At the first hint that I was turning a corner in my recovery from BIND, benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction, I taught a class at Standford Univeristy. I was determined to “get back to normal.” The problem was my nervous system wasn’t quite ready for “normal.” Teaching a course on how to increase your creative brainpower was too much. I had a terrible setback.
It’s normal to want to dive back into life as it once was, but it’s crucial to recognize that pacing oneself is vital in preventing a return of symptoms. In this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of taking it slow and provide a checklist of things to help ease back into life without overdoing it.
The Fragile Nature of the Nervous System
You may feel recovered or close to recovered, but your nervous system may still be fragile. It may not be fully healed, even though you may be symptom-free. We must recognize that the nervous system is a complex and delicate system that can be affected by various factors. Exertion, stress, alcohol, pot, medication, and supplements can trigger a return or increase in symptoms. And it’s not just the “big things” like returning to work too soon that can cause havoc; little things add up, too. Housekeeping, yard work, or babysitting your precious grandchildren can trigger symptoms.Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms It’s important to ease back into normal activity, one step at a time.
Pacing oneself is important as we heal from BWD/BIND. This means practicing patience and acceptance. I know firsthand how strong the desire to get back to normal can be and how frustrating it is to have to “pay the price” for simple things such as running errands. I remember going to a poolside birthday party when I was close to recovery. A fantastic DJ played songs I danced to in my thirties, and my feet wouldn’t stop tapping as I sat and listened. Half the guests were already dancing under the stars, and I thought, “Why not? What can it hurt? It’s just dancing!” I danced and danced and danced, feeling the most alive I’d felt in years. I drove home with a silly grin plastered across my face. I slept soundly that night. I woke the next morning feeling horrible and stayed in bed for two days. My body wasn’t ready for all the excitement and exertion. Had I practiced patience, I would have waited for the next party, or even the one after that, to let loose on the dance floor. Or, I would have danced to a song and sat back down instead of gyrating most of the night. It’s hard, I know, to be patient. Accepting that we aren’t ready to engage in life as we did pre-benzo damage can be equally hard.
One of the things I learned in AA was that having expectations was a quick way to gather resentment and pick up a drink. It’s true. When we expect something, and it doesn’t come to pass, we feel robbed; the universe got it wrong and didn’t give us what we were due. For me, expectations are like playing God; I want to be in control. Learning to let go was a decisive step in keeping my sobriety (12 years and counting!). Lowering our expectations and letting go of what we think should or shouldn’t happen helps us to accept things as they are. We no longer have to fight our circumstances.
My clients ask me all the time.”How will I know when I can…” They want to know about returning to work, school, having a drink, dating, etc. There isn’t a black-and-white or one-size-fits-all answer. You may *think* you know you’re ready, but your nervous system might know otherwise. The best thing to do is to take baby steps back into the world. Do a little at a time. Rest. Reflect. Ask yourself how you feel. As with most things BWD/BIND, test and learn. And give yourself lots of room to course-correct. Be ready to practice self-compassion and grace; you’ll probably make some mistakes as you re-enter “normal life.” That’s okay. Rest and try again when you are able. Just because you can’t return to normal today doesn’t mean you won’t return to normal one day.
Explaining To Others
It’s part of what makes BWD/BIND exhausting— having to explain your limitations to others. Perhaps you could go to dinner one night, but now it’s too much. People struggle to understand why we gain ground and then lose it. (It’s a mystery to us, too!) But it’s important to be true to yourself and your boundaries. Just because you could pick up the kids, go grocery shopping, and cook dinner a few nights in a row doesn’t mean you are ready to go back to work full-time as your spouse insists you are. Getting over BIND is not the same as getting over the flu. Please do your best to explain that diving back into life too soon can set you back, and you’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where you are now, and it’s not worth sabotaging that. (Share this blog post if need be.)
