When we are tapering off of benzodiazepines, we never really think of “what then?” What do we expect life to be like when the last of these medications are out of our system and we are living our new reality?
I can’t tell you how many times I have read on benzodiazepine support groups or heard in conversations, “I just want to get back to normal.”
My questions to all of us are:
“What is normal?”
“Why did we go onto benzodiazepines in the first place?”
“What do we expect will have changed now that we are off of benzodiazepines?”
In the process of tapering and dealing with withdrawal and, for many, the effects of benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction (BIND), we fantasize about anything being better than this reality. I, for one, can forget that I was prescribed clonazepam (Klonopin) because I was suffering from the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. Many others were prescribed a benzodiazepine for anxiety or insomnia.
Frankly, my normal was nothing I want to relive, and we often don’t think about what our new reality will be.
The Next Phase of Healing
Of course, for some, the anti-anxiety medications may have served a purpose in getting the person to a better place during a situation-specific experience. For others, therapy or other support has come during the benzodiazepine tapering and withdrawal process. The person is really better and relieved, on the other side of that process.
But I maintain that for many of us, we just want the challenges of tapering, withdrawal, and BIND to resolve, and don’t feel prepared to address the next phase of healing.
In a previous blog post, Owning Anxiety, I wrote about the unexpected irritability and sensitivity that remains after two years off of Klonopin. I was just so grateful to have survived the getting off of and through, that I never thought about, "now what?" I now recognize that I have work to do and I am doing that work now.
How to Stop Feeling Anxiety about Anxiety
Working with Easing Anxiety is another way that I am dealing with my new normal. I am exploring the meaning of anxiety and pain, learning strategies that work for others, and trying out the tools and skills to help me day-to-day. It is a work in progress, and not a walk in the park.
I have also come away with a greater appreciation for the meaning and importance of anxiety. My challenge is working on — not being anxious about — being anxious.
You don't get rid of [anxiety] by trying to get rid of it. — Tim Box, How to stop feeling anxiety about anxiety
In his YouTube video, How to stop feeling anxiety about anxiety, Tim Box reminds us that anxiety tells us when something needs our attention. It is the internal voice of concern.
I had to laugh when he said that there are two kinds of people who don’t feel anxiety: dead people and psychopaths. I was happy not to be a member of either of those two groups!
I feel great relief when I hear from him and others that anxiety is an emotion with a purpose. It is a natural and vital part of our human experience. But, it leaves me with one essential question:
How do I understand it for the important part of me that it is, and reduce its negative effects?
Tim Box was able to reduce his experience of anxiety using three strategies:
Refuse to believe that you are ill. That is, decide not to feel anxious about being anxious (of course, easier said than done!).
Work on understanding what anxiety is trying to tell you.
Always be kind to your anxiety and anxious feelings, “If you beat yourself up, you just end up beaten.”
Again, while it is easier said than done, he suggests that we treat anxiety as a trusted friend. This is an important reframing of our experience, one that we continue to have even when the medications are well out of our system.
Meaning making, reframing, and new strategies – this is what Easing Anxiety is all about. What D and I are working on with the Easing Anxiety community, is to answer the question, “After benzos, then what?”
Lots of questions have been posed in this blog post, please let us know if you have answers for yourselves, or other questions you'd like us to answer.
Box, Tim. How to stop feeling anxiety about anxiety. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZidGozDhOjg.
Chervin, Doryn. Owning Anxiety. Easing Anxiety. October 12, 2023.
For Informational Purposes Only
All information presented on Easing Anxiety is for informational purposes only, and should never be considered medical or health advice. Withdrawal, tapering, or any change in dosage of benzodiazepines or any other prescription drugs should only be done under the direct supervision of a licensed physician.
This article was written by a living, breathing human.
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