22 Months Off - Doing Well! Success! - Read for Encouragement
I put little headings throughout to help the reader - as I remember how difficult reading was for me at times.
Quick Summary -
Cold Turkied from 1 mg Ativan, 5 mg Diazepam and Ambien (rotated with Restoril). Got back on just the 5 mg Diazepam 3 weeks later and tapered in two weeks. On meds for sleep - trying to figure out a fatigue issue, which was later found to be food allergies, of all things. Intense symptoms. Difficult recovery. Made it through. Doing well.
Why I got on benzos -
I was experiencing extreme fatigue along with other random symptoms. Could not figure out what was going on. Looked into all sorts of things. Ended up doing two sleep studies that were inconclusive. Doctor gave me sleep meds in case it would help - I was desperate to feel better. We thought it was possible that my sleep quality was poor and the fatigue resulted from that. We were wrong,... The fatigue was caused by food allergies. We figured it out a few months after I got on these meds. I thought they were helping me sleep, so I stayed on them for a total of nine months before telling my doctor I no longer wanted to take them. The main reason I decided not to take them was that I started to get the "hangover" effect and knew I really didn't need them anyway.
Cold Turkied -
Per my doctor's advice, I abruptly stopped taking Ativan, Diazepam and Ambien in January of 2008. The withdrawal symptoms were so extreme that I felt like I was BARELY clinging to life. The only warning he gave me was that I may have trouble sleeping for a few weeks. Ridiculous! I hung in there in for three weeks with horrid anxiety, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, and much more that would take too long to list.
Tapered Off of Just Diazepam in 2 Weeks -
After cold turkeying, at three weeks off, I called my doctor to tell him how horrible it was - he then said to get back on just the 5mg of Diazepam (Valium) and taper it off in two weeks. I did. It helped stabilize things a bit, but I was still in bad shape!! Thank goodness, I happened to not be working at the time...
Facing Life Difficulties in the Midst of Withdrawal -
About 6 weeks after what I call a "cold turkey," my husband got the flu and it went into pneumonia and then sepsis (a system wide infection that can be fatal), so he was in the Critical Care Unit at a hospital located an hour away from home for a while. That meant that while in such horrid condition, I had to come face to face with his possible death, be around people 24/7, have guests in from out of state, and deal with life in general... Yet, no one but him knew what bad mental and physical shape I was in. This is not to minimize what he was going through - his situation was of course way worse at the time, but he did fully recover and is doing very well now! I managed to take good care of him. However, I am still ashamed of what my close friends saw in me - how I was more distraught, more judgmental and less patient than usual.
Frail Mental State -
I was determined to push through and knew nothing about this group or any other because I was too anxious to look anything up about benzos - afraid I'd find some bad news which I did not have the capacity to handle. I was in a frail mental state. This is so different from my usual self - I love to dig into information, face things head on and even outside my own life, as a former youth minister, I have dealt with a lot of stressful situations... But, benzos made me have anxiety for the first time and that anxiety made it almost impossible to anticipate bad news, deal with bad news or even watch a half way negative or stressful TV show like... the news or... an ER show.. or even a game show.
My husband had been the one looking up info on benzos at this point - and he assured me it'd take about a month or two to recover. haha. So, I thought I could just push through it and be done.
Back to Work/ Social Intelligence -
I ended up going back to work full-time at 7 months off. However, that proved to be far more difficult than I thought. Though I was still having some physical symptoms such as bloating, headaches, fatigue, etc, the big thing that became obvious was my mental symptoms.
I have always loved people and was the type who couldn't get enough of people and their stories. However, something changed dramatically. I no longer cared to engage anyone and learn about them. I didn't care to see anyone, speak to anyone or interact. And, when I did interact, it was as if I had no social intelligence. What was once smooth and instinctual, was now taxing and unfamiliar. I felt disconnected and didn't know how to connect with anyone at work. I was very aware of being so socially inept, yet I could do nothing about it. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
Low Self Esteem -
Because of this, I felt very uncomfortable with myself. I lost a lot of self esteem. I had trouble believing in myself, and that I "can take on the world" attitude was lost, and at the time, I thought it may never be found again. Could I accept myself the way I was? Would I EVER get better? I could put effort towards it, but I did not like myself at all. I missed myself, the one that I actually enjoyed and liked and could be proud of.... I grieved this. And, having just moved to a new state, I also grieved not making those connections and being alone, other than my husband. Thank God for Facebook! I could stay in touch with friends in other states and appear somewhat normal...
