It was four years ago. My husband and I were emotionally exhausted. I was on Clonazepam to help combat anxiety, but my anxiety was worsening each week. I was being prescribed the SSRI Cipralex, only to experience horrific and terrifying side effects, so I quickly came off of it. We couldn’t figure it out. Why was I getting worse?
Then the day came when I sat behind our computer and typed in the search engine, “Clonazepam”. Within ten minutes I had found page upon page of information regarding such things as “Tolerance Withdrawal”…and then came the sentence, “Makes coming off of heroine a walk in the park”…and my favourite, “Increased anxiety and paranoia when patient is put on LONG TERM”. Only to find out that long-term was any period past 4 WEEKS! I had been on it for a few years (prescribed by my GP)!
I called my husband that afternoon at his place of work, and excitedly (and through tears) said, “I figured it out…I have the answer…I know why I’m getting worse...It really isn't me!”
From that day forward my husband became my personal cheerleader. He put everything on hold and put me first. Our mission was to get me off of this medication and healthy again. When I told him time and time again, “I can’t do this anymore, it’s not worth it”, he quickly shot back at me, “Yes you can, and you will…it’s hard now but it will get better. I know it”.
Almost every day, my husband would spend his lunch breaks at work searching through websites to educate us and help teach our family and friends. He then wrote a heartfelt e-mail to all family and friends in regards to the withdrawal and what the coming months would be like for us, asking for everyone’s patience. I still have a copy of it and I can’t begin to say how much it meant the day he did that. The outpouring of love from those around us was incredible. I had read so many horror stories about others coming off of Benzodiazepines and how family and friends made them out to be monsters.
“It’s their own fault”.
It became very clear through my reading, that for some people, unless you have a “real” diagnosed disease, benzo withdrawal was just an excuse for being crazy or mentally ill. Thankfully, the people nearest and dearest to me listened. They reached out and understood the best they could with the information they had. It was amazing, and I was very blessed.
My husband’s constant support was invaluable. Stress – whether financial or emotional – can break marriages apart. Some husbands would have said, “Just stay on the medication…maybe you’re better off staying on it”, or, “Just snap out of it!” But my husband never said any of it. He may have been exhausted at times, and certainly frustrated, but his love was undying. Our marriage only strengthened through it all.
There were nights of panic and pain, so intense my limbs would jerk involuntarily. He’d hold me in his arms as I quietly cried and moaned in pain. He’d stroke my hair and remind me, “It passes…remember it always goes away”.
He sat with me as I dry heaved, rubbing my back as I cried and breathed through the intense nausea that lasted for months.
He sat with our daughter through her hour-long piano classes (something I was supposed to do with her but got too sick to stick with). This was NOT a favourite of his, but he did it without complaint.
He stayed in with me when he could have gone out to join a friend for the evening. I felt guilty, but he’d always say, “You would do the same for me”. It was as simple as that. No questions. It’s just what you do when you love someone.
He even opened up to his coworkers and bosses about my withdrawal. Instead of being embarrassed or ashamed by my illness, he praised me for my hard work. And in return I ended up receiving small gifts, letters of encouragement and personal Facebook messages from his coworkers, cheering me on.
He helped create a circle of support SO big, that anywhere I turned I felt loved and cared for. It was truly amazing.
It’s been four years since the worst of it. I am now 2.5 years (and one month) free of all medication. I have anxiety at times, but not much worse than any other “normal/healthy” human. I am very happy and with so many lifestyle changes, I am healthier than ever before. I've been able to prove to myself and others that anxiety and/or depression can be beat through exercise, meditation and healthy food choices.
So thank you to my husband. What a sweet reward for all the physical and emotional pain that circled us those 3-4 years. We were already best friends the day we married, but I never knew a marriage come strengthen as much as ours did. So I end this post with a quote I found the other day that reminded me so much of him, especially looking back at the day I met him in his parent’s garden in Amsterdam in 2000:
“When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew”. – Arrigo Boito