Saturday, 23 June 2012

Another Hurdle...But I'll Be Ok

As well as I am doing, I still have "those days" or "those nights".  Tonight is a rough one.  I'm not overly anxious, though minutes ago my heart raced and I shot out of bed - holding my iPod in hand as I quickly walked to the living room sofa.  I curled up and cried. 

I am itchy.  It's an itch I have only experienced with Benzo withdrawal.  It's a deep itch that I refer to as "internal itching".  Tonight is the worst I have ever had it.  From my rib cage, down to my pelvis and lower back, everything itches and almost burns.  However, when I scratch or rub the area, there is relief.  The itch has become so bad that I am almost grinding my teeth and it feels as though my organs are swelling as the itch intensifies.  And with the itch comes nerve pain - a type of pain reminiscent of shingles.  It's all over my back and arms.  Like tiny needles pricking me over one quarter of my body at once. 

I know this will end like everything else, but at 2:52am - with a party and recital to go to tomorrow - this is not welcomed.  I am frustrated and would love to run to my bedroom, wake up my husband, and cry.  Instead I rub my body on the sofa hoping to get some relief. 

I am now 11 months and 4 days off of Benzodiazepines and still my Central Nervous System works hard to recover the damage these little prescribed pills caused.  I am angry tonight and have felt agitated all evening for whatever reason.  Perhaps my body knew hours ago that it was in for quite the night. 

It's just another 2am hurdle...hopefully the last hurdle is soon to come.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

There You Go...You Just Had To Do It...

You had to do it.

You had to announce that you were beginning to feel more "normal" again.

You knew in the past, when you'd announce a milestone, the ugly reappeared. 

And now here you are.

It's 2:34am.  And guess where I am?  I'm on the sofa.  I am a ball full of nerves, fear and tears.  For the past few days, my anxiety level has increased.  It's now to the point where I cannot sleep.  My heart is stomach is turning and head is insides are rattling...and when I lay in bed, I can hear my heart pound in my head so loudly it begins to resemble a drum in the not-so-far-distance.  Tonight is a bad night.

How is it that EVERY single time I announce something positive, it returns only hours later?

"I think the nausea is finally beginning to disappear".

The next morning I wake up with the dry heaves.

"I have noticed that I have next-to-no anxiety nowadays".

The following week the anxiety creeps up on me like a monster...hiding behind my back and whispering in my ear, "I'm not ready to leave you yet...".

I can't believe I'm doing this to myself.  I know I'm not.  But I do know that I have to constantly remind myself of these 3 words:  Expect The Unexpected.  My husband says it to me all the time, and although at times I want to roll my eyes - well, I DO roll my eyes - I know very well that the healing process from Benzodiazepines can be so unpredictable at times that all you CAN do is...expect the unexpected.

I am fast approaching 11 months free of Benzos, and yes, I am making HUGE progress.  I have gained incredible strength and security through this journey.  I am a better person for it.  But on a night like tonight, I wish it didn't have to be so difficult or unpredictable.  My biggest fear all along has been that I will finally feel "healed", only to get slammed once again with every side effect possible.  It's happened to others.  I've read about it time and time again and I'm fully aware that this journey can take up to 2 years, if not more, before I am fully healed.  And that can mean feeling very good for a great length of time, only to get hit again with an abundance of unpleasant withdrawal side effects.

What I wish I could say and fully believe is:  "I accept this wave and open my arms to it...knowing that my body is doing what it needs to do to fully heal...I welcome these unpleasant feelings as they are signs my body is working hard to become stronger than ever before...My central nervous system is intricate and it takes time and patience to heal". 

What I really say to myself on a night like tonight?  "Seriously?!  Please please please make my heart stop pounding.  I am DONE with this!  I just want to cry and let the tears take it all away.  I want my head to stop pounding because it creates fear...I think I'm going to die if it doesn't stop.  It's been more than 10 months...shouldn't this be over by now?  How will I function tomorrow if I don't sleep tonight?  My eyes burn but I can't sleep.  My stomach turns but deep down I know I'm not sick.  Why won't it stop even when I tell myself I am okay?".

And so here I sit at 3:17am.  I'm exhausted and just want to sleep.  Even as I close my eyes while sitting here, my head begins to if it's saying, "uh uh want to sleep?  I don't think so...".  I close my eyes and my body begins to tremble inside.  It's as though someone is shaking the couch.  And it's as though my body is doing everything possible to keep me from sleeping.  Hence the reason people who live through Benzo Withdrawal, compare it to torture at times.  You want to sleep.  You are sick tired.  But your body won't allow it to's like a cruel joke.

Fast approaching 11 months...and getting close to 1 year free.  A HUGE accomplishment.  Tonight is yet another bump in the road.  It's never stopped me before...and tomorrow could very well be a great day.   

Saturday, 2 June 2012

I'm Getting There...

Lists.  I make lists for just about everything.  "Do we need a list?  I'll make it!"  I love them.  Lists bring me instantaneous joy and pleasure.

