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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Mightier Oak

If you are currently riding the waves, being tossed about in the winds of withdrawal, or you’ve been through it, you will be able to relate to this. In fact, it is appropriate for any challenge. We ARE much stronger than we know.

A mighty wind blew night and day.
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away,
then snapped it boughs and pulled its bark
until the oak was tired and stark.

But still the oak tree held its ground
while other trees fell all around.
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
“How can you still be standing, Oak?”

The oak tree said, “I know that you
can break each branch of mine in two,
carry every leaf away,
shake my limbs and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth,
growing stronger since my birth.
You’ll never touch them, for you see,
they’re the deepest part of me.

Until today I wasn’t sure
of just how much I could endure.
But now I’ve found with thanks to you,
I’m stronger than I ever knew.”

~ Anonymous

Friday, 16 May 2008

No Claim Bonus

No matter what stage of recovery you’re at – whether you’ve just made the decision to quit, you’re tapering, or in acute or post-acute withdrawal, this post is relevant and will hopefully have a positive effect on how you regard your experience.

You may have been prescribed the drug for anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms or a traumatic event like a bereavement. The surprise element is that you were not warned of the drug’s dependency/withdrawal effects. Now you are subjected to a few or possibly many symptoms and you may be finding it challenging to cope.

Withdrawal, with its many physical and psychological symptoms, is just that and nothing more – SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY THE TEMPORARY MALFUNCTION OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM while it re-regulates and readjusts to functioning without the benzo. In the case of protracted withdrawal symptoms, this is classified as a syndrome and like the other stages, is not an illness. Remembering this is very important and necessary to avoid being totally engulfed and overwhelmed.

Holding this perspective can make the difference between managing withdrawal and allowing withdrawal to manage us. Ironically, relinquishing control (by accepting and not resisting) and not over-analysing every single symptom is what managing withdrawal entails. And giving the symptoms too much focus and energy has the opposite outcome; it also hinders recovery. We can deal with the symptoms on a practical level without taking in every fibre of withdrawal and OWNING it – it IS temporary.

Although I was quite non-resistant and positive during withdrawal, I think I definitely gave the individual symptoms much too much energy (specifically because of my journalling). I know it can be difficult not to, especially when an unpleasant or unexpected symptom surfaces or keeps recurring. One’s natural inclination is to first check that it is indeed a known symptom and then to research every possible cure, despite being aware of the fact that the symptom will go in time and the “cure” might overstimulate the nervous system and prolong withdrawal.

CLAIMING BENZO WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS AS DISEASES OR ILLNESSES AND OVER-IDENTIFYING WITH THEM IS NOT GOOD. It is not in line with wellness and healing and it will hinder recovery. How then do we not get consumed by this strange “phenomenon”? With any symptom or feeling of discomfort the key is to remain grounded and use logic and positive self-talk to get back to the point of knowing.

If you’re having psychological symptoms like depersonalisation, derealisation etc. and you know their presence is due to withdrawal, then there’s no need to claim dissociative disorder or any other label. You know it is withdrawal. Brain fog, mood swings, memory impairment, confusion…. they are all withdrawal symptoms – PLEASE DO NOT CLAIM/”OWN” A MENTAL HEALTH DISORDER.

As for the physical symptoms – it’s so easy to be in and out of the doctors’ offices and diagnostic clinics because they can be painful and upsetting. Could it be fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome? What about lupus, MS or irritable bowel syndrome? The list goes on…… PLEASE DO NOT CLAIM/”OWN” ANY OF THESE DISEASES.

Yes, if anything causes discomfort or concern then consult your doctor, especially if it will bring relief and allay any fears. But also be careful about exacerbating symptoms by having too much unnecessary or inappropriate treatment that will throw your nervous system further out of sync and prolong withdrawal.

