Recently, I left for
Denver to go visit
my daughter. I was afraid to drive my car due to a minor rattling noise that
had been coming from the engine for a long time. I figured I'd take a risk
anyway. About 3 hours outside my small town of Durango on a long stretch of
highway, I pressed hard on the gas pedal to get around a car in front of me. I
had the music playing loud, but eventually heard this minor "rattling noise"
gone earthquake! My heart jumping out of my chest, I turned the music off and
just prayed like crazy to be
able to see a place I could quickly pull over. About 15 minutes later, I saw a
sign for Poncha Springs, a tiny town next to Salida. I made it to an auto
machanic who told me I "need a new engine."
As I begin to write my story, it occurs to me that this car situation is not
much different than being broken from
benzodiazepines (benzos). My car engine was slowly dying over time,
just like I was slowly "dying" from benzos, until eventually, when I decided to
come off them, my life came to a screeching halt. My broken engine stopped me
while I was on my way to somewhere.
My broken benzo brain stopped me while I was
on my way to somewhere. I had great
plans for my future and these drugs stopped my ability to "drive" my own life.
It's now six and a half years later since I came off the benzos and my "engine"
is still being rebuilt. My life will never be the same.
It is extremely difficult and painful for me to go back and relive my benzo
story: Including the time I was on benzos, the time I came off them, and all
that I have lost since then. I continue to pick up all the scattered broken
pieces. While my car is still broken down, a friend of mine is letting me
borrow her car...the same car I had while I was on benzos and that she later
purchased from me. As I drive it now, I barely remember driving it so long
ago. It's like this car was driven by someone else who was lost in time. I was
under the "Spellbinding Effect"
(termed by Dr. Peter Breggin) and I had no idea how
gone I really was.
My benzo nightmare story began the day I walked into my local Mental Health
Center in July, 2003. I had been raising my daughter by myself for many years
since her birth and was currently enrolled in college full-time. Naturally, I
was a little stressed. I made an appointment to see a counselor and she
referred me to a Nurse Practioner (NP). I told this NP that I was having
trouble sleeping from anxiety that I felt was caused by the stress I was under.
Trusting his authority and education, I asked him if he could "please not give
me anything addictive." He assured me "not to worry" and that "I would be
According to my local mental health records, my NP prescribed 1 mg of Ativan for
sleep in April, 2003. Four months later I went back to him to tell him I
thought I was becoming addicted to it and asked if he could please give me
something else that was not addictive. He then prescribed me 0.5 mg Xanax (and
10 mg of Ambien for the next few months). Almost a year later, he switched me
back to 1 mg of Ativan. Four months later, he switched me to 1 mg of Klonopin.
Three months later he increased my Klonopin to 2 mgs and to take "as needed
during the day." Five months later, after having gone up to 2.5 milligrams and
having unbearable Tolerance Withdrawal
in between doses, I knew it was time to either go up to 3 milligrams or come off
the drug. This was my last benzo prescription on July 11, 2006 before I entered into total ~
Benzo Hell ~ withdrawal.
My NP never informed me that benzos are extremely addictive, nor did he explain
the dangerous side effects they cause or the unbearable withdrawal I would
endure should I ever decide to come off them. Now I know that he should have
never prescribed them beyond 2 weeks. Really
never at all. Instead, he increased my dose over time just so I
could get to sleep at night. And after awhile, I had to start taking them
during the day because of the extreme increase of anxiety caused by
Interdose Withdrawal. The day I
decided to come off the benzos was when I realized not only had I become
seriously addicted, but also that my cognitive abilities were shot. I had lost
my ability to remember, concentrate, comprehend, and to think logically. My
speech and vision were impaired, I had no emotions, I was detatched from
reality, and I felt terribly disconnected from other people (Derealization:
nothing around me was real) and disconnected from myself (Depersonalization:
I didn't feel real). I finally realized IT WAS THE DRUG!!!
