I sat with my best friend in her apartment, sharing all of my benzo withdrawal symptoms. She listened as she had done so many times before. Her facial expression changed when I got to the end of the laundry list of fears and complaints about my mental and physical health. She knitted her brows together in a frown. “You’ve got to stop talking about benzo withdrawal,” she said. I drew in a sharp breath of hurt and surprise. How could she tell me to stop talking about the most colossal, hideous, frightening thing that had ever happened to me?

It was true; I had talked nonstop about benzo withdrawal for a long time. But in my defense, being preoccupied with benzo withdrawal is a symptom of benzo withdrawal. In benzo withdrawal, or BIND (benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction), our nervous system is in the “protect” state— fight, flight, or freeze. Because the state of our nervous system drives our thoughts and feelings, in benzo withdrawal, our thoughts will be negative, as that is what the protect state generates. We will be hyper-focused and preoccupied with ourselves and what we are experiencing.

We can’t stop the preoccupation with benzo withdrawal, but we can be mindful of how much time we spend talking about it. It’s hard, I know, to reel in the desire speak about it, but giving ourselves and our friends and family a break now and then from all things benzo withdrawal can be beneficial.

As we heal, our nervous system will be more able to shift into the default state called “connect,” and our preoccupation with benzo withdrawal will wane. We will be more and more focused on others and the world around us and less on ourselves and what we think and feel moment to moment. In the connect state, our thoughts will be positive.

Please don’t judge yourself for how self-focused you are in benzo withdrawal. You can’t help it. You aren’t doing anything bad or wrong. Benzo-driven self-centeredness is not the same as being selfish. It is not egotistically putting your needs before others. It is simply another benzo withdrawal symptom born out of a hyperexcited nervous system that is, more times than not, in the protect state, creating negative thoughts and feelings.

My friend hurt my feelings when she told me to stop talking about benzo withdrawal. I thought she didn’t understand and wasn’t there for me. But she was right. When I stopped talking about it so often, my life became more positive and my preoccupation with benzo withdrawal lessened because I was able to move out of the protect state and into the connect state little by little.

You are going to get well. You are going to recover. Keep healing!