It's nearly upon me. A whole ten months have gone by and I will in a matter of days be free of benzodiazepines.
Before I harp on I know there may be some people reading who use or have used these drugs, and sometimes for good reason. In fact there are often sound reasons why people turn to prescription medication. But in my own experience the damage far outweighed any benefit there could have been. For a start I have a liver condition that makes metabolising drugs difficult. In itself it is harmless jaundice, but put my liver under strain and the jaundice can become a bit more serious. I also have a neurological condition that is not necessarily helped by bucket loads of psychiatric medication. And they were forced on me rather than taken willingly. I'll stop short of denouncing benzos as pure evil, but they have certainly represented that in my life.
Back in January I decided it was time to be less drugged. To achieve my long term goal (my whole withdrawal programme spans three years - still three other drugs to go) I initially needed an increased dose of Valium to wean myself off the sleeping pill Zopiclone. This was achieved in a few weeks, and then the long Valium taper began. I descended into a persistent brain fog and my functioning became extremely basic. My outlook also became markedly myopic. I am too ashamed to link to my contribution to BADD this year, but it was me going on about myself in a way that had very little to do with Disablism or Blogging Against it. It was the drugs so I can only express regret and hope to do better next year ;-)
I didn't even know I'd become so introspective until I really started to emerge from it. In recent weeks I've been blessed with a rebirth of my senses. It started with colours over the summer. Then I started to enjoy cooking again, and savoured aromas and flavours in a way that brought back memories of four years ago. Being on Valium, in my case, has been like being buried alive. So coming to life again has been a revelation and a really unique experience. After my senses words started to return, then feelings. And for a while that was very hard, as I had a lot of feelings coming at me at once.
I had a rough time with each reduction in medication on my taper. I reduced at a rate of 1mg a month and suffered IBS, stomach cramps, muscle spasms, hypomania and sensory disturbance with each cut. I've also been through rage, paranoia and intense misery. The Samaritans came in handy a few times. I'm currently at 0.5mg and am soon cutting to 0.25mg. As I said, it'll be a matter of days and I'll be free.
And here's where the benzo rant comes in. It is indeed a freeing, a release from a purgatory I would not wish on my worst enemy. My heart sings with every new feeling of contentment, happiness, joy even, that comes my way. In many ways I still have many restrictions in my life, but somehow knowing that they are not down to being under a chemical soup, I accept them more readily and with less hopelessness. I still use a mobility scooter, cannot work, read at length, watch TV or films much, and still find listening to music tiring and confusing. So my CNS is still jangled, to say the least. I still need a minimum three rests a day. And I don't expect a miraculous cure at the end of all this.
But what is important to me is recovering my Self. Pretentious? Possibly, but when you have actually had your essence removed by the very people who are supposed to be 'caring' for you, when you realise that you are far better off without input from mental health services, when you go through emotions like betrayal, anger, grief and disbelief, the Self returning is a triumph.
To recover one's Self when it has been so abused as to have felt like little more than a bloodied, maimed corpse is freedom indeed. The internalised sobbing, sometimes screaming, that punctuated my days has at last receded. I have been held hostage, so to be free is to feel joy and to know that more joy is coming to my life.