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 weeks...so 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 meds...at 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 depression...it 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. 

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