Please, please…. TRY NOT TO CLAIM A KNOWN WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOM AS A DISEASE, and enjoy the bonus of having peace of mind. (Not claiming does not mean not seeking necessary medical attention.) Claiming a disease will not make it go away, but IT WILL SKY-ROCKET YOUR ANXIETY LEVELS.

It’s the same as claiming a loving relationship or financial abundance – IF YOU DO IT OFTEN ENOUGH AND WITH ENERGY AND EMOTION, IT’S AS GOOD AS DONE. So, instead, ACCEPT THE SYMPTOMS AS EVIDENCE OF YOUR RECOVERY and in the meantime use your emotional energy to begin attracting the good that awaits you.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Reading Comprehension

My psychology assignment deadline is Tuesday and I’m affirming an abundance of time! If not I’ll panic as I haven’t accomplished much. So deep breaths…. breathe in… CALM… breathe out …. fear… I’ll have to a short rampage for Reading Comprehension – something I had problems with during the tolerance years and which worsened during withdrawal.

I signed up for this psychology course during my first longish window of clarity. But by the time the first assignment was due I was having a long withdrawal wave and couldn’t focus well enough to assimilate or retain any information. It took me weeks to prepare a far-fetched, incoherent essay – what we would call ‘a load of codswallop’ (really wanted to use that word : ). Nothing made sense and I’m sure my tutor thought I’d downed a large amount of tipple before writing.

My mark was an unimpressive and embarrassing 38%! I was horrified and considered postponing the course. But then I affirmed and trusted that somehow my windows would bring coherence and that they would coincide with my assignment due dates – the synchronicity was near miraculous! I completed that module in October just before an intense wave and ended up with an overall B grade which isn’t too bad.

Having these glimpses of the return of my intellectual ability gave me added assurance that THESE SYMPTOMS DO EVENTUALLY GO – even the head ones. At one point I never thought I would have been able to study again. If you are experiencing this, I hope that what I’ve shared here will encourage you.

I can recall not being able to connect my DVD player when I moved here because I couldn’t make sense of the simple manual. After trying for months I relented and asked a friend to set it up for me. It took her no more than 5 minutes.

I could not understand any movie or TV programme that had anything but the simplest of plots. I couldn’t make much sense of books either and this is why I’m re-reading most of the books I acquired since 2000.

Even my beloved Ashton Manual was difficult to fully understand until recently. I kept the page with my tapering schedule in my handbag but it was only last year that I was able to completely assimilate the full manual.

Scribbling in my journal was fine but it took me hours to write a simple blog post and I ended up having to proof-read and correct mistakes for days after publishing. Even now I go over the old posts and find glaring mistakes. : )

The benzo did considerable (temporary) damage to my cognitive faculties but somehow our brains recover, heal, re-regulate, readjust. Whatever we choose to call it, the good news is that THESE SYMPTOMS ARE TEMPORARY. I know that some aspects of my cognitive functioning are not yet back to normal and there are days when I feel intellectually challenged, but the improvements have been remarkable so far and I am truly grateful. Some of these rampage statements can be used as affirmations for anyone with this challenge. This is how I feel…

I appreciate being able to understand what I read.

I appreciate being able to study again.

I appreciate being able to re-read my uplifting and inspiring books.

I appreciate passing my exam.

I love being positive about my studies.

I love reading and I love being able to retain what I read.

I love acquiring new information.

I love that my analytical skills have returned.

I love being able to make sense of my ‘intellectual’ world.

I love this coherence.

I love this lucidity.

I love that I’m gentle with myself when I make mistakes, knowing that I’m constantly improving.

I love being able to share information with others who may be temporarily cognitively impaired.

I love that benzo withdrawal is temporary.

I love that wellness is our natural state of being.

