Monday, 30 January 2012

Terrified Tonight...

It's 2:51am...I am terrified.  I have been in the midst of a panic attack since bed time.  I went to bed feeling my "normal scared", but nothing out of the ordinary.  However, within minutes of curling up under the blankets, the adrenaline started.  It was intense, but no more intense than most nights lately.  Then my stomach began to turn.  I would breathe and the turning would stop...a clear sign it's anxiety.  However, tonight it would not let up.  Within minutes my body became hot - so hot I was convinced I was burning up with a fever.  I felt my forehead and it was cool.  My spine was burning with nerve pain, as were my arms, hands and fingertips.  I tried to fall asleep for the following hour feeling this way.

I think I drifted off once or twice into a very light sleep, but I remember still being aware that I didn't feel right.  Then at 2am, I couldn't take it anymore.  I shot off the couch, and I went to wake my husband.  I needed to be with someone.  The fear that runs through your body during a full blown attack is terrifying.  Every thing inside of you hurts, you're cold but you're hot, you don't know what you need but you know you need something.  What you really need is relief, but you have no clue HOW to get the relief and you know it could take hours before any relief comes your way.  I cried and cried to him for about 45 minutes.  Repeating things he's probably heard a hundred times.  I know there is nothing he can do for me, but I don't want to be alone.  I can't handle silence when I'm in an attack.  And at 2am, it's not as though I can crank up the music in the house to calm me.  I have to remain as quiet as possible but all I want to do is scream.  This only adds fuel to the fire.  Night time panic attacks are by far the worst.  I keep hoping this is my last one...but they seem to sneak up.

When is this all going to end?  I have had a relatively better week.  My nausea subsided considerably and I was able to eat and taste food again.  The issue I have with these panic attacks, is that I KNOW they won't harm me.  I KNOW it will end.  I don't fear I'll die or that I'll have a heart attack, like so many do during an attack.  However, it just won't go!  I don't feed it...I don't give in to the fear.  I breathe through it, distract myself slightly and accept the physical feelings.  And yet this is what happens?  And then I'm left to just "ride it out"...however, that can take hours.  I am left exhausted, only to then get 2-3 hours sleep before I have to be up and be ready to take on the day as a mom.  By the time it's "wake up time", I am finally warm, content and relaxed...but I can't stay there in that place.  I have to get up and face the day on little sleep...and little sleep after burning so much fuel during the attack itself.  It can become the start of a vicious cycle, and all I can do is hope tonight's attack isn't the start of another run of "bad".  One week of "descent" is not enough after 3 months of horrible.  I am scared it's going to come back.  I'm not ready for it and I'd prefer it to only get better and not worse again.

It's 3:24am.  Can I sleep yet?  No.  I will listen to music on the computer with my earphones on.  I will probably cry a bit more as I still feel scared.  I'm shivering and ice cold, but I often welcome the cold when I'm panicky.  It feels good and the shivering acts like a distraction from the other unpleasant feelings.

I'm mentioned it before...that I often worry my friends and even family will stop understanding that what I'm going through is "withdrawal"...or really "recovery" from the meds I was on.  And I really wonder what they think.  As I cried to my husband tonight, I said to him, "I just don't think they're going to believe it much longer...I think they believe I'm really just mentally ill...".  He said that if they read the information we sent out when this whole journey began, then they'd understand.  But then I don't think you can understand unless you live in our home.  If you could see how much this has consumed me for the past 2's crazy, really.  I feel numb and although I get bursts of joy, I wonder if that's really me, or just an exaggerated me.  Am I really THAT happy of a person?  And then I fear these meds have done permanent damage.  There is even controversy over this topic.  Dr. Ashton, of the UK, is famous for "The Ashton Manual"...a "Bible" of sorts for those tapering off of benzodiazepines.  Her knowledge of the harm these drugs can do to people is far beyond most doctors and she has even opened treatment centres in the UK for those who are coming off of Benzodiazepines.  In Wikipedia, it states:

"Professor Ashton, a leading expert on benzodiazepines from Newcastle University Institute of Neuroscience, has been cautious in jumping to any firm conclusions and was an advocate for further research into long-lasting or possibly permanent symptoms of long-term use of benzodiazepines as of 1996. She has stated that she believes that the most likely explanation for lasting symptoms is persisting but slowly resolving functional changes at the GABAA benzodiazepine receptor level. Newer and more detailed brain scanning technologies such as PET scans and MRI scans had as of 2002 to her knowledge never been used to investigate the question of whether benzodiazepines cause functional or structural brain damage. As of 2002, the question of whether benzodiazepines cause structural or functional brain damage remained unanswered to her knowledge".

I am scared tonight.  Scared this is far from over, even though it could be over in a month.  But what if it's not?  How many more night time panic attacks are in my future?  How many more times will I cry in front of my daughter and then apologize to her for having to see mommy like that again?  How many times will I dry heave and go into cold sweats without being really sick?  How many more nights do I have to go to bed scared?  I am sick and tired of this and tonight in this post I think it shows.  I feel like shutting out the world every day, but at the same time I am scared to be alone.  So I keep busy to take my mind off the fears that could drive me insane if I let it happen.  

I leave you with a statement by Dr. Heather Ashton, which sums up the possible risks of taking these prescribed meds for too long:

Prof Ashton added: "One problem is the continuing prevalence of long-term prescriptions, despite repeated warnings from the Department of Health that use should be short-term - only two to four weeks."  Prof Ashton, who presented to the All-Party Action Group on Tranquilliser Addiction yesterday, added: "Dependence develops and there is great difficulty in stopping the drugs because of withdrawal reactions.  Acute symptoms include panic attacks, agoraphobia, insomnia, nightmares, tremor, muscle spasms, hallucinations, depression, psychosis, fits and many more."

Friday, 27 January 2012

Passing The Time...

I joined a forum for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal when I was beginning my taper from Diazepam (after crossing over from Clonazepam).  The forum was a life saver.  It was hundreds of people from all over the world with one thing in common - fear of the unknown.  Not every one was sick from the meds (though most were to some degree).  Some had dizzy spells.  Some had insomnia.  Others had made the mistake of coming off of Benzos "cold turkey" and were living through "Benzo Hell".  Benzo Hell is a term used by those who suffer greatly - normally from cold turkey detox.  They spend months bed-ridden.  No appetite and lack of exercise leaves them skinny with no muscle mass.  Showering can be torture as the beams of water feels like pins on their overly sensitive skin.  They cry all day and often cannot even sit outside as they become so sensitive to the brightness.  They also risk experiencing seizures.  It's an excruciatingly lonely place to be and as hard as my taper was, I am thankful I never made the mistake of stopping my meds all at once.

During my taper, I would spend a lot of time on the forum.  I was home alone as my husband worked and my daughter would be at school.  When I'd read other peoples stories, I'd read the same thing over and over again.  "Distraction is the key".  That frustrated me to no end.  Why?  Because doing anything other than curling up in "my corner" of the sofa was painfully difficult.  I lived in fear every day.  I called it the "frozen feeling".  I was consumed with so much uncertainty and fear that I was frozen and could not move even an inch sometimes.  The mornings were so difficult as it took every ounce of energy and mental strength to make my daughter's breakfast and get her to school.  When I came home, I went straight to my corner and counted the minutes until my husband would come home and I'd feel a little less lonely.  Even when I was with him I was lonely.  It felt even lower than depression.  And just like the daytime, the nighttime was just as difficult and long.

Sums it up quite well

Distraction was the key.  But I didn't have the strength to do anything TO distract myself.  Laundry became difficult, as did meal time.  My husband made many frozen pizzas during those months, always while smiling and saying "Sweetie...don't apologize, I love pizza!".  I hated it.  I couldn't be "me" anymore.  There was no energy left.  The joy was gone completely.  

