The drugs in this world are creating a whole new class of mental illness. The cure all class of prescription medications that are really intended for critical patients at the end of their life battling cancer, Alzheimer patients to take the edge off, or severe cases of PTSD, and psychosis, are now being over-prescribed at epic proportions, and when people try to get off them, they get a new diagnosis and a DSM label. ( I will expound on the previous blog here).
Benzodiazepines are prescribed so often because they work very fast, the consumer feels better quickly, and move on to the next patient. Intended for a few days, yes, they can be effective, but over that, they are ineffective and unsafe. They can cause more harm than the initial anxiety and stress that led the patient to seek out a doctor. Symptoms people are generally not informed of, are increased irritability, rebound insomnia, shaking, heart racing, confusion, rage, agoraphobia, and panic attacks. These side effects are listed in your medication pamphlet now-a-days, but I have never heard a doctor (at least in my experiences), warning of these possibilities or realities. But the good ole drug commercials sure do, yet we trust the physician more, and usually do not question.
As the side effects keep surfacing, the doctors keep adding more pills to combat your side effects from the initial treatment plant, and not only is it turning you into a drug addict, but it is disconnecting you more. More from you mind, your body, and your spirit. And when your spirit is broken, how do you fix that?
So here lies the new form of mental illness, because when you go back to the doctor addressing these issues you are having, you just now fit the criteria for depression, acute anxiety, erratic behavior, and the good ole over diagnosed bi-polar disorder. Here is your label. So, let’s address this patient, and add a mood stabilizer to even you out and help with that new chemical imbalance that was just created. Time goes by, you’re on 7 different medications, and all because you couldn’t sleep for a while? This can’t be real, am I bi-polar? I do find myself snapping at people lately, I’m disconnected from my friends and family, I don’t have a sex drive anymore, my weight increased, my hair is getting thin, I can’t sleep well, I find myself racing with more thoughts than ever, and then I just can’t get out of bed sometimes. High and low, high and low. I guess the doctors are right, I must be bi-polar. Never occurred to me, nor was I informed that the symptoms I’m experiencing can be side effects from the drugs, and not actual symptoms of a true mental disorder. The new panic attacks and acute anxiety are being caused by the drug, not you.
When I was 19, in 1992, I sought out help for my insomnia and PTSD caused by issues in my past, and was given Ativan and Ambien. The long-term side effects were not really known, discussed, or brought up in the medical conversation. This was a magic happy pill to take it all away. I was even told by my doctor it acts similar to alcohol, so it’s cool because you can just drink less when you go out for happy hour. “1mg Ativan is equivalent to about 2 glasses of wine.” That is a direct quote that stayed with me my entire life. 24 years of my life was stolen from a drug prescribed to help me. I always took as directed, but when I tried on my own to stop, the pain was too excruciating. I would tell the doctors I saw of my concerns, and the attitude was just to stay on it, it’s not worth getting off. So, I proceeded thinking the worst would be kind of like someone addicted to cocaine or heroin, and I anticipated the detox would be a typical 3 days or so and no worries. Little did I know this would take 24 months to safely taper off.
In retrospect, the Ativan caused me more depression, high agitation and even rage, rebound insomnia, night terrors, panic attacks, and major gastrointestinal problems where I even had a colonoscopy at age 40 because not one doctor out of 7 specialists looked at my medical history and even fathomed, hmm, maybe it’s the drugs. My colonoscopy was clear. My bloodwork was excellent every year, yet I was losing my mind and falling into physical and spiritual decay. I have never had suicidal thoughts in my adult life, but they did cross my mind when I was detoxing from the benzos. I use the plural form because Xanax was added into my drug diet for daytime use when I was in my late 30s. The withdrawal symptoms of these drugs are horrendous. Ativan and Xanax are 10x stronger than Valium, but I was not told this. (Benzo.org.uk.) The half life is short, and that is why it packs a punch.
The problem is doctors do not warn patients about this intense addictive nature or the long-term side effects, and so when you try to stop them, you might end up in a seizure and at the hospital. That happened to me twice. Finding a support system is difficult as well, because you don’t really fit the criteria of a societal addict mentally, although your body does. Your happy pill fun becomes a shaming part of your life that you hide. In my mind, I never craved a drug, so I couldn’t be an addict. It’s a hard topic because physically I was the same. I know now, I was never suffering from any genetic disorder of addiction, pre-disposition, or craved an easy fix. I was a person who sought out help from guided professionals, and because of the lack of education on these drugs, society created an addict out of me, and the labels that go with it.