Tuesday 4th March, 2008

Feeling the Fear

I wrote a bit on organic fear this morning in a reply email and thought I would elaborate on it here. I was able to relate to my friend’s experience because I used to have overwhelming feelings of fear and impending doom that seemed to come ‘out of nowhere’. For me, this fear was not authentic and I acknowledged it as fear caused by organic changes due to the drug. At other times, again while relaxed and without being aware of any threat, I would have something akin to an anxiety attack, an adrenaline surge or I would start shaking. I’m not gonna lie… it freaked me out at first! Once I realised it was a withdrawal symptom though, I devised a way of dealing with it.

Whenever I had an intense feeling of fear, I would repeat a phrase which I’d made up beforehand to use as an ‘anchor’ – something like, “I am safe and this feeling of fear will soon pass. This is the drug; this is not me”. When making up the ‘anchor’ phrase I associated it with very strong feelings of safety and courage so that from the very thought of “I am safe…” I would automatically feel in control.

Then I would take deep breaths and just talk myself through it:

“Okay, here we go again – it’s back. Ah well, at least I know what it is. Hmm… feels like I’m petrified but I’m not really. Wow, look how shaky I am. I don’t need to do anything. I know what it is and it’ll soon pass.”

And without resistance or judgement I would gently switch focus to:

“This is what is real for me…

I know that I am safe and I love that I feel safe.

I love that I am always guided.

I love that I am always protected.

I love that I can go wherever I want, whenever I want.

I love knowing that all is well.”

The main thing is not to resist the feeling. If this organic fear is compounded with genuine fear it will only become intensified. If you have a technique or some form of distraction that works positively for you, this is a good time to use it. One person I know has a beautiful angel key-ring which she holds in the palm of her hand while repeating her ‘anchor’ statement.

And as always, remember that what you are experiencing is a withdrawal symptom caused by the drug. And remember too, that benzo withdrawal is temporary. Just go with the flow taking the path of least resistance, be patient and gentle with yourself knowing that one day it will be a vague memory for you as it is now for me.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Love That

I wrote this last November on a ‘blah’ morning. By midday I was feeling ten times better. If you are experiencing an unpleasant withdrawal and your activities are limited, this is one of the most powerful things that you can do as you wait while your healing takes place. It is natural for some people to feel resistance when they first read what I’ve written; if so, just remind yourself that this is how you WANT to feel and read it again and again, for as long as you can, until it begins to resonate. Reading it out loud is even better. I guarantee you will feel a positive shift in your energy. You’ll see!!

I love that I am feeling strong, vibrant and healthy again. I love that my energy is high and that I am agile and flexible.

I love that my nervous system is now settled and balanced.

I love that my brain chemistry is back to normal. I love that my GABA and its receptors attract and bind to each other naturally and efficiently. I love that I am feeling relaxed and calm all the time.

I love that my memory is sooo amazing. I love that I am able to recall information effortlessly. I love that I easily remember the names of people and places. I love that my memory gets better as I grow older.

I love that I sleep soundly with pleasant, lucid dreams and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

I love that I feel connected and grounded. What a wonderful feeling to be able to focus and concentrate easily!

I love that my tummy is settled and that I can eat anything I want. I love that my abdomen is back to its normal size. I look fantastic!

I love that I enjoy exercising, dancing and participating in any activity I want. I love that I can do my yoga asanas like an expert yogi. I love that my body is relaxed and flexible.

I love my body. I love that it is so self-healing and regenerative. I love that my body responds positively to my appreciation.

I love that I am fully recovered and living life to the fullest. And I love that my life is better than it has ever been.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Depersonalisation & Derealisation – Affirmations

These affirmations can be used for derealisation and depersonalisation.  Remember, you don’t need to understand how affirmations work in order to have positive results. Using them occasionally will not yield results – choose 1 or 2 statements that resonate well and use them often, and for at least one month. Also, the more energy and emotion used when saying or writing them, the more effective they will be.