However, very quickly once off the Benzodiazepines, I learned that distraction was now GOING to be the key for me to get through this as symptoms changed and I became consumed with nervous energy.  Six months later I still have it.  I paint rooms, bake, do laundry, reorganize my closet (again and again) to keep myself going.  Now it's the opposite.  SITTING is difficult.  I get nervous and shakey and feel like I need to pace.  So I do.  And I don't see it as a negative as I'd take this over last years depression anytime.  At least I am now getting things done and I feel productive.  I can do more now on 4 hours sleep than I could last year on 7-8 hours sleep.  Last year, my biggest distraction came from colouring in my daughter's colouring book (a great distraction by the way if you are anxious).  

I still pace myself as I don't want to burn out.  In the past I've had the habit of doing too much too soon.  I've learned so much about myself and don't foresee that being much of an issue with the "future Sarah".  I've learned to take life a day at a time.  People spend so much time filling in their fridge calendar with endless amounts of "stuff".  But does all that stuff make their life more fulfilling?   Adults push their children to succeed.  And they push themselves to keep up appearances.  I've learned to accept that I'm not perfect - and I have no interest in being perfect.  

I have spent a lot of time feeling insecure about these past few years - and although I sometimes feel slightly uncomfortable talking about it now to certain individuals, all and all I feel powerful discussing it.  I have a chance to help others.  It's a powerful thing to open up and use your voice.  This entire experience has been empowering.  

Good Night...

It's almost midnight...time for bed.  It's incredible what happens to me physically at bedtime.  I have not gone to bed "comfortably" for over 2 years.  I fear it.  Interestingly enough, I clearly remember that as a teenager, I also feared bedtime.  It happened when I began taking medication.  And it wasn't a fear of the boogeyman or the monsters lurking underneath my bed...but a fear of "missing out".  I didn't want to sleep.  Because if I slept, then what could I possibly miss?  What if I died tomorrow?  Then wouldn't I want that one more night to live?  Those were the thoughts that ran through my mind each night.

Now, I don't know what it is.  I'm just scared.  My stomach turns and gurgles.  I become dizzy and short of breath.  I shiver and shake and want to cry.  I hate going to bed.  I wish I loved it, because in the end, sleep is SO good.  So I will go for now.  Just a short post to "free my mind" of my fears before bed.  I hope for a peaceful sleep tonight, without the adrenaline or the vivid nightmares that haunted me last night.

Good Night.

"Most people do not consider dawn to be an attractive experience - unless they are still up."  ~Ellen Goodman

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A Turning Point? I Hope So!

Back to the reason I started this blog...and an update as to how things are coming along.

Six months and six days ago, I took my last dose of Diazepam.  Officially free of ALL medication, it was the most anti-climactic day because although I was happy to be med-free, I knew there could potentially be several months (if not a year or two) of hard work ahead of me as my Central Nervous System would take time healing from the damage done by the Benzos. Also, no one truly knows how hard my battle has been unless they lived with me or were receiving my many "panicked" phone other than a couple of friends, my parents and my wonderful husband and daughter...there were no "WOW...Look what you did!  You're done!!!  Be proud!" phone calls that day. 

So how are things?  Well, from months 3-6, I thought on several occasions that I needed to throw in the towel.  Another day would pass...then another week...and then a month.  Things weren't getting better.  Then last week as I approached the six month mark, I thought, "Oh dear...what did I sign up for?  Why didn't I just stay on these meds?  I could have just up-dosed every few months and maybe I would have been okay?".  Things seemed to worsen.  The nausea was unrelenting.  Night after night I was awakened by fear, chills, adrenaline rushes and inner trembling.  Sleep was happening, but not nearly enough of it.  It had been a month since I'd slept a solid night.

Thursday arrived.  It was the official "Six Month Free Anniversary".  And what a party it was.  I woke up to instant fear.  My body was trembling though I could feel every organ, bone and vein shaking.  My stomach turned and I wondered how I'd get out of bed let alone make my daughters' breakfast, pack her lunch and walk her to school.  But I did.  The nausea worsened and I couldn't get her to school fast enough.  I turned around and walked straight back home.  At first I had hoped I'd see a neighbour outside as I turned onto our street - someone to cry to and maybe they'd be able to rescue me.  But seconds later I knew it was best to be alone.  Hot tears streamed down my face and it took every ounce of strength not to fall on my knees on the street and scream.  As I walked into my home, I shut the door behind me and wailed.  I ran to the kitchen sink and dry heaved over and over and over again.  The nausea was so intense and my insides felt hot.  I think I spoke to my husband on the phone not long after arriving home.  Or maybe it was my parents.  I can't remember.  But I know that no matter who I spoke with, I was beside myself.  I had to put the phone down while speaking to my husband as I dry heaved again into the kitchen sink.  My body was trembling and I was ice cold.  My parents were coming that day to visit...and I remember apologizing to my mom on the phone.  I had hoped they'd never have to encounter a visit like this again, and now at 6 months off, here it was full force.  My mom told me not to apologize, and they got ready to drive out. 

I spoke with my friend that morning - a friend who has been by my side every step of the way.  I apologized to her as well.  I explained why I never called recently - why I didn't call any of my friends.  I told her I was afraid my friends would begin to think it was all "in my head" and that they'd believe it wasn't the meds anymore - that I was just sick.  She assured me that was not the case and listened as I cried, and cried...and cried.  I was terrified that morning.  I was momentarily convinced that life was not going to improve and that I'd have to go live somewhere far away - locked up in a padded room - spending my days crying and screaming.  What a horrible way to feel.

The worst of it was over after 2 hours.  But it left me exhausted and much less optimistic about my recovery.  However, I think - I hope - it was a bit of a "peak".  That maybe things won't ever get that bad again.  It is now the following Wednesday.  Sleep has been broken, however the past 2 nights I managed to get 5-6 solid hours per night.  The nausea has subsided quite a bit and I even had a crazy appetite last night.  Pasta, pancakes, homemade cookies - I ate them all.  And they all tasted GOOD. 

This week, my side effects have changed.  They aren't new, but more intense.  HOWEVER, I will take these plus their intensity over the nausea and crying I had for weeks.  Bring it on!  So what do I feel now?

  • Sweats and I'm extremely chilled - undershirt and hat are on most times and I still feel cold.
  • Inner trembling.  Like being cold, but it's as though your organs are trembling.  Think of leaning against a washing machine and you feel yourself shake, and now think of that feeling internally - and it lasts for hours, even the entire day.  It makes me restless.
  • Shingles.  I don't have them, but for the past 48 hours I feel like I have them!  My arms, back and my legs feel like they are covered in small prickly bumps.  But they LOOK fine.  My clothes irritate me and my spine feels like it's hooked up to something electrical.  Doesn't sound pleasant...but I'll take it over the nausea ANY day!
  • Nerves at bed time.  The adrenaline rushes are still bad at bed time and I often cry myself to sleep...but once I fall asleep things are pretty good.  
 So it is still is proving to be testing at times, but I will hold on and hope that last Thursday was "the turning point".  I truly hope so.  Perhaps things will only get better from here.  And if not, I made it out of this so far, so I suppose I will be prepared to take it on again.  Eventually I won't have to take any of this on - just "normal" anxiety and fears that most have.  A walk in the park compared to these past 2-3 years...I look forward to it. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Breakfast For Dinner...

Day two of a busy long weekend.  My daughter once again had her buddy over for some play time.  The Barbies came out again.  The giggles filled the house and all and all it was a perfect day at home.  I finished painting my daughter's room that day around 1pm.  I had a long hot shower (the water can never be hot enough since withdrawal as I am ALWAYS shivering).  I was happy to be finished her room - especially since having such a run of horrible side effects.  I was beginning - truly - to think I was just going slightly insane and I'd be sick for life.  It was a boost to my confidence with this recovery process that perhaps I really WAS going to get better over was just going to take an incredible amount of patience.

