Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

A day to reflect.  It's New Years Eve.  In 9+ hours, it will officially be 2012.  The first year - for myself - where I know I won't be running to the doctor for a new prescription to "save me".  The first year in my life where I fully take on my inside health.  And not only for myself, but for my husband, daughter and even my parents.  We are all looking at the food we nourish our bodies with in a whole new light.  No longer do I get excited in the frozen bits and bites section at the grocery store.  No longer do I crave a wings and pizza night.  No longer do I see that beautiful shade of red wrapped around a Coke can and salivate (I did!).  Now, it's hemp hearts, chia seeds, basil, chickpeas, lentils, cocoa, almond milk, almond butter, pure maple syrup, coconut, kiwis and avocados that made me jump for joy and squeal with glee.  Creating delicious new meals that give us energy, cuts cholesterol and keeps us regular.  My husband is right on board.  Even my 8 year old daughter prefers the healthy food over the fast food.  Her idea of a "treat meal" nowadays, is plain whole wheat pasta, drizzled with some olive oil and salt and pepper.  She told me the other day, "I even like it better than macaroni and cheese".  It's exciting!  I realize it doesn't fit everyone's family dynamics...but pick and choose what works for you.  The smallest of changes can benefit your family's health greatly.





Now that I'm going into 2012, I have time today to think about this past year.  I couldn't have rolled through it without certain key people.  So who and what am I thankful for going into 2012?

  • First off, my marriage.  In March, my husband and I will celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, and I love him more than the day I married him.  He has stood by my side throughout this "medication ordeal", and all while putting me on a pedestal.  He acknowledges my strength on a daily basis, and he brings optimism when it's needed most.  He's the most positive person I know, and anyone would be fortunate to have a friend like him.  I feel very blessed to have met him years ago as I backpacked across Europe.  As I like to call him, "My biggest (and best) souvenir".  

  • My daughter.  She might only be 8 years old, but there's an old soul in that body of hers.  She has more empathy than most adults I know.  She has written me dozens of notes and drawn picture after picture to cheer me up.  She looks at me and says, "I think somebody needs a hug".  She is honest and completely in touch with her emotions.  She is the child that cries in front of her friends with no apologies.  It's ok to cry in this house.  It's not a sign of weakness, and she knows this.  I love her to bits and she has helped in ways I'm not sure she's aware of.  

  • My parents.  No one could ask for 2 more supportive parents.  They have taken umpteen 2am phone calls with me in a panic at the other end...staying on the line so I could run to the washroom to dry heave or "explode" with  nerves.  They have given me praise when I feel like a loser.  They are there the moment you need them.  I am proud they are my parents, and I'll never get enough of my mom's calmness and strength, and my dad's beaming grin.

  • My friends...have been wonderful.  I know they don't all understand what these meds have done to me.  I'm sure they haven't all scoured the internet to find out what is going on with me.  I don't ask them to!  But if I need to cry, they listen.  If I apologize, they tell me, "don't be silly!".  I have childhood friends from grade school, and I have friends I've made through my daughter...my "school moms" I call them.  Not one person has treated me differently through this.  I think us as humans, don't always give others enough credit.  If WE are open and honest about our feelings and emotions, than others will be more inclined to open up themselves.  People worry too much about what others will think.  I am human, and I DO worry about what others think, but it doesn't stop me from being honest.  Honesty has been a key contributor to my success this year.  And I think honesty is contagious.  So make sure to open up...put some faith into your friends...you may be pleasantly surprised.

  • My new mind...I think more clearly.  I am able to keep this blog going and it has been so incredibly therapeutic to me.  I have received feedback from those who read it and have benefited from it.  I can't imagine going through all that happened this past year without the internet.  To be able to have hundreds of people in a similar position as myself at the tips of my fingertips is incredible.  There are SO many resources out there for those who are suffering mental illness OR illness caused by psychotropic medications.  It's just a matter of putting on the computer and doing a little research.  I am so thankful to have these resources while going through this.  I have been able to educate my doctors based on what my husband and I have researched.  
 2012 will hopefully prove to be a turning point...and I hope the same for many of you who may be suffering.  Whether it's from stress, anxiety, depression, a traumatic event...or if you've attempted to heal yourself with medication, only to find it made you feel worse.  It is 100% possible to get through it all.  It's patience you need more than anything.  We live in a society where everything is so easily accessible.  The help is there, you just have to search for it.  Sometimes we have to take a step back and really look at how we live life.  What food do we put into us?  What types of friends do we surround ourselves with?  Do we allow ourselves to stop, or say "no" once in awhile?  Do we allow ourselves to cry once in awhile...and not apologize for it? 

All the best to each and every one of you this New Year.  May it bring, health, happiness and contentment.  Wishing you all a wonderful year of rebirth and enlightenment.  And a year full of self-love.  And don't forget to smile...


Thursday, 29 December 2011

And So The Panic Continues...

Christmas was a success.  The food was delicious and healthy.  Everyone was satisfied and we all agreed that healthy is the way to go.  I had a tough time Christmas day with several waves of nausea.  I wasn't surprised as Christmas is such an exciting time, and any intense emotion - good or bad - can bring on stronger side effects.  It was Boxing Day I wasn't prepared for.

My husband and I went out that day to find some deals.  We walked out of the mall with some new jeans and shirts.  It felt good to get out with him and I was happy to make it through some difficult waves of nausea without completely losing it.  I was exhausted when we arrived at home.  We were invited to a friend's house for a late night dinner and drinks.  Drinks don't agree with me as I have 100% cut out alcohol...and dinner wouldn't agree much because I am so limited still as to what I can eat.  Plus, I was just too tired to go out and socialize.  So instead my husband and my daughter went out and I enjoyed a quiet evening at home by myself.  I decided to take down our Christmas tree.  It was time to rid of the clutter as I knew it would make me feel more relaxed.  I put on a movie for "company" and began to disassemble the tree.  It wasn't as enjoyable as I was anticipating.  The waves of nausea continued to come every half hour or so.  I felt a deep tired that made me feel as though I had to physically lift my legs in order to walk.  My eyes burned and I wondered if I should just go to bed.  But I knew I would awake when my husband and daughter came home, and nothing is worse (to me) than being woken up during the night from a comfortable, deep sleep.

My husband and daughter didn't arrive till 11:30pm.  I was a bit annoyed because I was under the impression they wouldn't be so late.  I knew I needed to sleep and I guess the selfish part of me thought, "Um, hello...remember me?...the one who is exhausted and needs sleep?".  After my daughter was put to bed, my husband and I sat in silence in our family room, watching the tail-end of a movie we had started the night before.  I wanted to talk to him about the anxiety that was looming inside of me, but I thought I'd just sound like a broken record.  Well, perhaps I should have gone with my gut and be more open.  Because instead the feelings festered inside of me.  I felt my heart rate begin to race, the cold chills came over my body, I felt scared and tired...and I just had to let it out.  But when the panic sets in, look out.  The panic attacks I experience since being in tolerance withdrawal, and especially since tapering from the Clonazepam and Diazepam, are something straight out of a movie.  I think I've mentioned before that they are as unnatural as can be.  The intensity far exceeds any attack I ever had pre-Benzos.

I just needed to get angry.  With my heart racing, the beating loud in my ears...the room spinning out of control...I grabbed the controller for our PS3 and attempt to throw it across the room.  I KNEW this was not a smart thing to do, so I never let go...but as I placed it back down on the sofa, I frantically searched for something - ANYTHING - I could throw and break.  The rage boiled inside of me and I made my hands into fists and began to punch my head repeatedly.  THOMP THOMP THOMP.  I knew I had done it too hard as the final blow made the room spin even more and it felt as though my brain actually came loose and jiggled back and forth.  I felt dizzy and also felt more on edge.  The anger was still there and I moved to the bathroom to get ready for bed.  Everything was done hard.  Slamming cupboards, throwing my toothbrush back into the holder...I was absolutely filled with rage.

Time passed after we went to bed.  We were both angry and frustrated at this point...not even sure what we were angry about...but I knew, for me, this was turning into pure panic...as well as frustration over feeling this horrible after been med-free for 5 months.  I thought month 4 was hard...is this what month 5 was going to be?  I knew things could get worse before they got better.  I've been warned of this by the pharmacist, and I've read it several times on the forum I visit.  But this bad?  I "rested" in bed for what felt like an eternity.  In reality it was 2 hours.  Not once falling asleep.  I prayed, I wished, I hoped...I cried, I whimpered and I spoke to myself.  Nothing helped.  My limbs continuously switched from hot to cold.  The sweats came and went.  The nausea waved over me and the twitching commenced.  Finally at 4am, I sat straight up in bed and quietly said, "Oh God".  This was it.  The panic had officially arrived.  I looked at the clock and began to cry.  I didn't want to wake him up, but there was no way of doing this alone.  I woke up my husband and to be honest, everything becomes a blur.  I remember laying in his arms and he rubbed my lower back trying to calm me.  I was shaking and my stomach was turning.  The fear - of who knows what - was so intense and it made me feel crazy.  I know at some point I ended up on the bathroom floor, sobbing away and wishing I could be put out of my misery.  The intrusive thoughts were horrible and I imagined things I would not wish on anyone to feel.  I rocked myself on the floor and then joined my husband again.  I remember jolting again out of bed in complete panic and running to the toilet as I thought I'd be throwing up any second.  I sat on the carpet by our fireplace and pulled my hair while screaming.  The pain and fear in my brain was pure torture.  The visions, the feeling of hopelessness and undeserving took over me.  I remember at one point the physical pain in my head became so strong that I finally remember hitting myself earlier that night.  I knew this pain was coming from the blows and I began to worry I had done permanent damage to myself.  The following day my husband opened up that he worried I could have possibly given myself a concussion and in the morning after I finally slept, he woke up to check that I was still breathing.  He had just read the story of a person who hit their head and ended up in a coma the following day.  He couldn't fully rest worrying that something bad may happen to me.

At 6:30am, I finally felt like I could sleep.  At this point I had told my husband to go back to bed and I had gone out to our family room.  I sat in there for awhile in the dark, waiting for that feeling of, "okay, deep breath and relax", that told me I could sleep now.  I propped my pillows into a sitting position because I knew all so well that if I was to fully lay down now, I would end up in a panic again.  From 7am to 10am, I was able to come in and out of sleep.  Finally we were up some time after 10am and I was hit with more panic.  After a somewhat frantic phone call to my mom, and complete exhaustion, I was able to rest.  I spent the majority of the day on the sofa in a bit of a haze.  My husband showered me with extra hugs and love...I can see in his eyes when it's bad as I felt it was.  It's a look of sympathy.  His eyes say, "Wow...that really sucked".  And it did.  It is the most terrifying feeling that I'm aware of.  For 6+ hours, I lost control of ME.  And nothing would take the physical or mental pain away.  It was just a matter of riding it out till it was ready to leave. 

Fast forward 48 hours.  And again I get hit.  It's now 4:05am.  I am calming down as I write this post.  I think I'll be able to sleep after saving it and publishing it.  All day long I have had pain in my abdomen and ribs.  I could handle it.  I even managed to visit good friends today for the entire afternoon without letting on I was in pain.  I knew the pain came from my Central Nervous System healing, so I accepted the pain and enjoyed my day as best as I could.  We drove home and arrived at our house around 8pm.  The pain was becoming stronger at this point, but I figured it would pass soon.  No such luck.  Another hour passed, and then another...each hour getting worse.  I felt as though my ribs were being cracked.  If I cried, a hundred little nerve endings shot out pain in my abdomen.  So I had to hold the tears in order to keep the pain somewhat at bay.  It felt as though an elastic band was wrapped around my Solar Plexus, making it hard to even take a deep breath.  My stomach tightened and I spent my evening trying to stretch out my muscles, only to find myself in discomfort the second I tried to relax.

