Acceptance, or not resisting symptoms, is by far the most important requirement for efficiently managing a troubling withdrawal – whether due to a benzodiazepine or an antidepressant. To resolve to cope successfully without fully accepting the presence of the symptoms is unrealistic and you can literally become traumatized. Not resisting the symptoms is what makes the difference between barely surviving withdrawal and coping well.
The best way to do this is to go with the feelings and symptoms you are experiencing – both the physical and psychological ones – without struggling or attempting to stop them. This is easier said than done in the beginning but it is achievable. The more you fight the symptoms, the more intense they can become. The more intense they are, the higher your anxiety levels will be.
So yes, at first this can be challenging but as you learn to observe the ways in which your body (and mind) react to what is happening, you will find that you can make a mental note of them without becoming overwhelmed. You can be a ‘detached observer’ or ‘silent witness’ – accepting what is happening, while reminding yourself that your experiences are withdrawal-induced and will eventually go.
One good way of detaching while observing is to imagine there are two of you: one is the ‘withdrawal you’ who has the troubling symptoms (but is still able to access your rational mind) and the other is the ‘non-withdrawal’ you (with the compromised, temporarily unbalanced nervous system). The ‘non-withdrawal’ you is able to make a mental checklist of the symptoms, “Gosh, today ‘withdrawal me’ is feeling shaky and very scared. The thoughts have returned and my muscles are hurting.” Then before getting caught in that downward spiral of resistance and struggle, the ‘non-withdrawal’ you can say, “Okay, this is how it is today. Nothing I can do but breathe through it, wait and keep telling myself that this won’t last forever.”
Even if your anxiety levels are extremely high, you can simply surrender; resolve to do nothing but be with the feeling of your hands shaking, heart beating fast, agitation or however it manifests. You will eventually notice that with practice you will be able to accept that what is happening is a necessary part of your healing – your journey to recovery.
For coping tips and self-help approaches, please visit our Resources section
Direct links to the other pages in this ‘About Withdrawal’ section: