Each day read a coping tip and try and put it into practice. It will help divert a little from focussing on the bad symptoms. You may not be well enough to do them all but have a go at those that appeal to you and could help.
I think many of us get tired of hearing others say it takes time, keep positive and so on, I know I did. To a certain extent is does take time and for some people a very long time but how on earth can we keep positive and wait for time to pass when we feel trapped in the torture chamber that our body has become? It's natural to fight and try and find a way out and when we can't we become more negative and more hopeless than ever.
I'm guilty myself of telling people it's going to take more time or to keep positive yet, when I was told this myself, it made me fight harder than ever because I couldn't just sit around and wait for this to pass year after year. I now believe those who tell us it takes time without adding how we can at least help ourselves are not doing us any favours. My goal at this point in my recovery is to seek out what we can do to help that time pass and encourage a positive attitude when suffering so much. I acknowledge that keeping positive when sick for months or years is impossible so what to do about this? I'm going to try and think of something each day for focus that encourages us to keep going.....
Today bring happiness through a smile. Forget what is happening to you and smile. Even a fake smile is better than nothing. If possible smile at someone else and receive the warmth of their smile back. Such a tiny thing can help calm and lower blood pressure. Think of happy times in your life and smile, stroke your pet and smile or watch funny TV programs and smile even laugh out loud, every little helps. So never forget to smile in spite of your adversity.
2. Relax to Music
Yesterday my first coping technique was to smile, even if it was a false smile. The very act of smiling sends good vibes to help keep the brain positive. Today it's music. In my very worst times I would curl on my bed and let my chaotic mind focus on relaxing music. I surrounded myself in music to block out the horrors in my body. Music calms the soul and brings a sense of peace so we can drift away. Even now I turn on my music first thing in the morning and it's the last thing I listen to before sleep. Never underestimate the healing power of music.
As we withdraw the brain needs a new focus perhaps to drown out sounds and sensations in our bodies or just to help us relax in the bad times. Remember to turn on your favourite music and make music your refuge.
3. Help Others
First it was smile, then music and now my third tip for easing our way through the long dark tunnel of benzo withdrawal is to have others alongside us. People who understand and have suffered themselves. They are angels in our days of darkness.
I'm ever grateful to those who've been there for me during all this, both new friends on the internet and those who manned the UK support lines. When I was able to function more myself I used making my website as a distraction and as an aid for helping others so that my own withdrawal counted for something. It was hard because I'd never done this before but managed with the aid of a simple website template. It made me concentrate and forget my symptoms for a short while although it was 17 months after withdrawal before I could function sufficiently to do this. Through my website the Facebook group has grown and I'm ever grateful for the many people here who use what they have learnt on their own journeys to reach out and support others.
However bad things can be on some days we always know there's someone here for us wanting to help. So reach out to others and in doing so help your own recovery.
4. Keep Going
My tip for today is never give up however bad things seem to be. When you have a rough day remember that this could be the last one. There's no way of knowing just how close to recovery that you may be as healing is so haphazard and the worst day can be followed by complete recovery. Healing is not linear for many of us. Linear healing is something that happens in most other illnesses as things gradually get better but in benzo withdrawal this may not be the case. So never ever give up.....if tapering don't updose, if off don't restart a benzo and always try not to add another drug. The bad times will pass and you can do this but keep your body and brain clear of further drugs to ensure healing happens as quickly as possible. Keep going and don't turn back. 💙
5. Go into Nature
My fifth tip is to spend at least a few minutes in nature when you can. I'm aware some people are unable to go outside but just look out at the sky, the birds and anything else in your view and connect to nature. Being with nature has a calming effect. While out in the fresh air concentrate on your senses and listen to sounds, see the trees, the beach, the garden, feel the texture of the earth and walk barefoot if you can. This process is called grounding so learn about it and how it can help you. At this time of year feel the leaves crunch and crackle under your feet, hear the sound of the crashing waves on the shore and so on. This is all part of mindfulness. Being mindful of the environment and our place in it helps us relax and divert from symptoms. Be in silence with Nature.
Of course many of you may not be able to travel out of the city if this is where you live. Even so try listening to the sounds of nature such as a waterfall or bird song as there are many programs that offer these. This link is eight hours long (open in YouTube) but can be enjoyed in the background of your day, https://youtu.be/bpOesb68ygE
Never underestimate the healing power of Nature.