5 hours later, and here I am on the bathroom floor cross-legged, with the space heater keeping me warm, and the laptop sitting on my lap.  My husband stayed up with me as long as he could.  I quietly left the room when he drifted off to dreamland...I grabbed the laptop and went for the room I knew I could cry in (and stay warm).  The pain is slowly subsiding.  I KNOW where it is coming from, but why does it have to hurt so badly?  I said to my husband tonight that I DO realize it's my body healing and that the Central Nervous System is complicated and it just takes more time for some heal...but this is ridiculous.  And some have it far worse than I do!  They are prisoners in their own home.  They live in a constant state of fear.  But they do get better.  We all do. 

A lot of people find they get hit with a massive wave that leads to a LOT of positive healing.  I thought last month was that wave, but the "Benzo Beast" had other plans in store for me.  He/She is going to make me work a bit harder.  I'm not okay with it, but I have no other choice.  As much as I'd love to stay in bed all day tomorrow and cry whenever I feel like it, my daughter instead has a friend coming for lunch and a play date, so I must be "on the ball".  I will get through it.  My husband is home and he is a terrific helper when I need it.  But I rarely end up having to rely on him much, for this experience is making me stronger than I ever thought possible.  I trudge through.  But I am tired.  Mentally and physically.  I can feel the tears come on throughout the day with anything to provoke them, and I can feel my body is weaker, making it hard to lift things that once gave me no problems.  My ribs hurt from the stress I've put on them these past 48 hours.  My hips and shoulders feel almost bruised from the jolting I experience during the attacks.  My eyelids are puffy and my mouth hangs open from exhaustion.  But I can still hide it.  And that's what gets me through it.  People think it's better to let out emotion and not keep it locked in.  If I was to do that right now, just about every stranger on the street would be getting an earful.  So instead I walk around with my "Smile in Disguise" and in the end I only help myself.  A smile can change one person's day, so why can't it change mine?  As long as I have my smile, I've got everything I need to get me through this.  And I'm now 2 more panic attacks away from being healed.  I suppose that is something to smile about...at least a lopsided smile.  


***  It's now 6:18am...no sleep yet.  I went back to bed, fairly confident I'd sleep, only to be constantly hit with jolts and internal tremors.  My stomach began to turn and to the toilet I went.  Now I'm back again.  The shaking, tremors and fear are through the roof.  I doubt I will sleep much if at all tonight.  I just can't believe this.  I knew I was possibly in for a long road, but I never thought that at 5 months out things could get this tough.  The only thing I can hold on to, is reminding myself attacks like these NEVER happened pre-Benzos...so it's just a matter of time before it diminishes and all of this will just be another chapter in my book of life.  

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Derealization...Pardon?

Two side effects that some people experience when coming off of Benzodiazepines is Derealization and Depersonalization.  They are 2 of the most difficult side effects to explain to someone who has not experienced them.  So I will start by quoting "Wikipedia":

"Depersonalization (or depersonalisation) is an anomaly of the mechanism by which an individual has self-awareness. It is a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation. Sufferers feel they have changed, and the world has become less real, vague, dreamlike, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing experience, since many feel that, indeed, they are living in a "dream". 

Derealization (sometimes abbreviated as DR) is an alteration in the perception or experience of the external world so that it seems unreal. Other symptoms include feeling as though one's environment is lacking in spontaneity, emotional colouring and depth.

Derealization is a subjective experience of unreality of the outside world, while depersonalization is unreality in one's sense of self. Although most authors currently regard derealization (surroundings) and depersonalization (self) as independent constructs, many do not want to separate derealization from depersonalization. The main reason for this is nostological, because these symptoms often co-occur, but there is another, more philosophical reason: the idea that the phenomenological experience of self, others, and world is one continuous whole. Thus, feelings of unreality may blend in and the person may puzzle over deciding whether it is the self or the world that feels unreal to them."

Still confused?  Well, today I experienced this.  I experience it a few times a week.  My husband knows when I am experiencing it because he'll ask me, "What is wrong?"...and I'll answer with, "I don't know...I just don't feel right".  So today I will try to walk you through the feeling so that you can understand.

Today my husband and I went to our daughter's school assembly.  It was the Christmas assembly and all of the children were dressed in red and green.  The energy was high and smiles were worn on everyone's face.  The children sat on the gymnasium floor as carols were sung.  The parents sat in chairs along the back of the gym.  I felt good.  I slept well last night - up until 5:45am when I woke up and could not fall back asleep (due to my husband's snoring...not something that happens often).  So I rested in bed until the alarm went off 1 hour later.  When it was time to officially greet the day, I made some toast and peanut butter for my daughter, grabbed her vitamins and then proceeded to make her lunch for school.  I managed to fit in a shower before my husband and I walked her to school.  When we arrived, we found 2 seats for ourselves and waited for the assembly to begin.  I was fine.  I was happy and calm.  Then things drastically changed in a matter of seconds.  I turned to quickly talk to someone behind me, then turned back to face the front..and that was it.  My body went ice cold.  My hands trembled.  My nails were purple.  My stomach turned and I couldn't tell if I had to vomit, burp or just eat.  The voices of the children became muffled.  When someone smiled at me, I smiled back...but seconds later I couldn't figure out if we had really just smiled at each other.  I felt as though my body travelled across the room and inspected each and every person around me.  Not literally, but more I was aware I was in the assembly, but didn't feel "present".  I was frozen.  I was in the midst of panic, but I also didn't feel real.  My body wasn't my own even though I felt every wave of nausea and the tight band around my ribs and diaphragm.  I felt the coldness that literally chilled me to the bone.  I felt so cold it hurt. 

When the assembly ended, I could not get out of there quick enough.  My husband and I walked outside, said a quick good-bye to friends, and as soon as no one but my husband was in my presence, I cried.  "I feel horrid", I said to my husband.  I didn't know how else to explain it.  When we got home and I sat on the sofa, I said, "it's like I'm here but I'm not".  It's as though you have no control of your body and it frightens you so deeply that you turn inwards.  You hope and pray no one will see you or speak to you.  Because to answer back takes every ounce of energy.  You feel as though you just might die if you open your mouth...or move an inch.  You are aware of what is happening, but it feels unreal.  You see the room you're in, but the colours fade slightly and instead of living in 3D, you live in 2D.