Five o'clock rolled around and I had a craving.  On a side daughter was home sick with a bad cough last week on the Monday, and she requested homemade pancakes.  I had JUST found a new recipe through the "Post Punk Kitchen" website which focuses on vegan cooking.  The recipe was called "Puffy Pillow Pancakes".  I made them that day and they were SO good.  By far the best pancake I had ever made.  So it was pancake time again, and we had pancakes and cut up strawberries for dinner.  Yum!  Make sure to "Google" the website where you can find their recipe (as well as many others).  But in the meantime, here is the recipe with my modifications. 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Make a well in the center.
Pour milk into a separate bowl. Add vinegar and ground flax seeds, and use a fork to mix the ingredients until foamy. This will take about one minute.Pour the milk mixture into the centre of the dry ingredients. Add the water, canola oil and vanilla and use a fork to mix until a thick batter forms.  Do not over mix. 
Preheat the pan over medium-low heat and let the batter rest for 10 minutes....this part is important!
I sprayed the pan lightly w/ olive oil spray.  Using a 1/3 measuring cup will give you the perfect sized pancake.  You will need to cook these for about 3-4 minutes per side - they do take longer than your average pancake as they are so thick and fluffy!

Keep warm in the oven or let them cool on a plate.  My daughter enjoys them with just a bit of butter (or in our case, vegan margarine).  My husband and I used pure maple syrup (the GOOD "Aunt Jemima").   My parents came by today and I cooked them up once again.  And it was a major hit with both of them as well.  Somehow my daughter managed to eat 3 of these "fluffy pillows" the first time she ate them.  I have yet to be able to eat more than 2 at once.  Well done, daughter.

 The Ingredients
 Batter ready to be cooked
 A cooked pancake looks on
 I doubled the recipe to make enough for the 4 of leftovers
Dipped in maple syrup with our green tea waiting to be sipped.  
A perfect combination.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Colour Therapy

I love colour.  And I love natural light. Our home is painted in a lot of greyish-taupe, with pops of colour such as deep purple, scarlet red and grass cloth green

My daughter and I decided it was time for a colour change in her room last year.  She still loved the pretty pale purple walls, but was ready for something more "8 year old".  She had full control, and in the end chose dark purple for 2 walls, and orange for the other 2 walls.  It looked awesome.  Cozy, warm and funky.  However, after a year we learned that it sucked all the natural light out of her room.  So recently we decided once again it was time for a change and we needed to lighten things up.  She knew right away what she wanted.  White walls.  White?  Yes, white.  And 1 accent wall, which she chose orange for.  That was perfect because our intention was to keep the wall behind her bed as the "accent wall", and it was already orange...which meant I only had to paint 3 walls instead of 4. 

In the past 36 hours, I have painted 2 coats of primer and 1 coat of paint.  The paint we chose is "Inspirational White" by CIL.  We are SO happy with it and plan on using it for our basement renovation this Spring.  The room is complete - aside from hanging her curtains (which are purple).  Her room is lighter, brighter and still funky.  I call it her "Little Bohemian Retreat".  She and her friend have spent the majority of the day up there so I gather it's a hit. 

Painting her room has been a great distraction for me during a very frustrating time.  I enjoy painting - the outcome especially.  I put on some good music and away I go.  Completely in the "paint zone".  And did you know that orange is a great colour to add to your home if you are fighting depression?  It brings on enthusiasm as well as warmth.

Here - minus the curtains and future "art" - is the finished product.  A room fit for a special 8 year old girl.  

Cake Time!

My daughter had a friend over to play this evening.  Out came the pink tub and with some warm water, and a pool was made for Barbies.  The girls giggled and played for quite some time until they decided to curl on the couch together and watch a movie.  Their choice?  How to Eat Fried Worms.  Somehow, this movie made them hungry, so snack time it was.  Well dessert/snack time.  I looked at my daughter and asked, "cake in a mug?".  BIG eyes and a BIGGER smile told me her answer.  I asked her friend, "do you like chocolate cake?".  In which she laughed at me as if to say, "um, who DOESN'T like chocolate cake?".  So cake in a mug it was.

I found a recipe for this treat a week ago and made it for the first time last night.  A hit it was!  My daughter enjoyed it MORE than her favourite treat:  Molten Lava Cake.  Which is 100% awesome because it is so much better for her than the pre made, frozen cake I buy once in a blue moon for her.

I've revised the recipe slightly - to our liking.  So here it is!  I hope you enjoy.  In moderation, it's a great treat that isn't nearly as bad for you as most (well, ALL) store bought desserts. 

Cake in a Mug:

1 banana
1 egg
1 t of liquid sweetener - I used organic brown rice syrup
1.5-2 T of almond butter
2 heaping T of cocoa

Filling of choice:  dried berries, chocolate chips, walnuts...

Mash banana in a bowl until smooth (I used a fork).  Add egg and mix well.  Then add your liquid sweetener and almond butter. Mix again.  Then add cocoa - careful mixing...the cocoa flies around.  Then add your filling and give it one final good stir.  I used semi-sweet chocolate chips as our filling of choice.  All 3 of  us LOVE chocolate.

Lightly spray the inside of a mug (the larger the mug the better) with some oil.  Make sure when you pour the batter in the mug, that it doesn't fill past 2/3 of the mug.  If you are using small mugs, fill 2.  Cook in the microwave for 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.  Et voila!  I placed it on a plate and it came out perfectly. 

Two smiling faces later, the cake was devoured.  One mug easily fills 2-3 bellies.  It's dense and more filling than it looks...but delicious!

 The Ingredients
 The wet ingredients
 The wet ingredients, mixed
 Poured in a mug...ready to be "baked"
 Comes out perfectly
Ready for eating...yum!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

I Just Want To Sleep.

It's 1:31am...and I'm awake!  No sleep to be had as of yet.  I am now well into my 3rd, maybe 4th week of very broken sleep.  I am so worn out tonight, but cannot sleep in my own bed because I am rattled with nerves and my husband is now snoring.  Something I thought was brought on by his cold, but with the cold almost gone, the snoring has decided to stay.  With me being such a light sleeper right now, snoring + me = me on the sofa.  I don't want to be here and I feel angry that I have to be.  I want my bed.  I miss it.  I miss the deep sleeps I had just a month ago.  Normally - since going through the throes of Benzo withdrawal - when I have been hit with a run of "insomnia-like sleep", it only lasts a week at the very most.  Something I felt very fortunate for as many suffer for months on end.  However, now I am getting my fair share of it and I've had enough.  It heightens the intensity of all the other withdrawal effects.  I need the sleep to feel a bit better, but my mind and body won't allow me to sleep.  FRUSTRATED. 

This week I have wanted to throw in the towel several times.  "I give up!".  "I am done!".  "I don't think I can do this much longer...I don't think I can do this even one more day!".  I've yelled just about all of it out at one point or another.  My patience is being tested and I feel like a failure at times because I'm not healing at a quicker rate.  I have to remember that I was on these meds for a few years, as well as the SSRI's I was off/on for YEARS.  My body needs to take some time to adjust to being "med free".  So I have no choice but to give it the time it needs...but if it could just hurry it up a bit that would be much appreciated.

I fully understand that these psychotropic meds don't affect everyone the same.  For years I came off of them - barely taking the time to properly wean myself  - and had very few problems.  Perhaps some dizzy spells.  Some nausea for 2 or 3 weeks...but it would all pass and on life would go on.  But the Clonazepam kicked my butt.  And because it has numbed my central nervous system, I have to patiently sit back and wait until it fully repairs itself.  Which means nerve pain, MAJOR nausea, crying spells that are uncontrollable, GI upset of every kind imaginable, and now sleep disturbance.

