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TWO BENZO SUCCESS STORIES FROM SWEDEN
Inge Borg's Story
Don't Give Up!
Following a period of severe grief I was prescribed oxazepam. It was supposed to be most beneficial. My doctor told me so and, frankly speaking, I was quite exhilarated through the whole funeral.
So it continued for a couple of years. I resigned from my job and went to a college of adult education for one year. My finances were in ruins. It wasn't long before all sorts of phobias and severe anxiety started fettering me. I was trapped in my armchair for five years. My doctor diagnosed me as suffering from chronic phobic disorder and I was granted a disability pension and put under psychiatric treatment. I admitted myself for three weeks.
Then, the phobias were so severe that I couldn't stand being alone for even one second a day. I asked for help with tapering the oxazepam at our marvellous psychiatric unit. The response I got was that I was the problem, not the medication. They tried to teach me to rid myself of the phobias during my worst anxiety attacks.
Everything turned out wrong, but I had the ability to shout and scream. I fought for my life. I wasn't that cooperative then which was why they forced me out of the psychiatric unit to cope on my own which I couldn't. But it was this that saved me. I found a social worker and continued to shout and scream. This proved fruitful. They paid for a private therapist for me. During this ordeal I had daily panic attacks and constant terror and fear of death. The hardest period lasted one year.
My 18-year-old son supported me more than anyone else. He gave me one year of his life. I can never make this up to him; I can only love him.
During this period I wrote many letters to the editor in our local paper. That was how I got to know Unni Torgersen. She contacted me. It was also she who saved me from the hell. She instructed me on how to taper correctly. It was at the second attempt that I succeeded after a long while. I had daily contact with her over the phone and when the anxiety was so severe that I crawled on the floor I had Unni's reassuring voice in my ear. Like I said it took a long while.
On 29th of November 1998 I've been free of pills for five years. Nowadays I have only minor symptoms of drug withdrawal and it gets longer and longer between them. Last summer something tremendous happened. I was able to travel alone to Paris. My feelings of happiness as I sat alone in a cab in Paris cannot be described. I couldn't believe that this was me. Again, I was alive and kicking and I will never be able to thank Unni enough. It is thanks to her that I can sit here and write. Thanks to her I cycle to the post-office, the bank, the grocery and I can walk alone in town. I want to thank her here in this letter and I only wish that all people who want to stop taking pills could meet someone like Unni.
I also urge you not to give up. The rescue will come when there seems to be only darkness - fighting is worthwhile. Thank you Unni for giving me my life back.
Ulla Wulff's Story
A personal narrative about a life crisis
that develops from unhappiness and
pain to harmony and well-being
My partner died in an accident in April 1980. I was 40 years old then, and my entire life changed overnight. We had just planned to marry. I worked as an eye nurse in a small town and my 17-year-old son lived with me. After about 10 months my grief was partly integrated. Shortly after this I was helped by the hypnotic Tranxilen.
My daughter planned marriage and again I started to feel some joy in my life. Then her fiancée died in an incomprehensibly cruel way. Once again everything turned into chaos; I didn't sleep well, I thought a lot about what had happened and contacted a doctor. I was prescribed the tranquilliser oxazepam. After a while it was replaced with a newer preparation called Ativan. "Take it when you need it, it has no serious side effects", I was told.
A number of years went by and then my ex-husband, the father of my children, died in a car accident. I was emotionally and physically in a very bad condition, but I vowed never to exceed the dose 3mg of Ativan per day (which I never did that for that matter). It was half the dose recommended in the GP's handbook of pharmaceutical drugs in Sweden. I was very afraid of becoming addicted to pills. It felt very wrong to solve my problems with pills but I was never offered any other solution. My memories of the period that followed are blurred. I developed different physical and emotional symptoms with for example pain in my body. My life was very limited.
I started touring in the medical service, was given more medicines, painkillers, heart medicines etc. I was treated by 12 different body therapists, went to different courses in relaxation, gestalt therapy and body therapy. I spoke with a priest but only got worse.
My personality changed, it was difficult to concentrate, to read and understand text - it felt like living in a nightmare. I cried very often, but the tears weren't liberating. I had uncontrolled outbursts of anger and started to isolate myself. Thoughts of death were constantly present as were feelings of powerlessness and despair. The last time I visited a psychiatrist, he said: "You must accept that you are a reduced person." Those were his exact words.
Somewhere, something was terribly wrong, as if there was some code for me to solve. I found the code in a radio program on which Dr. Stefan Borg of St Görans hospital in Stockholm was being interviewed. He talked about benzodiazepines, Ativan, and various side effects.
This was the code. I understood at once. I had been ill because of my medicine. There was hope! And, since I used such a low dose, I thought that the problem was solved and I threw away all the pills. That was stupid. After about 10 hours I had severe seizures throughout the body and I thought I was going to die.
Someone advised me to seek help with tapering from a psychiatric unit in my home town. I met a young doctor there. "How much medicine do you steal at work?" These were his exact words. (I was working at a ward where Ativan wasn't available.)
This was so offensive. It left me devastated with a wish for death. But then I became angry, terribly angry, and in that anger I found power. I threatened to blow the psychiatric unit to pieces and started tapering on my own.
That is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my whole life. It was 6 months until I was rid of those 3 milligrams of Ativan. At times it was hell. After 3 months I found a benzo recovery network in my home town, where I met with understanding and found knowledge. I also started going to rebirth therapy and that saved my mind. With this technique I could integrate what I had gone through. I could understand and respect myself and my feelings and feel my power and my resources.
It is now 7 years since I took my last pill. At times I feel better now than ever before in my life. And when I don't feel so well, I still feel safe, I accept it and try to give myself what I need. I learned that there is sorrow and pain in life and I know that I have resources to deal with it in a developing way. It enriches me and adds to my wisdom.
One of the problems with doctors is that they respond to life crises of their patients with medical diagnoses and preparations. These substances hamper natural healing and add emotional and physical problems. Vicious circles arise.
The medical service rests on male principles and values. Female ways of expression and symptoms are not understood. As a middle aged woman, I have many times felt deeply offended. "Women of your age, with your problems, should be put into the forest," a doctor once told me. I felt rejected, invisible, a nuisance, hopeless and worthless.
I also met with understanding and empathy but even then I experienced that the caretaker felt powerless with me.
Now, I want to make a change and make visible women's needs and problems. Our medical service needs a constructive impetus. I want to help people find their own power, see their own resources so that the joy of life and the creativity may flourish. Today I give lectures and courses, help people with their different dependency problems and every day is an adventure.
Life is fantastic !
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