It’s been a hard week. The news of Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths have triggered many in the benzo community. When we read accounts that both of these celebrities were possibly taking a benzodiazepine, our feelings range from fear and panic to anger and outrage. Fear that we may end up like them, and outrage that we are suffering from benzo withdrawal (and possibly Kate and Anthony were as well) at the hands of the medical community we trusted It’s a lot of emotions to cope with. Let’s all take a slow deep breath and a long exhale and create a more healthy narrative to tell ourselves so that we don’t stay in a heightened state of arousal. After all, with damaged GABA receptors, we need to avoid stress, and the news reports have been incredibly stress-provoking.
First, you are not either Kate or Anthony. Your recovery is your recovery. It will unfold as unique as you are. You are not doomed to have an unhappy ending to your healing journey. Quite the opposite. You are healing and headed toward a much healthier and happier life once your GABA receptors heal. No matter how many symptoms you have today, or how deep your suffering, you are going to get better. You are going to be able to rejoin life and do all the things you are missing out on today. You will go on to forget about this season of suffering in your life; you will be so thrilled to be out and enjoying your life again! If your benzo brain is trying to convince that you are not going to make it, just observe those thoughts, don’t’ get hooked by them. Don’t give them any energy. Rise above them. Know that they are just thoughts and they are not predictors of the future. They are simply thoughts. Tell yourself something positive and then get your hands busy with something. Our minds will often follow our hands and become engrossed in our activity. Remember, the thought that your recovery will never end, or end badly, is a lie. It is not the truth.
Second, it’s not clear if either Kate or Anthony were aware that their medications could have been making them feel worse. If they were taking a benzo as we presume (one article stated that Kate was on anti-anxiety medication and another reported that Anthony listed Valium as one of the things he wouldn’t travel without), we don’t know if they were educated about tolerance withdrawal. If they were in tolerance withdrawal and uneducated about benzos, they would most likely have presumed that their anxiety or depression (or worsening of such states) was organic, that this was just the way they were. You can imagine how distraught that would have made them feel. But you know better; you are aware that your uncomfortable emotional, physical, and cognitive symptoms are caused by withdrawal from your benzodiazepine—whether that is tolerance withdrawal, inter-dose withdrawal, tapering withdrawal, or cessation withdrawal. You know that your GABA receptors have been down-regulated from the benzo. You know that the bizarre symptoms you are experiencing are not you, they are from the drug, and that they will go away, in time.
Third, your first and foremost job right now is to heal. That means that everything comes second to your recovery. Which means, among other things, that you avoid stress. It’s okay to take a break from the news on television, in the papers, or on social media. It’s okay to not post anything about benzos on your social media accounts in response to the news about Kate and Anthony. You don’t have to save anyone right now. There will be time, when you are more recovered, to post about withdrawal and to become an activist on some level if you so desire. But for now, remind yourself that you don’t have to read, watch, or post anything if it upsets you. There will be plenty of time to share your experience, strength, and hope with others down the road. So don’t feel guilty if you are avoiding news stories or avoiding sharing on social media. Your main job is to heal. Period.
It is sad that the world has lost these two incredibly talented souls, that’s true. But we can do our best to cope with our big emotions and to do our best to quiet our central nervous system. We can be mindful of the stories we tell ourselves, making sure that our internal dialogue is as positive as possible. And when it is not, we simply overlook the negative thoughts, distract, and do our best to replace the scary story with positive words and a positive plot. You are going to heal. Your nervous system is designed to recover. If you scraped your knee, you wouldn’t worry about it healing. Don’t worry about your nervous system healing. It knows what to do! We just need to get out of its way and to give it the time it needs.
If you are struggling with the news about Kate or Anthony or struggling with any aspect of benzo withdrawal, please reach out to someone who will listen, care, and support you. Don’t suffer in silence for that is a breeding ground for negativity that is very unhealthy. If you are experiencing suicide ideation (often a withdrawal symptom), please let someone know. Have a plan of action should you feel you will act on those thoughts. It may be embarrassing to tell someone just how bad you are feeling, but please speak up. This is not the time to be stoic. We all need support in benzo withdrawal. A lot of support. Don’t be shy about asking for what you need. If someone can’t give it to you, ask someone else.Keep asking until you get what you need.
I’m here if anyone needs to share their feelings, but please know that I am not trained in suicide prevention, so if you are suicidal, seek appropriate help. The national suicide hotline is:
Sending my love to each and every one of you.