My hope for this blog is that it reaches out to those who are possibly unsure of where their journey is taking them in regards to anxiety and/or depression...or just being in a "funk".  My journey has proven, that medication is NOT always the answer.  Years of prescribed meds have left me not knowing the real me...and very, VERY ill.  I feel isolated at times.  I feel terrified and "fear of the unknown" plays in my head every day.  But what I do FULLY know now, is that both depression and anxiety can be helped without medication.  I realize that this is not the case for every individual and I am in NO way bashing the use of medication.  But I am very discouraged by the doctors who over-prescribe or too easily prescribe these types of meds to people who maybe just needed a good counsellor or some life style changes.  Before you go on them, PLEASE realize they aren't always they're cracked up to be...

I leave you now at 2:01am, and I will attempt to sleep again.  My mind isn't racing anymore as all my thoughts have been put out on this page.  I thank you for listening to my nervous ramble.  Something my loved ones have become quite accustomed to.  I leave you with one thought:  that if you are wondering whether  you should try medication for anxiety and/or depression, please realize that the outcome of filling that prescription can make you much worse off than where you are now.  Counselling, change in diet and exercise, meditation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and surrounding yourself with positive influences...these things DO help.  They may not be the quick fix, but they are the PERMANENT fix.  They are the tools that will make your future brighter. A future worth fighting for.

Monday, 16 January 2012

When It Settles...

When it all settles.  When my body finally begins to settle from hours on end of discomfort and adrenaline, it's as though my entire body takes a huge sigh of relief.  It's 1am and I can't sleep.  The adrenaline rushes today have been the most intense I've had in months.  Nausea, chills, dizziness and fear all come on me in a matter of seconds and for only a matter of minutes, takes over me and it leaves me frozen in fear.  So now I struggle to sleep in fear it will come back.  But just now, I had that "sigh".  It's a feeling that's equally as hard to describe as the feeling of panic...but so much better to experience.  My legs become warm - a soothing warm.  They are heavy and tired.  My eyes become droopy and relaxed.  My arms feel "happy" and although filled with pins and's a comforting pins and needles.  My breathing finally becomes quieter and it slows down.  And for a few minutes, all seems okay again.  As though things are going to be just fine and you'll never suffer again.  A tired smile comes across my face and I think I'm ready to sleep. 

And as I drift off, I'll listen to my music that helps me think of nice things.  Waterfalls, swimming and laying in the sun.  Birds chirping, my garden...a secret garden.  Warmth and happiness.  Good Night.

Friday, 13 January 2012

"A Panic Attack...Written By Sarah"

Long before I knew my body was in "tolerance withdrawal" from Benzodiazepines, I was experiencing worsening anxiety and panic attacks.  In my mind, I was going to have to go through many years of therapy to learn how to live with this condition.  Anxiety ruled my life and it became a daily battle.  Many panic attacks were had.  I began keeping a journal during those days, as well as documenting different attacks and emotions on the computer.  It was therapeutic to me and I still do it today.  I was just going through some old files today, when I came across this.  I wrote it one night after experiencing a full blown panic attack.  It's very detailed and walks you through the feelings one may have during an attack.  It's interesting to see how I felt then - not knowing it was the medication creating the fear and intense anxiety.  I remember those were very lonely days.

The Panic Attack, Written By Sarah, 2010

Never will you feel as alone as you do when you experience a full blown panic attack.  As I write this chapter, I am slowly coming down from one.  My hands and feet are ice cold.  My chest feels slightly numb and warm – similar to that feeling you get after being outside on a cold winter’s night and your body heats up by the fire.  My chest is the only part that feels warm though.  Each limb, my face, my fingers and toes are freezing to an uncomfortable degree.  I’ve just spent the past hour on the toilet.  Woken up with a jolt at 1:56 am, I knew what was going to ensue.  My stomach began to rumble, and painful gas pains ran through my stomach as though little hands were inside of me clenching areas of my intestines.  I laid there breathing…thinking…wanting this feeling to go away.  My husband was beside me, curled up like a child in the fetal position.  Content and fast asleep.  Why not me?  I just wanted to close my eyes and fall back into a deep sleep where fear no longer existed.  I whimpered quietly, knowing that wasn’t the plan for my immediate future.  I tried to meditate.  I pictured myself sitting on rock by the water.  Tall trees surrounded me and I could see the orange sun setting.  Butterflies and dragonflies flew around me like out of a fairy tale.  Then reality hit.  Within minutes the inevitable was about to happen.  I walked quickly to the washroom and sat on the toilet.  I opened the drawer next to the toilet where I found one of my many journals.  I write in it while on the toilet because most of my fear stems from illness.  I’m afraid beyond belief of illness.  I haven’t vomited in over seven years.  I never want it to happen again.  I fear I may literally die if this happens.  Realistically I know it is impossible…but try convincing someone of that at 2:00 am when they’re on the toilet exploding with diarrhea and intense gas pains.  So here I sit, experiencing the aforementioned.   I have to actually WORK to not sob.  I am scared beyond belief. 

Fight or flight.  That’s what they call an attack.  Your body reacts to fear the way it would if confronted by an armed robber…or being chased by a rabid dog.  A little switch goes off in your brain yelling “Danger, Danger”!  Your body then proceeds to create the amount of adrenaline it would take to fight off that armed robber or rabid dog.  Only there’s a catch.  Nothing frightening or harmful is happening to you.  You are simply sitting alone.  And in my case, I’m alone on the toilet.  The “switch” went off while you were comfortably sleeping and now you sit here alone, scared beyond belief.  There is no armed robber or rabid dog.  Only you.  Alone at 2:00 am on the toilet, doubling over in pain from gas cramps and fear.  I wrote in my journal vigorously.  I tried to jot down every detail of how I felt during that time.  That way, when I have an attack in the future, I can compare the stories and see the truth.  That this is just an attack and it will pass.  I am not sick.  I am not dying.  I will get through this.  Does it work?  Sometimes.  Other times it helps for a minute or two, and then my brain begins to yell “Danger, Danger” again and convinces me to believe that illness has finally struck.  During this present attack, I am able to convince myself that illness isn’t lurking.  I feel hunger pains, not nausea.  I am having diarrhea and gas pains, but I also suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and ate enough hummus this weekend to last me a good month or so.  That’s all this is, Sarah.  It’s simply gas pains and a little diarrhea.  Life threatening?  Hardly.  However, I begin to cry.  My body is shaking and getting cold now.  My feet bounce off the cold floor below me as my legs dance around with the shaking.  It is difficult to write in my journal as my hands too begin to tremble.  I’m yawning and sobbing and just want my warm bed.  I secretly wish my husband could hear me crying right now and rescue me.  I wish he could be here, sitting beside me as I cry with every pain in my stomach.  And he’d do it if I asked him.  But it’s 2:00 am and he has to work in the morning.  I want to call my mom and dad.  I’m thirty-two years old, but they’ll still take my 3:00 am calls at the drop of a hat.  They’ve never stopped being parents, and are there for me the second I call, crying out “sorry” after they’ve picked up and said “hello?”  “Never be sorry”, they always tell me.  But I am.  I feel guilty on a daily basis.  I fear my husband will one day tire of this and find someone more “stable”.  I fear my daughter will one day realise that not all mommies are like this and that if I was a good mommy, I’d get over these problems and stop crying.  I fear my parents will grow tired of the 3:00 am calls.  I fear my friends will roll their eyes when I discuss my fears.  My husband tells me I worry too much.  I know I do, but then why does it feel so impossible to end this vicious and unrealistic cycle of thinking?

