I came home from a gentle walk and laid down on the couch. A wave of fatigue washed over me. I could feel every cell in my body react to it. It was almost as if my spirit was leaving my body. It was more than uncomfortable, it was creepy and scary. I had never in my life experienced such a bone crushing fatigue. Little did I know, that from that day forward, fatigue would be my constant companion, for a very long time.
Benzo withdrawal fatigue isn’t like any other fatigue that I know of, and I’ve known a lot of it in my life. In my teen years, I battled mononucleosis. I battled it again for six months in my late forties. I’ve known the exhaustion from sleepless nights from having four children, three-years-old and under, including a set of infant twins. I’ve known the malaise from major surgeries and I’ve lived through the weariness of heartbreak. Everything pales in comparison to the fatigue of benzo withdrawal.
Fatigue is one of the most common benzo withdrawal symptoms. Almost everyone feels it to some degree or another. Doctors are quick to diagnosis us as having CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but we probably don’t. What we have is chemical brain damage that affects nearly every system in the body and the only known cure is time. Lots, and lots, of time.
What can we do if we suffer from benzo withdrawal fatigue? We can respect it and allow our bodies the rest that they need to heal. We can avoid telling ourselves scary stories about it—we don’t let our minds run wild with thoughts of fatal illnesses. We just rest. We curtail our activities to match our current abilities, and we do our best not focus on how small our lives have become. We do our best to focus on the things that we can do, and we give thanks for them.
One of the reasons people turn to vitamins and supplements in benzo withdrawal is to overcome fatigue. However, vitamins and supplements rarely work and they often increase our symptoms. Good nutrition (one ingredient food), rest, gentle exercise when one is feeling up to it, a caring community, a positive attitude, and a dash of creativity and purpose (if we can muster them) help us to ride out the long months of fatigue. Once we turn a corner, we are respectful that our bodies are still healing and we don’t push ourselves to do too much. As enticing as it is to quickly return to pre-withdrawal activities, we need to use caution.
Fatigue is one of the of the benzo withdrawal symptoms that can linger for a very long time. Once it goes away, it can creep back in or reappear suddenly. Don’t let its return scare you or overwhelm you. Ride it out by taking good care of yourself. Remember that benzo withdrawal isn’t about a drug leaving your body, it’s about recovering from the damage that a drug caused. It is a collection of symptoms, a syndrome, that will in time, fade away. Healing isn’t linear in most cases, and setbacks, or waves, can happen. We don’t need to fear the waves; we just need to know that they are a possibility and do our best if they occur.
One day there will a spring in your step, a gleam in your eye, and a smile from ear. In the meantime, take good care of yourself and don’t worry about the fatigue.