You've heard it many times before that healing isn't linear. Well, I'd like to echo that once more to you, but I'd also add that recovery doesn't just occur on good days. It doesn't just take place during a "window." This is a hard thing to wrap our minds around. It makes so much more sense that we'd be healing more on good days because, after all, we feel better. And it makes equal sense that on bad days, we must be going backward or that our healing is paused on those days.
The good news is this simply isn't true!
In fact, arguably, MOST of our healing takes place on those tougher days. Those tough days are our receipt of our nervous system struggling to get it all together. Now, I know what you might be thinking. But Coach Powers, I've been in a bad space for quite some time. If what you're saying is true, then why aren't I getting better?
Well, to be fair, you likely have seen minor improvements. The Benzo community has an incredible record for underreporting progress while over-fixating and emphasizing, to dramatic levels at times, the bad. This is true for most of us. And while that again makes logical sense, there are other explanations.
The nervous system throwing a fit as our receptors heal is perfectly normal and healthy. Where we tend to go wrong is in how we react and respond to that receptor temper tantrum. As I've been teaching for some time now, benzo recovery is bigger than just receptor damage/repair and chemical withdrawal. There undoubtedly is a considerable degree of psychological and holistic impact on our recovery.
Think of it like someone who experienced a significant trauma. Perhaps they were nearly killed by a grizzly bear while hiking. They survive, and all their wounds heal, but the trauma remains. They feel awful. Their limbic systems continue to react as if they were being mauled by the bear as if the bear were still nearby. This ramps up symptoms and if not appropriately addressed, can lead to not only sustained trauma response but also the manifestation of other mental illness.
Now imagine if you confused that trauma and manifestations of illness with the initial mauling of the bear. Of course, this is such a blatant example. It's almost silly. It's not so obvious in benzo recovery. In fact, there's a hell of a lot of grey area. One cannot see the forest from the trees. So we tend to take symptoms of recovery, trauma responses, or manifestations of illnesses as evidence that we never healed. Or that we are somehow going backward.
Remember. Your amygdala will gravitate towards these ideas, but that doesn't make them true.
One needs to be very clever and self-aware, or else the chemical fear will convince us of lies. And as that process continues, we lose hope, we buy into the lies, and then something even worse happens. We do see an increase in some suffering and symptoms, and we cling to it as evidence of our inability to heal.
It creates a kind of confirmation bias regarding our sickness.
And if you're battling rumination, let me tell you, that's a red flag that you better be very careful with what your mind is telling you. It's such a rabbit hole. It's a real trap, my friends!
The truth is, if you're working your recovery program. If you succeeded in getting off all the other doom and gloom forums, if you've created an insulated safe environment for yourself, if you're working on healing, working on your diet, working on your self-love and compassion, working on neuroplasticity training, exercising, meditating, etc., then you ARE on the straight and narrow! Rest assured. You ARE in the process of healing.
A huge problem or challenge for us all is that healing isn't linear, there's no one-size-fits-all, and there is not way of telling how long it will take.
We all know benzo recovery isn't easy. I've said it a million times. Benzo withdrawal is the most difficult, dangerous, and scary withdrawal on Earth. It can make coming off of heroin look like a beach vacation. We all know this. The work you're doing and the progress you're making, even if it is damn slow and damn small, are HUGE leaps when you're really looking at the big picture. Remember. Nerves heal very slowly. Slower than anything else in the body. You can rip a tendon off the bone, and it will heal quicker than nerves. Also, remember that as nerves heal, they do wonky things. They fire and misfire. They throw what I often call 'little fits', and it can be very concerning, as it seems to suggest that we are not healing. Or that we are getting worse. That's not true.
Take a deep breath. You ARE healing. And if you're at the end of your taper or have already come off Benzos and you find yourself yo-yo-ing, please know this is also an excellent space to be. It's not comfortable, and it can be scary, but this is your nervous system figuring it all out again. This is how nerves heal. What becomes so essential at this stage is that you don't lose hope and don't give up. It's incredibly important that you don't feed into the false fear. See it all for what it is. Recognize it. Be mindful. How you ebb and flow with the yo-yo phase will largely determine how long that phase takes. If you are dedicated and practice surrender, love, compassion, and keeping your mindset focused on the truth of your recovery, you will succeed in breaking through.
Gradually, the windows will get more pronounced and come more often while the waves get smaller and smaller. The chopping water eventually begins to calm.