By meditation I don't mean sitting cross legged on the floor moaning quietly! Simple meditation just requires being at peace with yourself and with what is happening inside your body, being in the 'now'. You can sit on a comfortable chair or lie on your bed and focus within yourself by feeling the sensations in your body. Perhaps working up from your feet to your head. Feel the pressure where you make contact with the chair or bed, feel what's happening in each part of your body and while doing this notice how you are breathing but don't change your breath. Imagine a gentle energy flowing through your body bringing peace and calm as you do this. Say the words Peace and Calm in your head.
There are many different ways to meditate and you may find something that suits you better but just stopping during the day and focussing inwardly even for just a few minutes has helped me. Meditation will switch off the angry nervous system that we all have to face in this. Fighting or constant talking about what's happening in our bodies will only exaggerate symptoms while meditation calms and releases them.
You can also look into Yoga, Mindfulness, Walking Meditation, Guided Imagery, Feldenkrais, Gupta, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Irene Lyon as just a few of the many people and meditation practices that you can Google and read about for yourself. I've tried all at some time or another but for me the simple practice of focusing into my body and concentrating on the breath is the easiest to fit into everyday life whenever feeling stressed or unwell.
7. Feel Gratitude
The process of withdrawing from benzos can be long and arduous and it's difficult sometimes not to see ourselves as a collection of symptoms rather than someone loved and cherished. Instead of waking each morning and immediately turning to the body to search for the pain of withdrawal try and count your blessings. It doesn't matter how small these may be and how seemingly unimportant, moving your focus from the body and on to more positive thoughts of what you have rather than what you have lost all helps over time. It's also a good practice while waiting for sleep and can replace counting sheep.
Even just writing down one blessing you have each day of your withdrawal helps the brain rest from the negative. It may be something as simple as 'I have internet friends who are always there for me'. Over the weeks these blessings will accumulate and can be read back often to yourself. Another idea is to make a 'Blessings Box' and put into it objects that conjure up happy memories. Perhaps photos of an outing, of your family, small objects that have been collected on happy days out, anything that is positive and uplifting. A list of blessings posted on a wall can remind you what you have to be grateful for when in distress at any time. Always remember the glass is half full rather than half empty.
'Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings to counting your troubles'.
Maltbie D. Babcock
8. Focus Forwards
It's important during recovery to remain focussed forwards and not continually looking backwards and asking why all this has happened. Don't look back at the bigger picture of why you were prescribed a benzo or antidepressant in the first place or at the more immediate picture of something that may have caused a bad wave. Not easy, I'm well aware. We want to find blame for everything that happens to us but seeking out causes can only worsen the effects.
Forget about asking why. You can ask why later when you've recovered, for now focus on asking, “What’s the best way to cope with this challenge?” Your mind loves to solve problems. By asking “what’s the best way to cope” you are telling your mind that there is a workable solution to be found. Seek that solution and so divert away from the negative towards a positive outcome.
We can help the brain heal and give it support to do that healing by not seeking answers but remembering this is only a temporary situation. One way or another we do all get through the darkness and come out as wiser, stronger people. Leave the 'whys' alone and ask only "How can I do this for myself?" Remember you have others alongside you to help answer that question.
9. Use Art as Therapy
Did you read this right? Yes you did. Perhaps you've never picked up a paint brush in your life or the extent of your 'art' is painting your living room. Don't be deterred, you need have no prior experience but just be willing to release a few emotions on paper and lose yourself in art rather than in withdrawal. 'Art therapy uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages.' Wikipedia.
I'm not going into details of how art therapy may help but just saying that being creative in any way can cause other parts of the brain to come into action and enhance healing. Several members here have posted some wonderful paintings they have done in withdrawal while others have written poems. You may find your creative talents are actually heightened during all this turmoil. Please post anything you've painted, made, coloured or written in the comments to encourage others to do this.
