Eight months into a terribly managed taper off the clonazepam I had taken for eighteen years (like most doctors, mine were benzo-ignorant), I trusted a doctor who claimed he could stop my suffering. Desperate to function normally again, I followed his advice to stop taking my benzo and detox at my home with some phenobarbitol to ward off seizures. He reassured me I would feel better in a few days. Eager to put the last eight months of torture behind me, I followed his instructions. Seventy-two hours after swallowing my last benzo dose, I was rushed to the emergency room. I spent a week in the hospital hallucinating, burning, tingling, twitching, and experiencing terror that I didn’t know was humanly possible. Nor did I know my brain could produce such horrific intrusive thoughts while simultaneously playing an annoying song in my head over and over and over again.

Once home, I thought the worst was behind me. Surely I would feel better in a day or two. (I know. How naive of me!) Without going into the gory details that could trigger anyone, I was a mess. I’d be back in a hospital for a long weekend at four and half months off and then a six-week stay at an out-of-state facility. I came home from that place still as symptomatic as when I went in. But I had done one thing that helped shape my recovery journey— I promised myself I would not reinstate nor would I harm myself. I also promised myself that I would heal from the things that prompted me to seek the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist. I yearned to be anxiety and panic free. I yearned to be whole.

My journey to reconnect the pieces of me that had been broken off from my authenticity due to ACES, Adverse Childhood Events, wasn’t an easy one. It was fraught with fear and uncertainty, pain and sorrow. Yet, I kept turning toward the greatest healer of all: love. I tore out my front yard and planted a flower garden filled with the most exotic blooms I’d ever seen. I hung a bird feeder and installed a fountain. I fed the squirrels and crows nuts and put out a bowl of water and treats for the dogs being walked. I turned to life! For the most part, I found a way to get out of my own way and allowed myself to be carried by the unstoppable force of spirit. You, too, have this force within you. Your benzo did not nor cannot touch the spirit inside of you.

Your mind may tell you all sorts of negative stories, but that is just the result of your nervous system being in the protect state, which creates those types of thoughts and feelings. Remember about the polyvagal theory I’ve blogged about? State drives story. The state of your nervous system creates your thoughts and feelings. In the protect state, which we are most of the time in benzo withdrawal due to the downregulated GABA receptors, our thoughts will be negative. In our default state, the connect state, our thoughts and feelings will be positive. Don’t believe your negative thoughts, believe in YOU, your inner-being that the benzo didn’t alter. (One way to think about thoughts and feelings is to view them as fish swmming around in a pond. You are the pond! You can compassionately hold all the fish, even the negative ones. Just observe them going on their way instead of believing their negative narratives.)

One of the things that helped me turn towards love, allowing spirit to buoy me along, was curiosity. I continually asked what I could do to add to creation, to help, to forgive, to create, to spark joy, to be in awe. Sure, some days I wallowed in self-pity, but eventually I’d pull myself up and out of that quagmire and get back to the work of recovery, of trusting love to lead the way.

This is not a well-written blog, I know. I’m struggling with forming the essential message. What I want to share with you is the knowledge that you can trust that you are powerful. You are unstoppable, even on the days you feel all is lost. Keep going. Trust that your spirit is intact. Trust that life and love are the greatest healers and teachers. Embrace them with all your might, heart, and soul.

Know that benzo withdrawal is a season, and like all seasons, must give way to the next. Patience, acceptance, gratitude and distraction help us wait for the seasons to change. A beautiful season is just ahead, I promise.

Ask yourself what you can be curious about. What can you be in awe of? Who or what can you be in service to? What can you do to let go of all your shoulda, woulda, couldas and let love/spirit lead the way? What do you need to be able to listen to your truths and not your negative thoughts created by your hyperexcited nervous system? What can you do to KNOW you are unstoppable? What might you change in order to extend love and compassion to yourself, your brain, your body, your nervous system?

From my very full and grateful heart to yours,
Dr. Jenn