Today frustrated me.  After a few days of "good" and gaining optimism, this really brought me back down.  I know it will not last - eventually this will ALL pass and no longer will my days consist of physical and/or mental side effects.  This week gave me a glimpse into better days to come.  I am now 5 months "Benzo Free" - well on my way!  Most people who have difficulty coming off of Benzos, fully heal between 6-18 months.  I'm getting there.  I am thankful that this should be my last Christmas with any ill effects from Psychotropics of any kind.  That is something to celebrate!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Treating My Cold...Naturally

Christmas time has arrived.  So has a sinus cold!  My daughter and I both are sniffling away.  So how do I choose to treat our colds without dipping into the "Tylenols and Advils" so easily available at the local drug store?

Garlic:  Although hard on my stomach, my daughter has no problem with it.  Once a day, I crush 1 raw clove of garlic into her food (added AFTER food is cooked, as you want the garlic in its rawest form).  Yes, it's spicy, but she enjoys it and never really complains.  I take it in a capsule form since the raw garlic can upset my stomach. 

Neti Pot:  This is my new favourite weapon.  Whether its a cold or allergies, the Neti Pot can work wonders.  It does feel a bit funny the first time, but once you get comfortable with the sensation it's easy to use and SO worth it!



Honey and Cinnamon:  The perfect combination.  Honey and Cinnamon, when combined, can help allergies, colds, arthritis, bladder infections, heart disease and more!  I take about 2 tablespoons of honey with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, mix well and spread it on my Rye toast.  You can also add it to hot water for a tea or take it like medicine followed with a glass of water.  These 2 ingredients combined have proven to help sore throats and sinus colds.



Ginger Tea:  I make this every 2 days to also help the nausea I have some days since coming off of the Benzodiazepines.  Ginger tea not only helps a cold, but also alleviates arthritic pain, controls dizziness and aides in healthy digestion.  Ginger is quite high in Vitamins C and E, as well as potassium.

 My homemade Ginger Tea, simmering and almost ready to drink

Vitamin C:  I take an extra C a day

Water:  And LOTS of it!  I don't like cold water, so first thing in the morning I take my LARGE blue glass out of the cupboard and fill it to the top with filtered cold water.  I then leave it out to become room temperature. 

Now, do I promise to be better tomorrow?  No.  But since treating my colds naturally, I have not once ended up on an antibiotic.  Antibiotics can wreak havoc on our immune system and not only kill the bad but the GOOD bacteria in our body, making us more susceptible to other bugs.  This can create long-term gastrointestinal problems for many.  The overuse of antibiotics has also created "Super Bugs", in which microorganisms are now able to resist the antibiotics. 

I thoroughly enjoy finding new ways to combat the common cold.  Combating a cold naturally does not mean a lengthy virus that takes weeks to fight.  If anything my colds are shorter-lived since using natural remedies.  Plus, I don't feel the ill effects of over-the-counter medication and/or antibiotics!  No drowsiness or queasy stomach.  Plus, there are delicious ways to do it!  Garlic, Honey, Cinnamon and Ginger...YUM!



Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Morning Breakfast

Well, after a lot of researching recipe after recipe online...I have finally come up with Christmas Morning Breakfast.  Gone are the 5 layer cheesy ham dishes and sticky cinnamon buns.  My goal was to make Christmas Morning Breakfast DELICIOUS, while leaving my family feeling energized and comfortably full instead of sluggish and uncomfortably full. 

So, on Sunday morning's menu:

Homemade Fruit Salad:  A mix of kiwi, strawberries, pineapple and grapes...and maybe some watermelon

Hard Boiled Eggs:  Simple as that...except I will be saving a few to make Deviled Eggs (my husband's request)

Homemade Whole Wheat Biscuits:  I shared this recipe in a previous post.  I will made some with cheese and fresh garlic, and some with dried cranberries

Homemade Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins:  A recipe I found on one of my favourite food websites, "AllRecipes.com".  This is my "answer" to my cinnamon bun dilemma.  Instead of buttery, greasy, heavy and sticky-sweet cinnamon buns (albeit VERY yummy), I will make these muffins, loaded with fresh grated apples, pumpkin and little sugar.  I will add a little sweetness to it however by drizzling a simple vanilla glaze on top - a little gooey goodness is always acceptable.

Homemade Banana Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake:  I made this today and froze it...ready to take out the night before Christmas.  I substitute applesauce for butter and cut the sugar by more than half.  The applesauce already adds some sweetness, so less sugar is needed.  It's packed with four bananas...and some semi-sweet chocolate chips. 

I will do the majority of my baking Christmas Eve so I can just sit, relax and enjoy Christmas morning with my family.  I searched through SO many recipes and feel really good about my choices.  Christmas Morning Breakfast will be delicious and nutritious.  Merry Christmas to all, and Cheers to good health!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

It's 4:30 In the Morning...

It's 4:30am and I am wide awake.  I don't want to be.  About 30 minutes ago I woke up and was surprised to see it wasn't light out yet.  I looked at the clock and it was only 4am.  I took a deep breath and got out of bed to go to the washroom.  I came back to bed and within seconds felt my body unable to relax.  My mind was racing and I looked out the window, hoping it was become miraculously light outside, and I could relax in knowing I had actually got more sleep.  It shouldn't bother me that I woke up.  Sometimes we just do, right?  But why couldn't my body and mind relax?

My heart beat began to race and the "boom boom's" rang in my ears like mini drums.  I felt a cold sweat coming on and then my abdomen tightened.  I felt as though my stomach blew up like a balloon.  I noticed the molars on the right side of my mouth ached and I knew I had been clenching my teeth in my sleep.  My legs ached - a flu-like ache that I experience quite often since being on and coming off of Benzos.  A very common withdrawal effect.  I was getting hit with it all - and was totally aware of every little feeling.  I began to shake and whimper quietly.  We often let our daughter sleep in our bed on the weekend, and when ti's our bed time we transfer her back to her own bed...tonight I was too tired to do this so I just went straight to her bed instead.  At least now I could whimper or cry without waking my husband.