Derealisation:

My mind is sound – I am mentally stable, balanced and grounded. I am safe emotionally, mentally and physically. I know it is okay for me to feel connected to the world around me. I am in awareness at all times. I am a unique and valuable asset to this world. Everything I am experiencing is real and everything in my environment is real. I am in familiar surroundings and I am safe. I connect easily with the people around me knowing it is safe to do so. When I observe nature – when I look at the sky, the trees, the birds, I know they are real and I feel a deep connection. My mind is clear, everything in my world is real and I am safe. I am always guided and protected. I relax, knowing I belong. I am well. All is well.

Depersonalisation:

My mind is sound – I am mentally stable, balanced and grounded. I am safe emotionally, mentally and physically. I feel attached and connected to my body and to my sense of who I am, knowing it is safe to do so. I am in awareness at all times. When I look in the mirror I connect with the real image of my Self and every part of me is familiar and perceived as it really is. I am effortlessly in control of what I do and say. I am alive and vibrant and in touch with the real me. I am always guided and protected. I relax knowing I am grounded, attached and connected to my body and to my Self. My body, my mind, my sense of self and I are one. I am safe. I am well. All is well.

These can be elaborated upon and personalised by adding other things that you will be able to do without the DR and/or DP. It is important to use only words in the affirmative. For example, you would not affirm, I am grateful that the depersonalisation is gone; instead you would say, I am grateful that I feel connected to my sense of self.

Affirmations are fun to use and have no negative side effects!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Gratitude Meditation

Thank you for life,

For all the past lessons and those to come.

For the love of family and friends.

For basic needs often taken for granted: a home,

wholesome food and clean clothing.

For a strong, healthy, faithful body and sound mind.

For the ability to see, hear, feel, touch and taste,

and for intuition.
For Mother Nature and her beautiful sights: the trees,

the oceans, rivers and mountains,

And for the gifts of fresh air, water and sunlight.

For the animals.

For every obstacle, and the strength,

courage, hope and faith to overcome them.

For interaction with others, including those

that offer challenges and promote growth.

For those who share their knowledge and wisdom

through any medium.

For choices, creativity, and for a good income.

For technology and for simplicity.

For existing, for being… in this moment, now.

For abundance, for every opportunity,
every blessing that was, that is, and that ever will be…
THANK YOU

(Taken from V Baylissa Frederick’s ‘Reflections on Healing’ (c) 2007)

Monday, 19 November 2007

Grateful for Today

Sometimes, as I give thanks for my healing, I catch myself focusing more on the act of giving thanks rather than connecting on a deeper level with the feeling of being grateful. Other days I miss out on the present as I latch on to the idea of Hope, but only in the context of ‘looking forward’ to being well, as if life is on hold. Then I gently remind myself that now… today… things are better than they were yesterday, and for this I am grateful.

This is when I feel an overwhelming energy-shift and an inner peace and calm, as I let go of what my ego thinks my life should be like. I am learning that when I do this I make myself available to receive my highest good. Because I’m experiencing protracted withdrawal doesn’t mean I can’t make the best of now and be grateful for my blessings, of which there are so many. Thank you for making me feel at peace with my situation.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Leap of Faith

A gentle nudge came from an unexpected source last night – exactly when it was needed. Just as the remnants of my petulance over the resurfacing of w/d symptoms were ebbing away, I flicked through the channels looking for a pleasant distraction and caught the beginning of a true story on Movie 24. Leap of Faith, starring Anne Archer and Sam Neill, follows the remarkable story of spirited Debby Franke-Ogg, as she receives her healing from a potentially fatal illness through alternative therapies, spiritual practices and self-discovery.

Although the movie was about an unfortunate event in this woman’s life, it was filled with love and wisdom and had a real feel-good factor. Her husband was a pillar of strength, and Debby’s hope and resolve were infectious. By the end I felt light and even a bit silly for being so impatient with my situation. If she could make the best of a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer for which no conventional treatment was available, why was I allowing a few withdrawal symptoms (which I know will subside) to disturb me?