By expressing ourselves through art we can stimulate emotional and mental well being and reduce stress while at the same time increasing self awareness. There's a lot more to this but I'm not expecting everyone to sign up for an art course but just pick up a pencil and doodle or colour in a picture or pattern. It's been shown that adult colouring can help concentration and relieve anxiety. Again it focuses the brain away from withdrawal symptoms and relaxes us. This link gives ten benefits of colouring and why you should try this, http://www.color-meanings.com/10-therapeutic-benefits-of-coloring-books-for-adults/. There are many great colouring books available free on the internet. Happy colouring.
“Art was made to overcome chaos.” Don Jones.
10. Get Touchy Feely
I think we're all aware just how much better we feel when somebody gives us a big hug. Just that feeling of another person caring for us and making physical contact. Simply being touched by our partners significantly reduces the stress response and even lowers blood pressure. I appreciate that some sufferers don't have partners and perhaps not even family members to give them a hug. If you can't receive a hug from someone then how about you hug a furry friend! Animals have been shown to increase oxytocin production, the 'bonding' chemical that boosts our moods. I know how much my dog helps to keep me calm just by allowing me to stroke her and feel her soft fur. Her love never wavers. I miss having a cat as they're great for giving a cuddle to as well and their gentle purr is very calming for us.
Massage is also helpful for stimulating the feel-good factor. Gently massage your arms, legs, body head or get someone to do this for you. Use essential oils like lavender if you can tolerate this. Massage can also be enjoyed as you bathe and relax in a warm bath with added Epsom salts or again any essential oils.
So get touchy feely and help those GABA receptors return to normal. Ashton says how we have to learn to deal with stress without benzos in order to completely heal once GABA receptors are functioning again;
'In addition, recovery may require the growth and establishment of new brain synapses as the subject learns drug-free ways to cope with stress'.
All these tips are to help you do this naturally in everyday life and not resort to expensive therapies. The more we can encourage the nervous system to relax and calm without exciting it further the faster I'm sure we heal and recover full health after this experience.
11. Eat Healthily
What we eat can determine how we feel so diet is important for this healing journey.
There's no one sure fire diet to suit everyone but taking on board some of the basics to help our recovery is fairly straight forward. The gut/ brain link has been well researched and there's undoubtedly a strong link between what we eat and how the brain reacts. The gut is often referred to as the second brain and the two brains 'talk to each other' in withdrawal. It's the reason we suffer so many stomach issues while recovering and few people escape these; Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Benzo belly, stomachache, indigestion, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea (even green poo) and so forth. The gut is lined with GABA receptors and anything that passes into it can be reflected quite dramatically in symptoms. We have to remember this is a physiological process so the CNS needs to receive no stimulus or inappropriate foodstuffs if it’s to recover as quickly as possible.
The most obvious diet restrictions to ease the path are to avoid all caffeine, processed foods, cane sugar and alcohol. After this it becomes individual choice and what suits you best. I've chosen to follow an almost Paleo diet with no grains or dairy for the moment. I eat fruit, vegetables, good class proteins such a fish, a little red meat and a small amount of carbohydrate. My weight is stable and I feel well on this. There are many other diets but too much avoidance of one thing or another can set us up for even more sensitivities so it's best not to become too fixated on what should and shouldn't be eaten.
Due to the huge amount of stress loaded on to the body during withdrawal we need optimum nutrients to help healing and this is best done through the foods we consume. Here's just some of the foodstuffs
that are supposed to help calm the CNS. I'm not going into the nutrients they contain here but they all have the potential to relax and calm and provide essential vitamins and minerals to help heal the body and brain....
Nuts, sweet potatoes and yams, bananas, spinach, dark chocolate, berries, fish, avocados, dark green leafy vegetables, olive oil, seeds etc. Good fats are essential so please research further.
A comprehensive link that covers all this,
Happy eating for health. 👍
12. Value Yourself
Positive self talk will help you to love and respect the person you are. I've said before you are not a collection of symptoms but a thinking, feeling, loving person temporarily inhibited by prescription drug damage. This is an emotional time and it may even be difficult to remember the person you were before all this. Building self- esteem and self- worth is an important part of withdrawal because they will help insulate you against the emotional and physical challenges that you now face.