No Many Knew -
Not many people in my life knew what was going on as it's tough to explain. The few I told thought it was a shorter term thing than it was or just dismissed it all together with no real interest, probably not wanting to touch a possible "addiction" with a ten-foot pole. Ya know... I don't blame them. So, I trudged along.
Barely having energy to get to and from work, I just repeated the day over and over again like a robot who didn't understand the art of human interaction. It often bothered me that this was the first impression others were getting of me! I wish I knew how to bring back the lively, let's go randomly do some "Jay Leno Jay Walking" skits, never meet a stranger, person that now seemed like a distant memory.
Am I forever changed? This is the question that haunted me.
I ended up working for one year. Six months or so of that was done from home, but still required regular communication with others via the phone.
I found that the agoraphobia began to lift a tad at around 15 months off. I became less tense when I HAD to go to the grocery store or run errands. Instead of everyone pissing me off, looking at me "because I was ugly", crowding me, and talking to me when I didn't want them to do so, I was much more at ease and could go to the store on most occasions without getting too bent out of shape. This was a big deal to me... it was a hint of my old self. Perhaps there was hope!
I didn't push myself, but got out when I could to see where my boundaries were that week. It wasn't steady improvement every week, but there was overall improvement, which is what we want to see as benzo recoverers. Mesaure by months, not weeks or days. By 17 months off, I was generally free of agoraphobia!
15 Months Off -
Around 15 months off, the social intelligence was starting to improve, though my interest in others still wasn't as intense as usual. I didn't care to stand around too long and talk, but at least I knew how to talk and didn't struggle for what to say!!
18 Months Off -
By 18 months off, I was able to revert to being the person that everyone brought their problems to again. I could take that on without feeling overly anxious. And, I could interact and enjoy others.
22 Months Off -
My appetite for interacting with others for long periods of time is still not as big as it once was, but it is growing and really, it doesn't bother me too much at the moment. Why? Mostly because I no longer have to ask THE question - you know the one - Will it end? Will I be like this forever?
I know I'm almost fully recovered and in time, I will long to learn everything there is about every person I meet once again. (This serves me well in youth ministry.) For now, I am enjoying a recent move into a new home, getting it set up, and the hope of possibly starting a family soon.
For the most part, I made it through!
Some Thyroid Issues Made Worse -
I didn't touch on the physical symptoms a lot in this, so if you have questions you can ask. (Of course we are all different.) Omce I got out of the cold turkey intense symptoms that happened in the first month, the one that bothered me most was weight gain, accompanied by massive bloating (I do mean massive). It was associated with my thyroid come to find out. It is my belief that the w/d made a mild, but existing issue way worse. I recently got on medication, which we are adjusting, but it is working wonders already! The bloating is pretty much gone now (I can see my stomach muscles again) and so are other things that were also associated with my thyroid like dry eyes, dry skin, hair loss, heavy periods, etc. However, I DO NOT want to get off track and make this post about my thyroid. I just wanted to touch on the fact that my last few lingering symptoms are being resolved in this way... so, I am indeed 90% or more there!
Doing Great -
I occasionally notice something like super smell, but they are so seldom I cannot even recall what all still pops up at times. Doing great!! Made it through. There is hope!!
Hope that helps/ encourages! Let me know if you have any questions.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website was not compiled by a doctor or anyone with medical training. The advice contained herein should not be substituted for the advice of a physician who is well-informed in the subject matter discussed. Before making any decisions about your health or treatment you should always confer with your physician and it is always assumed that you will do so.
Last updated 22 July 2015