I got up and paced.  Even though I am experiencing less and less of the night time attacks I can't help want to scream out, "Will this ever go away???!!!".  I walked downstairs and grabbed out laptop.  I wanted to wake my husband, but chose not to.  I grabbed some Papaya Extract for the heartburn I could feel coming on.  I walked back up to my daughter's bedroom and got under her warm blankets...and here I am.  This blog has been a great distraction at times like these.  I loathe this.  I don't want to be up at 5:20am (presently), waiting for the adrenaline to pass so I can hopefully fall back asleep.  I hate that the lack of sleep can often turn my following day upside down.  For ANY person, a lack of sleep can throw us off entirely.  However, now that my Central Nervous System is healing, the littlest of things can set me RIGHT off the map.  It's at times very frustrating, but I have somewhat accepted it. 

My teeth ache and it reminds me I have to schedule an appointment with my dentist to be fitted for a night guard.  He said I have worn down my teeth considerably and should be wearing a night guard to prevent any further issues.  My legs are twitching and my skin crawls.  My joints ache and it is actually difficult to type with my right hand.  It feels stiff and it throbs.  I have a "lump in my throat" sensation that I have daily.  This is a very common side effect to coming off of SSRI's as well.  The feeling doesn't make me nervous, but it is a constant reminder I'm still healing.


It's now 5:29am.  I am going to attempt to sleep.  At least this attack is more of a mini attack.  Not nearly as long lasting or severe as the previous months.  A good sign perhaps?  Could it be that the "big ones" are finally biding adieu?  I won't hold my breath, but the thought is nice.  I will now put on my iPod, listen to relaxing music, and hopefully drift off to dreamland.  Where teeth are no longer clenched and nervous energy no longer exists.  Every single night, my 8 year old daughter asks me, "What should I dream about".  I answer with something magnificent and magical, and she thinks about that dream as she rests her eyes and falls into dreamland.  Maybe I'll take a cue from her and do the same for myself tonight.  I'll dream about feeling good, being with friends, dancing and laughter.  About happy times to come and making dreams come true.  Good Night.


*  As a follow-up.  It is now 10:46am the following morning.  Did I sleep?  Not much.  In fact things worsened.  I handled it well and barely cried and did NOT attempt to wake my husband up.  Instead I just stayed in bed and took it.  Every time I began to sleep, my body "rejected" the thought and iti would jolt me wide away - like a thousand mini currents running through my legs, arms and chest.  I would then attempt it again, only to be jolted once again.  This happened till 9am.  I finally got some "solid" sleep from 9am-10am.  Not enough for one night, but it will do.  Better than nothing.  I know this is withdrawal because these are feelings I've had only since being on Benzodiazepines.  I know it will pass eventually, so I am learning A LOT about patience and taking it a day at a time.  I'm human and at times cry our of frustration, but once again I feel somewhat "pleased" with how I handled yet another bad night.  

And I hope for a better one tonight.  

Friday, 16 December 2011

Last Night...

My husband and I enjoyed a movie last night.  "Duplex" with Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller.  We saw it years ago when it was released, but we both felt like a "light and fluffy" movie - and that's what you get when you watch Duplex.  I had a busy day.  My daughter is part of her school's vocal ensemble and they had to go to a nearby mall to perform Christmas carols.  I carpooled with 2 other moms.  I had been experiencing some nausea, so I made sure to bring my "gear" with me:  BHI Nausea pills (something new my mom purchased for me...it's a homeopathic remedy for nausea...but I have yet to try it), my Sea Bands for my wrists if needed, and my every faithful homemade ginger tea (something I am beginning to enjoy instead of viewing it as a chore to drink).  The tea was sufficient and whenever I felt that wave come on where my eyes would roll back ever so slightly, I would take a few sips and things seemed to settle.

We decided to keep our girls for the afternoon instead of returning back to school.  We took them to Winners to "window shop" and then had some lunch together.  Followed by our favourite:  Chapters Book Store.  The kids played and we chatted.  I let my daughter pick out one chapter book.  They do independent reading at school, and she recently finished a more difficult book called, "Radiance".  I was very proud of her for taking on a more challenging book from start to finish.  So this time she chose a "fun" book that is still a challenge (no pictures, and close to 200 pages).  This one is called, "Her Evil Twin".  My daughter loves anything supernatural - ghosts, vampires, fairies and witches.  She lives in a world where fairies do exist and she has me so convinced as well that I often walk around our garden thinking, "Maybe???". 


All and all the day was a great success.  Lots of fun had by all and I was able to keep my nausea at bay for the most part.  We came home and my daughter's friend came over for a couple of hours to play.  I did some house cleaning and greeted my husband as he came home just before 5pm.  I am so fortunate that he is able to work the hours he does....8am - 4pm.   He's always home before 5pm and it gives us a full evening to spend as a family.  

My evening was pretty good.  I am still not use to spending a full day out of the home, so although yesterday was a lot of fun and a very positive experience, my body and mind felt the effects of it later.  I wanted to cry off/on (though never really did), my body ached (like a dull flu-like feeling), and I felt "off".  Maybe a bit confused and easily overwhelmed.  I was able to eat some dinner around 9pm (my stomach was giving me problems all evening with burning and discomfort).  My husband and I enjoyed the movie after we put our daughter to bed...and then at 11:30, it was our bed time.

I always beat my husband to bed.  And when he joins me we have the same routine every night.  I lay on my back with a pillow under my knees.  He lays on his left side facing me.  I say, "Love you...Good Night".  He responds with, "Love you too...Good Night".  I reach out my right hand and he gives me his and he rubs my hand until we both begin to doze off.  Normally he does the dozing long before me.  Eventually his body begins the "jerking" movements and I gently take my hand away as I know from experience that his jerking movements could cause my hand to fly.  

