3/23/11—Tomorrow is my seven months off anniversary. What I’ve been noticing lately is precisely what I encountered the first time I quit Klonopin. During the first several months (the acute phase), progress is really noticeable, but then it slows down dramatically and grinds to a halt.
The first time I did this, not being aware of how long nerve healing can take, I assumed that I was as healed as I was going to get. This (along with other factors) eventually lead to my reinstatement onto the drug as I was desperate to regain a reasonable quality of life. I know better this time, but this part of recovery still presents a significant challenge for me.
Assuming that I’ve once again reached the part where I’ll no longer have the satisfaction of seeing my symptoms lessen (and that’s by no means a given), it’s now a waiting a game: my resolve to overcome this thing versus its resolve not to loosen its grip on me. Fortunately, I know I can outwait it. I have all the success stories of those who’ve gone before me to carry me through. And the prize of my eventual health and happiness.
What I recall from my last go-round was how much depression contributed to my eventual reinstatement. I wasn’t suffering depression as a withdrawal syndrome-related symptom, but rather situational depression. Understandable given the circumstances. So, keeping depression at bay is crucial this time around. Not that I would reinstate. That will never happen again. Still, while I’m waiting to turn that corner symptom-wise, I’d prefer not to be drowning in depression. So I’ve constructed a plan to defeat it.
Nowadays, most people in the Western world attack depression with pills and talk therapy. As far as pills go, I’m still on a small amount of Celexa (which I plan to taper). It does nothing for me. And I’m certainly not interested in adding more drugs. That’s how I ended up in this fix to begin with. Talk therapy is out of the question too. My insurance doesn’t cover it and, even if it did, I couldn’t even afford the co-pays. So, the traditional options are closed to me.
What does that leave me? Well, how about good common sense and deductive reasoning? Why am I depressed? Yes, I feel bad physically and I’ve lost quite a bit as a result of this journey through hell. No doubt, that’s depressing. But I think it’s more basic than that …
Human beings have certain needs beyond air, food, water and shelter. We’re social creatures. We need to be around and communicating with other people. The Internet can ease the enforced isolation that some of us encounter, but it’s no substitute for being out there in the world. Also, we need a sense of purpose. Most of us find that in our jobs, our education, our families, our friends, our social activities, in volunteer work and in spiritual observances. We need to feel like our lives make a difference. It’s hard to feel that when you’re holed up long-term, passively waiting to recover. And, finally, we need hope. I know I can get through anything if I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The thing is, the tunnel has some curves, so the light isn’t always visible. But it’s there.
So, to combat depression, I need to acquire these “ingredients.” Here’s how I plan to do it …
Social contact. On most days I would prefer to not leave my home. Having to fake normality is draining. Hell, just making myself presentable to leave the house can be daunting. However, my new rule for myself is that I’m not allowed to say no to invitations unless it truly isn’t feasible. Additionally, if invitations aren’t forthcoming, then I have to come up with things to do on my own. Also, I’m now enrolled in a water exercise class. That’s somewhere that I have to be two times a week. I notice that because I paid for this, I’m less likely to cancel. (Bonus: There are numerous articles citing the benefits of exercise with regard to depression.) And, I’m looking at going back to school to train for a second career. (Hey, I’ll need to earn a living once I’m recovered.) All of this should provide me with significantly more social interaction than I’ve been getting up to this point.
A sense of purpose. I wish I could derive some satisfaction from cleaning my house, but Suzy Homemaker I’m not. And it shows. But that’s a whole ’nother blog entry for some future date. My biggest goal is To Get My Life Back. With capitals and italics. And maybe some flashing lights. (Luckily for your eyes, I don’t know the code for that.) Recovering from this thing is essential to that, but so is having a worthwhile job once I’m healthy. And to that end, I’m going back to school (also a future blog entry). I also find a lot of purpose in doing this; in reaching out to others who have encountered the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome and in attempting to bring greater awareness of it to others outside of our circle.
Hope. A lot of my friends find their hope in their faith. I’m agnostic, so I don’t really have that. Still, I do pray. To the God who might or might not be there. To the universe. Or to nothing at all. I find that the internal verbalization of it can sometimes be as helpful as unloading on a flesh-and-blood listener. I also find hope in the success stories of those who’ve come before me. (All of the benzodiazepine withdrawal support forums online have sections devoted to success stories.) And I find hope with my fellow sufferers. Inevitably, when I’m having a bad day, one of them is having a better day and is there to remind me that “this too shall pass.”
I’m tempted to leave off the symptom list/rating section this month as none of the numbers have budged, but have decided to stick with the format for now …
These are my symptoms, listed in order of severity (most to least), each rated with a number 0-10 (0 = nonexistent, 10 = unbearable) …
Muscle symptoms & resulting pain—6 (at six months off was a 6)
This is my most hated symptom.
Insomnia—4.5 (at six months off was a 4.5)
I could probably do better with this one if I would make some simple concessions to good sleep hygiene. Ah, something to work on.
Muscle tension headaches—4 (at six months off was a 4)
Many of my “benzo friends” report having “a tight band around their head.” I often have that too, but include it with this symptom.
Internal pressure & heaviness—4 (at six months off was a 4)
Dizziness, light-headedness & poor balance—4 (at six months off was a 4)
Tinnitus—2.5 (at six months off was a 2.5)
It’s possible that this symptom has lessened since last month, but not enough to rate a 2.