I’ve experienced depression in my life, dark days that followed sad events. But I’d never experienced the soul-crushing bleakness that can come with benzo withdrawal. When it arrived, I was shocked and terrified. It felt as if it could destroy me. I’d wake up and feel normal for a few moments, and then the depression would wash over me. It was as if I could feel it entering every cell in my body, taking over everything. I hated it.
I’d pad down the hallway, holding onto the walls for balance, and open the curtains. The sunlight hurt my eyes and my heart. I knew that the day was a gift, full of promise and potential, but I couldn’t feel any of that. I’d collapse onto my couch, desperately trying to get through the next minute. Then the next.
If you suffer from depression in benzo withdrawal, my heart goes out to you. I know how hard it is to cope with it. There are no magic cures for benzo withdrawal, but a few things can help us cope. Here are some suggestions.
- Avoid antidepressants if you can. They can rev up benzo withdrawal symptoms and increase anxiety and depression. Suicide ideation can also occur. If you decide to try an antidepressant, ask your doctor if it is okay to taper up to a regular dose. Keep in mind that you may need to eventually taper off and that antidepressant withdrawal symptoms can occur.
- Avoid stimulates. Caffeine and other stimulants might boost mood, but they can also boost your benzo withdrawal symptoms.
- Avoid alcohol and marijuana. It’s human nature to want to stop feeling pain or sorrow, but the common “escape” routes of alcohol and marijuana can increase benzo withdrawal symptoms and create more problems.
- Exercise gently. Too much exercise can turn up the volume of benzo withdrawal symptoms. It’s best to indulge in more moderate activities such as walking, swimming, or yoga.
- Eat a plant-based diet. Anxiety and depression are lower in people who eat a plant-based diet. All animal products cause inflammation. We are better off without them. Plants feed our gut microbiome, which in turn helps us to heal.
- Learn something new. Learning gives us a good dose of dopamine and distracts us.
- Garden! Gardening is an amazing way to cope with depression. There is a bacteria that lives in the soil that boots our levels of serotonin.
- Be of service. Tending to or helping others takes the focus off of “self,” which helps to reduce suffering.
- Practice acceptance. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t. fight what is. Take the darkness in stride, knowing that it will one day lift.
- Yoga, meditation, prayer, chanting, mindfulness, and journaling are ways to help cope with depression.
- Understand your nervous system. In benzo withdrawal, we are more often in the “protect” state of fight, flight, or freeze. The state of our nervous system determines the quality of our thoughts and feelings (state drives story). It is normal for our thoughts to be dark, doom and gloom. We must realize that we are experiencing our nervous system, not the true state of our world,
- Distract. Find things to do that can take your mind off of your mood. Funny or heartwarming videos can help.
- Be in nature. The great outdoors soothe a weary soul. Spend time in the fresh air. Be around trees, water, flowers.
- Talk to someone. Sharing your concerns helps.
- Listen to someone. Being a good listener is a way to be of service and takes our minds off of our own problems.
- Put a pen in your mouth, longways, so that it forces your mouth into a smile. Keep it there for a few minutes. Sounds silly, but it does help lift a bad mood.
- Set good boundaries. Say no to people and things that are stressful. Don’t isolate, but don’t let in everything and everyone. Discern who and what makes you feel safe.
- Take a short drive, If it is safe to drive, go for a short spin. Avoid freeways or heavy traffic. Turn on the radio, sing along. Open the windows, get some fresh air.
- Buy or cut your own flowers. Keep a vase of fresh blossoms next to you. Bright, warm-colored blooms can lift your mood.
- Read uplifting stories or scriptures.
What do you do to help get through benzo withdrawal depression? Please leave a comment and share it with us.