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 NO...it'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, "Oh...it'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 kind...it 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.  

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