My Story Through Benzo Hell
I thought I was going to die. Then I wanted to. When I found out it was a brain injury and that my years of suffering from other health maladies were related; I got mad. Very mad. I had been prescribed a drug that not only changed my personality but had worsened the exact symptoms it prescribed for. If it could not get worse; it most certainly did when I completed a rapid detox from this prescription which was approved by the doctor who prescribed them. It was Hell. I can only briefly account what I went through here but I have written a book that is being edited for publication called Through Benzo Hell.
It started with the use of Ativan (Lorazepam is the generic) as needed after the birth of my daughter. At least I thought it did until I dug deeper. I had severe postpartum depression and was given many drugs to deal with debilitating fatigue, racing anxiety, constant body tremors, muscle aches and inability to care for myself. Seventeen years later after I quit the Benzos; these symptoms raged back to the nth degree and these horrible symptoms were added: imparied cognition, extreme muscle and bone pain, loss of fine motor skills, unable to feel extremities, derealization where everything did not seem to be real life, depersonalization where I felt I was another being trapped in a body, something called air-hunger (if you never had it then be very grateful) and many more mental and physical tortures.
What I finally put together (after many months of research and reflecting) was that I was given a sedative during my labor at the hospital that sparked my symptoms when I returned home; which was essentially withdrawals. But the continued use of Ativan as needed over the following years (all while still drinking socially) lead to the INCREASED need for more medication. I did not know any of this was happening nor had I been informed that alcohol essentially kindles the negative effects of the sedative (further down regulates the same GABA receptors). It was when I started my dream career that I worked three (3) years to obtain that I experienced something so profound that I again sought medical help. I was told that the Ativan wasn’t strong enough and that I needed to be on a daily dose of Klonopin. That was over four (4) years ago.
At first this drug was like a miracle. It worked to take away the racing heart, the weak kneed anxiety and body tremors. It even helped with my muscle stiffness! That is not surprising now as I understand that Klonopin (Clonazepam is the generic) is also a muscle relaxant. I can honestly say that I was “good to go” for about five (5) months in which I taught middle school Math, coached the girls soccer team and kept up with my family’s activities. Then life began to openly disintegrate along with my mental and physical health. Memory and tendons were all but failing. My time was divided between being upright to accomplish what I needed to (and enjoying nothing) to laying down to rest. I thought it was the teaching job which proved to be far more demanding than my engineering positions. I thought it was family stress. I thought it was my body aging. I never thought it was the Benzodiazepenes, a class of drugs approved only for short term use (maximum of 2 weeks) prescribed for as many in 1 in 5 people under the names of Xanax (Alprazolam), Ativan (Lorazepam), Klonopin (Clonazepam) and Valium (Diazepam).
I didn’t even know that the drug I was taking was in the same category as Valium! And this is not an uneducated person. I simply trusted my doctor and took this poison for three and half ( 3 ½) years while my life fell apart and I chased the individual symptoms by paying many doctors, rushing to ER visits, having surgery for my Achilles tendon, adding more and more alcohol to deal with the paradoxical effects of using Klonopin long-term. To say that I put my family through Hell as well is probably an understatement in that the raging that I did during this time was completely insane. All of these symptoms and more can be found at a very useful and life-saving site called BenzoBuddies.org. It is stupefying that doctors still prescribe this medication after the thousands of anecdotal evidence found on this website alone. Google Benzo withdrawals and many more YouTude videos and testaments will be easily found. This is not new information. And this problem of epidemic prescribed Benzo use is getting worse, not better.
It was my husband, not a doctor, who finally pulled the plug on this medication induced craziness. I was battling with him daily over the behavior of our son. Our son is a kind, sensitive boy who had obedience issues starting from age two (2). However; his defiance had escalated into school, sports and was affecting our daughter. I thought HE had to go away for residential treatment. My husband said I needed to get off the Benzos. I did not think these two issues were remotely related other than the Klonopin helped me relax for shorter and shorter periods of time as I grew tolerant of the medication (it was less effective over time). But I decided to prove him wrong and went away to a remote location to rapidly detox off the Benzos. My husband checked with my doctor about this decision and it was approved due to the “low dosage” that I was taking.
This was the second most worst mistake of my life (June 4, 2018) ; second to not researching Benzos when prescribed… But getting off Benzos and healing for the past year has saved my life as well. I was bed ridden for many weeks. I most likely had a seizure while I was alone before my husband came to get me. I then had to move out of my house in order to properly rest leaving my family in what appeared to them as abandonment. As I said, I wrote a book in order to document the process of withdrawals and recovery as it was so painful and the suffering was beyond understandable for anybody who has not been through it. It has been best described as purgatory where I was wanting to die but then was reborn. I am still in the process of healing after almost fourteen (14) months off. But my life is changed now in that I am no longer upset about being limited physically but grateful for each day when I can enjoy physical activity. I am recovering my identity as a happy person, making friendships far deeper than was possible before and reconnecting with my family after being a walking robot for many years. And my son is slowly regaining is emotional regulation after watching me through this process.
What got me through this was support. Once I found BenzoBuddies.org and clearly identified myself as being in withdrawals; I was able to begin healing properly. This included reading about what foods to avoid, what types of sensory stimulation would cause setbacks, being very careful about exercise and learning about mindfulness in that acceptance is the first step to recovery. But I also had a secret weapon that most people don’t have that I am positive accelerated my healing and keeps me on track for healing to this day: my Aunt Allison. She is an Occupational Therapist and loves me very much. After I got out of Acute (a period of time in withdrawals where survival is the only objective); Allison started me on a protocol of mindful activities that rebuild the body and brain connection while using active resting intervals for optimal healing. It was her daily support and coaching that lead me to where I am now.
I have completed my certification for being a Health and Life Coach for Benzo Recovery. This training along with my experience is helping others who have already gone down this horrific rabbit hole. My story is being shared to make people aware of the poison that Benzos truly are and help recognize the symptoms of Benzo tolerance, the importance of properly tapering off Benzos, and that you can successfully heal. Everybody’s experience is as different as our DNA. Genetics, history of use, kindling affects (where other chemicals contribute to the brain injury) and lifestyle are all factors in this. I am not a doctor. I am a degreed Engineer with a Masters in Education and am committed to coaching others THROUGH Benzo Hell so that they may be healthy.