There's a lot of obstacles put in the way of this ability to value ourselves and who we are. For a start even those close to us may not believe or accept how ill we've become and urge us to take more drugs in order to return to the person they used to know. Always believe in yourself and don't get upset or angry in an effort to make those who love you understand. You don't have to do this, you know what is happening and somewhere the old you is still safe in the midst of all the turmoil and suffering. Hold on to that inner you and let upsetting and negative comments wash over you the best you can.
Stop comparing your withdrawal journey to others alongside you. Of course support each other but remember you're unique and their suffering is not yours. If they took years to recover it certainly doesn't mean that you will. You're your own person and have a unique set of memories and life events that are yours as well as possessing your very own personality. Free yourself of the 'What if I'm going to be like so and so and suffer as they do?' Accept you are you and value yourself so finding strength within to face your own experiences.
Look after yourself as well as you are able. Don't feel guilty if you need to rest or even if you need to stay in bed when in a bad wave or if the symptoms become severe. Rest is as important as light exercise. Always put yourself first and stand by any decisions you make without worrying what others may think or want you to do. You are the most important person at this difficult time.
Finally don't forget the positive affirmations as they are an important part of your personal arsenal for healing. Say in your head, 'I'm fine, all is going to be well', 'I completely love and respect myself', 'I am getting better and better every day'. I can't emphasise enough how valuing yourself and keeping positive helps as you make your way through withdrawal. Remember you are unique, your body and brain will heal and you will be well'.
13. Use Your Brain
The more you use your brain the better it will function. In withdrawal the brain may be shrouded in a thick fog or it may cause you to feel apart from what's happening around you. You seem to function on another plane, one that is detached from reality by a brick wall leaving you isolated and alone. It's scary but those barriers can be demolished and the fog cleared if you're able to force yourself to use even a modicum of the cognitive function available to you while this is happening.
Start simple and build up over time. Do what you enjoy to stimulate the brain out of lethargy. For me this was initially the simple but addictive computer game 'Candy Crush'. It did encourage some sort of reasoning, thinking, remembering and puzzling out skills. As this became progressively more complex over hundreds of levels it really dId increase brain power as well as helping with diversion from symptoms. Other activities that encouraged my own cognitive abilities were Luminosity a series of cognitive puzzles, TV quizzes, writing, cryptic crosswords, jigsaw puzzles and Sudoku.
If you are able to focus at all try one of these. Start simple and work up to the more difficult with anything you enjoy. There are dozens of games on the computer which will engage even the foggiest of brains. Eventually you may be surprised at just how your brain is still able to function and even gain new learning skills. Your cognitive abilities will return.
14. Challenge Negative Thoughts
Going through withdrawal and coping with the severity of the symptoms we may have to face can cause us to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. This is something that can happen with any illness and may result in depressive, irrational thoughts. We feel pessimistic about the future, thought patterns are distorted and being told to 'think positive' just angers us and makes us withdraw even further.
Negative thought patterns are part of us and again unique to each person. They're something that get ingrained over the years and become automatic. It's natural therefore to believe that some of the more severe, physical symptoms indicate a life threatening disease and not just withdrawal from a drug. After all we've always been lead to believe that pain, temperature or insomnia are part of infectious illnesses. We've relied on our doctors to give us a pill and within a few days all is well. Now we have to change all this and dig deep into ourselves to get through the torment. I am not saying don't follow up any concerns you may have in order to stop the worry. For instance if you have a bad stomach ache then see your doctor because doctors can help reassure us when symptoms become difficult. Get any tests you feel may be necessary to help yourself but always remember some tests can be skewed as our bodies recover from benzos.
It's hard to change negative thought patterns especially when suffering so much. I just followed a simple formula of telling them to STOP as soon as I noticed something creeping in. A simple affirmation such as 'STOP, this is not true, I am well and healing every day in every way'. You can even write down the negative thought and counteract it underneath by writing the positive alternative e.g. I am getting worse every day/I am getting better every day. You can imagine an 'inner person' or your 'inner child' jumping to the rescue and telling you to stop. Somebody you can talk to inside you and who can show you the irrationality of your thoughts. If you can identify the negative thoughts as they creep into your mind and stop them in their tracks it really can help the mindset of negativity that's common to withdrawal from benzos.
It's possible to get stuck in the same negative, neural pathways that get repeated over and over again adding to the anxiety and worry of withdrawal perhaps even prolonging it. The brain is plastic, it can be remodelled so get behind those negative thought patterns and assign them to the rubbish bin!
