A couple of weeks ago I promised you all that Brandon and I were going to be starting a YouTube channel to share our experiences as he recovers from the use of benzodiazepines. Benzo withdrawals are an awful experience and it’s devastatingly impacted our lives in ways I can’t even begin to explain, especially not in a single blog post. The only way to really share it is to talk about it which is why we decided to go to YouTube and start sharing videos for you and anyone else who might be experiencing this kind of hurt and struggle.
The video I’m sharing below is the first one Brandon has recorded about his benzo withdrawals for the new channel. Other than cleaning up the end of it (the camera cut off) it’s unedited. Since he wasn’t able to discuss everything he wanted to discuss in the video here are a few highlights and clarifications for you all:
- PAWS (Protracted Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) – It causes the mind to believe that things MUST be resolved. If things are not resolved immediately and to complete satisfaction, you experience constant panic until there is some kind of heavy emotional breakdown. Uncontrollable thoughts circulate over and over in your mind which create a sense of dread as you feel that there are going to be new problems cropping up because of the unresolved problem. It’s a never-ending cycle of stress and fear.
- Loss of focus – As you’ll see in the video, it is difficult to maintain a clear focus on topics for discussion, thoughts, and action. It’s hard to stay on track and it’s easy to lose your train of thought. You’ll find yourself going blank mid-sentence and frequently repeating yourself.
- Impulse control – While healing from benzodiazepine use, you experience a loss of impulse control particularly associated with anger and rage. At only 1-month off benzodiazepines, Brandon had a complete breakdown which resulted in him hitting himself in the head with a granite tile in a fit of anger.
- Kindling or Rekindling – Kindling or rekindling refers to huge setbacks in your recovery that can trigger extreme symptoms that make you feel like you did when you first started the withdrawals. Kindling can occur by drinking alcohol, taking medicine, alternative benzo drugs, herbal treatments that affect the brain’s GABA receptors, overusing THC or cannabis, medical procedures that require anesthesia, and other similar items.
- Paranoia – There is fear now associated with the medical community and the use of other pharmaceutical drugs. You are now concerned about taking other medications, agreeing to medical procedures, or trusting medical advice.
- Depersonalization and dehumanization – Depersonalization and dehumanization are feelings you’ll experience as you withdrawal from the benzodiazepine medications. They refer to feelings where you feel that you are not human and are not truly a part of the world around you. You go through periods of time where you don’t recognize your own humanity or the humanity of others. Everything feels unimportant and life (yours and others) has no value or purpose.
- Sensory overload and hypersensitivity – You are extremely prone to sensory overload while you’re going through benzo withdrawals. Sunlight and bright lights are an intense trigger and lead to blurry vision, dizziness, and headaches. Wearing sunglasses helps with the sensory issues associated with light, even indoors. There is also sensory overload associated with touch, particularly in the abdomen, so looser clothes or elastics are a must. Odors (foods, spices, chemicals) can trigger an increase in the severity of withdrawal symptoms as can loud or sudden noises. Nothing tastes the same as it used to and it often feels like your brain is trying to learn how to process flavors again. The sensory overload can also cause issues with being able to properly gauge the temperature of the indoors, outdoors, or shower but if you take a too hot shower the steam can cause severe sensory overload.
- Eye pain / crawling – Early in the withdrawal stages, you may experience issues with your eye(s). Brandon experienced a feeling of “crawling” that felt like worms or bugs crawling over his eye. There was intense pain associated with it and occasional bright spots and spotty vision. You can use an eye cleaner but it’s not likely to do much good other than providing temporary cooling relief.
- Restless legs and arms
- Gastrointestinal issues – There is a wide variety of associated gastrointestinal issues including constipation, bloating, stomach pain, pain in the groin / pelvic area, pain associated with orgasm which can also lead to sensory overload.
Here are a few of the things we’ve found that might help if you (or someone you love) is currently coping with benzo withdrawals:
- Liquid diet for about 3 months although once you start eating real food again it’s hit and miss when it comes to what might trigger symptoms. We’ve found that sugar (including fruit), caffeine, alcohol, carbs, and spicy food all seem to be triggers.
- Keep your mind occupied so you can’t focus on the symptoms. Video games work great for this because they make you pay attention and do things. Movies and television don’t work as well because your mind can “zone out” and think about the withdrawal pain.
- Loose clothes or stretchy material
Follow our YouTube channel to continue following our journey through benzo withdrawals and beyond.