I sat on the toilet for what felt like the entire night.  Realistically, it was for approximately thirty minutes.  I crawl back into my bed and accidentally knee my husband in his back.  I forgot that earlier that night I was already experiencing a lot of anxiety and my husband purposely curled up closer to me than usual so that I wouldn’t feel alone.  Now I’ve woken him up. “What is it sweetie?”, he asks half asleep.  “It’s hitting me again…I’m so scared…I have pains and a headache and I’m just so scared”.  He holds me and reminds me that this too will pass.  It always does.  I sob on his arm and shake.  Every few minutes I am able to feel my body relaxing, but then it is jolted by a pain or a gurgle in my stomach and I sit straight up.  I go to the washrooms once again, where I experience nothing more than gas.  I begin to feel my body relax now and am finally convinced that the queasiness I feel is absolutely hunger.  I wait a few more minutes and then proceed to exit the bathroom.  I made the decision this time that for tonight I must move into the living room and sleep on the couch.  I will only keep my husband up longer if I begin to cry again. 

I hate this.  I hate every lingering moment of my attacks and anxiety.  When you go to therapy, you are told to “accept” your anxiety.  The sooner you accept it the sooner it will pass.  Well, I’ve accepted my physical symptoms several times but apparently I am not doing a thorough job because the anxiety continues to intervene in my every day life.  I’m scared and frustrated.   

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Big Changes...The Foods We Eat

In the past year, my family has drastically changed the way we eat.  Here are some of the changes we've made:

  • I cut out all pop.  I went from drinking 1-2 Cokes a day (I craved it from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed), and for almost 2 years I have not had ONE single pop - not even a sip.  After a month or two, I didn't even crave it anymore, and now I would never dream of taking a sip.  The caramel colouring found in a variety of pop, has been scrutinized in the media as it is believed there are 2 chemicals in the colouring that lead to a higher risk of cancer.  In one can of pop. you are looking at drinking 39g of sugar - approximately 10 sugar cubes.  All the calories come from the sugar.  
  • Vitamin Water.  So after I cut out the pop, I decided to move to a "healthier" choice and began buying Vitamin Water.  WELL, low and behold, I discovered their sneaky ways on a YouTube video.  If you read the nutritional information, you'll see you are actually drinking only 13g of sugar...not nearly as bad as that can of pop, right?  Wrong!  That's if you only drink 1 8oz glass.  Most people end up drinking the entire contents - which equals 33 grams of sugar with all calories coming from the sugar.  The packaging is misleading...and we fall for it.  And the vitamins?  Well, even though there are some vitamins packed in there, you'll have to consume a lot of this sugar-filled drink in order to benefit at all from the vitamins...not worth it.
  • I drink water.  Green Tea - a good quality, loose leaf tea found in your local health food store is preferable.  Chamomile Tea.  And for a treat?  A bubbly mineral water - my favourite being San Pellegrino.  Alcohol is long gone - I have not had a sip of any alcoholic drink in well over a  year.  I do miss a sip of cold beer once in awhile, but it's not worth it.  Alcohol acts on the same receptors as Benzodiazepines, so by drinking even a small glass of beer, I could potentially set myself back from a quicker recovery. 
  • Processed Meats.  This was a big one for my husband.  Every day he packs the same lunch for himself.  Two sandwiches made on Ancient Grain Bread.  The bread is smothered in a thick later of hummus, with two slices of cold meat - ham and walnuts.  After reading several articles on the risks of consuming sodium nitrate (found in cold meats), he had second thoughts.  There is a 15% higher chance of getting stomach cancer from consuming 3oz or more per day of cold meat (or red meat in fact!).  LONG GONE are the ham his lunch consists of 2 sandwiches, smothered in hummus, and now with cucumber slices (still with walnuts sprinkled on top).  Crunchy, fresh and nutritous.  Packed with protein.  And because he leaves the skin on the cucumber, there is added fibre and vitamins (including Vitamin K...found also in Kale).  He finishes his lunch with dessert - a serving of unsweetened applesauce.  This is his lunch everyday - and he never tires of it.  He's an easy man to please. 
  • Meats.  Although I have no intentions at this time of becoming vegetarian or vegan, at the end of the day, I just don't crave meat - at all.  Plus, it's expensive and often packed with unnecessary antibiotics.  Most of our meals now consist of vegetables and grains.  Quinoa, whole wheat pasta, lentils and chickpeas are staples.  Many of the meals I make now are loaded with squash, spinach, onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms.  I do not eat any red meat.  My IBS screamed at me every time I ate even a small helping of steak - so it is long gone now.  Poultry and fish are the only 2 things I touch now - my favourite being my husband's bbq'd salmon.  Yum.
  • Nutritional Yeast.  My new friend.  It is high in B12, which is something vegetarians often lack.  There is so much I could tell you about this great product.  These yellow flakes are loaded with the B Vitamins, as well as Fibre, Magnesium, Zinc and Protein.  Add it to hummus for a "cheese sauce".  It has a nutty, cheesy flavour and can be added to so many meals.  I do not touch any dairy aside from yogurt, so this has been a a nice addition to my diet. 
  • Chia Seeds.  This is my husband's new favourite.  Better known as the little seeds that make that Terracotta head into a plant (Ch-ch-ch-chia!).  Add these great seeds to your morning cereal or yogurt and you'll be filled easily till lunch.  No more morning cravings.  The little seeds swell over time, keep you full longer!  They are high in Omega-3's, and they balance out blood sugar levels (a great addition for those showing signs of the onset of Diabetes), as well as being a "complete protein"  (unlike peanut butter which is an incomplete protein...this means you have to combine the peanut butter with something else to get the full benefit from it and make it complete).  As a complete protein, you will be given extra energy to get your through the busy day.
For myself, I had a wake up call.  I was getting sick from medication and decided that was the push I needed to make some changes in my life.  In the end, they were big changes.  I'm sure some may think I'm being too strict with myself, but eating this way makes me FEEL good.  I have more energy and even my skin looks better.  I like knowing I am filling my body with goodness.  I love that my husband and daughter are right on board with me.  I don't miss red meat or dairy.  I am okay with that.  Does it make it difficult to eat at parties or potlucks because 90% of the meals are coated in gooey cheese?  Yes.  But I am okay with that too!  Now I make sure to make a "safe meal or side dish" to bring along, as well as I eat before I go to the party so I am already full.  I'll leave you with some images of the foods and drinks I love.  Here's to healthy eating in 2012!

My Favourite Bubbly Drink

Nutritional Yeast

Chia Seeds...add a tablespoon to your food!

My husband's Green Tea...a warm and comforting drink that boosts your immune system

Delicious.  BBQ'd salmon, peppers and mushroom from this past summer

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Friend In Need

Sleep.  I finally got some solid sleep last night.  I was fighting the physical anxiety initially, but once I fell asleep, it was deep and I woke up well rested.  The day began well.  My bowels finally felt "normal" again after having a run of, well...the runs.  My bowels have had their fair share of "flare ups" throughout this journey.  As stress can easily hit the bowels and our GI track is seen as the body's second brain.  If my brain is working hard to recover from the numbness these pills caused, then it only makes sense my second brain has to work equally as hard.

I walked my daughter to school and then managed to run some errands downtown.  The walk felt good after being in our home so much over the Christmas break (many "pyjama days" in our home).  The air was crisp the sun was shining.  I came home and ate a big breakfast that didn't leave me with nausea...whew!  All and all a very successful morning.  Until noon came around.

I was sitting on the couch, curled up in "my spot", reading a new magazine I treated myself to.  I was happy and feeling good, when things changed in a matter of seconds.  A rush came over me and my armpits felt like they were sweating.  My spine tingled and I couldn't keep my shoulders still...a sort of "nervous tick" I get from time to time.  I felt almost flu-like.  My legs ached as did my lower back.

