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My Benzo Story
In 1994 following the unexpected death of my husband, I was prescribed Ativan (lorazepam) for grief. My dosage was somewhat standard and through my total benzodiazepine experience remained the same – 0.5mg up to 3 times daily as needed. I want to share that I never exceeded that dose throughout this ordeal.
My situation may be different from some – I took Ativan on and off over a 4 year period – with a period of over one and a half years without any Ativan at all. As stated, I first took this drug when my husband died and at that time only remained on the drug for about a month and went off it with no ill-effects. A year later (around the anniversary of his death and also dealing with putting an adolescent son in drug rehab) I had my first anxiety/panic attack. I went to the doctor and he put me back on Ativan in conjunction with Zoloft (150mgs) which I took for several months and still managed to go off of it with no problems.
The NEXT benzo experience happened about 6 months later when I again had a panic attack and went back on it. This time, I felt "ill"- fatigue, increased anxiety, edema, unsteady – but still managed to go off it after a few months' use. I was off the drug with no major problems for over 1 1/2 years when once again anxiety hit me and you guessed it – the doc put me back on it. Well, unbeknownst to me I developed "health problems" as I started taking it. I thought I was ill (Cancer, MS, CFS) and that what was causing me to be anxious – it never occurred to me that the pills the doctor continued prescribing for me were making me ill.
I continued taking the Ativan for the better part of a year (my longest course of usage) and all the while continued to get sicker and sicker.
As I mentioned, my doctor continued to prescribe the drug for me and never suggested or considered that it was the DRUG that was making me so ill. In November of 1999 following a myriad of tests including an MRI for MS, I found the benzo "egroup" site and learned what it was that was making me so ill.
By this point I had tinnitus (ringing in the ears), extreme fatigue, muscle pain, edema, digestive problems (gas, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhrea, constipation), instability (felt like I was walking after being on a roller coaster, chest/breast pain, extreme headaches, disassociation, derealization (feeling like you are on the "outside looking in at the world"), numbness in my left foot, pins and needles, muscle twitching. As soon as I found out what it was that was making me ill I began to taper the Ativan by 0.25mg every two weeks and the last two weeks taking a minute dose every other day. I must share that as soon as I began tapering I started to feel better. By the 1st of February I was completely off the Ativan and have now almost reached the 6 month mark of being "benzo free."
Never once did I look back.
Today, I still have a few of my benzo symptoms left – but they are much milder and each and every day I feel closer to being my "real self." It isn't always easy, but it is worth it! Feel free to email me any time if I can help or if you would like information on joining the benzo egroup support group!
Seattle, WA, USA
UPDATE: ONE YEAR OFF BENZOS AND WHAT A DIFFERENCE !
Tomorrow I celebrate my one year anniversary of being BENZO FREE! I wish I could really really tell you what a big difference the last year has made. I read some of my old benzo diary about all of the old debilitating states I found myself in and about finding this group and finding out at last what was truly wrong with me.
I read letters that were sent to me by folks like Geraldine, Sheila, Yvonne, Rand, Pandora, Rosemarie, Penny, Jan and Jeri. Some of those folks are no longer here because they have moved on away from their lives on benzos. I can never thank you enough for helping me to get through this and there were some simply awful times I must admit. When doctors didn't believe me, when family members doubted my sanity, when other friends simply disappeared, those here understood, supported and nurtured.
I want to share with each and every one of you that is still tapering, considering tapering, finally off and even those having trouble after being off a while that it IS going to get better! I thought maybe I'd get off easy, be one of those lucky ones that walked away from this after a couple months off. After I'd been off a couple months some of my symptoms came back to haunt me and I thought that maybe I'd just stay that way, stuck with benzo symptoms forever. I don't have to tell you that those setbacks were frustrating, they were. But I'd had setbacks before and we all do from time to time, but if you hang in there, they do get better.
My symptoms are now about 90% gone and have been for several months now and honestly I could live this way the rest of my life and feel as though I had made a full recovery. What is left is tolerable, but more amazing is what is GONE. NO MORE Anxiety, derealization, depersonalization, obsessive thoughts, doubt about what could be REALLY or POSSIBLY be wrong with me besides benzo induced symptoms. No more tinnitus, loss of bladder control, excessive gas, severe heartburn, metallic taste, obsessive sweating/chills, dizziness, vertigo, headaches, muscle twitches, facial spasms, volatile emotions, increased PMS symptoms AND severe fatigue. I'm sure there were others I've forgotten or overlooked but the point is they simply aren't there anymore.
I still have a few digestive problems from time to time, but they are relatively minor. My energy level isn't quite where it used to be but has increased 10 fold and seems to be improving with time. I still get a few aches and pains, but they are less severe and come and go. And I've got about 20 extra pounds or so to take off. That's it.
Every time I now read a post about someone unable to drive, work, shop, socialize, laugh, cry, concentrate, sleep, relax, eat, I want to shout, "It's going to get better." I try when I can, as do all the long timers and other moderators to provide hope and strength during those times, but it isn't easy because we all react a bit differently and have different histories. We can't second guess when WE will be able to do all those things, let alone convince someone else. But it will come. The hardest thing I see in healing from benzos is the DOUBT that we constantly dredge up that perhaps it isn't the pills that made us feel the way we are feeling, but rather some other emotional or physical cause. These poisons rob us of our gut instincts and self esteem. They hit us with symptoms for which at times there seems to be no rhyme or reason.
This group – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/benzo/join – gave me my life back. Heart, body and soul. I can never give back what I got, but I hope that I can help a few others on their journey to good physical and mental health. There is only ONE magic bullet that will take away the doubt, the anxieties, the pains and disabling nature of benzos and that is TIME. The only one that can give that to you is yourself.
Some days you DO have to live "As if." As if these drugs haven't damaged your life, as if you are carefree and healthy, as if you feel and can be just the same as everyone around you. Some days you have to push yourself when you feel you just don't have any more to give. Some days you think you must have done something pretty bad to have ended up in this mess. Some days you need to look for the humor in life although yours may feel pretty tragic. Some days you need to cry and feel sorry for yourself because no one around you truly understands how you feel and how you want to feel. Some days you think you are a good person and that this shouldn't have happened to you. Some days you think that you’ve already endured so much and this just isn't fair. Some days you just don't think you are going to make it, but you DO and you CAN.
All these days and emotions and pains run together and TIME does move on. You take them as they come, trying to make each day as meaningful and as pleasant for yourself as you can. Eventually you DO come out on the other side. We all get there if we take it a day at a time.
Nowadays my life is filled with more and more normal stuff. I can once again work, take care of a sick kid instead of just nursing myself, deal with a cranky husband (hey, I can't blame it on the benzos anymore), fix dinners, pay bills, take the dog to the vet, go to school functions, reconnect with those out of touch friends.
There are many of you that seem to be doing a heck of a lot better now than I ever did! Some days I could hardly get dressed, let alone shower. Housework, Job? Out of the question. Drive, walk around, trip to the Mall? No way! Give yourself some CREDIT for what you HAVE done! And continue giving yourself pats on the back for each renewed accomplishment. Forgive yourself if you waiver, but hold on to the belief that if you can just get through TODAY you are that much closer to your dreams. Each and every day CAN be a step towards healing, even if you have to get around a few potholes now and then.
Hugs and High hopes for you ALL!
(Ativan Free One Year, Seattle, WA)
January 30, 2001
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