Author Topic: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?  (Read 4917 times)

[Buddie]

Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« on: February 27, 2011, 11:41:54 am »
 I'm 15 1/2 months off valium and have made many strides towards "healing".  I am very close to where I was before I took that tiny blue pill in 2008.  Yet I understand the frustration of being over a year off a benzo and still feeling like my CNS is not quite right/there.  

 I had done a fair amount of reading on recovery, including the Ashton Manual and heard folks post quotes from various "benzo wise" type books.  During my taper, I was pretty much of the school that it would be six months "or so" to get back to feeling pretty decent.  One thing I did not count on was getting Shingles at 6 weeks after my taper ended.  Putting that aside for a moment, even though I [...] Shingles may have partly been a result of my taper and prolonged stress, I can say that by six months off, I was overall feeling about "75%".  Then I got thinking about what that meant.   Was I referring to 75% of "normal"? And what is normal?  I wasn't necessarily feeling so "normal" before I took the valium.  I took the valium for a reason.  I was out of balance in some areas in my life.  Was I referring to 75% of my "ideal state of health" if I were feeling my best self as a 45 year old male? or did I mean 75% of where I was before I took the first valium pill?  I've seen folks here long for "their old self" or "to only feel "normal" again.  That concept seems to confuse me.  I think it makes a difference how you define "normal".  Is "normal" some state of pre benzo happiness?  Can one be happy most of the time on most days?  Can one be consistently happy when you have a sick parent with a terminal disease and other day to day struggles that are part of "normal" living?  Maybe "normal" is coping with the day to day struggles of life without a pill and not feeling lousy most of the time?  Is normal  having "enough energy" to get through the day?  Is normal not being in some form of pain?  Or the normal state of human condition to be in some kind of pain but suck it up?   I welcome other's descriptions of normal.

Some folks take a benzo for sleep trouble. I had not only insomnia, but overt anxiety for which I took the low dose valium back in 2008, along with some other mild health issues (slightly overweight, fatigue, poor nutrition/eating habits and some occasional blues as a result of the above mentioned ) it gets more complicated.  BEFORE I took a benzo, I would say my overall health was only about 75-80% of an "ideal".  So "my normal" was not my best state of health if all is going great.  I was about 15-20 pounds overweight (not grossly so) before I took a benzo, was quite anxious as a result of some family stress and a sick family member had cancer.  I ate "poorly" at times (partly to soothe my stress and pain with sugar).   On most days before valium, if I had to rate my level of happiness on a scale from 1-10 and 10 was the highest, I was a 6 to an 8 with plenty of "6" days.  On the other hand, after valium I initially had mostly "8" and some "9" days when I was on that trip (I first took valium for a 3 week summer trip in which I was "worried" about stress, jet lag and motion sickness so asked my doc for the valium script).  Once I was back home, I did a c/t and ended up in the ER and reinstated. Once back to 5mg in the Fall, 2008, I was mostly having "7" days.  Of course, my father had leukemia and I had a lot to deal with at the time, but who knows, maybe without the valium at the time, I might have been a 5 or worse.  I just knew after a few months, that I needed to get off the stuff and began tapering in January 2009.  There were plenty of "3" days during taper, I'll tell you that.

Today,  I still have low to moderate anxiety which I describe as 15 to 20% higher than it was before valium.  It's a subjective estimate.  I can't explain it other than to say that my CNS seems more sensitive to stress and new situations than it was before.  Yet, I have worked on developing some coping skills and practice mindfulness and meditation on a daily basis.  I've wondered whether one can expect something as subjective as "anxiety" to diminish over time. It's paradoxical because some experts have suggested that the more you think about it and resist it or try to change or eliminate anxiety, the more it may continue or escalate.  I've heard folks pose the question many times on this forum as to whether "benzo withdrawal anxiety" is different from existential anxiety.  It seems many folks think that there is something concrete and perhaps more physical about "benzo withdrawal anxiety".  I can say that when i was tapering, a few days after each cut, I felt a rise in agitation/anxiety that I would say was a direct result of lowering the valium dose and was not related to my day to day worries and concerns in life (i.e, not existential).  I'm not sure at 15 months post taper whether I can as easily distinguish two separate types of anxiety. It's almost a blend.  