15. Reduce Exposure to EMF
We are surrounded in electro magnetic fields, invisible lines of force that are created by electrical charges. In other words wherever there is electricity there are also electric and magnetic fields. So what does this mean for those of us in withdrawal from benzos? The most obvious problem is that our bodies are extremely sensitive at this time and can easily be affected by external forces of which we're not aware. Phones even landlines, computers, tablets and so forth all emit an electrical or magnetic force which can have repercussions for us. The most obvious symptoms will be fatigue (more than usual), increased anxiety, headaches, digestive disorders, sleep problems, twitching, tingling, heart palpitations and dehydration. No doubt this all sounds very familiar but you may never have noticed that these symptoms increase when at your computer or iPad for too long or even when you're just resting in front of the television.
Obviously we need our technology to help us divert from withdrawal problems but it does need to be limited in order to make sure we're not causing symptoms to increase. For me this has been fairly strict limitation of when I use my phone and iPad and definitely not within the last hour or two before I go to bed. Neither do I have any devices plugged in at night charging in my bedroom and all electric switches are off apart from my bedside lamp. During the day of course this is not possible but getting out of doors and away from all the EMF swirling around inside our homes can give some relief.
Don't let your technology wreak havoc with your body and free yourself of EMF whenever you can. Remember screens emit blue light which I believe increases these problems. Blue light especially lowers the production of the melatonin needed for sleep. Just be sensible in your use of screens and hopefully you shouldn't incur any added problems.
16. Get plenty of Omega 3
I've talked about diet but I'm making the importance of eating plenty of omega 3 containing foods a separate issue. Omega 3 can be obtained in good quality supplements but, for many of us, this is not an option as we react badly when the balance of nutrients is disturbed due to high sensitivities.
The picture lists the percentages of Omega 3 in each food we should consider eating in reasonable quantities. The positives of consuming this fat are enormous and have been shown to improve mental health in many areas. I'm not going into the science of balancing Omega 3 with Omega 6 but all that can be read on this site....
Lack of Omega 3 can cause inflammation, risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, digestive disorders, allergies, arthritis, joint and muscle pain, depression, cognitive decline and so on. Many of these are hard to distinguish from the usual withdrawal problems we suffer so it's important to maintain a good intake of this fat.
It's benefits are therefore wide and varied as it may improve cardiovascular health, lower BP, stabilise blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation in the body, improve mood, sharpen the mind and concentration, boost immunity, help digestive disorders and even reduce cancer risks. There are so many advantages of ensuring we consume high amounts of Omega 3 in withdrawal from benzos and other drugs that it's impossible to list them all. If any one nutrient needs to be researched for easing our symptoms this must be it. So up your consumption of oily fish, walnuts, seeds and eggs and hopefully some reduction in the worst of the benzo hell will be seen.
17. Keep Moving
There are times in the worst of benzo withdrawal when the last thing you can do is move yet movement is fundamental to life. Even if unable to leave your bed it's possible to do some sort of movement such as simple stretching. There are many approaches to movement and again finding a practice that supports your own recovery is important.
Movement can be a form of psychotherapy and express inner emotions through moving the body expressively, such as when dancing, but perhaps more useful to those suffering the effects of benzos is something less energetic. Just going for a walk each day as far as you can manage or walking around your home if unable to go outside. Every little helps. I have a treadmill and have managed a few minutes on this most days. Movement helps lift mood and contributes towards the healing of brain receptors.
Eastern movement therapies, such as yoga, evolved as healing practices. In China, for example, Taoist monks learned to use specific breathing and movement patterns in order to promote mental clarity, physical strength, and support their meditations. These practices, later known as qigong and t'ai chi eventually became recognized as ways to increase health and prolong life. Yoga is often promoted as a healing therapy in the western world and simple exercises can certainly benefit some withdrawal symptoms. Again this is personal choice and finding something you enjoy that moves and stretches the body can only help towards recovery. However, always remember to pace yourself and go at a speed that doesn't lead to worsening symptoms. The adrenal glands are under a lot of stress from withdrawal and over exercising can add to this stress and cause a flare up of waves. The body will tell you just how much movement you are able to manage.