A Message from Baylissa Frederick
Dear friends, I am writing this today partly because it has become impossible for me to clear my email inbox. I apologise to anyone who has not had a reply from me. There are just too many messages and not enough time. Please don't take it personally. The urgency is that there is a theme to these messages: so many seem close to giving up… seem hysterical about not healing… a frenetic, frantic preoccupation with online horror and "what-if?" stories, a dangerous comparison of notes, and self-defeating “ain't it awful?” victim, pity parties.
All of this is normal because of the collective suffering and lack of support but please, please… be careful. Don’t get sucked into the world of victimhood because with it can come feelings of helplessness and overwhelm, and this can lead to a desperate hopelessness: a profound sense of being unable to cope. When you convince yourself that there is no way out, this is what can happen. I am receiving more crisis/suicidal emails that I ever have before and I am concerned. Please… don’t give up. You WILL get through this.
For almost 10 years I have been communicating regularly with people in withdrawal. For many of those years I emailed and spoke to them from early morning (UK time) until close to midnight. I was fascinated and had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding, with a sense of loyalty that made me want to help any and every one affected by withdrawal. As I write now, nothing has changed in this regard.
Over the years, as far as I’m aware, my reputation has been mostly good. I also know I’m referred to as being flaky and unrealistically optimistic. I’ve even been called “full of s*it” :) and have been quoted as saying things that are not even remotely true. People think that my answer to withdrawal is to say affirmations and sit in the lotus position, floating around the living room, meditating. Some say I didn’t have a bad withdrawal and that I’m lucky I was able to survive by repeating platitudes. The truth is that I suffered terribly from 2000 when tolerance to the drug became so bad, my long and involved relationship with the University Hospital of Wales’ Casualty (ER) Dept. began, until 2008 when I recovered. Not to mention the cold-turkeys, seizures, etc. My medical records file at the hospital is the size of four Encyclopaedia Britannica books, bound together with rubber bands.
So this is how the “flakiness” began… Early on, I decided to never give advice that could potentially harm anyone. This stemmed from the many calls I would receive with complaints about well-intentioned people who offered advice that seemed to have caused more harm than good. This was truly a lesson in the uniqueness of the withdrawal experience.
Now, ten years later, I have yet to hear of one thing that helps everyone (or most people) in withdrawal or of a tapering method that does not have conflicting reports. It doesn’t matter what it is, there are people who will feel they were helped and others who will feel they were harmed. (This comparison does not apply to cold-turkey/detox and rapid tapers which are harmful any way you take them.)
The reality is that over the years I have heard every theory about why what happens in withdrawal happens and what helps. I have received reports and researched information (to gain insight) on MTHFR genetic impairments, MJ, functional medicine, flumazenil, what’s GABAergic, kindling, baselines, what supplement works and what doesn’t, CBD oil benefits, query Lyme disease, query lupus, query fibromyalgia, query candidiasis, query chronic fatigue syndrome, you name it… I have seen the different “answers” to withdrawal come and go. I find it all remarkable and extremely fascinating.
I must mention as well that with all of this desperation for appropriate support lies an undertone of sadness. People in withdrawal are devastated and are frantically searching for help and answers, mainly because they are put on these drugs by medics, most of whom are at a loss as to how to take them off safely and responsibly and how to provide adequate support.
This is a global issue. I feel privileged to have supported people from all over the world and I mean just about everywhere – from Argentina up to Venezuela, USA and Canada, UK and the European mainland, Asia, Australia, Africa, New Zealand… people from all walks of life, including more doctors than you would think. I have observed how they cope – what works and what does not - how families and friends offer support and how some withhold it. I have seen people struggle through the protracted years and I have seen people heal very quickly, many within a few months. I have seen the losses, isolation and other repercussions of withdrawal. It is a cruel thing to witness but the fact that we do heal is life affirming and makes it worth the while.
My “flakiness” is really my lack of strong opinions about withdrawal other than that acceptance, perseverance and patience are key when it comes to coping well. It is very important for you to think independently and to find your own truth – find what works for you. Before you align yourself with the many theories and opinions, step back and ask yourself if they really make any sense? You will find that most don’t and much is speculation or coincidental.
What I can confidently say is that over the years, the people who manage their withdrawal best are the ones who protect themselves online and who equip themselves with coping tools and self-nurturing strategies. Those who cope badly or not at all are the ones who spend a lot of time being “realistic” (i.e. catastrophizing and fortune-telling), analysing withdrawal, constantly comparing notes and getting sucked into other people’s drama, getting stuck in “victimhood” and the worst of all, not accepting the process. It is amazing to observe just how much of a difference one’s approach and perspective can make.