I created a taper regiment to safely withdrawal from the medications (I just call them drugs). It took me 26 months to get off everything. Every 10 days I would diligently reduce my pills , and I experienced severe tremors, chest pains, sweating, insomnia, everytime. Agoraphobia and anxiety attacks were like nothing I’ve ever had in my life and were debilitating me. Sometimes I could not drive, walk, eat certain foods, it was terrifying. Grocery stores were very supportive in my journey and would delivery to me, knowing what I was going through.
Work had to be done, and since I am on my own, I kept going in any way I could to keep working. Working outside everyday forced my body to react to my surroundings and heal. Nature was giving me the energy to keep going. My clients that I shared this with, were extremely supportive, and I realized I’m not alone. I have a great company I created, adoring animals in my house who each in their own way attributed greatly to take away my pain. My plants and landscaping outside called me out to open my eyes and see the beauty.
When my cognitive issues arose about mid-way through, I was unable to form words. The word would be in my head, right there that I could see, but I was unable to speak. Partial dementia can occur during this because I was on the drugs for so many years. Photosensitivity is a big one as well, and on and off for weeks at a time, I could not be exposed to light. That was a tough one for me. It can shatter your heart, but you have to keep going.
As hard as the path has been, and anger I felt toward the doctors for aiding in my downfall, my spirit rose up, the gloves were off, and I persisted. I realized how disconnected I was with the Earth, and it hurt me. It hurt me because all these years have passed, and I was unable to connect with the one thing that ultimately healed me- Nature. The beauty of being able to be still, meditate again, practice Reiki, gaze at the moon, and feel my body reacting to what the Earth intended for me, is amazing. The road I traveled was a painful one, so I understand, and have empathy for others who experience this. I knew I had to extend myself to help heal others, educate them, bring laughter into their lives, and get outside with me to see that healing for anything is right in front of you. Meeting conventional doctors, holistic practitioners, bio-chemists to naturopathic doctors, everyone agreed- I have died many times over. This was a true testimony for professionals in the medical industry, other who want to learn more about how to form a taper program with their patients and stop over prescribing these dangerous drugs. Especially the suffering warriors who wake up everyday without hope but still fight. I am not a warrior anymore, that title is retired for me. I refuse to fight with myself or others. My purpose is to instill that hope with my professional and personal awakening and be a crusader and advocate. For those who need a voice, I am here to help you reach inside and reclaim it.
This is the heartbreaking facts of people who become addicted to benzos. They were never an addict to begin with, nor bi-polar, but according to the DSM, they are now. It is hard not to be discouraged at the time involved to taper safety, but time is going to pass anyway, so you mind as well take control of your life and do this. The longer you stay on them, the harder it is to stop, and the cognitive side effects can be devastating.
They are wonderful alternative ways to deal with the stresses of this life, and taking benzos should not be part of that equation. This is the creation of a society of sick people under addiction, so find your own path, and do not become a statistic. What I learned, is there are bad people on both sides of the health industry, but then there are good. It takes time and proper discernment to find the right match, but they are out there. The key is taking control of your life, and being aware of the misinformation, and disinformation that is all around us. Disconnect from that which does not serve you, and connect with what does.
You must reach deep within yourself and stay determined. Do not let a pill control your mind and your body. Being a part of this life is something to celebrate and find the joy in, not staying disconnected.
My journey was a painful path, but I am here to give back by healing myself, healing others, sharing my experience with doctors and helping them understand the ramifications this society of sedation is causing. Be grounded to Nature is what heals me.
I always remember the quote, “ I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it…People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back. It wants to be loved too.” (Alice Walker)
Whenever the pain of the detoxing would surface, I always said that quote inside, and then I would find the strength to look at the flowers, touch a tree, dip my feet in water, and gaze at the moon. The more I gave back to nature, the more I healed. I realized every person, every animal, every tree, every illness, literally every single thing that exists, is as a spirit. Moreover, this Spirit can be accessed, engaged or encountered in ways that bring about positive change to enhance the quality of life, relationships, and health.
Break the cycle and do not become a statistic by a very flawed health system. If only we could train our health professionals to consider us as whole beings that include emotions, reactions, and a spirit, instead of just looking at us as symptoms.