Last night was no different than any other night.  I felt fairly relaxed.  We held hands.  My husband rolled over on to his right side.  And then it began.  I first felt it in my lower bowels.  A sort of fullness.  Almost pressure-like on my lower back.  Then my chest became tight as though a band was squeezing me.  My ears began to ring and my head felt full and heavy.  My feet and hands began to burn - like nerve endings on fire.  It began to run up my legs and stopped at my knees - making my knee caps feel loose and as though they were being pulled out of my body.  My heart began to race and I could hear the "thud, thud, boom, boom" over and over in my ears.  "Oh no", I thought to myself.  "What IS this?".  I had NEVER felt it to this extreme.  I hid under the blankets and breathed.  My arms became heavy and it was as though a thousand little bugs were travelling under my skin - scurrying around and leaving me feeling cold and scared.  My intestines felt like snakes slithering in my stomach.  My joints began to ache and the nerves in my body were consumed with shocks and jolts.  I could not move.  After about 1/2 hour of this, I began to quietly cry.  It would not stop and I had no idea how long it would last.  All I knew was if it got up and moved around, disaster would strike.  I would allow it to manifest into a panic attack and I refused to do that.  So I just took it.  I was hyper-aware of every nerve, cell and organ in my body.  I began to cry again, this time quietly whispering my husband's name - hoping he was awake and could comfort me.  No such luck.  Deep down I was relieved because I didn't want to wake him on a work night.  So I just accepted it.  I listened to my "Healing music" on my iPod, and I breathed through each and every pain, twitch and surge of adrenaline.  The last thing I remember was feeling my pulse in my neck and then hiding under the covers like a child afraid of the boogeyman.  I woke up 7 hours later and faced the feeling once again - only on a lesser degree.  I curled into the fetal position, closed my eyes, breathed through the sensations, and drifted off again for 1 more hour.  

In the end, it wasn't so bad...although I wouldn't have said that during the experience.  I worked through it - whatever "it" was.  I try to see it as my body working overtime to heal a part of the "damaged me" from the Benzos.  I didn't have this feeling pre-Benzos, so I know where it is coming from.  I figure this can't last forever.  It's 11am as I type this, and so far no nausea....so maybe my body was doing something good last night.  And I did it!  I worked through a frightening feeling with breathing, visualization and a few quiet tears.  Once again proving that when I am fully healed from the effects of Benzos, I will be able to take on just about anything.  It almost makes me thankful for this difficult and long journey - because for the first time ever, at the age of 33, I truly know how strong I am.  We are all capable of so much more than we ever could imagine. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Recipe Of The Day

Bread.  Buns.  Pasta.  I could NEVER go "carb free".  I love it all.  I have been looking for some savoury treats to bake Christmas morning, and I think I have finally found one!  I found a recipe online for homemade baked rolls, and modified it considerably to my liking...and here is the final product:

Baked Whole Wheat Biscuits

1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Wheat Germ
1 t Organic Cane Sugar
3/4 t sea salt
4 t baking powder
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil
1 cup buttermilk (I used Almond Milk w/ 1t Apple Cider Vinegar added till it begins to curdle)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix flour, wheat germ, cane sugar, sea salt and baking powder together.  Make a well in the centre.  Add oil and buttermilk and with a spoon, mix well (but not over mix). 

On parchment paper lined baking sheets, spoon heaping tablespoon full mounds of batter onto tray (about the size of a plum).  Some biscuits are rolled out and cut with a cookie cutter, but this recipe is easy and you can just drop them on the trays.

Now, I kept 1/2 of the batter separate.  I prefer the plain biscuits as I stay away from too much spice lately, but to the 2nd half of the batter, I added 1 clove of fresh garlic, crushed...as well as some Clubhouse Pepper Medley (a staple in our home for flavouring food) and some shredded cheese.  I mixed the ingredients into the batter and dropped them onto the 2nd tray.  Now my husband and daughter can have a tasty treat with their soup...Cheesy, Garlic Biscuits...that aren't overly cheesy or too rich, and the garlic is a healthy addition!

Now, the original recipe called to bake for 12 minutes...this is far too long for my oven.  I checked them at 8 minutes, but they needed 9-10 minutes at the MOST.

Let them cool and then enjoy...they won't last long!

There are so many variations to this recipe.  So cater it to your family's liking.  Possible additions?

Dried Cranberries, Raisins, Dried Apricots, Chocolate Chips, Walnuts or other nuts of choice, Olives, Chopped Jalapeno Peppers, Shredded Cheese, Cubed Cheese, Cubed Ham, Cubed Apple, Blueberries...the possibilities are endless!

Baking made fun...and a great way to include your children in a tasty treat.  Give them each a small portion of the batter to create their own masterpiece.  My daughter and husband LOVED these biscuits, and they'll definitely be a part of our Christmas morning breakfast.

Enjoy!

Homemade Whole Wheat Biscuits (Cheesy ones on the left)

Monday, 12 December 2011

With Christmas, Comes Food...My Attempt At Keeping It Healthy

Christmas is fast approaching, and although I am far from my best physically and mentally, I can't help but TRY to get excited about Christmas morning.  I love it.  My daughter is 8 years old and not an early riser - even on Christmas morning.  She loves her sleep.  Christmas morning she is normally up no earlier than 7:30am.  She quietly tip toes down into our family room to inspect the outcome of Santa's arrival.  Santa leaves her one new small stuffed animal in her stocking each year and she can always find it poking its little head out the top of her stocking, greeting her that morning.  She then looks at the present Santa has left...I'd love to know what goes through her little brain that very moment.  She makes her way to our bedroom and quietly wakes us up (keeping in mind, some years WE have had to wake her up because WE were too excited to wait any longer!).

We go to the family room and out comes the camera.  Videos and photos are made as she opens her stocking and then her present from Santa.  She then normally curls on the couch or on the floor with her new "loot" and patiently waits till Grandma and Grandpa arrive.  My parents live in a city nearby and it takes them approxiamatley 20 minutes to drive over.  I have the coffee brewing and the oven is normally busy baking cinnamon buns or a baked breakfast dish or some sort...filling the house with the smell of comfort.  My husband grew up in The Netherlands, and one of his favourite traditions has been watching the movie "The Snowman".  We have now made that part of our family tradition, and as we eat, talk, laugh and open presents, The Snowman is playing on repeat in our DVD player.


