Tuesday, 28 October 2008


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.


S. said...

I want to cheer and weep at the same time.

Seahorse, wow! Almost clear!

greenwords said...

This seems like such a feeble word after all you've been through, but I'll say it anyway - congratulations!

Cusp said...

Well Bravo to you and all the courage it takes to be free of the things that do not help. With the best will in the world, when we're really ill, scared, well-meaning professionals can offer stuff that, in desperation, we'll try (even knowing at some deep level that it's not right for us.) Sometimes the professionals get it wrong. It takes a bucket of strength to turn round and say 'You made a mistake and I made a mistake in accepting your advice' but you've had that strength and now your courage is being rewarded.

Bless you x

The Goldfish said...

Congratulations Seahorse - and the very best of luck with the next week or so. It has been a long haul, and the rest of us can only imagine what hard work this year has been. Are you going to do something to celebrate?

Reading the Signs said...

It is probably timely that I read this, Seahorse, as you so clearly outline the danger in dependency on these drugs; and I am at this point in time occasionally using Valium at night either to help get to sleep or get back to sleep if I wake in the night. Only 2mg, but still - even after a few nights in a row I can feel the lessening of their effectiveness. And today a friend of mine recommended Zopiclone and I was tempted. But now I will tread very carefully indeed before taking any such substance. It isn't that one doesn't know about all you describe - it's just that until you come up against the reality of someone whose life has been harmed by it, as yours was, it is easy to push into the background as something that would probably never happen to oneself.

Thank you for posting, and I wish you much joy of all the days to come.

seahorse said...

Thank you, all of you, for being so kind and sharing in my sense of victory. I am enjoying this week as much as I hoped I would.

S: I've been doing plenty of both. It's dizzying!

Greenwords: It's nice to be congratulated, and I may post each time I've quit a drug, so there may be more celebrations to come :-)

cusp: I'm looking forward to my meeting with my shrink in November. Especially as I'm reading (or attempting to read) Foucault at the moment. Madness and Civilization.

Goldfish: To be honest this part is proving not too bad. Bit more pain, bit less sleep but the prospect of smoother waters ahead. I am celebrating by treating myself to the latest cameraphone and a printer. The Nikon is still sadly unattainable, but if I start saving now, by the time I've quit all drugs I will be able to afford one. Actually, that's not a bad idea :-)

Signs: If someone had said to me four years ago "Benzos are poison and anyone who prescribes them should be shot" I'd have considered them a bit extreme. Thing is, you never expect drugs to do the damage you read about in the side effects leaflet...but practically all of them happened to me along the way. I'll take pain and insomnia any day over the misery addiction brings.

Lisa Moon said...

New reader here. :)

I just wanted to say how very impressed (and that sounds so... flip?) I am with your perseverence! Indeed, you describe a long and unpleasant journey which I can only imagine was much more painful and difficult than could be put into words here.

As a commenter already said, congratulations seems less appropriate than what I might choose to offer, but since words fail me, I'd like to offer mine (congrats, that is!).

Blessings to you as you recoup those amazing parts of yourself. What a gift!

Miss Vertigo said...

Seahorse, it's been a while since I've been active on here but I just wanted to offer you my heartiest congratulations for becoming free of these drugs. I know how hard it is and what grit and determination one needs to achieve it. I hope the post-benzo period goes smoothly for you.



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