The alternative approaches were interesting – guided imagery, exercise, macrobiotics, acupuncture etc. – but what I got from the movie was a sense of peace with my benzo issue and how important it is to also heal emotionally and spiritually. There were many messages: “Use your disease to redirect your life”, “Hope can heal and hopelessness can kill”, and as the Chinese doctor kept saying, “No hurry worry” – slow down (in mind as well), be still and stop worrying. Reflecting on the movie, I promised myself to be at peace with withdrawal and to use my experience for good.

Approx. 20 years later and Debby is a practising psychotherapist and healer in Shokan, New York. She does transformational work with people with life-threatening illnesses. Debby, thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Electric Shock Sensations

I was in Houston at the time and vividly remember when I had my first ‘zap’. It was summer 2005 and we were having almost daily severe thunderstorms. Being of ‘unsound’ mind due to the onset of the other acute w/d symptoms – the flashing lights, furniture moving, DR, glassy eyes and other mind stuff – I thought the shock must have been a very mild lightning strike. Yes, I’m embarrassed to say, but it’s true… honest!

As the evening progressed I changed from possible lightning strike to possible exposure to some strange paranormal phenomenon! Maybe I was going to become highly telepathic, super intelligent or telekinetic like John Travolta in the movie, Phenomenon. Only when it happened again later when there was no thunderstorm did I try to figure out why I suddenly had what I called ‘heightened electromagnetic energy’ (if there’s any such thing).

I don’t want to discount any of the withdrawal symptoms as being unimportant because individuals react differently to what they experience, but while this may be distressing to some, for me it was more fascinating and hilarious than worrying. Initially I was more concerned about the brain shocks/zaps and less about the sensation of electricity zapping through my extremities. Then I concluded that it must be withdrawal after remembering clients who complained of this when they discontinued certain antidepressants. It is a known anxiety and withdrawal symptom and often occurs when one is falling asleep or trying to relax.

I was startled with jolts, buzzes and zaps throughout the acute withdrawal phase and to a lesser extent up to early 2006. However, unlike the numbness/tingling, this strange symptom has gone for good. I am grateful for my healing.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Vigilance

I agree with the theory that there are lessons in everything that happens to us, especially the challenges. Because benzo withdrawal has been so all-consuming I sometimes lose objectivity. Almost as if it’s impossible for anything positive to emerge from the shadows of such an unpleasant ordeal, but I know otherwise. So what would I do differently next time? What am I to take from this? And what is being revealed to me that I am not yet aware of.

Now that my mini (micro :-) wave has receded, I am thinking it’s time for me to register the lessons and resolve to use them wisely. I know life has many blessings and possibly quite a few more lessons in store for me but if I learn what I must from this, I can avoid a few unnecessary nudges later on.

Because the benzo belly has been so noticeable recently, I decided that in addition to a wheat-free diet I would go back to being vegetarian. So for about three weeks I have been eating meat substitutes, legumes etc.

Yesterday, this strong inner voice reprimanded me for not finding out more about these meat substitutes I was consuming, so I did some in-depth research online. There is a lot of unreliable information in cyberspace and I was sceptical, but I eventually found very pertinent details from valid sources about soy products and quorn mycoprotein.

I have often been told I am too ethereal, too open and trusting. When I filled my first clonazepam prescription I was naïve enough to believe that most if not all doctors are confident in the knowledge that whatever treatment they recommend would do the patient more good than harm, and that if there is a risk of harm, at least the patient would be informed so that s/he can decide whether or not to proceed. I also believed that they would be well educated about the medication they prescribe and felt I could not be better cared for. It is this gullibility that made me not ask any questions or do any in-depth research into clonazepam.

Evidently, one of my lessons is to be more vigilant (without being too suspicious or paranoid). To remain open and trusting, but to also acknowledge the importance of investigating/researching and being informed before acting. Got the message! Thank you.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Take A Break

It can be challenging to remain optimistic while having such an overwhelmingly unpleasant withdrawal experience.