I had to get up.  If I stayed there I would obsess over these feelings and I'd turn simple physical stuff in to BIG mental stuff.  I made our dinner - a delicious soup.  I baked some cookies.  But I couldn't shake off these physical feelings.  It was something I've had before, but it's unbelievable to me that each and every time I have a feeling, it always seems new.  I was cold.  Ice cold.  I wore a winter toque and I had my hoodie on, but I could not warm up.  My bones even felt sore from being ice cold.  I walked to my daughter's school to pick her up.  She was as happy as ever and she talked the entire way home.  We met some neighbourhood dogs and stopped to pet them for a few minutes.  When we came home I expected the feelings to diminish, but no such luck.  Now for the past 9 hours, I have been struggling to work along with these physical feelings.  Eating is almost next to impossible because as soon as I eat the feelings rev up dramatically.  There are no tears though...just exhaustion.

There are 2 stages to withdrawal from Benzodiazepines.  Acute withdrawal - which for me was the first week off.  I was a mess inside.  An absolute, nervous, shaking, nauseous mess.  Somehow I managed to go to a friend's cottage during acute withdrawal...I still don't really know how I did it.  After Acute Withdrawal, there is Post Acute Withdrawal, also known as "PAWS".  The post acute stage can last 2 years.  Google it and you will see.  Here is a quote from the "Addictions and Recovery" web site:

"Post-acute withdrawal gradually gets better over two years. Your symptoms should show gradual improvement. Measure your progress month to month. If you measure your progress day to day, or week to week, you'll often have one week that will be worse than the week before. But if you measure your progress month to month you should see steady improvement. If you take care of yourself, and you're patient, you can get through this."

Another point made on their web page is regarding Depersonalization - which is something I discussed a few weeks ago in a post:

"Depersonalization is usually worse during post-acute withdrawal. Patients who thought they were going crazy because they had depersonalization, when in fact they were experiencing typical tranquilizer withdrawal. The depersonalization will go away eventually, but it can take many months."

 I have stated before that one of my fears is that my friends are going to stop understanding.  That they will finally look at me and say, "Sarah, seriously, this cannot be the meds anymore...maybe you just need help".  And it's not the meds...the meds are out of me.  But the meds did damage to my Central Nervous System, and now that damage needs to be repaired.  And with that comes many mental and physical symptoms.  "Normal anxiety" does not cause what I go through now.  I have never buckled over in pain from "anxiety".  I have never screamed, pulled my hair, punched walls and shook from "normal anxiety".  But I have gone through all of this since being on Benzos.  So if you have a friend or family member going through this, please understand - fully understand - that this is not them.  They are not choosing to feel this way.  They don't want this kind of attention.  They are fighting the ultimate fight to fully heal.

I feel as though the longer my recovery takes, the less support I will receive...that at some point I'm just going to have to shut my mouth to avoid confrontation or embarrassment. I have AMAZING family and friends, I shouldn't be thinking like this, but I'm finding I obsess over it a lot now.  I will have to work on it.  Talking to my husband helps - and he always listens.

I hope tomorrow brings a little less "nervous energy" and a lot more calm.  I am happy that I had a good night's sleep and I am happy that my morning was very positive.  I am happy for the supportive people in my life and I should give them more credit than to assume they'll give up on me. 

One doesn't know, till one is a bit at odds with the world, how much one's friends who believe in one rather generously, mean to one.  ~D.H. Lawrence

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Day After...

It's now 9:04am...the day after last night's adrenaline rush that lasted hours.  I was awake till 3:30am...later than I expected.  I was so exhausted and my body felt like it was going to cooperate and sleep...but no such luck.  I was filled with terror and the physical anxiety came back to haunt me.  I was beginning to fear that my body was NEVER going to allow me to sleep again...that my husband would have to finally give in and take me to a hospital where they'd need to drug me in order for me to sleep.  Irrational fears, but they seemed so real at 3am.  I woke up a few times once I fell asleep in a sort of dream-like state.  I knew I was awake, but my body felt heavy.  I was instantly hit with the adrenaline and nausea which made it difficult to fall back asleep.  But I did every time...only to be "officially" woken up this morning at 7:30am. 

It is now 9:07am.  I am wide awake, but my eyes burn.  My daughter is back at school after being off for 2+ weeks.  It was nice having her home and I am not the mom who "can't wait till my child is back at school"....I miss her.  I enjoy her company.  But I'm also happy for her to be back with her friends and her teachers she adores.  We both had the "first day back nerves", but I know that as soon as she enters the school the nerves vanish.  Mine?  Not so much, but mine are stemming from the lack of sleep these past few weeks.  One good night doesn't cut it at this point. 

The one thing I had on my side during this recovery, was sleep.  So many people suffer from insomnia while coming off of Benzodiazepines.  Although I've had bouts of it, it normally did not last longer than a week.  Now going on my third week, I feel a bit "on guard" as to what my future holds this year.  I begin to doubt I'll be healed by summer (something I would LOVE).  Will I be able to hike with my dad this Fall?  Will I be able to handle day trips this coming summer?  What if things get worse?  Because I honestly did not believe they'd get THIS bad THIS far out.  My husband says he isn't surprised but then I wonder if he says that to just reassure me. 

It's not a great start to the week, but I have to make myself realize it could get better very soon.  I wish there was a written handbook that told me  that at "6 months, 1 week and 3 days will feel 80% better".  It would give me more hope....and it would give me an end in sight.  I feel kind of trapped in my body - I don't want to feel this way anymore and I feel almost panicky at the thought this could still go on for months. 

Losing sleep...Losing Me

It's 2am...does this sound familiar?  This is the kind of night where I say repeatedly, "I can't do this anymore...I can't do this anymore...Please make it stop".  I am so tired, but I can't sleep.  My face looks sunken in to me this weekend.  I LOOK tired.  2+ weeks of broken sleep will do that to anyone.  My day had some highs and lows.  Not a winner, but not the worst.  But I went to bed with very little anxiety or fear.  It felt good.  I closed my eyes and then...

...Imagine yourself laying in bed.  The warm blankets holding you tight, the pillow soft under your head.  You know within minutes you'll drift off to sleep.  Suddenly a nerve pain hits you in the back of your head.  It's as though all the muscles in one little area are tightened.  It's so sore and tight you turn your head hoping it will "pop" and the pain will stop.  Nothing relieves it and you begin to wonder how you'll fall asleep with this much discomfort.  Finally, you cock your head to the left and find one position that allows you to feel comfortable again.  You begin to drift off when a jolt hits you.  You feel it in your fingers and your toes.  It's like electricity running through your veins.  Everything inside of you vibrates and trembles...a very unsettling feeling.  Your legs turn to ice while your head becomes hot.  Your heart begins to beat loudly in your left ear...a constant BOOM BOOM BOOM that only becomes faster and louder.  "Why?", you ask yourself.  You aren't nervous and your mind isn't racing, but this physical anxiety just won't stop.  You breath and try to think of something that will distract you, but instead you are hit with waves of nausea so intense you consider throwing your body over the side of the bed to possibly "hurl" all over the floor below you.  Your left arm begin to jerk now.  It comes from your shoulder.  And then the tears.

This was my night, and this has been my night for 2+ weeks.  Not always so intense, but every night nonetheless.  I had this throughout my taper - off and on.  And I had it when I first came off of the Benzos - the first week being HORRIBLE.  But now to get hit with it again at 5.5 months off is disheartening.  I really begin to wonder when I'll get better.  I wonder when people around me will think "this is just crazy Sarah".  But this wasn't ME before these meds.  Yes, I had anxiety - but nothing like this.  The anxiety I had before seems so easy now - I'd give anything to have that back.  This in uncontrollable.  The "Benzo roller coaster" is taking me for a ride and it has no intentions of stopping until it's bored.  So I wait, patiently.  I am tired of waiting and each time I get hit this hard I feel like a failure.  I come down hard on myself and I feel "undeserving". 