As we return to normal life, we may fear bringing on a wave or a setback. We may worry that every little thing we do will trigger an avalanche of symptoms. This is a common reaction. We’ve suffered for so long, and the light at the end of the tunnel is so bright and beautiful, but those last few steps can be fraught with trepidation. It’s best to observe the fear (instead of instantly believing it) and know that it is part of the process. Do your best to be logical by checking in with your body (and mind) and determining how you are doing. Don’t let fear keep you from moving forward at an appropriate pace.
Listen to Your Body
As you ease back into life after benzo withdrawal/BIND, listening to your body’s signals is crucial. If you feel tired, overwhelmed, or have an uptick or slight return of symptoms, take it as a sign that you need to slow down and give your nervous system more time to recover. Fatigue was the first sign I was overdoing it when I had my second setback. I was so determined to “be normal” that I pushed and pushed and pushed until l pushed myself back into being bedridden again. (I was a very slow learner back then!) Remember, it’s okay to take breaks and prioritize self-care. Recovery is not a linear process, and everyone’s journey will be unique. By paying attention to your body’s signals and needs, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the ups and downs of the healing process.
Are you an over-achiever? We aren’t driven to achieve because we think we are better than others; we are driven because, deep down, we fear we are less than others. Many of us have trauma in our backgrounds. If you are an over-achiever, pacing yourself as you return to normal life may be more challenging. Understanding and embracing the fourth cornerstone of well-being, love well, is a powerful tool for healing those dark places that drive us. The fourth cornerstone helped me reduce my frantic urges to go, go, go. I’m much better (but not perfect!) at being kind and gentle with myself, loving all of me, warts and all!
The Importance of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is essential during the recovery process (and beyond!). It’s normal to feel frustrated or discouraged sometimes, but remember that healing and returning to the world takes time. Be kind to yourself. By cultivating self-compassion, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges that come your way. You’ll be healthier, happier, and far more likely to ultimately achieve all the things you’ve had to put off. Self-compassion is a super-hero that lifts us to our highest potential.
Easing Back into Life Post-Benzo Withdrawal/BIND
Here is a list of things to help you ease back into life after benzo withdrawal/BIND. Remember to pace yourself. If any negative thoughts or feelings arise about being patient, observe them and let them go. Reframe negativity with gratitude. Practice curiosity.
- Establish a daily routine: Creating a daily routine can provide structure and stability. Include essential activities such as self-care while also incorporating time for relaxation and enjoyable activities.
- Gentle exercise: Start with low-intensity exercises, such as walking, stretching, or swimming, to help improve your physical and mental well-being. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts as your body allows.
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Incorporate mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, into your daily routine to help manage stress and anxiety.
- Engage in hobbies: Rediscover old hobbies or explore new ones that bring you joy and help you focus on something other than withdrawal/BIND.
- Connect with supportive friends and family: Social connections can be incredibly healing during recovery. Reach out to loved ones for support and encouragement.
- Limit exposure to stressors: Identify situations or environments that may trigger anxiety or other symptoms and minimize exposure to these stressors whenever possible.
- Prioritize sleep: Establish a regular sleep schedule and practice good sleep hygiene, even if your sleep has not yet returned to normal.
- Break tasks into smaller steps: Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Set realistic goals: Establish achievable short-term and long-term goals and celebrate your progress along the way.
- Lower expectations to lessen resentment and negativity and encourage patience and acceptance.
- Have clear boundaries. Teach/show others what they are.
- Love well: Embrace the fourth cornerstone of well-being to heal the need to over-achieve.
- Cultivate Self-Compassion for living your highest and best.
Easing back into life after BWD/BIND can be a challenging process, but it’s important to remember that the nervous system is fragile and requires time to heal. You can gradually ease back into life without overdoing it by pacing yourself, listening to your body’s signals, and following the checklist provided. Practice patience and self-compassion throughout your recovery journey, and don’t hesitate to seek benzo-wise professional help if needed. Remember, you’re not alone in this process; in time, you’ll be back to even better than normal!
Add Your Voice
Leave a comment about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings about getting back to normal after BWD/BIND. Your story helps others. We appreciate your participation.