Our presents are opened one by one...patience is the key Christmas morning on our home.  Nothing is rushed.  And in between each present opened, we take time to talk, take a washroom break, or go back for seconds or thirds of the breakfast I make each year.

So, how do I - the health conscious baker who omits sugar, replaces oils and butter with applesauce, and steers clear of red meat and dairy - make a delicious, comforting and shall I say, "scrumptious" breakfast?  Well, to date, I'm not quite sure...but I'm researching several recipes and finding ways to deliver a memorable and tasty breakfast that won't make my family feel tired and greased-out the entire day.  In the past I made "Monkey Bread"...think Cinnamon Buns with even more butter, if that's possible.  Unbelievably delicious, but sits like a brick in your stomach.  Then there was the layered baked dish...with layers of bread, butter, Dijon mustard, eggs, processed meat (ham) and more bread.  Ooey, gooey, and tasty...but dairy and processed meat?  Not anymore!

I will update my blog later this month with the final breakdown of Christmas morning breakfast, but thus far, I am thinking of Quinoa and Cranberries with Cinnamon (similar to oatmeal)...a spin on Cinnamon Buns using sweet potatoes or pumpkin...Whole Grain, Homemade Buns (maybe with some wheat germ)...Fresh Fruit Salad (my daughter has already claimed this as her contribution that morning...she wants strawberries, grapes, kiwi, bananas, pineapple galore), served with Greek Yogurt for dipping...and something savoury.  In the meantime I have found a few new blogs that are vegan and HEALTHY and I am so excited to try some of the recipes!

Healthy food can be FUN!  It takes time and you may find your pantry gets a complete makeover over time as new products such as Wheat Germ, Agave, UNSWEETENED Applesauce, Cinnamon and Ginger, Quinoa, PURE Maple Syrup (worth the extra money), Apple Cider Vinegar (organic and with "the mother of vinegar" is best...I've included a photo of the product I recently purchased), Flax Seed, Oats...and so many more.



Last night we had a "simple dinner night".  I was still not feeling 100% from the horrendous waves of nausea I've had lately, so my husband whipped up some tuna sandwiches.  As he was about to make the tuna salad, my daughter called out, "Daddy, can you please add crushed garlic to it?".  Fresh garlic is spicy for some, but this kid has loved spices of all kinds since a young toddler.  She is aware of the health benefits of garlic and loves the added flavour.  I love that she is aware of what she puts into her body and what will keep her body strong.  She's still a kid and we DO allow her to indulge in chocolate bars, pizza and a good burger...but in moderation.  She has never been allowed an entire chocolate bar...a 1/2 is more than enough for a treat.  And she'd prefer a homemade turkey burger or my Mom's homemade ribs to a McDonald's burger.

Kids adapt to any lifestyle you provide for them.  We have been fortunate that our daughter has embraced our healthy lifestyle with open arms, as I realize not all children would enjoy the changes...but even subtle changes make a world of difference.  So next time you're at the grocery store, think about your favourite ooey, gooey comfort meal, and challenge yourself to create the same dish using fresh, organic (if possible) and unprocessed products.  The smallest of changes add up and a healthier family you will have!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Frustrated.

It's 12:35pm on a Sunday.  I am ready to throw in the towel.  The nausea is so bad and I have spent the morning pacing the house, curling up on the couch, crying and dry heaving over the toilet and kitchen sink.  I knew things could be difficult during withdrawal, but I was not expecting this.  One minute I think I should be hospitalized, the next I want to pack up and leave my home, then I think my husband should leave for an hour so he doesn't have to watch me cry and ask him the same questions over and over and over again.  I cannot fathom one more day like this, and yet for all I know I could have weeks of this left.  How will I be able to finish my Christmas shopping?  Or even enjoy Christmas morning for that matter?  It could be over by then, but I can't help but wonder if I'll still be in the thick of it. 

This is by far the most hopeless and frustrated I have felt since my 10 month taper.  I am sick and tired of feeling physically ill, and having to break down in front of my family.  I don't want to think about how long this could continue to go on for...and yet I can't help but wonder.  I'm angry I never researched the possible long-term effects of these pills.  The one thing I never researched, is the one thing that could potentially (and did) do the most damage.

There's not much else to say today.  I just hope this will eventually reach people who are thinking of going on Benzodiazepines.  The short-term relief you can get from these meds is NOT worth the long-term damage it can create. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Progress Update...With Very Little Progress

I thought I'd give an update on my progress.  I am now 4 months, 2 weeks and 5 days off of Benzodiazepines.  This week has been particularly rough.  I have attempted to write a post here this week 3 times with no success.  Every time I write I doubted what I wrote.  I never want things to come off as too negative, but I also don't want to sugar coat things.

I have had some difficulty sleeping now five nights in a row.  I feel I've been very lucky because many people who come off of Benzos develop insomnia for weeks or even months after their last dose.  This isn't the case for me.  Most nights I sleep a solid 5-6 hours.  I consider that to be pretty good.  I'd prefer 7-8, but 5-6 suits me fine.  I wake up with more energy nowadays then I have in years.  I can't believe the amount of energy I lost on the SSRI's and Benzos all these years.  Now that I'm 100% free, my energy level is coming back and I wake up fairly happy and refreshed.  These past four nights have not been full out insomnia...more disrupted sleep.  I'll lay my head on my pillow feeling exhausted, only to find my mind racing.  I am eventually able to shut that down, when the bladder and/or abdominal spasms kick in.  Then come the rushes of adrenaline that leave me in a cold sweat and scared to even open my eyes.  Eventually I fall asleep only to wake up 1-2 hours later with the same feeling.