The hope I have is that maybe the CNS is still healing and stabilizing in the 2nd year, as one Benzo Wise book seems to suggest and some of you have agreed.  Maybe there is a process that is time based and may take up to about two years post taper (for some, a little longer even) whereby the GABA center somehow gets back to some balance or homeostasis.  Meanwhile, I've updated my signature recently to suggest that I'm feeling about 95% on most days, meaning 95% of the pre benzo state I was in before taking valium.   That means that I'm  feeling about 70-80% of an ideal I have in my mind of how a "normal and happy" male in his forties might feel on most days.   That doesn't mean that I don't on some days feel 90% or better, like when on vacation, for example.  Some days when I've got the flu, I might feel 60% or less but on average, about 75%.  

In some areas today, having lost 25lbs and eating much healthier diet in the last six months, I am in much better physical health than "before".  One could possibly even say I'm 100% or better in terms of that aspect of my health (diet, weight loss, exercise and nutrition).  In terms of insomnia, I no longer wake at 2AM and toss and turn with trouble falling back asleep til 3 or 4AM.  However, I do for some reason awaken at 5AM almost every morning after sleeping about six hours,  even though I don't have to be up until 6:45am (almost 2 hours later).  Is that still a sleep disorder?  I tend to think it's not.  Before benzos, I would go to sleep tired and wake up very tired.  Today, I wake up very alert and have no need for coffee to feel alert.  Yet, I am disappointed I can't seem to sleep that 7th hour.  As a result,  I still get fatigue and feel tired and lack of energy by around 2PM after lunch, something I had before benzos and maybe a little worse before benzos due to all the sugar and soft drinks I used to consume.  Yet I'm inclined to say my insomnia is mostly gone, at least the kind for which I first took that valium from 2008-2009 :thumbsup:.

I guess the bottom line is that everyone probably has their own way of measuring "success" or "healing".  I seem to have trouble with terms like "getting back to my old self" or "100% healing".  I suppose for some symptoms like twitching or nerve burning sensations, if they are gone forever, it's easier to define as 100% but for other symptoms like anxiety and insomnia, it may be a little more difficult.  Some philosophies might suggest that "normal" is that there is suffering in life.  If one is managing to meet daily challenges and struggles in life and can still find some happy moments, maybe that's all one can realistically hope for?  I would like to think that there's more, but I don't need one more thing to worry about :).

Best,

[...]


« Last Edit: February 27, 2011, 01:10:47 pm by [Buddie] »
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[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2011, 11:54:08 am »
Hello V,

I think you know what might answer is, but maybe I will suprise you.

I am one of those people that can trace the remaining symptoms directly to Klonopin withdrawal. It is easy for me, because I did not have these goofy symptoms prior to Klonopin withdrawal. I did have insomnia, but this insomnia is much different than the insomnia that I had prior to wd. The insomnia I had prior to wd was the type of insomnia were a person has very poor sleep quality with several periods of "waking up" throughout the night. Now, post K taper I sleep like a rock, that is, when I can intiate sleep. Yes, yes, the Klonopin withdrawal caused a new type of insomnia for me. A very physical insomnia where I can't initiate sleep sometimes due to a reved up CNS. This was a nightly occurrence, but now occurs only sporadically. I hope this means it is healing up.

As far as 100 percent goes. I will consider myself 100 percent when the symptoms are gone. I do not expect, however, to feel 100 percent well all the time, as I don't think anyone feels 100 percent well all the time. We all have our aches and pains and various things that bother us throughout "regular life", I don't expect these stressors or aches and pains will go anywhere.

I have seen the same studies that say it can take up to two years for the CNS to totally repair itself. This would explain that CNS still being "off", which is one of my remaining issues. Aside from the sleep, it really is my remaining issue. There are times when both my sleep and CNS seem "fixed", but this usually occurs for a day or two and then things return. This week was a prime example of that. I gave more detail in my blog, but basically I started off the week with a rocky day, but had a few days that I was symptom free or had very little in the way of symptoms. The latter part of the week, the sleep issues crept back in. It sure is a weird ride. :)

Will we ever be our old selves again? I don't know. I don't think I will be my old self ever again. I took too many things in life from granted, I don't plan to do that anymore. I didn't stop and "smell the roses" near enough. I didn't notice the little things, I was always putting off things to do in the future due to work or other factors. When this is truly over, I plan to take better care of myself and to enjoy life more than I had in the past. Don't get me wrong, I have had a pretty good life, but I know I have taken much of it for granted. When it is taken away from you, even temporarily, it sure makes you appreciate things more in the long run.

