I’ve been submerged in a catastrophic wave that sapped all my energy and took my sleep. Today I have surfaced and feel relatively calm and normal with no pain. This is the pattern and has to be accepted and surrendered to until full recovery is mine. I’m now 17 months and one week away from my last benzo. It’s been a long hard journey but I’m still breathing and I’m still alive, my new mantra!
Over this time I’ve learnt to take pleasure in the small things in life. Just to wake in the morning to another day, the beautiful view from my home on the hillside, the wagging tail of my devoted dog and so on. Such small details become the very essence of life when you are unable to join the hustle and bustle of the outside world. I shall never disregard their importance again.
At present the anxiety level is low and my brain is clearer. They have been talking on Benzobuddies about whether life is too short to embrace withdrawal and perhaps those of us suffering should have remained on the drugs for the rest of our lives. It has helped me to gather together my own reasons for quitting suddenly when I did and thought it may help to list them here …….
- I was suffering ‘tolerance’ or ‘relative’ withdrawal for several years preceding my jump. I understand this as my brain having become used to the drug and needing more and more to remain at status quo. The symptoms I suffered when in tolerance were as bad as the symptoms I suffered over this last 17 months. The only way to quell them would have been to updose and take more Nitrazepam although I didn’t know this at the time so never did take more than the prescribed dose.
- The threat of possible dementia hangs over anyone taking long term benzodiazepines especially those who are over 65. I was then 67 and very aware my cognitive functions were severely compromised.
- I was unable to live my life to the full due to the over reaction of my Central Nervous System. I could be plunged into episodes of chronic stomach problems, shaking, sweating, and weakness for very minor reasons. Once I appreciated the cause of this I knew I wanted to be fully functional again and without this threat constantly hanging over me.
- I had night sweats every night for forty years which I always thought were caused by the early, enforced menopause. I now know they were probably exaggerated by the disruption of the brain by the drugs. The proof is that these have been one of the symptoms to ease and almost disappear since my temperature control has regulated. I am expecting them to go completely with more healing.
- More than anything I wanted to show my family, my sons and my grandchildren that I wasn’t the sick, elderly lady that I had become. That I wasn’t the rather erratic mother that I had been and that my husband could enjoy the happy, confident wife he had married again. Perhaps this is rather ‘pie in the sky’ but I can dream.
- I had many, many physical problems which I won’t list here. They all became worse in tolerance and withdrawal. They now mostly only appear if a bad wave threatens. My theory is that things get worse before they get better and this is just an example of the brain trying to heal each nasty symptom once and for all.
There are probably other reasons that have faded from my memory but these represent the most predominant. I feel thankful I recognized so many problems for what they were and through research and talking to many experts on the subject have been able to take the long road to recovery before, hopefully, I’m too old. It’s not been easy but I’m surviving.
Before I leave today I would like to mention the launching of a site called www.cepuk.org which is being used in the UK to inform parliament of the dangers of all benzodiazepine drugs as well as antidepressants. To a certain extent I’m disappointed with its emphasis on antidepressants rather than benzos which have been in use since the sixties and are being prescribed by a medical community that still has its head in the sand. This is a major scandal and it’s inevitable that anti depressants would cause similar, horrendous withdrawals with their targeting of the same brain pathways. I only hope it goes part way towards heaving the GPs out of their entrenched position of prescribing drugs rather than seeking the cause and helping their patients deal with depression without threatening their very lives! In their support the short time of each consultation, perhaps only five or ten minutes, gives them little space for ‘talk’ and understanding and so they resort to the ‘quick fix’ that could become this life threat. I understand Prescription medications are the third most common cause of death in the UK. Doctors need to go beyond seeing their patients as a collection of symptoms to be treated to seeing them as 'whole people' with life problems that need sorting.