"I want this poison OUT of me NOW!"
Sound familiar? Not only can I relate to this personally, having gone through Benzo withdrawal, but countless clients of mine have echoed these sentiments.
When I hit the ceiling on benzos and couldn't go up any higher in my dose, I began to panic. The option to increase my dose and find temporary sanity was no longer on the table. I had gone up high enough than any other doctor would continue to prescribe.
I felt like an animal with his paw caught in a trap, and I was willing to gnaw off my own limb to escape.
"I want this poison OUT of me NOW," I thought loudly.
That night I dropped 20mg of valium in a desperate attempt to get the "poison" out of me.
Needless to say to all of you, little did I realize that I had booked a one-way ticket to hell, and the plane departed in about 48 hours.
(Insert the beginning of my benzo hellish journey).
I struggled for months with profound symptoms and kept calling the benzo poison. This is a fair statement, as it did feel like poison.
But here's the thing... my limbic system was listening. And it said, "OMG, are we poisoned? Who poisoned us? Here, David, let me help you the only way I know how..."
And it hit me with a larger dose of chemical fear and fight or flight hormones. Which in return only increased my symptoms and suffering. Which, in return, only made me more frenzied and wanting to further gnaw off my leg to get out of the trap! This is how circular problems are born. Round and round we go. As the symptoms increased, so did my fear. As my fear increased, so did my symptoms. Round and round.
Then it finally hit me. This wasn't poison. To be fair, for some, it can be. It truly can be something their body couldn't tolerate, but those people generally wouldn't be able to remain on the drug in the first place. Others become tolerant or develop side effects, etc., and the benzo seems to act as a kind of "poison."
Or so it would seem.
The message of this blog is that despite our relationship with benzos, or our perception of benzo damage and what the drug did or is doing, it truly is in our best interest to be mindful of the terms we use to describe benzos and our situation. We must work to reframe our perception and relationship with benzos, if only as an act of self-preservation.
The takeaway here is that our limbic system is always listening. Even as we sleep!
And when we tell our limbic system (our evolutionary installed security system) that we have been "poisoned, " we can expect a reaction that, unfortunately, will only further increase our symptoms.
However, it doesn't end there. The limbic system will begin scanning the body, running further analyses and alarms, and working almost to remove (or bypass) the "poison" we call our benzo. This results in a weakening of the effects of the drug, which of course, further increases our symptoms!
We begin to panic further, thinking the benzo is suddenly not working. Then we hear people in the forums tell us about "tolerance withdrawal," at that point, our limbic system escalates its security responses all the more.
Again, we see a further increase in fight or flight chemistry, and now even the possible triangulation onto specific body parts! Here we may begin to develop psychogenic illnesses or somatoform disorders. Which we will then go on to call "benzo withdrawal." And, of course, others in the Benzo community will reconfirm this to us.
A considerable part of our suffering in withdrawal is a self-escalating amygdala fear response, which, my friends, I can only tell you is profound enough to make us suffer in ways we wouldn't believe were possible. It makes a lot of sense why we can only look at the benzo and point our fingers. The truth is, it's deeper than that. It's more complex and more symbiotic in nature.
The point is, most likely, we are not "poisoned," We may be injured, wounded, or sick, and we may be going through profound withdrawal symptoms or even experiencing side effects, but we are not "poisoned," and it is truly in our best interest to avoid using that language. We must resist the instinct to fight the benzo. Keep in mind how this all works.
What little GABA we may have, we must embrace. Welcome the benzo, even as we work feverishly to remove it from our bodies. Don't further alarm the limbic system by telling it the benzo is poison. Or else, the limbic system may try to override the benzo, which it absolutely can do! For example. Say you're on a camping trip, and take your Xanax to help you fall asleep. You're resting for an hour or two when a large brown bear suddenly breaks into your tent and attacks you! Let me tell you, your limbic system will completely override that benzo. You will immediately awake, your body will flood with stimulating fearful chemicals, and you can flee the tent in almost superhuman ability. Not only this, but good luck getting back to sleep within the next several hours! Even after you're safe from the bear. The chemistry will need to run its course.
In that moment, it's obvious. Of course, the benzo wouldn't work. Thank God for our evolved limbic system! What a great survival mechanism. Imagine if we had slept through the attack or were too sedated to escape!
This makes sense when there's a bear. It's atrocious when there is no bear. What's real to the mind is real to the brain. Remember that. Our thoughts matter.
Work with the benzo. Work with our GABA. Stop calling it poison!
If you can succeed in doing this, don't be surprised if suddenly the benzo feels more effective.