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Val's (Tanya's) Story
A PLACE FAR WORSE THAN HELL
Will it ever end or is this my life?
My story is a little different because I have been benzo free for thirteen years and I am still living a life of hell. I have been where most of you are. I know how courageous all of you when you feel you canít face another hour of it, let alone a day. One minute youíre all right and the next its as though a shroud of fear engulfs you. You feel that this is the end - you just want to die or feel that you have an incurable disease and nobody wants to know about it - least of all the doctors of this world! The symptoms are beyond human comprehension. If you tell anybody about them they donít believe you because they canít see anything wrong and think that you must be crazy.
My horror started in 1985. I went to the doctors; my symptoms were a pain in the chest due to stress. Stress caused by running a pub. I now know it was anxiety but I didnít know that then because I had never suffered from it before. I was a very laid back person with four sons. I was prescribed one of mother's little helpers (Valium) - only a low dose to be taken three times a day and like most of you I trusted my doctor. Not that I ever went to the doctors; I didnít need to - my health was fine. But after about three months I started to get strange sensations like water running down my legs and burning patches in my body. All I was told was to take more Valium which I did for a while but I didnít like taking them because I felt worse taking them.
While still taking these drugs I never increased the dose. This started the vicious circle of back and forth to the doctors. I thought I was dying but every time I went to the doctors I was treated like a hypochondriac. I was getting very little sleep so I was given Ativan to make me sleep.
I took this drug for about five months but I didn't know at the time that 1mg Ativan is equivalent to 10mg of Valium. By this time I was out of my mind and it seemed as though my whole body was going to give up. I prayed to die just to be out of the pain. As any sufferer will know the pain is indescribable. At this point I was told I had depression so I was prescribed a variety of different antidepressants but the withdrawal from Valium and Ativan still came through all of it. Then to top it all I was put on temazepam.
I had tablets for everything: my stomach and my bowels, indigestion, rashes, and sore eyes. Even with these different drugs it was a living nightmare. I used to think: "It can't last much longer and by next year it will be gone." Old symptoms would go and new ones would replace them and the fear would set in. I would get used to one kind of pain, then a new one would appear. It became more horrific because this was all new. By this time I couldnít even sit in a chair. My muscles were so tight I was less uncomfortable on the floor. I still have this problem today.
I tried to take myself off these drugs three times but I didnít make it. I was a complete mess; I thought I was going mad. After calling the doctor he said I was having a nervous breakdown. There was no consideration given to the fact that I had come off these drugs and it could be withdrawal. So he put me back on Valium and increased the dose to 2mg every two hours. I couldnít speak properly; everything that came out of my mouth was jumbled up, and my brain was certainly scrambled.
I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where the barbaric treatment known as ECT was performed on me. They filled me up with more drugs and after six weeks I returned home feeling much better though they told me the ECT didnít do anything for me. But the drugs did! Life wasnít too bad for a few months then, without any reason, I got a horrendous pain in my stomach.
I was taken to the hospital but of course they couldnít find any thing wrong with me. I was sent home but I had to be returned a few hours later as the pain had got worse. Then I had an exploratory operation; my stomach was cut open but still they couldnít find anything wrong. So they removed my gallbladder, just in case that was the problem, but of course it wasnít as I was still in so much pain. Once again I was in withdrawal and I now had the aftermath of the operation.
It was about this time I found out how addictive these drugs are and that they were the cause of all my problems. At first I found this very hard to accept as Iím sure all of you do. I would go through the medical book looking for answers searching through all the incurable illnesses that I must be suffering from! I was in contact with the drug advisory committee and they offered to send me to a clinic to take me off the drugs. I agreed to it as it really was "now or never". I was taken off all my drugs in 10 days. I now know this process should be carried out over many months. I was due to stay there for three months but left after three weeks.
I have lived a life of torment for so many years. I am sure there are many more of you suffering in the same predicament but whom can we turn to? Doctors donít want to know; they are apart of the cause as they just hand drugs out like sweets. Whenever I went to see my doctor he humoured me and hurried me out of the surgery with the words: "There is nothing I can do. One day it will all go away." But will it?
After one year off the drugs I was put on a beta-blocker to cope with the anxiety. I took this for five years and then slowly came off. Coming off this drug heightened the withdrawal from the tranquillisers. I just felt I had gone back to the beginning again.
There are many people who are not aware of what they are suffering from because they have never been told what the symptoms are. Even while taking the tablets they reach their tolerance level and the body wants more drugs to keep on an even keel.
So starts the vicious circle and there are very few support groups about. The doctors and drug companies have caused this problem and they have sentenced thousands of us to a life of misery. So who are the real drug pushers? Iím not saying that all doctors are the same because Iím sure some arenít but they all seem to close ranks and stick together. We are treated like second-class citizens; we have been sentenced to lead a life of torment. Doctors are not gods; they are just human beings like the rest of us. Who has the right to destroy the lives of so many and just sweep it under the carpet? No help and no compassion. If they havenít got the knowledge they should not be prescribing these drugs. All they do is look it up in the drug book and hand them out.
My life has been a constant battle with doctors - always hoping but never believing I will ever see the end. Even now I am still struggling - praying that I will live again. I try so hard to be positive but sometimes this is not possible. It is a long lonely road to travel with many unknown horrors to face on your own, and who would believe it any way?
I have written many letters over the years to the media, newspapers, television doctors and the government and I have had a few articles published but the response was usually very negative. I had an article printed about me twelve years ago when I first stopped the drugs. I wrote to the newspapers once again a few months ago but I had no reply. I think if you mention prescribed drugs itís not an interesting news story.
The only real help you will get is from an ex-users like yourselves. These are the most understanding people I have met so this web site is the most helpful thing that has happened for years.
But let's not forget the forgotten sufferers - our families who also have to live through this with us. I know some people lose their families and friends because they canít cope with our suffering but itís just as hard for them. I have been married to my husband for 18 years and he has put up with this problem for 17 years. From the start of our marriage he only has had the real me for one year. I could never repay him for sticking by me. He has been my rock and so too has my family who has had to put up with my moaning and groaning. There are also a few good friends and one I would like to mention especially is Jean Jenkyns who has been there to support me when I was at my lowest ebb. She is also a victim of prescribed drugs and still suffers from the withdrawal.
A poem for you all
Thereís nowhere to hide when the pain comes
Nowhere in the world safe to be
No-where I can go for protection.
As this dark cloak engulfs me.
Itís inside and outside all over
Itís everywhere on my body it seems
It devours my strength and my mind
It twists and turns and stabs till I scream.
My bones feel like they are broken.
My muscles ache like red raw.
Even the roots of my hair hurt.
From outside to inside I am sore.
Thereís nowhere to turn when the pain comes.
It runs so much faster than me.
But all around me just stop and stare.
For inside the hell they canít see.
To spend one minute in my shoes.
To tell those horrors I feel.
Perhaps only then would they understand.
That the pain is so terribly real.
With nowhere to go when the pain comes.
Then surely they would all see.
The struggle I have and the effort I make.
To live my life simply as me.
Finally I would like to say a big thank you to Dr Reg Peart who is president of VOT (Victims of Tranquillisers) for all the endless years of fighting for our rights.
Thinking of you.
Lots of hugs,
July 2, 2002
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