I heard the sirens wailing, way off in the distance. The ambulance was coming for me, and it couldn’t get here fast enough. I knew I was dying. My four children were gathered around me, their little faces etched with fear. I cried, imagining them growing up motherless. But of course, I didn’t die. It was a panic attack that caused my heart to pump 180 beats-per-minute, not a heart attack. After a short stint in the E.R. I was sent home, feeling a bit foolish, but on edge, worried that it could happen again. And it did. Many times. So I did what anyone would do in that situation, I went to a doctor and asked for help.

My doctor told me I had a “bad brain” and I would need to take a pill for the rest of my life. He never said why my brain had suddenly “gone bad” in the prime of my life. But he was the one with all the letters after his name, so who was I to question him? I did what I was told. I took the pill as prescribed, for years. The panic attacks stopped—and a nightmare of mysterious health problems began (tolerance withdrawal, and it’s no fun.).

Fast forward to October 2010, close to 18 years after I swallowed that first pill the doctor prescribed. I was deep in tolerance withdrawal and miserable. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know that getting free and recovering from the brain damage caused by the medication I took as prescribed was beyond human endurance. I’ve never known, nor will I ever know again, such suffering. Benzo withdrawal is a special kind of hell. It’s the most f*cked up thing you can imagine. Really.

Five years and almost four months since I swallowed my last benzo, I was mostly well, but not 100%. The emotional, mental, spiritual horrors that are classic withdrawal suffering were gone (so, so, grateful for that!) but a few physical symptoms lingered, like a nagging cough after a long bout with the flu. I just couldn’t shake them. I tried, believe me! I ate well, I prayed, I meditated, I did my best to psych myself up—a mind-over-matter kinda thing. Zip. Nada. Nothing worked. I went along, dragging behind me the remaining symptoms, wherever I went: tingles, weakness, dizziness, head-pressure, fatigue, and screeching ear ringing. Once in a while, some bone/muscle/joint pain. Rarely, burning skin.

A few weeks ago, I went on a long walk with a man I’ve got an enormous crush on. We hadn’t walked very far when I began to lag behind, just a little. He slowed down for me. A slight hill we encountered caused me to gasp for air. He turned and asked me, “Are you alright?” Well, no, I wasn’t! My benzo symptoms were having a field day with me in the heat of the day while exercising. I explained that I have been rather inactive (understatement) the past few years and was getting back into shape (a truth I hoped was real). When we ended our walk, I drove home wondering how in the world am I going to get back to who I used to be before my brain and body fell apart in benzo withdrawal?  I didn’t have an answer. Until last week.

A friend of mine is also a benzo survivor. She’s sixteen years off of her last dose. She told me that what helped her turn the corner to true healing was walking. But walking was what made me feel so sick! She nodded her head when I told her that, but she insisted I give it a try, and not just around the block. She was so convincing, that I laced up my tennies and went out for a long walk with her. Slowly. Three miles later, I was dizzy but happy that I had pushed myself a little. The next day, I went out before sunrise and followed the same route she and I had taken the day before. And the next day, and the next. I’ve been walking three to six miles a day for a week and a half, in the stillness of the day before sunrise, and my list of remaining symptoms is growing shorter and shorter. REAL HEALTH FEELS LIKE IT’S RUSHING BACK INTO MY BRAIN AND BODY!  I’m turning the last corner and OMG! It feels soooo good!

I don’t know if walking a few miles every day will be the ticket to your corner-turning, but it sure seems to be that way for me. I don’t wake up with the head pressure I used to start the day with. I’m not dizzy, always feeling as if I am in motion anymore. I can sit in a chair and feel as if solid ground is underneath me, instead of that boaty feeling of being on water. I don’t know how long your recovery will take. I hope and pray, with my whole heart, that it isn’t as long as mine has taken, but I DO KNOW, ONE THOUSAND PERCENT, that you are going to get better. You are going to heal. You are going to continue to turn corners until one day, you sashay down that last street, and turn that last corner. You’ll laugh, never look back, and you’ll know, YOU SLAYED BENZO WITHDRAWAL LIKE A BOSS!! Know what else? You’ll keep on walking, knowing that from here on out, no matter what happens in life, you are totally unf*ckwithable. Seriously.  

Don’t give up. Keep going. You will succeed! You will recover. In time. And life will be amazing and sweet.

I love you all so much.

Keep going. Walk! You’ll turn a corner soon.