The nausea has been at times unrelenting.  It comes on so strong for so many hours, I end up pacing the house and crying.  I want to pull my hair out because I get this overwhelming panicked feeling as though the nausea will never disappear.  I can barely eat this week.  Yesterday, I was able to eat 2 heaping tablespoons of Plain Greek Yogurt with a teaspoon of organic raspberry jam about an hour after I woke up.  I ate a bite of toast but began to feel the gagging sensation so I threw out the rest.  Then about 2 hours later I was able to eat 3 RyVita crackers with hummus.  At 6:00 pm, I was able to eat about 1/3 cup of Organic Gluten-Free Rice Crispies with Almond Milk.  And 2 tall glasses of water.  It's very frustrating because I WANT to eat more.  Food looks good and it smells delicious, but as soon as it goes into me I begin to gag.  Two days ago I ended up dry-heaving 3 times.  I would love to sample my Christmas baking and sit down and enjoy our Christmas dinner with my family.  And I might!  A lot of healing can happen in a matter of weeks.  It's now 4:27 pm as I type this, and I have been able to stomach 2 crackers with about a tablespoon of hummus and I just finished a snack size of unsweetened applesauce...that's for the entire day.

A bit of "the blues" have set in.  Not depression.  More exhaustion, mixed with sadness and at time frustration and irritability.  I can still smile and laugh - just not as often.  I was talking to my husband yesterday evening and while "letting it all out", I explained to him that I feel frustrated that many people who know me well, know that I've been on anti-depressants off/on for years.  I fear that the more I continue to speak of my withdrawal, people will begin to think, "Okay Sarah...yes, of COURSE it's withdrawal...I'm sure a medication can make  you sick for THIS long".  I fear they will think I really AM depressed or I'll always need to be medicated.  Unless my friends read my blog or ask me, they have no idea I'm going through this still.  Like I said before, I don't just walk around announcing it daily to friends that I'm still recovering.  Only a few of my friends and of course my family, REALLY know how long this journey can be and how difficult some days are.  I have a couple of friends I call on a more regular basis because they've listened to me for months - they have watched the entire journey unfold.  They've done the reading and understand as best as they can what can happen to someone during Benzo withdrawal.  I feel very fortunate.  I am at a standstill though.  I feel like I'm not making anymore progress and feeling quite discouraged.  My husband reminds me to remember how I was pre-Benzos.  "Were you nauseous all the time?  Did you lose your appetite on a daily basis?  Did you cry uncontrollably everyday?".  The answer is no.  "So then you won't be like this when you are healed...it just takes time".

I just want to cry.  I have always been an emotional person - since I was a little girl.  So crying isn't anything new to me.  But the kind of crying I do now is unstoppable and it makes you want to curl up and not face the world.  And yes, perhaps that makes me sound "depressed".  But who WOULDN'T need a good cry once in awhile after feeling so physically ill for a year....


....2 hours later. And I cried.  I sobbed.  I spoke with 2 friends who reassured me they FULLY understand what I'm going through is withdrawal.  I spoke with my mom and dad.  I called the pharmacist to tell me this is normal (yes it is).  I feel hopeless this very moment.  I also got a call from my GP to tell me a barium swallow is booked for next week to rule out ulcers.  I hope it's not that because then there's the chance I'll have to take antibiotics which I DO NOT want right now. But I'm not fully opposed to it at this point.  I've been nauseous long enough.

I refuse to let this wear me down entirely, but this week...or really the past few weeks since things have worsened, I often find myself throwing my head back and thinking "REALLY?!".  How can one person come off of these with little to no side effects, and then someone like me gets slammed with a third of the list of possible side effects?  I feel worn out.  I want to fall asleep tonight and go into hibernation until things improve.  Instead I will get up tomorrow and hope it really is a new day. 


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Healthy Recipe Of The Day

I just finished baking some muffins for my family.  5 are already gone and they've been out of the oven for only 1 hour.  I have a feeling I'll be baking more tomorrow for the school week.  Baking has been a great distraction for me during this recovery period and it helps me burn off the nervous energy! 

Tonight's recipe is Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins...but keep in mind you could substitute the Chocolate Chips with just about anything.  We love blueberries in our house.  You could throw in some raisins or cranberries or even walnuts!  Here is the recipe, and I've included (in bold) the changes I made to better suit my family. 

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup buttermilk (I use almond milk with 1T of apple cider vinegar)
1 egg, beaten
1 t vanilla 
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used just under 1/4 cup of organic cane sugar instead)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/4 cup of applesauce instead)
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour instead)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (and/or nuts and dried fruit of your choice)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl, soak oats in buttermilk for 15 minutes.  Stir in egg, sugar, vanilla and oil (applesauce).  Combine flour, baking powder/soda and salt.  Stir into oat mixture just until moistened.  Then stir in your choice of chocolate chips, nuts and/or dried fruit.  Fill in paper-filled muffin-cups 3/4 full.  Bake for 16-18 minutes and cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. 

***  I baked them for only 15 minutes in my oven and that was enough. 

And...they are a hit!  Moist and substantial.  They'll make a great snack for my daughter's school lunch and my husband already ate 2 for a late dessert.  Oats are a great source of fibre which helps to regulate your digestive system.  Oats also lower cholesterol and have "plant chemicals" and antioxidants in them that are thought to help reduce the chances of cancer.  Applesauce (unsweetened) is an awesome way to cut down on the fat in the muffins - I use it in many of my muffins, cakes and even cookies (keep in mind, if you use it in cookies, your cookies will turn out more cake-like instead of crispy).  I use an organic unsweetened applesauce that has cinnamon in it - it adds a nice flavour.  Another tip, is to substitute some of the flour with wheat germ.  I add wheat germ to most of my baking. 

One more health tip before I leave for the evening...I have started eating plain Greek yogurt for breakfast every morning.  I add 1t of wheat germ to my yogurt as well as some organic raspberry or blueberry preserves.  That way I can control the amount of sugar I add to my yogurt.  It's delicious and healthy.  Wheat germ can lower cholesterol.  It is high in Vitamin E as well as many B vitamins.  It is high in folic acid which is something women need in their diet.  It is said to improve muscular energy which is perfect before a workout as it provides endurance. 

I have discovered a new passion - and it's my (and my family's) health.  It is SO incredibly liberating to take your health into your own hands.  To sit behind your computer or go to your local book store and read.  Do your research.  Ask friends who share the same interest.  Share recipes with friends.  When you do your groceries, purchase one new produce and try it out!  Try cooking with wheat germ or quinoa.  There are so many foods out there that are not only tasty, but SO good for you.  Challenge yourself and do what's right for you and your family!