I remember the feelings of wanting so much to climb out of my skin during benzo withdrawal, and into another body, one not suffering so badly. Of course, I couldn’t. I often felt like a prisoner, and my body was the prison cell. It was very disconnecting consciously speaking. I had receded into a dark room in my head and that’s where I sat waiting to be freed.
In that time, I considered so many alternatives,
from minerals and vitamins and diets, to various types of pseudo therapies.
What I’ve discovered then, and even more so now, is that it’s usually better to stick to the basics.
What are the basics?
The basics are rest, exercise, diet, relaxation, exposure, reframing and distraction.
There are other elements of course, but those are the major ones.
Notice it doesn’t read, “exotic minerals, diets, light/sound therapies, etc.”
Even when considering other meds, such as gabapentin or a beta blocker, one must be very careful as to not accidentally make things more intense for themselves. Symptoms can flare at the drop of a hat. A micro up dose, a GABAergic herb or supplement, or gabapentin can have profoundly negative effects.
But it’s in our nature to try basically anything when we find ourselves in a foxhole, with our backs against the wall. We become desperate and we think, but what if this DID WORK! Maybe we have heard some stories or accounts where this particular thing had worked for someone. Of course, then we must consider the source. Is this person trying to sell us something? Usually a good indication that we need to ignore this person’s advice.
The basics are simple, and I wish there were more and hopefully one day soon there will be more, perhaps a drug that reduces withdrawal effect, but until then, it’s best to keep it simple.
Rest when you can. Notice I didn’t say sleep. Sleep is too much pressure and too fleeting. But we can rest. We can maybe take a nap or two throughout the day. We can take it easy. Even laying down and resting can help reduce the energy we waste and allow our body to recovery a bit. Rest when you can but do make time to rest. We can’t rest if we never allow ourselves the time. Usually because we say oh hell what’s the point. I’m not going to be able to rest anyway! Hey, we never know and again, you don’t have to sleep to rest.
Diet is important. A basic Mediterranean or vegetarian/pescatarian diet can do wonders. I always talk about my diet consisting of a lot of fruit and veggies, bananas in the morning, green veggie drinks for lunch, and perhaps chicken or fish with rice and veggies for dinner. I didn’t indulge in pizza and all of the other wonderful foods I wanted to eat, as this tore up my stomach, and often the carbs gave me jolts of anxiety and even panic.
It sucks, but we eventually realize we will do whatever we need to do in order to reduce symptoms.
Exercise. Even if it’s just adding a 100 extra steps to your day. Don’t overdo it. Begin very small and build overtime as you feel you can.
Exposure. Take time each day to work on your anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, by leaving the house, if only to walk to your mailbox and back, or your stop sign and back. Agoraphobia sweeps over us during benzo withdrawal like a subtle shadow and before we know it walking outside to the mailbox seems dreadful. Driving our vehicles becomes impossible. But it’s reversible, we must remember.
Reframing. Take the time each day, and this is very important, to get outside of your thoughts and attempt to see yourself from an objective viewpoint instead of that heavily fearful laden illusion we call our ‘self’. It’s not our self. It’s a distortion of our self, clothed in fear, depression, and prolonged suffering.
Reframing means to spot the lies and the crap our minds sometimes feeds us, and to reframe those false perceptions to something closer to reality.
We do NOT KNOW we will never get better, so why do we entertain this voice?
We do NOT KNOW we are damaged and cannot heal.
And of course, the dark distorted voice can get even darker, attempting to convince us we should end it. Free our loved ones from our burden. My friends, that’s the biggest bullshit of all. The damage we leave behind is unfathomable. And things can change in a blink of an eye. But that’s the nature of that dark voice, and why reframing is so important.
Reframing is the process of correcting the lie.
So many times, I have been asked, “Dave, how did you ever endure this?!”
Besides all the other stuff I listed, and more, I got good at the art of distraction.
I learned to get outside of my head as much as possible. This was therapy. Pure therapy.
I spent more time in nature, often gardening or writing or taking photographs of nature.
I tried to work on art, and I’d watch inspirational films, podcasts, and television shows.
I eventually would go fishing and for walks. I’d try to play games, read a book, do housework, organize my shelves, throw out old clothes, edge the sidewalks, fix that old lifted tile in the bathroom, etc.
Stay busy. Stay distracted.
Every second/minute you’re focused on something external is a second/minute that you’re not in your head ruminating and beating down your chemistry and mental health. Distractions are difficult at first. You could be gardening and still all you’re thinking about is your condition. That’s fine, and to be expected. It’s a process of learning to let go 1% at a time. Eventually, you will find yourself being able to dedicate more and more of your awareness to the distraction tool you’re attempting to use.