[...]

[...]
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2011, 12:17:46 pm »
I think you nailed it on the head [...].  It seems that "getting back to normal" is not some idyllic situation where there are no more problems in life, no stresses or worries.   Maybe "normal" in life is a struggle, at least at times. Being "100% healed" if one can use that term, will not mean feeling 100% all or even most of the time.

 I guess when one takes a pill to try and help "deal with anxiety" (which you did not do, but I did), one is trying in a way to not deal with problems in life, cover them up in a sense, make them feel less intense, even make them go away for a while.  So that is why my own benzo recovery seems linked to broader issues of happiness and stress management since I took that first valium to in a way make things calmer in a life that was quite stressed out with such things as having a parent with terminal cancer, an emotionally disturbed sibling who makes life difficult when I visit my sick parent and other day to day life issues.   In your case, it seems that you had a pretty good handle on life before benzos, with the exception of taking on too much work with two jobs that led to a "sleep disorder".  We all come to a benzo for different reasons I guess.  I do agree with what you have said about "taking things for granted".  Going through benzo addiction and a benzo taper or a c/t is a wake up call in many ways.  One can realize that one had it pretty darn good when compared to some of the downsides of being into benzo withdrawal.  No doubt we've come a long way on this journey.  I am, like you, very grateful for many things, people and blessings  in life that I never thought twice about.   One can't help but feel grateful  to make it through to benzo freedom even if a few stubborn symptoms remain.  It's interesting that your insomnia seems to have morphed into something different.  Mine has too in the sense that I never had an issue of waking up at 5AM after six hours of good sleep.  My issue was waking up a few hours after going to sleep (at 11PM), up at 2 or 3AM and not being able to get back to sleep til 4AM or so.  Yet I don't really call my current situation "insomnia" because I am able to sleep for long enough to wake up feeling pretty rested.  No doubt, the whole benzo healing thing is a transitional one which is not linear, it ebbs and flows and one really can't "control" it.   In some ways, letting go and accepting some of what shows up seems like half the battle.  I'm right there with ya about feeling like a different person in many regards.  Old self?  New self? Better self?  I guess one has to be careful about throwing out the old for the new.  Ultimately, integration seems like a more viable strategy.  I'm curious [...] and others.  Where would you have rated yourself on a "happiness" scale before benzos, at six months off benzos and today?

Best,

[...]
« Last Edit: February 27, 2011, 01:12:05 pm by [Buddie] »
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2011, 09:40:55 pm »
[...],

I have had these exact thoughts.  But..... when I had a really clear window I felt 100% me.  I enjoyed just being.  Didn't feel any underlining anxiety.   Did think about wd or benzo's.   All my dreams, positive thoughts of now, past and future came back.  I enjoyed my "space" that I occupied here and my body.  It was really great and the best part was that I didn't doubt or rate "my health" or "me" at that moment as we tend to do every second in wd. 

I even let my my thoughts gravitated towards things that "before" benzo I feared and I didn't FEEL fear or anxiety imagining doing it!  Instead I laughed and said "God what was I so afraid of".  "I CAN do that.  It isn't scary anymore."  Maybe anxiety is relative.  Once you experience such a extreme such as in wd that "normal" anxiety looks like a piece of cake.

If it wasn't for these breakthrough moments I would REALLY be questioning myself and my future.  I would [...] that I would be living with some residual amount of anxiety my whole life.  These windows are my saving grace.  Problem is that they don't last long and are few and far between.  Dang!

[...] really stated something in another thread that really struck a cord with me.  He said that we must "out last the symptoms". 
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[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2011, 04:39:30 am »
V,

On a scale of 1 to 10..as far as happiness goes...I was probably a 9. I was getting read to move to somewhere that I had always wanted to live, change careers, etc. etc. I felt completely blindsided by this whole experience.