I don't know how to close this post.  I wish I had better news.  I was feeling so hopeful months ago, but these past 2 months have just become more difficult each week it seems.  It's confusing and very difficult at times to function with it.  But I do, and I will continue to do so.  There's no other choice.  As much as I'd love to curl up and hibernate till I'm healed, it's just not realistic.  We are taught that "hate" is a strong word, but I 100% hate what these pills have done to me.  Today I feel like I really lost "me". 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Good Day...With a Rocky End

Today was much more positive.  I woke up with the adrenaline rush that I often get lately.  It makes my stomach turn and I know that once I get up and walk around it will pass.  My husband, daughter and I are all battling a bad cold, and mornings are often the worse.  That heavy, burning chest and lots of coughing.  But once that passed, I was able to go out shopping for a couple of hours and for the most part felt 80% symptom free (as far as Benzo recovery was concerned).  And no anxiety whatsoever.  We came home and eventually ate some dinner.  A simple dish of whole wheat spaghetti with fresh tomato and basil sauce.  It sat well - some nausea, but not as strong as yesterday.  Then after putting our daughter to bed, we watched a movie - our normal evening routine.

My daughter was up a few times and finally my husband went up to check on her.  Then it was my turn.  She was upset.  Her stomach felt sick and she didn't know if she was going to throw up.  For anyone who knows me VERY well, knows I developed a fear of vomiting over the past few years.  Not just a little fear.  If I heard about someone who lived in another country who had been throwing up, I would believe that somehow that person's virus could travel across the ocean and land in my lap.  At the first thought of vomiting, my face would become pale and my entire demeanour would change.  And it's not an easy fear to live with when you have a daughter who goes to school each day...surrounded by kids and germs.

Since tapering off of the medication, the fear is actually dwindling.  But it's still present, rearing its ugly head every once in awhile.  Tonight I felt it - even though I knew my daughter's stomach ache was more than likely caused by the mucous in her stomach after battling this cold for nearly 2 weeks.  That, or nerves.  She gets the "nervous stomach" from time to time, and I know she wishes the school year didn't resume on Monday.  Either way, she was upset and it left me jangled.  Once we calmed her and tucked her back into bed. we came down to finish our movie.  But that was it.  The end of my "calmness".

Now it's 2:15am.  And I can't sleep.  My stomach is turning and gurgling with nerves.  My legs ache and I feel shortness of breath.  I am frustrated.  Why can the good times only last for a short period of time?  Why can't I catch a break?  My intestine are filled with sharp pains.  Since coming off of the Benzodiazepines, my Central Nervous System is so sensitive to stress.  Good or bad.  As soon as I feel stress come on, my body yells at me.  The most of it coming from nerve pain.  And the majority of the nerve pain stems from my intestines.  Little pinches that make me wince and buckle very so slightly. 

My eyes are heavy and I know I need to sleep.  But I still have that rushing/tingly feeling through my veins.  Once it passes I know I can sleep.  Hopefully a solid sleep.  I am on the sofa tonight because my husband is at his worst with this cold and I know his coughing and/or snoring will keep me awake.  It's best if I come out to the family room where I have a better chance at a deeper sleep.  Only my daughter's room is directly above me now and as I type this paragraph, I can hear her movement above me.  So either way, I may be disrupted tonight.  And after so few nights of decent sleep these past two weeks, I really need a good night.  Last night was good, so I'll take that...but 2 in a row would be lovely.

I'm stuck in a moment that you may be familiar with...whether you suffer from anxiety or not...or whether or not you've come off of a Benzo.  That feeling of "what else is going to come at me?!".  It's the little when I burned my finger and thumb tonight while pulling a tray out of the oven and forgetting to put on oven mitts first. Or when I made my bed on the sofa and finally got comfortable, only to realize the hamsters were still in the room with me and I knew I'd have to move them in order to sleep in this room (they are loud at 3am) I had to get out of "bed" and carry their cage downstairs.  That's when I cried.  "Give me a break!", I thought to myself.  It's silly stuff, but it adds up and drains me.  Insignificant little problems, but on a bad night it all adds up and makes you feel defeated.

It is now 2:52am.  I am on the verge of tears, but I also feel like surrendering to my tired and burning eyes.  I hope that once my mind rests, I will sleep solid.  I want to enjoy my Sunday with my husband and daughter.  i want a good start to the new week.  I leave you with a song I listen to every night as I fall asleep.  It's calming - it's even called "Relaxation" - how fitting!  Enjoy, and good sleep to all. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Racing Thoughts...Little Sleep...

I am scared.  Absolutely terrified tonight.  I feel alone, cold and my mind is racing.  I feel like each night gets a bit worse this week.  At 5.5 months med free, I am hitting a wall.  Well, I hit that wall a while back, but now it keeps coming back at me.  The healing process from these meds is completely non-linear, and with that comes a lot of unwelcome surprises.  Take today for instance.

I woke up with a jolt of adrenaline.  More so because I knew my dad was coming by to pick me and my daughter up at 10am.  When I woke up, I realized I wasn't sure if the alarm had been set by my husband or not.  I heard the garbage trucks outside and normally they come later, so then I thought I had slept in.  All was fine and I was up at the perfect time.  But now my heart was racing and I felt "off".  I had a quick breakfast, got my daughter on track so that she would be ready on time, and then had time for a quick, hot shower to try to "free my mind" a bit.  No such luck.  The entire morning I felt jangled.  The cold wasn't helping as I was tired from the coughing.  But I was also tired from the lack of sleep.  These past 2 weeks have been nothing but miserable when it comes to sleep.  When I first get into bed, things seem good.  I feel tired, and I feel like I can sleep.  But minutes later I feel it begin.  A sort of restless feeling.  My heart begins to beat harder and my body starts to twitch.  I try to visualize myself sitting on a rock.  I am surrounded by water and flowers and the sun shines on me.  I am warm and calm.  I can hear birds chirping and the butterflies fly so closely that I can feel the wind created by their wings.  This is my "go to" place.  It doesn't always work, but when it does it's wonderful.  This past week it hasn't helped once.  But again, the anxiety I have since being on (and coming off of) the Benzos is just so much more intense, that my hope is that once I am better I will be able to use this technique with no issues.  My body is working hard to heal and with that comes these horrible moments of fear.

 Imagining myself here...

 ...but instead I feel like I'm here

Tonight is one of those nights.  I didn't even try to go to my bed with my husband.  Instead I came out to the family room and made a bed on the sofa.  Now with the laptop of my lap, I try to "type away" my bed time fears.  So far it's not all.  My breathing is heavy and my stomach keeps turning.  I have a lot of lower intestinal pain tonight.  This has been a common withdrawal side effect and it's one I wish would go.  It's as though my intestines and surrounding organs are bruised and sore.  It's an unsettling physical feeling that makes me feel mentally/emotionally vulnerable.  I also have a heavy feeling in my chest and stomach.  Almost alien-like.  It feels like I need to keep stretching so that the "alien" doesn't try to push through my body.

I am deliriously tired now.  I just want to sleep but I know if I attempt to shut my eyes I will spiral downwards into a night of panic...I can feel it.  So instead I type on my blog in hopes that this feeling will pass and soon I will be able to turn out the lights and rest my eyes and body. 

I hate these pills.  I hate what they've done to me.  I try to remain positive through it all, but on a night like tonight I just feel angry and extremely frustrated.  I want to be in bed with my husband.  It has been over 2 years since I was able to go to bed feeling relaxed.  Pre-benzos, I was able to sneak off to bed, read a good book and then drift off into dreamland before my husband ever got under the covers himself.  And I remained asleep all night.  Then I went on the benzos, and at first it was fine, but quickly I became fearful of bedtime.  I began having these night time attacks that only created more fear.  I miss going to bed peacefully.  I miss it SO much.  For 2+ years I have felt terrified of bed.

