A daughter recounts her mother’s battle with benzodiazepines

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This was written by the daughter of a friend of mine. I have permission to share it here.

My mom is an addict. Or was an addict I should say. She wasn’t addicted to any street drugs, not heroin, not cocaine or meth. She took the drugs, not because she wanted an escape, but because she was prescribed them without knowing their addictive properties.

She became addicted to the medicine that the doctors continued to give her when her depression and anxiety didn’t go away. I have never seen so many pills. Prozac. Cymbalta. Xanax. Klonopin. Zoloft. Take three a day, take one in the morning and one at night to help her sleep, remember to take twice daily with food.

While taking these she wasn’t herself. She stopped telling me about her new favorite books because she didn’t read anymore. Weeds had invaded our garden and the brown eyed susans were wilted because she laid in bed instead of tending to the plants outside.

She realized this was happening to her and that her symptoms were not going away. So she decided to change. She wanted to be completely independent from any medication. She wanted to feel things. To be okay with being nervous or worried or sad and be able to handle whatever came her way on her own.

I supported her, I wanted her back, I wanted her to be happy. The doctors, however, did not. One therapist practically laughed when told that she no longer wanted to be medicated. “Oh they aren’t working for you?” They would say, “Well then you just need more!”

Since she had no professional help, it became a family job to help her off the drugs. As we found out, a person cannot simply stop taking the pills because there was a high risk of seizure, coma and death. My mom would have to go through withdrawal and detox. The process began.

We researched and learned all we could, bought books published in London, because it seemed as though not many American doctors wanted to admit the severe side effects of antidepressants and benzodiazepines, the class of drug she had been prescribed.

First step, rid her body of one pill at a time. Over weeks and weeks the doses became smaller. I got used to walking into the kitchen and watching my mom and dad lower the doses by hand. The tablets were cut into halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, eighths. The capsules were opened and the tiny beads of powder poured onto a plate, where all the beads were counted. Only swallowed 100 beads this week, try 90 in a few weeks, maybe 80 soon after that if she was feeling up to it. Every morning reopening a capsule and starting over, recounting the beads.

Each drop in dosage brought on horrible side effects. I watched my mom become someone I had never seen before. She lost over 60 pounds because she couldn’t eat, getting sick after or having no appetite at all. Every muscle in her body ached. She told me how it felt like electricity was constantly pulsing through her skin and zapping her. Strange mood swings, headaches, stomach aches, neck aches. I had never seen her like this before.

She couldn’t take care of all of us in her condition, it was too much work and my dad and I knew it. He worked nights and couldn’t always be there, I knew I had to step up. I learned how to make spaghetti and meatballs, I washed my sister Anna’s hair so that shampoo would never get in her eyes, helped my brother Jacob with his algebra homework, and tucked them in at night. The goal was for my mom to get better and I would do anything to help with that. Both my dad and I had to constantly remind them, because they were young and scared, that she would get better, even though at times it didn’t seem like she could.

The past year and a half at my house has varied from being happy to hellish, depending on the day. We could see our mom smiling one day, but the next she would be found laying in the dark in her bed trying to somehow cope with the pain and sickness. But no one ever gave up. We were all going to get through this together.

At times I felt like I had become as sick of her sickness as she had. I would have much rather gone to a sleepover than stayed home to read “Little House on the Prairie” with Anna, or stay at my grandparents’ house when my dad couldn’t get work off and my mom was having days so bad she didn’t want us around to see her that way. But I realized I wasn’t the most important one there, I learned that those around me are my priorities. So we carried on.

I came home from school, checked on mom, checked on dad. Asked Jake how he did on his graphing or matrices test, reminded Anna to clean up her toys. I told my dad to drive safe to work and that I’d see him the next day. Then made dinner, told the kids to do their homework and did mine, and went to bed after Jake and Anna were asleep.

The past couple months have been different though. My mom has been slowly coming back. Her appearance is different, but I can see her. Under the grayed hair, the tired, slightly wrinkled eyes, and wearing clothes four sizes smaller than before, she is smiling. She is now medicine free. She is cooking vegetable stir fry and baking brownies, she is braiding Anna’s hair, and she is helping Jake study. Outside the brown eyed susans are blooming.

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6 Responses to A daughter recounts her mother’s battle with benzodiazepines

  1. Kim says:

    What a story of courage for all of you. I went through withdrawal mostly alone, the mood swings causing family and friends to think it was a relapse not drug withdrawal.

    If you have not already found them the websites madinamerica.com and mindfreedom.org or .net are full of info.

    I applaud you all. I will be starting to connect more with others about one question: if I was never fully informed about the risks of the psych drugs how could I have ever given my consent to use them?

    Be well. Kim

    • “An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications and future consequences of an action.” That’s a copy/paste from Wikipedia. By that definition, none of us gave informed consent.

  2. j says:

    I love this story of you supporting your mom. I supported my mom who never withdrew. Now I am 10 days off of the poison after 15 years. I have had to do it alone. I hope you know how much you blesser your mom. You are great!

  3. So damn sad. I am in grips of Klonopin right now. The withdrawals are so horrific, I’ve had to pause my taper for over four months now and updose. IDK if I have the mental stamina to ever continue, but tolerance withdrawal is getting bad as well. I’ve never been a religious person, but pray for me and for all of the victims of these drugs. One day, I hope to see Pharmaceutical company executives and the crooked scientists who write the “objective” peer-reviewed literature that has so many, IMO, innocent doctors fooled, held responsible. Most of the doctors I have visited seem like decent individuals, just lied to, which is why they are still constantly prescribing these medications. Those behind this have got to be some of the most ruthless, greedy, sociopaths in existence. A murderer may end someones life, but at least they only harm a few people and most-likely quickly (not saying that’s a good thing, just setting up a comparison). These crooked individual have millions of us trapped in this insidious nightmare of suffering tremendously (emotionally and physically) all while trying to prove our case to family, friends and doctors, that it is the benzos that caused this. This is a long, and enduring torture. I feel like I am on trial with everyone, all while the emotional and physical symptoms are grueling. One thing I wish someone would start, is a benzo research and education site, where we can compile the best peer-reviewed research on the corruption and horrors of these drugs, so victims can print out the most compelling info and be ready to prove their case to their doctors, so they can get the effective medical help and guidance they deserve. Maybe, I could start that. I may not make it through this, but at least I could hopefully do my part to help others to give them the best tools to fight this up-hill battle.
    Thanks,
    John

    • Please don’t give up hope. I know someone who was put on Klonopin as a child. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she figured out it was the drug that was making her so sick. The problem she faced in undertaking her taper was that she couldn’t become too sick to take care of her four children. So, instead of tapering across months (as you and I did), she’s been tapering across years. I know that sounds dreadful, but she’s functional, happy and has dropped from 4 mg of Klonopin daily down to less than .25 mg.

      Don’t beat yourself up for pausing your taper and updosing. I’m sure you did what you had to in order to preserve your health and sanity. My suggestion is that you work with your doctor to get as stable as you possibly can, then from that place of stability, taper at a speed which gives you a reasonable quality of life. Remember, it’s not about reaching zero, it’s about living your life on the way to zero. Best of luck and health to you.

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