Maybe you completed your taper what seems like ages ago and are yet to experience your first window of clarity, or you might be weaning off and are apprehensive about what is yet to come. You may, like me, have been benzo-free for more than a year but still have reminders, or you’re simply wondering how or when are you going to get your life back.

Whatever your circumstances, if you find yourself struggling to cope, please remember that you will get through this.

As remote as the possibility may seem at this time, people do recover from benzo withdrawal and go on to live fully functional lives.

And please don’t blame yourself. Because you have this challenge does not mean that you are weak, mentally disturbed or flawed in any way. When you filled your first prescription you had no clue about withdrawal and other benzo dependency issues. It is not your fault.

Remember too, that everyone’s threshold for coping varies and the healing process is different for each individual. Comparing your situation with others’ is not a good idea at this time. As we know, some people’s recovery from withdrawal takes weeks or months, and others years.

If you’re in a bad space emotionally consider taking what I call ‘time out from yourself’ even for one day. Think of surrendering fully: your situation, your symptoms, anything out of your control. Just let go and do nothing, avoid the benzo horror stories (including mine), pamper yourself, and without judging or pressuring yourself, in the gentlest way focus on whatever you find comforting.

If for some reason you are unable to do this, then you may want to talk to a friend or family member who will support you unconditionally or, if you’re isolated you could try phoning a UK / US helpline. Talking to someone who is trained to listen, who will not judge or confront, can help to relieve anxieties. And of course, there are the forum moderators and members (please see website links) who will provide more than adequate support.

Even if you feel you have every reason to be doubtful, please be assured that your brain is recovering and you are healing. Just hold on a bit longer. In time you will get your life back and having survived withdrawal, you’ll feel empowered to create an even better life than you had before this nightmare began.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Two Little Birds

About a year ago, when I could barely sit up for more than minutes at a time and the benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms were still overwhelming, I was faced with a dilemma.

Sleeping was near impossible and to make matters worse, I was perspiring profusely especially at nights.I needed a fan. This was the only way I would get even a few hours sleep. But I had only £15 in my name.

I went online to check the prices of fans and found one at Argos about a mile away, at the Queen’s Arcade, for £14.99. The problem was, I would have to pay a taxi to get to Argos or I would have to pay them £4.95 to deliver the fan.

I couldn’t afford to lose any more sleep as my nerves were shattered. If I wanted to be comfortable I would have to make it into town and back. All my friends were busy and this didn’t ‘technically’ qualify as an emergency.

I got dressed and sat on the steps outside my front door, my legs too weak to make it the short distance to the gate.

As I sat there I asked for guidance and strength to make it to Argos and back. I was apprehensive. Then I whispered a prayer, “Please, I need a sign to show me it’s okay to leave.” I took a deep breath and waited…

Soon after, two birds flew into the garden hovering around above. I stood up and walked tentatively towards the gate. The birds perched on one of the branches of the big weeping willow in front of my house as if saying, “Come on girl, let’s go.” I smiled.

I knew then that I would be okay. I started walking along the river path outside my house and over the bridge. The birds flew past me and waited for me to catch up. They did this all the way to the Hayes, close to the Arcade.

As I entered the building I looked back to see if they were still there but they were gone. I bought the fan and prepared for the journey back home.

Although I was dripping with perspiration, dizzy and shaky, I had no money left for a taxi and knew I had to find the courage to make it home.

I passed the pole where I last spotted the birds but they were nowhere in sight. I continued for another hundred metres or so silently whispering, “You are safe, you’ll be fine.” I made it to the end of the road, awkwardly grappling with the fragile handle of the extra large plastic bag containing the fan.

The roads were getting busier. As I approached the pedestrian crossing the two birds appeared. They flew past me to the other side of the road. They’d waited!

My two angels flew ahead of me, stopping each time for me to catch up with them, then flying ahead again – all the way to the weeping willow. When I placed the fan on the step to open my front door they flew away.

 

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