The odd thing for me is, now I just want to make it through to the end of the benzo withdrawal road and I think I would just be happy to have some peace again. If I had to rate where I was at now, I would give it a 6. I am hopeful to get back to that 9 feeling. Oddly enough, it is going to take much less now for me to feel a 9 after going through this experience. I have found that many of the things I thought I wanted prior to this...I no longer care about. Material things are becoming very meaningless to me. Don't get me wrong, I want to live comfortably, but within my means, but I no longer care about keeping up with anyone. It makes me laugh now when my neighboors tell me about their new phone, new car or new electronic device. I remember being that way once too. Looking at it from the outside, it is kind of funny. I bet I looked funny to, to someone that got it. I get it now. ;) I hope that makes sense. What I am trying to say is, after this experience, just sitting there watching the sunset might make me happy (if I can do it without any symptoms)...prior to this I may never have even looked to the sky...I would have been too busy "living" life....when in reality..it was not living at all. :)

[...]
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2011, 02:38:00 pm »
I expect to be 100% again and I will accept nothing less as healing.  I never had any of the physical symptoms I have now and I blame all of them on benzo withdrawal and nothing else.  I had boundless energy before and I expect to have it again.  I expect to be able to enjoy my morning coffee again and to have wine with my dinner.  Having said that, I will never be the same person.

This experience has put "anxiety" into perspective for me.  The thought of popping a pill because I was stressed at work or because I had a hard time sleeping is so foreign to me now.  After walking through this fire, I can't imagine even being bothered by the things that used to send me into a tailspin. 

It's also changed the way I view my health.  I used to pop a handful of Advil every time my muscles ached from a workout.  It was not uncommon for me to finish a bottle of wine and not just a glass.  I loaded myself up on allergy pills and supplements every morning, even if I didn't need them.  This is also a very bizarre concept to me now. 

I guess what I'm saying is that I have learned through all these months of hell that sometimes it's better to be a little uncomfortable for a while and let it pass rather than always feeling compelled to make the discomfort go away really quickly.  Life will not always hand us perfect days, but the thought of walking around with a clear head, without neurological flare ups, or debilitating anxiety, or lung pain, or whatever else, well that sounds pretty damn good to me.  The rest I can figure out for myself without the need for mind-altering substances and I am OK with not always feeling 100%. 
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2011, 02:45:33 pm »
I expect to be 100% again and I will accept nothing less as healing.  I never had any of the physical symptoms I have now and I blame all of them on benzo withdrawal and nothing else.  I had boundless energy before and I expect to have it again.  I expect to be able to enjoy my morning coffee again and to have wine with my dinner.  Having said that, I will never be the same person.

This experience has put "anxiety" into perspective for me.  The thought of popping a pill because I was stressed at work or because I had a hard time sleeping is so foreign to me now.  After walking through this fire, I can't imagine even being bothered by the things that used to send me into a tailspin. 

It's also changed the way I view my health.  I used to pop a handful of Advil every time my muscles ached from a workout.  It was not uncommon for me to finish a bottle of wine and not just a glass.  I loaded myself up on allergy pills and supplements every morning, even if I didn't need them.  This is also a very bizarre concept to me now. 

I guess what I'm saying is that I have learned through all these months of hell that sometimes it's better to be a little uncomfortable for a while and let it pass rather than always feeling compelled to make the discomfort go away really quickly.  Life will not always hand us perfect days, but the thought of walking around with a clear head, without neurological flare ups, or debilitating anxiety, or lung pain, or whatever else, well that sounds pretty damn good to me.  The rest I can figure out for myself without the need for mind-altering substances and I am OK with not always feeling 100%. 

Once again [...], you have eloquently written my own thoughts, this experience has changed how I react to the "pain" in my life as well.  You have every right to expect 100% healing, I don't doubt for a moment that it will happen for you.
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[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2011, 05:15:55 pm »
I will feel healed when I don't feel this insane, intense mixture of anxiety/nervousness that is here for no reason at all. For me that will feel as close to 100% as I can get as an imperfect person who is getting older every day and raising a family in a dangerous, unpredictable world.

I know that when a stressful situation happens, I will still feel stress. I know when I'm dreading something, I will feel anxiety, and i know when I am about to undergo  surgery, I will still feel nervous.

However, I hope I don't feel stressed, anxious, and nervous just because I'm brushing my teeth or flipping through a magazine. I hope I won't feel like I've just been scared half to death for hours just because someone shut a door downstairs and startled me.

I hope I'm not dreaming that this will happen for me.
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[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2011, 11:10:51 pm »


Like [...] said, walking around with a clear head, sounds pretty good to me !!!!!!!!!!!!!!  


« Last Edit: March 04, 2011, 05:05:36 pm by [Buddie] »
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[Buddie]

Re: Is 100% healing in benzo withdrawal even possible?
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2011, 09:56:10 pm »
Still hovering between 85 and 90%.

V
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.