Finding Peace of Mind in Benzo Withdrawal
Updated: Mar 22
This post is about something called the wibber gibbers, and how to avoid them. Confused? Hang with me. I’ll explain.
I just returned from another road trip. I seem to be doing a few of those lately. Whenever I travel, I always take a few books with me, both audio for the car and in print for evenings in the hotel. My latest one isHow to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, originally published in 1944.
When I read books for research, I have my process. A paperback book (no iPad or Kindle for me, still old school when it comes to reading), my trusty blue ink pen, my yellow highlighter, and I go to town. I highlight and notate anything I find of interest. When I am done, I put it on the shelf behind my desk for reference. Some books I barely mark up, others I seem to leave ink on almost every page. This book is definitely the latter and was full of insightful tools for managing anxiety.
I enjoy reading books from all eras in human history, and I am frequently amazed at how little has changed when it comes to the maladies of the human psyche. In fact, many of our modern techniques for managing anxiety have roots in ancient minds. Think meditation and the Buddha (~500 BC), identification of phobias by Hippocrates (~400 BC),and the path to ataraxia (being free from worry) by Epicurius (~300 BC).
Now, Dale Carnegie’s book doesn’t go back that far, but it has been over 70 years since it was first published. And as I was reviewing it, I just happened to come across his advice on how to manage worry through two very basic techniques. These techniques are not new, and many of us have tried them at some point in the past, but it never hurts to have a reminder, does it?
The Wibber Gibbers
Before we move on, though, there may be one persistent question lingering in your mind. “Wibber gibbers.” What are they and what do they have to do with anything I am talking about here? Well, I’m glad you asked.
“Wibber gibbers,” or WGs, are those negative, fear-based thoughts and emotions which can overwhelm a restful mind. They are the gremlins that will jump on any opportunity to kill your positivity and bring you down, keeping you there with dark thoughts and an overall sense of hopelessness.
Despite what you might think, I didn’t make up this term. Its use dates back to the 19th century, if not before. In fact, Charles Darwin actually spoke about the wibber gibbers in some of his letters, so the term has been around for a while. As a man who suffered from severe anxiety himself, Darwin knew the WGs quite well. And I thought his use of this term was perfect for today’s post.
In benzo withdrawal, we are very familiar with the wibber gibbers, even if we had a different name for them. In fact, I dare say that those of us in severe benzo withdrawal experience some of the most powerful wibber gibbers on the planet.
Negative thoughts and emotions can cause more destruction than almost anything else. These gremlins run rampant during dependence and withdrawal and they wreak havoc on our peace-of-mind. They do this by killing our spirit. They suppress our will to move and think and do things to make us feel better. They only have one goal, and that is to keep us thinking about how horrible life is and black out any messages of hope, healing, or recovery.
Now, perhaps the term wibber gibbers sounds silly to you. Well, if it does, then good. It sounds silly to me too. But, perhaps a bit of silliness just may be what we need now and then. If a silly term can help diminish our fear of something, even if just a little, and help us realize that we can conquer that fear and find a way back to a more peaceful state-of-mind, then why not be silly?
These wibber gibbers are constantly whispering in our ear. But, their messages are all lies. There is hope. There is healing. There is recovery. There are ways to manage these dreaded wibber gibbers. There are ways to make sure they do not own you and take over. And I’d like to talk about a couple of those today.
A Busy Mind
When we are not busy, our minds tend to become a near-vacuum. Every student of physics knows that “nature abhors a vacuum” … Nature rushes in to fill the vacant mind [with] emotions. Because emotions of worry, fear, hate, jealousy, and envy are driven by primeval vigor and the dynamic energy of the jungle. Such emotions are so violent that they tend to drive out of our minds all peaceful, happy thoughts and emotions. — Dale Carnegie, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”
In the above quote, Carnegie differentiates between the emotions driven by fear and those of a more peaceful nature. A long time ago, evolutionarily speaking, our response to fear-based emotions may have meant life-or-death. Our brains became wired to listen and react to these primeval messages. But, that is rarely the case anymore. Our encounters with saber-toothed tigers on the way to the office are rare, at best. Unfortunately, though, our bodies and minds still react as if we are truly threatened. And thus, we over-react.
During withdrawal, our internal calming mechanism can become damaged and our reactions to these fearful thoughts become escalated well above any normal response. Thus, if we can find ways to reduce these fearful thoughts, we can help calm our mind, and ease the physical and psychological symptoms they may trigger.
The concept of keeping ourselves busy is not new in benzo withdrawal. It has been around since the drugs first started creating problems in the 60s. The concept is simple — occupy your mind. If your mind is occupied, it can’t think of anything else. Don’t believe me?
In his book, Carnegie suggested an experiment. He said to sit back, relax, and try to think of two things at once. He suggested the Statue of Liberty and what you plan to do tomorrow. Try and think of these concepts simultaneously. You can’t, can you? Sure, you might be able to shift back and forth between the two, but you can’t think about both at the same moment. That’s because that’s not how our conscious minds work.
