I'm still healing...so please bare with me. I am now 3 months off of Benzodiazepines, and I am not yet healed. Tonight has been particularly rough. I am feeling the physical and mental exhaustion from a year of withdrawal effects. And that's not including the 1+ year my body was experiencing "Tolerance Withdrawal" from the Benzos. Tolerance Withdrawal is when your body "screams" for more drugs, but because you are taking them "as prescribed" by your doctor and NOT increasing your dose, you begin to feel unpleasant side effects such as heightened anxiety and GI tract issues. Your body and mind make you feel uncomfortable in hope that you'll increase your dose. I had these Tolerance Withdrawal side effects for quite some time before I ever learned what the Benzodiazepines were doing to me. I just assumed it was me and that I was suffering from worse anxiety than ever before.
I get asked every now and then by friends, "So, how are things? How are you feeling?". I often smile an uncomfortable or forced smile and reply with, "It's still tough, but I'm getting there...I know I'll get better soon enough!". But, what I really want to say? "Help. Please help me. Just let me cry on your shoulder. I am in physical discomfort every day and I just need a break...I need to know it really IS going to get better, because sometimes I really doubt it. Do you get tired of me talking about it? Do you roll your eyes when I'm not looking? Do you think deep down I'm really crazy? Because I'm not! Please don't think it. This isn't me and I would never choose to feel this way. I promise to get better so you can see the real me!"
Of course, some of my smiles are 100% genuine. I DO have days where I feel optimistic and see a beautiful future straight ahead. I have moments in each day when I get a 10 minute break of all side effects. And it's the most glorious 10 minutes ever. This past Friday, my daughter was home sick. As I was putting away clean laundry in my bedroom, she walked in and sat on my bed. I gave her my make-up box and jewellery box and told her she could organize everything in them. If you can remember being a kid - this is a BIG moment! She was so excited and happily took out each lipstick, eye shadow and brush...carefully categorizing them by product and colour. She then moved on to my jewellery box where she proudly polished my silver jewellery and told me stories about Fairies and Witches. During the time it took her to do all of this, I felt free. I floated across my bedroom floor. My body was light and pain free. No more stomach cramps, leg aches, tinnitus or joint pain. No more anxiety or adrenaline rushes. It was wonderful. I wanted to run to my bed and take my daughter in my arms and hug her tighter than ever before. Instead I quietly walked over to her, rubbed her head and said, "I love you sweetie". She smiled a sweet smile and said, "I love you too, Mommy". Shortly after, the cramping came back, as did the adrenaline. But it was enough of a break to give me hope that this is what my future holds.
I want more than anything for this part of my journey to be over. The healing process from Benzodiazepines is not at all linear. Your doctor can't say, "Well, you should be feeling better in about 5 months". It's a very individualized healing process, so for some it can take 1 month and for others is can last longer than 2 years. There are many illnesses or conditions out there that are "understood" or that people empathize with. It's okay to feel sick and tired when faced with one of them. But I think it's still a bit taboo when it comes to Mental Illness, or in my case - illness caused by Psychotropics. It's very lonely at times.
Every time I'm asked how I feel, I cringe inside. I want to be able to say that things are fantastic and that I'm finally at the TRUE finish line. Instead I attempt to sugar coat my response...not only to hide how I really feel, but in hope that I will soon really feel how I SAY I feel. But until I really do feel it, the smile you see just might be in disguise.