types of things, etc. What are your symptoms?
The way to cope with your vision symptoms is the way to cope with any other benzo withdrawal symptom: seek medical attention to rule out anything nefarious and then constantly remind yourself that the symptoms aren’t indicative of anything dangerous. In short, we must learn to ignore the scary stories our minds tell us. We must remind ourselves that we are safe. We are healing. We remind ourselves that everything is okay at this present moment, even if we are seeing double!
It takes time.
It takes time for us to recover—the brain is the slowest healing organ in the body. We must respect its process and give it all that it needs in order to do the repair work necessary for our recovery. We rest. Avoid stress. We don’t engage in too strenuous of exercise. We eat clean, one ingredient foods. We don’t take other medications, vitamins, or supplements, that are known to make us worse in benzo withdrawal. We don’t drink alcohol. We develop a spiritual practice and strengthen our relationship with God, Higher Power, Source, call it what you want. We do our best to ignore the scary stories our minds tell us. We do our best to tell ourselves good stories, positive stories. We remind ourselves that we are healing. And, we do our best to always turn to love, for it is the most powerful healing source there is.
Mornings With Jenn
I’m happy to announce that I am starting a support group called Mornings With Jenn. At 9:15 a.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday. I’ll be live on the Morning With Jenn closed Facebook group for about 30 minutes. If you can’t tune in at that time, the video will be posted on the page for you to watch when it’s convenient for you.
You can ask questions and share ideas in the group. The group will be a place of positive focus. It will not be a place to focus on symptoms or to spread fear and doubt. I’ll discuss whatever topics people ask most about, and I’ll share some of the spiritual practices and neuroscience research that has been the most healing and transformative for me. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of God, Higher, Power, Source, etc., this group may not be a good fit for you. Please note that I may not be able to answer every question presented, but I’ll do my best to cover as much as I can.
I reserve the right to terminate anyone’s membership without a refund should they be combative or disrespectful to me or the group in any way.
The first Mornings With Jenn will start Monday, April 1 at 9 a.m. Pacific time. This first month will be a pilot to iron out any wrinkles or make improvements for future months. The cost for the support of approximately 10 hours of time with me a month is $69 (The cost for my coaching is $55 for a half an hour so you are receiving $481 of time for free!)
Healing With Love
The Healing With Love workshop will also start April 1 at 8:30 a.m Pacific time and will last for two weeks. (I’ve shortened the workshop, but same content.) The Cost for the workshop is $56.
You can find out more about it here.