I have kept a journal...or two or three...documenting my journey with Benzodiazepine Withdrawal.  To say this has been a roller coaster is an extreme understatement.  As I was waking up this morning, I began to think about how I felt last year at this time.  It's silly little things that to you may sound trivial...but to me they are clear signs I am healing and life is becoming more beautiful.  For instance, I woke up, and thought to myself, "OH's a school day...we all slept in...we're late!".  The "old Sarah's" morning would have been ruined.  The adrenaline alone of waking up so suddenly would have sent my body into sweats, diarrhea and crying spells.  However, this morning, I shot out of bed, stared through blurred vision at our clock (reading 8:30am) and then thought, "'s Saturday...I can go back to bed!".  And I was fine.  Sure, I couldn't fall back asleep.  But that's okay.  Because last year I would have been pacing my home in tears.  Today, I curled up in bed, turned on my iPod to some dance music, and daydreamed about a friend's future birthday party.  I was happy.  Content.  Sure my body "hummed" with nerves - something new that happens each morning and night.  It's as though I can feel every single nerve in my body stemming from my spine.  My spine shakes and rattles to the point I think the bed must be shaking...but it's just my healing system.  It doesn't hurt.  It doesn't make me anxious.  It just makes it hard to fall asleep.

So here are 2 lists.  First, a list of how I was one year ago.  Every single withdrawal effect I felt on either a daily or weekly basis.  Please keep in mind that all of these sensations - mental and physical - came from this and this alone:

  • Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Shooting pains in ribs and abdomen (so extreme at times I'd buckle over in pain and beg my husband to rush me to the hospital)
  • Bladder Spasms
  • Frequent Urination
  • Body jerks/jolts - especially arms
  • Panic attacks that would last up to 7 hours and looked inhuman (screaming, body twitches, sweats, extreme anxiety, hair pulling, punching walls, moaning in pain, dry heaving)
  • Dental pain
  • Thinning hair and brittle nails
  • Sunken eyes
  • Insomnia
  • Crying spells for no reason
  • Inner tremors all day and night
  • Joint pain
  • Aching legs (like constant growing pains)
  • Excess saliva
  • Nightmares so vivid I'd wake up afraid I was living it
  • Sensitivity to noise (this was extreme)
  • Sensitivity to touch and light
  • Food sensitivities - very limited diet
  • Hot flashes
  • Burning skin sensation...literally felt like my legs were in flames
  • Chilled at ALL times
  • Irrational fears and phobias
  • Paranoia
  • Heart burn
  • Teeth grinding
  • Sensitivity to movies/television (could rarely watch anything with a climax of any would send me into panic that could last for hours...the sight of blood made me want to dry heave...if someone got hurt I'd feel their emotional pain and it would be too upsetting)
  • Bleeding between cycles ("breakthrough" bleeding)
  • Skipped periods
  • Hives (developed allergies to fragrances)
  • Began to "see things"...imaginary bugs and animals would crawl across the floor or ceiling
  • Decreased appetite - no sense of hunger or thirst whatsoever
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Hallucinations - feelings of bugs crawling under skin...I would pick at my face and arms convinced there was something under my skin
  • Very bad lower back pain

Now, at 10 months off, I have:

  • mild food sensitivities (cannot tolerate MSG at all)
  • mild to moderate nausea, and not every day
  • mild to moderate OCD thinking and/or fears
  • mild anxiety (this is almost gone...I feel the least anxious I have felt in years and now consider myself to have "normal" anxiety)
  • painful periods and ovulation (worst ever, but I have hope this will pass as well)
  • jaw pain and teeth pain, but much less
  • only some sense of hunger/thirst
  • shingles-like pain/burning
  • rib pain
  • chest pain (very extreme at times and it radiates up my neck)
  • my organs "itch" and it makes me want to crawl into my body and itch them
  • occasional bladder spasms (once a month maybe)
  • abdominal cramping...though far less often and extreme

It is getting better.  I am getting there.  Even thought I still have a handful of physical withdrawal effects, the list is getting smaller and I deal with them better than ever before.  Although I need to "talk about them" aloud in order to calm myself, I can rationalize better and say to myself, "Sarah, it's just your body healing...nothing bad is going to happen...if you remain calm the sensation will pass in an hour or so".  And it always does.

Fortunately, not everyone will react the way I have to coming off of Benzodiazepines.  I have a long history of going on/off of these pills and perhaps that unknowingly set me up for a longer and tougher journey.  Perhaps it was the years of trying SSRI's to combat mild depression and anxiety.  Or perhaps there is no reason for it...except that I can now share my story and help others who feel scared or alone during their own battle with prescribed medication.

My goal from the beginning was to become med-free.  I am now 10 months free.  I never think about going on medication again.  I feel 100% confident I won't need to.  I would have in no way been a "failure" had I not been able to do this.  This was MY journey and MY choice to be med-free.  It is not for everyone.  In my case, the meds were making me sick and had I stayed on them any longer I would have paid the price.  My body - in a sense - began to reject any medication I gave it (I began having horrendous reactions to just about everything...including SSRI's).  It's as though my body was not meant for it and it was going to do everything in its power to get the message across to me.  Well, I got the message loud and clear and I am happily healing.

A few more steps and I'll get there.