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Keeping busy, especially with things that occupy your mind, can help us in benzo withdrawal. That was — and still is — a key to my success. Writing my book, working on the website and podcast, corresponding with many of you, these have been my saving graces. So many of us find ourselves out-of-work during this time, which only makes this harder. But there are other things you can do. Tasks. Household projects. Planning a weekend getaway. Gardening. Learning a new language. Sewing a dress for your daughter. Studying astronomy. Reading to your child. Doing word search puzzles. Helping with homework.
One of the best methods of doing this, in my opinion, is to volunteer. Not only does helping others keep your mind busy, but it also helps you focus on someone else’s problems for a change. Sign up for a charity event you care about. Help coach a Special Olympics team. Dedicate some time to the local animal shelter. And it doesn’t even have to be something formal if that’s more than you can do right now. Help out a neighbor. Help your mom, or dad, or brother, or sister, or children, or friend. There are always opportunities to help others if you are looking.
Keeping ourselves busy can be a godsend during withdrawal. It keeps those dastardly wibber gibbers at bay and it gives your mind a break so it can focus on more positive thoughts for a while.
Yes. Before you even say it, I know what many of you are thinking. How can I find and maintain a positive attitude in the middle of benzo withdrawal? Well, that’s a good question actually. And one I am prepared to answer. I have spoken about a positive mindset many times on the podcast, but it never hurts to have a refresher.
As I was reading Carnegie’s book I came across a section on positivity — and I wasn’t surprised. Almost every book I’ve read on anxiety and depression, and there are far more than I can count, talks about finding and keeping a positive mental attitude. Why you may ask? Because it works. And if you look around, you will see it every day.
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and hell of heaven. — JOHN MILTON, “PARADISE LOST”
In his book, Carnegie gave a perfect example by comparing two famous people from history: Napoleon and Helen Keller. Napoleon had everything: glory, power, riches. And yet he once said to Saint Helena, “I have never known six happy days in my life.” Few would say that Napoleon was a happy man. And what about Helen Keller, who became both blind and deaf at 19 months of age? She once declared, “I have found life so beautiful.”
The truth is, our circumstances rarely dictate our mood. In fact, it is quite often the other way around. I have an elderly friend. She is nearing the last years of her life, and she is quite bitter. Money is short, health is failing, life is miserable. Many would look at her circumstances and agree that she has little to be happy about. And yet, that is not the real cause of her disposition.
You see, this woman has always been like this. Her whole life. When she came into money, it wasn’t enough. When her health was at its peak, she worried about a mole or a rash or a random pain. When something good happened, she couldn’t be happy. Instead, she was overwhelmed with the fear that it wasn’t going last. And she was usually right.
Our minds are extremely powerful. Far more powerful than we ever imagined. And if we are feeding our minds with junk food (negativity, anger, hate, fear), can we really expect it to perform at an optimal level?
So, perhaps we should feed our minds with healthy food instead. Positive thoughts. Calming thoughts. Thoughts of peace and happiness instead of fear and worry. No, I realize you can’t do this all the time, especially in benzo withdrawal when our minds have been hindered by these drugs, but you can do it sometimes. Just start small.
Start with today. Say to yourself, “Just for today, I will be happy.” And see what happens. Keep telling yourself this throughout the day. You can worry about all the other crap tomorrow. But for today, you choose to be happy.
I’ve done this several times, and it actually helped. In fact, I’m going to do it today too. I have to admit, I was quite surprised how my day turned out when I first tried it, even with ongoing symptoms. It helped me, and maybe it just might help you too.
Finding a Balance
As great as busyness is. As great as positive thinking is. They are not a panacea. It is important to find and maintain a balance in almost everything in life. You can keep yourself too busy. You can mask your true emotions with positivity too much. Do not use these techniques as a means of blocking, as a means of pushing all negative feelings and emotions to the side all the time. This can actually make things worse.
We have to process life events. Whether that be through a good cry, through introspection, through meditation, or through any method that works for you, humans have to process their emotions at some time. And you need to set aside time for this. If you don’t do it now, trust me, it will come out later. It is important to allow this process to happen. So, don’t use busyness and positivity as methods of avoiding your feelings.
But that being said, we also need to know when enough is enough. If you have processed the grief of this experience, but you keep triggering the fear, pain, and anger through online discussion groups, researching symptoms, or anything else that may give you an artificial high in the short-term, but leads to looping thoughts and ruminations in the long-run, be careful. This cycle of negativity can trap you quite easily.
Benzo withdrawal can be one of the most difficult experiences a person can face. Those wibber gibbers are some of the nastiest gremlins known. They are persistent, ever-present, and diabolical in their ruthless attacks. But they aren’t invincible.
Keeping busy and maintaining a positive attitude during this time can seem like an insurmountable task. But it helps. It really does. So many of us have used these techniques and similar variations to get through this gauntlet of despair, and we came out the other side better than ever.
If the WGs are getting you down, then find ways to occupy your mind with other things, with other thoughts, with other activities. Find positive things to focus on and decide, even if it’s just for one day, to be happy that day. And see where it gets you.
Take care, D :)
Disclaimer The Benzo Free Blog is for informational purposes only, and should never be considered medical nor professional advice. Please visit our website for our complete disclaimer.
Carnegie, Dale. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. (originally published 1944). Print.
Crocq, Marc-Antoine. “A history of anxiety: from Hippocrates to DSM.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience 2015 Sep, 17(3):319-25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610616.