What am I? A top forty radio station? The hits keep coming.

Maybe they keep coming for you too.

I had a good day yesterday. I got out with my new walker. Went to bed at my new normal time, around 4 A.M. I can usually count on 5 to 8 hours of sleep. But I was jolted awake in two hours. The world had changed dramatically in that time.

I was seeing double, unable to breathe well as I felt a tight band across my chest, my flesh felt alive, moving and stinging. My heart pounded furiously against my ribcage. I felt an internal pressure inside my whole body, as if I would be split open.

I picked up my Ipad, attempting to distract myself from my symptoms. I stared at the Words with Friends game my son and I are playing. The scrabble board seemed to come alive, and I was looking at something extraordinary. I gazed at it a long time, mesmerized.  When I finally tore my eyes away, I thought. “This is why I never dropped acid.” I giggled.

I was always terrified to try hallucinogens or any drug that would make me lose control. Guess I am going to have to lose the terror and surrender to this process over which I have little control.

Here is what I did to help me get through the Hit Parade this morning. Hopefully, some of these things will help you too.

  • I picked up my cat. I stroked his fur and grounded myself in reality.
  • I repeatedly told myself “This is just withdrawal, I am safe. This too shall pass.”
  • I did deep, slow breathing.
  • I resisted the urge to panic. I allowed the symptoms to wash over me.
  • I thought of things I am going to do tomorrow,
  • I held my teddy bear close to my chest. (He helps!)
  • I slowly drank cold water and focused on it going into my body.
  • I ate a tangerine and focused on the sweet, tangy juice and pulp.
  • I prayed for my friends and loved ones.
  • I turned on Pandora on my Ipad. I listened to Liquid Mind station.
  • I daydreamed about the future when I am healed.
  • I snuggled under the covers and attempted falling back to sleep. ( I was successful!)

What I did not do is just as important. I did not get on the Internet and read anything that would disturb me. I didn’t resist what was happening.  I didn’t engage in negative or “what-if” self-talk. I didn’t tell myself that I could not cope or tolerate what was happening. I didn’t rack my brain and worry or wonder what I had done to cause this new wave. I just let things be.

When I woke up a few hours later, I was better. Not a lot, but better. I’ll take that any day. I am determined to create more peace and less suffering in my withdrawal. I know I can’t control the symptoms from coming. As long as I am tapering, I am going to be feeling my brain screaming, “I want my benzo!” just like a toddler throwing a tantrum.

When my children threw tantrums I held them gently, and let them cry it out. They were safe in my arms, safe to explore explosive and frightening feelings. My brain needs me to embrace it, to hold it with the knowledge that it is doing its very best to heal from 17 years of benzo use. I am sure my brain is overwhelmed and perhaps frightened, so I have to be the brave one, and remind it and myself, that we are safe. We are healing. We can get through the hits that keep on coming.

One day, my brain will stop throwing a tantrum for its benzo. It will repair and we will move on. Just like my two-year old’s did. All four of them are young adults now. The terrible twos are a distant memory. So too, will my withdrawal be.

To accepting the hits without losing hope,

Dr. Jenn