Terrified of these effects, I tapered myself way too fast in 3 months time (now
I understand this is the same as quitting Cold Turkey). I had no idea that there
is ~ a right way ~ to taper off benzos, or of all the online support groups
available for support, or the Ashton Manual
with tapering instructions provided in detail. All I knew was that
Benzos had impaired my brain in ways that terrified me beyond comprehension and
that I had to get off them
The mental torture I felt from the initial withdrawal was incredible. Words
cannot describe what I went through. I will never forget coming completely ~
undone ~ and mentally spiraling out of control. I lost my sense of balance, I
could not walk, shower, cook, drive, or
anything. I would literally crawl around on the floor from one room
to the other. It was so hard to breathe, that at times I had to use a small
brown paper bag to help. I felt things crawling on my skin (that weren't there)
and burning sensations throughout my body. When I turned my head, I would see
lines of light. I couldn't read or write. My muscles twitched. I had tremors
and mini-seizures. I spoke extremely fast. Everything spinned around me.
I had ringing in my ears (Tinnitus). My heart raced, body sweating, brain zaps,
massive confusion and overwhelm. I felt and
believed I was going to die. In
fact, I wrote my will for my daughter. I barely survived this total RAPE of
mind, body, and soul.
A couple months later while still under
Psychiatric Mind Control and believing my withdrawal symptoms were
the return of a "mental diagnosis," I went to see a psychiatrist for a mental
health evaluation. Upon completion, she diagnosed me with a new "diagnosis"
that I had not been given before. But I believed her because I had no other way
to make sense of my withdrawal symptoms that were
not going away. She decided to
prescribe me a psych drug that luckily I had enough sense at the time to
refuse. I told her I was just getting off Klonopin and couldn't imagine taking
another drug. By the grace of God she didn't commit me to a psych ward.
After a few months into acute withdrawal, the most unbelievable fatigue set in
for the next few years while in "Protracted
Withdrawal Syndrome," of which I spent mostly in bed. Since then, I
have been diagnosed with "Fibromyalgia" and "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome." (Now I
know the true causes). I had lost my ability to work and go on to graduate
school as I had planned. This was devastating to me as I always had a strong
work ethic and had graduated from college with honors. I lost my social life,
as it became impossible for me to be around people or even talk on the phone. I
developed extreme sensitivity to lights, noise, sights, and smells. It was so
hard to formulate words that I could only give one to two word responses. I
felt vulnerable and exposed like I had been skinned alive. I lost all
self-esteem, respect and dignity. I lost friends and family because they didn't
understand. I didn't even understand. Benzodiazepines took all of this
from me and so much more. I
lost my mind, my sense of self, my connection to God and my place in the world.
Life had no more meaning.
As I look back over these past 6.5 years off benzos I see that I have made much
progress in healing from these drugs. Yet I do have some remaining symptoms that
flare up especially when triggered by any form of stress: Nerve pain all
throughout my body, muscle weakness, sleep issues, heart palpitations, trouble
breathing, agoraphopia, impaired memory, periodic bouts of panic, and digestive
issues (IBS). I still have to rest often, taking breaks in between activities.
At least now I am able to leave the house on occassion and sometimes feel
reasonably comfortable being in public. My self esteem is starting to come
back. I'm meeting new people and slowly making friends again. I'm able to
drive, go shopping, hike in the mountains, and I'm reconnecting to God. Healing
has NOT been a linear process however. It's upside down, inside and out, never
makes any sense and is totally unpredictable. Recovery consists of what is
referred to as "waves" (bad days) and "windows" (good days). Where I once led a
very efficient life...making plans for everything, sticking to my schedules, and
always showing up on time, I have learned NOT to commit to much...because
I just might not make it.
I grieve terribly all that benzos stole from me. Some of what I have lost will
never be restored. I lost almost a decade of my life to these drugs that I will
never get back: Time that should
have been spent living my dreams, being emotionally and mentally available, and
being an active mother to my daughter. Benzos shocked and injured my Central
Nervous System in unspeakable ways that literally took away my life and my
ability to function. And yet, I do expect to completely heal. I am so grateful
to be free off these drugs and the lies that held me captive. I am slowly
rebuilding my life and getting my mind back. And I will NEVER forget the hell I barely survived. The best I can do with
my story is use it to help others. And
there are millions of us who have been harmed. I am convinced that
Benzodiazepines Are Worse Than