Every person contemplates existence, but pondering can turn into paranoia and panic while in the throes of benzo withdrawal. Questions and concerns about the meaning of life, death, existence, who we are, time, the universe, and our souls, can torment us. Existential angst is a prevalent symptom during benzo withdrawal. It can feel like torture to go down a rabbit hole of questioning reality, existence, God, etc. As I’ve shared so often, “state drives story.” A nervous system damaged by a benzo will usually be in a “protect” state. In the protect state, the content of our thoughts and feelings will be negative, even fearful, fertile ground for existential thoughts to fester and grow. Your existential fear is normal in the protect state, and in benzo withdrawal.
What can we do to manage our existential thoughts and feelings? Here are a few suggestions.
- Know that your fears about reality, your existence, time, God, etc., are common symptoms of benzo withdrawal. They do not indicate a mental illness, a lack of healing, or an inability to heal. They indicate a hyper-excited nervous system, nothing more.
- Meditate, pray, chant, or sing. These activities help regulate the threat detection circuitry and can turn down the volume of existential angst. (If prayer triggers angst, try chanting or singing.)
- Distraction is a coping mechanism for almost every benzo withdrawal symptom. Do your best to take your mind off your frightening or depressing thoughts. Get your hands busy. It helps.
- Bring some humor into your day, if possible. Laughter is good medicine.
- Talk to someone who is understanding and compassionate. It’s helpful if the person has gone through benzo withdrawal and can relate to your emotional pain and can assure you that the existential angst will fade away on its own.
- Practice acceptance. Your nervous system is in a state of dysregulation. It causes uncomfortable thoughts and feelings; however, you are safe, even while experiencing them. Accept that existential angst is part of the healing journey.
- Become a neutral observer. Instead of fighting your existential angst, observe it. Observing helps us know that we are not our thoughts, nor do we need to be afraid of them.
- Hold on to the fact that your existential angst will fade away on its own as your nervous system heals.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Putting your attention on things you are grateful for can reduce your suffering from existential angst.
- Become comfortable with the unknown. No one knows the true meaning of life or what happens after we die. It’s all a big glorious, magnificent mystery. Living in the present moment with an open, loving heart is the best we can do. We are all in this world together. You are not alone.
If you would like daily support as you navigate benzo withdrawal, please consider joining Mornings With Jenn, my group coaching/support group. We meet on Discord. I am live Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9 AM Pacific for group coaching. Within the Mornings With Jenn server are categories for all-things-benzos, relaxation, fun, the four cornerstones of well-being, and learning. You can turn off the benzo content if you are easily triggered. Mornings With Jenn also has a databank of symptoms you can access with a quick command to help you feel more at ease with what you are experiencing. We have watch parties, educational programs, guest speakers, and more! The cost is $120 a month for 9+ hours of group coaching and all the other benefits. Mornings With Jenn also has memberships for caregivers so they can learn the best practices for caring for their loved one and learn how to best take care of themselves. The cost is $60 a month, which includes weekly group coaching at 9 AM Pacific on Tuesdays.