So, no, I will never tell you to take a supplement, drink coffee or alcohol, smoke MJ or take CBD oil, or anything that I have seen people try and then become traumatized or suicidal because of an unexpected reaction. I will never argue about what tapering schedule is best and I will never tell people who feel that their regimen is working to stop doing what they’re doing. If you tell me you are taking supplements and you feel they are helping, I am honestly genuinely pleased for you. However, if you are revved up and in withdrawal hell, because I have had so many reports of people who have reacted adversely, I will suggest that you consider omitting them for a while to see if that makes a difference.
Sometimes people have deficiencies that need to be resolved (e.g. in iron which will cause anaemia). In those cases, if the deficiency is severe, you must weigh the consequences of ignoring the problem with tolerating any flare-ups. Introducing the supplement so very gently… that the nervous system almost cannot detect it… has worked for some people. It really is trial and error and finding out what your sensitivities are. Don’t compromise your health because of fear of flare-ups. They won’t last and you’ll be okay.
I have always been a supplement junkie but just couldn’t touch them in withdrawal. Now, post-recovery, my health is maintained with supplements and having a good functional medicine doctor. I do believe food is medicine. For the dystonia (for which I was prescribed the benzo), I am doing the adult ketogenic diet which is known to help epilepsy and other movement disorders. Fingers crossed. I also plan on seeing the neurologist, Dr David Perlmutter as he is relatively close to me in Florida.
Well, I just wanted to share this with you. The Internet can be a positive resource with lots of good information but it also has a lot of misinformation that can be harmful. It can also allow people into your personal space that under other circumstances, you would be cautious around. Please be careful. Everything is energy.
Try not to get too caught up in other people’s drama and in the many theories that have no basis, and be careful of the complementary therapists who are now making a fortune, thanks to withdrawal and the vulnerability/desperation of those in the throes of it. Your body is your expert. Listen to it. For those of you in protracted withdrawal who have been riding the waves for years and years, check your thyroid, check for deficiencies, experiment with ways of eating (e.g. GAPS, paleo, low histamine, etc). And know that you, too, will get better. Your nervous system just needs more time to repair the temporary damage caused by the drug/s. No matter how long you have been waiting, trust that you ARE healing. <3 It doesn't matter if you cold-turkeyed, detoxed, tapered, etc. - you've come this far and you'll make it the rest of the way.
Take a holistic approach to your health - attend to all areas: mind, body and spirit. And see your doctor to rule out other medical conditions. I have seen where in some cases there are concurrent medical issues that need to be addressed and once they are, the person is fine. The receptors have long been up-regulated but other things are happening. Due to the fixation on withdrawal, they are overlooked. No one size fits all. Use your intuition and common sense. Let your own story unfold. Trust what your body is telling you.
The thing about withdrawal is that even the people who think they won’t get better end up healing anyway. It’s just that how you spend your days will determine the kind of experience you have. You may already have to deal with being misunderstood, judged, unsupported and isolated, why beat yourself up with the “what if?” thoughts. It’s normal to have those thoughts… to be scared in withdrawal. It’s normal to freak out, to have melt-downs, etc. How do you cope? You normalize what’s happening. You don’t beat yourself up for being human. And you also, when you can, gently reframe (if your cognition allows you to) and regain perspective. “I am in withdrawal. Tens of thousands of people before have gone through this and they got better. I will, too.”
This is important: If you do become overwhelmed and find yourself contemplating suicide, please reach out to someone (family member, trusted friend, your doctor, helpline) and get the help you need. There is too much to look forward to and you really don't want to miss the gratitude, the wonderful feelings of appreciation for even the simplest things - that "preciousness" of life, and the confidence and near-invincibility that come when withdrawal is all over.
My dear friends, yes… this experience can be cruel and it can go on for much longer than you think you can cope with, but please don’t let this discourage you. You CAN and WILL cope. On the days when you feel that you can’t possibly go on, just breathe… and keep going. That’s all you have to do. You let go… surrender… and wait. You won’t die. You’ll be okay. You think of previous days when you felt the same way and you remind yourself that you made it then. You’ll make it today… and the day after… and the day after that. But for now, today is all that matters.
With thoughts of wellness and gentle hugs,