When I was in my first year of benzo withdrawal, life was intense, to say the least. I had a laundry list of symptoms. I was exhausted from the minute-to-minute suffering and struggle. All I wanted was a few minutes of “normal.” I drove to a party supply store to look for decorations for Thanksgiving. It would be a bit of a distraction from all the weirdness going on in my mind and body. That was the goal, at least.

When I got out of my car, I couldn’t help but notice the convertible parked next to me. The leather on the seats reminded me of the car a boyfriend of mine had owned when we were both twenty-one. I was immediately awash in old feelings and memories that I had absolutely no control over. I was stuck in some crazy movie-like drama in my mind, drowning in emotions I didn’t want to feel.

Like Intrusive thoughts, intrusive memories pop into our minds and flood us with feelings. We never know what may trigger a memory. We feel so out of control! It’s exhausting and uncomfortable, to say the least.

If you are plagued by intrusive memories, here are ten things that you can do to cope.

  1. Understand that intrusive memories are part of the withdrawal syndrome for many people. They don’t signify any type of mental illness. They don’t mean that you are losing your mind. It can be uncomfortable to be flooded with the emotions tied to an intrusive memory, but they aren’t harmful.
  2. Know that intrusive memories come to an end. You won’t go through the rest of your life being trigged by every little thing that you encounter!
  3. If you feel overwhelmed by a memory, breathe in to the count of seven and our to the count of eleven. That breathing pattern helps calm down your neurophysiology.
  4. Take a gentle walk when you experience an intrusive memory. Moving your body is a good way to allow the energy of your emotions to pass through you.
  5. Get grounded. If a memory feels frightening, look around at your surroundings. Name things that you see. Feel the ground under your feet. Touch something close to you. Remind yourself that you are in the here and now and that the memory is just that, a memory.
  6. Don’t fight the memory. Allow it to bubble up and pass through you. It won’t stick around, and the energy you extend attempting to push it away isn’t worth it.
  7. Be a neutral observer. “Watch” yourself experiencing the memory. Don’t judge anything about the experience.
  8. Call and talk to someone if you are triggered and want support. Talking to someone who understands benzo withdrawal and all of its strange symptoms can be helpful.
  9. Get creative! Drawing, painting, sculpting—anything creative—can take your mind off of an intrusive memory and reduce stress chemicals, too.
  10. Turn on some soothing music and take a warm bath. It’s a good coping skill for many of life’s rough edges!

Intrusive memories may sound like a benign phenomenon to someone who hasn’t experienced them, however, they can be overwhelming. In benzo withdrawal, we are often afraid of our thoughts and feelings because we have so little control over them. When you add intrusive memories into the mix, it can feel like the straw that will break the camel’s back. Fortunately, intrusive memories fade away as our GABA receptors heal.

What are some of the ways you cope with intrusive memories? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.