WARNING: THIS POST MAY BE TRIGGERING!
This post is about death obsession. Please don’t read it if will disturb you.
During my taper, I had a long list of crazy symptoms. It felt like bugs were crawling under my skin. My legs and arms jerked as if I was a puppet on a string. My entire lower trunk tingled. It felt as if millions of bees were stinging me. I was convinced that someone had rubbed vaseline in my eyes as everything was blurry. Then there were the waves of fear and horror that would wash over me out of the blue, for no good reason. The insomnia was pretty awful too, as were all the other symptoms I’ve not mentioned. But I was soldiering on as best as I could. Until I couldn’t. That’s when the “benzo expert” I saw pulled me off of .625 mgs of Clonazepam with the help of phenobarbitol.
My doctor told me I could withdraw at home, but after three days, I landed in the hospital. I have yet to be able to write about my time in detox. That’s when the hallucinations started. That’s when the ice cold terror gripped every cell in my body. It’s when the real hell began. I went home from the hospital a broken woman. Utterly and completely shattered. When I walked into my apartment, everything was the same, but nothing was the same. Everything felt foreign and evil. The worst of it was that death was everywhere.
As many of us do in benzo withdrawal, I obsessed about death. I had never in my entire life, even during extreme stress after life-threatening trauma, obsessed about death. But I did then. Uncontrollably. I’d wake up to the thought that one day I have to die. Terror ran through my veins quick as lightening. The fear was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. And there was nothing I could do to stop it. Almost all of my waking thoughts were about death. I could distract for small amounts of time, but the thought would rush back in as soon as I turned my attention away. I was terrified that I would live the rest of my life with the thoughts.
My obsessional thoughts lasted a very long time. I felt totally insane, unable to control my thoughts. I lived in a state of fear and terror twenty-four hours a day. I was convinced that the thoughts and fears were indicative that I needed a medication to get through life, But of course, that wasn’t true. Once my brain healed, the thoughts stopped. My fear of death became even less than what it was pre-benzos! I’m stronger on every front since I’ve recovered from benzo withdrawal!
I wrote this post not to frighten anyone, but to reassure you, that even hardcore cases of obsessional or intrusive thoughts resolve on their own. I was hit very hard with the death obsession (it’s a fairly common benzo withdrawal symptom) and I know firsthand how challenging it is to live with. If you are suffering with it, and you were brave enough to read this post, (reading the word death can trigger us terribly!) know that your brain is going to heal. You won’t think about death and dying all day forever. I promise. If you are a medical professional reading this post, please know that obsessional thoughts are very common and normal in benzo withdrawal. They are not cause for medication or any type of therapy. They resolve on their own, in time. If you are a caregiver, please know that the person you are helping is suffering tremendously with their thoughts. They can’t control them. Asking them to “Think happy thoughts!” is counterproductive. They would if they could. They can’t. Not right now. What people who are suffering from obsessional thoughts need is reassurance. Lots and lots of it!
One of the ways in which you can cope with obsessional thoughts is to distract. Keep your hands and mind as busy as you can. Sometimes, I’d have an intrusive thought and I’d say to myself, “Delete. Delete. Delete.” That coping skill didn’t help much, but it gave me a sense of power that I was letting the thought know it wasn’t welcome. What helped more than fighting the thought was to step back and observe it. I didn’t judge it. I just watched myself having the thought. That coping skill was more effective once the fear and terror began to fade. It was hard to be a neutral observer with ice cold terror coursing through your veins! Another way I coped was to remind myself that I was healing, and that “This too, shall pass.”
Our brains heal, in time. We go on with our lives. We even forget the hell we lived in during benzo withdrawal. Life tastes sweet again. Please hold on and keep healing. I know when benzo withdrawal is over you are going to be amazed by how strong and vibrant you are!
What coping skills do you use when you have obsessional thoughts? Feel free to leave us your thoughts and ideas. If you reply to anyone’s comments, please be kind, respectful, and encouraging!