And now on the sofa I don't really feel any better...except I can cry and not wake my husband up.  I know it will pass, but I feel a wave of panic when I wonder how long it will last before I can sleep.  I need some solid sleep.  Too many nights in a row have been filled with panic and broken sleep.  I am beyond frustrated.  I know many begin to feel better after 6 months when healing from Benzos, but what if I'm not one of those.  What if I end up being one of "those" who take 2+ years to fully heal?  Irrational fears consume me...will I ever get better?  Will my husband finally "have enough"?  He is so outgoing and full of life and energy.  Do I bring him down?  I know he'll be upset reading this in my blog, but it's how I feel.  I know he loves me (in fact, I know he adores me).  But how long can one person remain patient.  Do I hold him back?  Does he miss out on things because "I'm not up to it?"  Are my friends rolling their eyes at this point?  Do they begin to wonder if I'm just a hypochondriac?  All of these questions race through my head on a night like tonight.

I will go now and try to rest.  I am thankful for this blog on a night like tonight because it has given me a place to vent.  Venting is healthy.  Tomorrow is a new day and I may feel much more positive...but if not, that's okay too.  I am learning to be more kind to myself.  I am far from perfect and it's okay to feel sorry for myself once in awhile.  As long as I don't carry those feelings into the day, then I'm okay with it.  Tonight I question whether I will get better...the "what ifs" are out in full force.  I hope to sleep and wake up in the morning thinking "I will".

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

It's Another 2am Wake Up Call

During my taper off of Benzodiazepines, I became somewhat accustomed to the early morning panic attacks.  In fact, I became accustomed to the all day panic attacks.  They came out of nowhere fast.  I went ON Benzodiazepines for anxiety and before going on them I had my share of what I'd now call "normal" panic attacks.  They were never pleasant.  My heart would race and the room would spin.  My limbs would turn ice cold and my stomach would turn and gurgle.  Most attacks ended with me on the toilet as the adrenaline would cause diarrhea.  Then it was over.  An hour at the VERY most.  I was left feeling tired, but never feeling worse. 

It was because of these quick panic attacks that I decided, "I can't do this anymore!!!", and went to my doctor to have prescriptions filled.  It was easy.  In ten minutes, I had sat in her office, told her through a few tears that I was beginning to get some panic attacks (they weren't daily or even weekly), and that I didn't know how to handle them.  She wrote a prescription for Clonazepam for the anxiety and Cymbalta (an SSRI) as my tears indicated I was depressed.  I had them filled and years later, here I am.  Trying to fully recover from the prescriptions I filled so easily.  I kick myself now, but I can't change it. 

Tomorrow my daughter is off to a birthday party for her good friend.  It's at a local skating rink.  I am wondering if my 2am wake up call is because I am subconsciously worried about tomorrow's party.  Last year, the party was held at the same rink.  It was a great day and my daughter had so much fun.  However, the day before, I had begun the crossover from one Benzo to another.  I was crossing over from Clonazepam to Diazepam.  Diazepam is often seen as an easier Benzo to taper from because it has a longer half life, as well as it is offered in smaller doses which makes for smaller cuts and a slower taper.  This party was only 24 hours after my first cut of Clonazepam and first introductory dose of Diazepam.  When you do a proper crossover, you have to do it in stages every few first you introduce a small dose of Diazepam, while decreasing your Clonazepam dose.  Then 2-3 weeks later, you increase the Diazepam and decrease the Clonazepam...until you end up solely on Diazepam. 

 An example of the Clonazepam I was on

And an example of the Diazepam I crossed over to...tiny pills that
caused so much (temporary) damage.

I did well at the party, although I was on guard the entire time.  It was the next day that completely broke me down.  I was now on day three of my new doses.  Insomnia had begun and that previous night I barely slept at all.  This was party #2.  The first skating party was a success, but how would this one be?  It was located at the same rink.  My daughter and I showed up - my husband would be arriving later as he was still at work.  I felt off the entire day.  No one feels good after a sleepless night.  I helped the mothers set up the party room as the kids skated on the rink below.  There were 4 of us setting up the room.  I remember listening to the other mothers laugh and joke as they put out paper plates and set up tables.  I admired them.  They seemed so carefree and here I could barely take one step forward.  I paced and helped as much as I could.  I placed paper plates along the table they unfolded and set up.  I put a drinking box at each station.  But why was this so hard?  The room spun and my heart raced. 

Minutes later the children were called upstairs to the party room.  The pizza was ready to be served and the kids ran into the room...laughing away as they found the perfect chair to sit in.  My daughter ran up to me and hugged me - she had no clue I was crumbling inside.  I did everything in my power to hide it.  It was then that I thought, "Oh no...".  I walked up to another mom who had been very aware of my struggles coming off of this particular med and was very supportive.  "Are you okay?", she asked innocently.  My eyes welled up with hot tears and I shook my head "No".  I quickly turned and walked out of the party room, stopping in the hallway.  I leaned against a wall and my heart pounded.  My breathing was heavy and forced and my legs became weak.  This mom stood in front of me and held my arms or shoulders...I don't remember what she said, but she tried to talk me through it.  I was terrified.  My body was ice cold and every square inch of my skin tingled.  I remember feeling so cold that I thought I could see my breath.  Out of nowhere my husband showed up.  It was as though he knew something was wrong as he came straight to me and said something along the lines of, "Lets get you home".  He had arranged for another mom to take my daughter home after the party.  We got into the car and I broke down...sobbing the entire way home.  Completely exhausted and hopeless.  I felt like I let everyone down.  If this was just the beginning of the crossover and taper, then what was I in for?  It was probably good I didn't know. 

Now one year later, I am 5 1/2 months free of all meds.  And I am healing.  But this process is proving to be slow for me.  I don't know why some people can come off of these meds with very little issues, and others can suffer to no end.  I am not the worst of it.  Many people struggle far more than I do.  This is just my story and no 2 stories are identical.  But my hope is that my story can touch someone and give comfort to an individual who has lost hope.  Or that my story reaches a caregiver, who otherwise would not fully understand what goes through the mind of someone whose mind is altered by these meds.  These psychotropics are not to be toyed with.  I'm not here to say they are evil pills that they should be avoided at all costs.  But I am here to say that based on my own personal experience, these pills CAN make people feel worse instead of better.  And if they make you feel worse, then your world can become very "narrow".  You can become consumed with the negative side effects and it can be hard to decipher what is reality and what is "medication induced" thinking. 

It's now 3:30am.  The worst of the panic has passed.  I will attempt to sleep again, and will face tomorrow's (today's) birthday party with an opened mind.  I am now free of the meds that held me down, and things can only get better.  Sure, they can get worse before they get better, but I'm much further ahead presently than I was 1 year ago.  It has been 2 1/2 years since I became ill on these the time not aware it was the meds making me sick.  I look forward to feeling good again.  I honestly forget what it feels like to be "normal".  I'm even a bit scared of it.  But only because I fear I'll be on guard for a long time. 

If you are suffering from anxiety and/or is possible to get through this.  This journey has given me strength I didn't know existed inside of me.  I now firmly believe it is possible to work through anxiety med-free.  It might not be easy, but over time you learn and it becomes easier.  Self talk, distraction, eating clean and being honest are all crucial.  Honest not only with yourself but with those who love you.  I am so happy I opened up about my own personal journey, because in return many people have opened up to me.  I've opened a door and now the stories come flooding in.  And how amazing is it if we can rid of the taboo that is placed on individuals who live with anxiety?  If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there are more people out there suffering at some degree than not.  We're not alone, and the moment we are honest with ourselves, I believe things fall into place.  It may take time, but it happens.

Good night to all.  I hope this post eases not only your mind if you are suffering, but mine as well.  Because tonight it's a very busy mind and I'm hoping it is now ready to rest.  Thank you for listening to my story - I hope it brings someone comfort in knowing they are not alone.