Today marks 2 years and 2 days since I became free of all medication. Specifically Benzodiazepines. As an overview, I'll list all symptoms I experienced (and can remember) while tapering off of Clonazepam (which I later crossed over to Diazepam instead).
Pelvis fullness and pain
Flu-like feelings, knows as "Benzo Flu"
Benzo Rage (a type of irritability and anger, often let out by self harm)
Waves of depression
Acid Reflux sensation
Heavy head (felt like my head would fall off even when laying down)
Bones ached when in cold temperatures (Winter was not pleasant)
Pain and throbbing in the Gallbladder area
Ribs and chest pain - so severe I thought I was having a heart attack
Panic attacks that lasted up to 7+ hours
Insomnia (went days at a time with sometimes zero to little sleep)
Skin itched for hours
Shingles-sensation (painful/prickly/itchy skin with no visible signs of rash or irritation)
Lack of motivation
Lack of appetite due to constant nausea
Loss of taste
Heightened sense...sound, sight, taste
Inner restlessness that would last hours at a time
That is the bulk of it. Most of these symptoms were a daily battle and made it difficult to face each day. Somehow - with the help of amazingly support family and friends - I made it to the finish line after a 10 month long taper. In the end, I feel I lost the support of a few friends, but most stood by me through the worst of it and never seemed to doubt my sanity - even though it felt like I was far from sane during the journey. Some friends drove my daughter to school in the morning when I simply couldn't leave the house. Some listened to me on the other end of the phone for what could be hours of repeating, "I'm so scared...is this just me???...am I just sick???...is this going to end???...what if if doesn't end???...what if we're wrong and it's not the medication causing this???". To which they would simple offer guidance and words of encouragement. My husband would tell me, "you weren't like this before the medication, so eventually this will all pass". He was right. What meant the most was the INTEREST people took in my journey. Friends and acquaintances took the time to read the material that's at our fingertips if you just simply type 2 words in Google: Benzo Withdrawal. I was able to support SO many people through my own experience. It made me a far more empathetic person. A lot of amazing things came out of something so dreadful and painful.
2 years and 2 days later, where am I? The worst symptoms that remain but are not a daily occurrence are:
Pelvic pain and fullness
The nausea can go away for many days at time and then will return for a day...or a week. It makes it hard to enjoy eating, but I continue to eat 3 healthy meals a day because the nausea I get with this recovery isn't the same as "the flu". I feel like dry heaving, but my stomach isn't actually upset. Sometimes, if I can manage a good cry, the nausea will pass - which is why I used to refer to it as "emotional nausea". It's bizarre, and if you can't cry it can take hours to pass.
The abdominal pain and pelvic pain/fullness are probably the most prevalent. Most days I have problems with this and it is nothing more than irritating and frustrating...and painful. But I can handle it. I hide it well - I think. I do have to rub out the muscles from time to time when it's really bad. The massaging makes the pain subside momentarily.
The anxiety is MUCH better than many moons ago. I haven't had a full panic attack in many weeks, and I don't even remember the details of it. I do get hit abruptly with anxiety from time to time in public places which is never nice. I have ways to deal with it. Sometimes just focusing on my breathing makes it pass. Other times I need to do more. As an example, yesterday I accompanied my husband to a tattoo sitting of his. I was 100% fine when we arrived but slowly felt the anxiety build as he was being tattooed. Suddenly my stomach began to gurgle. My pelvis began to feel full and swollen and in pain. My heart rate rose and I could feel my breathing was off. I stepped outside to call a friend. I spoke with him for about 20 minutes, walking in circles around the neighbourhood. The more we talked and the more I walked, the more it passed. This friend has been a friend since childhood and was a witness to my years of anxiety/depression/medication issues in high school - so I never feel "silly" speaking with him. Eventually it subsided enough I could return to the shop. It wasn't gone, but much more manageable. No tears, no extreme fear...just anxiety that ALWAYS passes. If you struggle with any kind of anxiety, remind yourself over and over and OVER again...it will never last forever - there is always an end to it.
Nowadays the waves can be a day long or a few weeks. They aren't as intense as they once were and the good news is that I now know they ALWAYS end. Eventually there will be no waves at all. I'm sure I'll always deal with some anxiety - along with 90% (or more) of the world's population. It's not strange. It doesn't make you weak...in fact, I believe it's quite the opposite! To live with anxiety and to learn the tools you need to work through it takes a strong individual! It can take years to "master" and we probably never fully master it. But we can become good at it.
I recently visited my family doctor for a yearly check-up. I listed my existing symptoms and was thoroughly checked. Her only explanation for my nausea and pain is the benzodiazepines. My central nervous system needs time to heal and eventually it will settle again. It's well on it's way...it just needs to sort out a few kinks.
With the help and support of an incredible husband and daughter, as well as amazing family and friends, I have (for the most part) beaten the "benzo beast". Never again will I have to deal with this...