The mornings from hell.
Nevermind that my sleep was so incredibly screwed up. My insomnia was child’s play in comparison to the gruesome torture that awaited me when I woke up from whatever amount of sleep my damaged nervous system allowed me. Mornings were a particular type of torture; a deep dive into pure hell. I won’t list my symptoms here in case they may be triggering for some (besides, you can find them in posts from previous years) but suffice it to say they were inhumane. Some people speculate that it is the rise in cortisol that wakes us up from our slumber that is responsible for our rise in morning symptoms. I’ve not seen any research that explains the phenomenon. All I know is I’d cry myself to sleep some nights because I knew what awaited me at the start of the next day, and it wasn’t pretty. After a few hours doing my best to cope with the morning symptoms, they’d ease up just enough for me to catch my breath. I’d gather my strength and find my way into my kitchen and make myself a simple breakfast and take it outside to eat. When I finished, I’d go back inside to wash my dishes.
I wasn’t quite a Dr. Pepper.
Ten, two, and four are the Dr. Pepper hours. My daily cycling of symptoms didn’t follow all of those hours; however, at 10 A.M., a wave of depression would hit me as I stood in front of the sink. It rushed through my body like a tsunami, and I had absolutely no way to stop it. I tried positive affirmations, deep breathing, prayer, and meditation to no avail. I’d have to wait until the afternoon to get a little bit of relief. I’d often remind myself as I stood at the sink, crestfallen over the dip into despair, that I’d feel a bit better midafternoon. All I had to do was to hold on until then.
Easing up in the late afternoon.
Three P.M. was my sweet spot that started a gradual lifting of suffering. I wasn’t without symptoms, but I wasn’t in total agony, either. I’d start to get a faint glimmer of hope that one day I’d get well. My mind was more clear, and I could focus on the moment, instead of being trapped inside my wild thoughts. The fear eased up, as well as body pain and tension. However, the more manageable moments gradually gave way to the evening crash, which I could set my watch to.
8 P.M. the tingles and other such nonsense started again.
Without fail, whatever gain I’d made in feeling a tad better, would be lost at the stroke of 8 P.M. The tingling, burning, head and body pressure, tinnitus, nerve pain, and electrical feeling came back to roost. At least the fear and terror didn’t return, that is, not until my body relaxed into the warm embrace of sleep and I’d be jerked back to consciousness with a jolt of adrenaline.
Rinse and repeat.
My cycle of hellish mornings, less hellish afternoons and early evenings, with an evening dip back into suffering, went on for a very long time. I used to wonder if the exhausting cycle was just my new normal. I worried (needlessly) that it was. I discovered that It’s more common than not, to have daily cycling of symptoms. Most people are worse in the mornings and their better hours arrive in the afternoon. But some people have a different cycle. As with all things benzo withdrawal, there is no “one size fits all.” What’s important to note is your cycle and to learn to cope with it.
Cycles can change.
It’s bad enough that benzo withdrawal can be intense suffering, but it can change its presentation at any stage of recovery. Your cycle can vary. Your symptoms can come and go, and new ones take their place. The most predictable thing about benzo withdrawal (other than it is suffering) is that it is so unpredictable. Just when you feel you’ve gotten somewhat used to your symptoms, BOOM, things can change. Just use all of your coping skills and remind yourself that healing is the outcome for the damage caused by the benzo.
One day, you’ll wake up, and the only cycle you’ll be in is the cycle of normal life that everyone enjoys— a good night’s sleep and a good morning and breakfast, lunch, dinner! Benzo withdrawal doesn’t last forever. We do recover and go on with our lives. If you are experiencing a daily cycle of symptoms, know that one day, they will dissipate. If your cycle has changed, don’t worry. That’s pretty common in benzo withdrawal—even if you are a few years out and you have a new pattern of symptoms. Remember, benzo withdrawal is unpredictable. Symptoms wax and wane and morph and shift. The only things we can count on in benzo withdrawal is that we can’t count on it to have any rhyme or reason and that it goes away one day. Keep healing!