Benzo Withdrawal

I was first introduced to benzodiazepines when I moved to Taiwan in 2016. Despite suffering with anxiety and sleep issues for most of my life I had never been prescribed any kind of benzo before. Now I can see why.

After being on them, in varying doses and several different brands, for over a year now I have finally reached a place where I feel stable enough to start tapering off them. My psychiatrist agreed and we started this week. I didn’t really know what to expect, in all honesty I naively expected nothing. I figured that because I’m in a good place, feeling strong, this should be a cake walk. Oh boy was I wrong.

The first night I immediately noticed that I couldn’t sleep. My melatonin and evening meditation session did absolutely nothing – where as for months now I’ve been able to drift off relatively easily at the same time each night. I spent the rest of my night waking up basically every hour, and when I did sleep I had more disturbing dreams than usual. The next day I felt really weird – almost dissociated from myself and the world around me. I started forgetting small things – like my keys at home when I left for work, or what I was teaching in the middle of a lesson. My heart would start pounding out of nowhere, my neck and shoulders were stiff and tensed up and I had a lingering headache. My irritation levels steadily rose throughout the day and I felt increasingly overwhelmed by things.

Returning home that evening I decided to do some research. Well, it turns out that everything I’m experiencing is textbook benzo withdrawal. As I continued reading I was horrified to discover just how addictive and difficult these drugs are to stop taking. Long term use, which is defined as daily doses for at least three months, is highly discouraged. I find myself thanking my lucky stars that I’ve been on relatively low doses – which should make my tapering less complicated and my withdrawal less intense.

Although my symptoms are mild, they are still less than pleasant. It’s taking all of my energy to just stick to my daily routine. I’m more determined than ever to push through the discomfort and kick them completely though. My goal is to be benzo free by the time my boyfriend and I move back to South Africa in September. This shit is no joke. Wish me luck.


The Cat and the Trees

I sit weeping beneath the giant, beautiful trees. Their thick trunks and tangled branches spiral towards the sky, like strong cords of exposed muscle. This place has become a sanctuary of sorts – my oasis of nature wedged into the dirty and overcrowded city. I come here after working long days at a job I increasingly loathe, and I offer the sadness I carry to the trees. They take it silently and without flinching. I carry a lot – not all of it mine.

One evening I notice a black cat laying under one of them. I settle next to it and continue my crying – my purging of emotions that have been twisting in my gut all day. After a while I inch a bit closer, but do not attempt contact. It eyes me carefully yet remains where it is. Eventually I reach out to pet it. It cowers under my touch, unsure if I mean it harm, but them warms to me as I gently stroke its fur. It gets up and rubs itself against me, and my heart swells with a painful happiness. Before I leave I gently kiss it’s small, soft head – and again it flinches before realizing that I won’t hurt it. It’s like it doesn’t know how to be loved, like every touch before mine has been cruelty disguised as care. In that way we are somewhat alike. I say goodbye and walk home, hoping we will meet again.

Hsinchu Part 2: Nanliao Fishing Harbor

While visiting my friend in Hsinchu City we decided to go to the fishing port not far from where she stays. It was crowded with people flying kites, riding bikes and just enjoying the sunshine. There were fisherman with their wares and street vendors with their food stalls. We dipped our feet in the (cold) Taiwan Strait, and walked along the beach a bit.


Hsinchu Part 1: Green Grass Lake

An old university friend of mine recently made the move to Taiwan from South Africa, which gave me a great excuse to visit the city of Hsinchu. Here are some pictures of the lake and surrounding area near her apartment building.


The Gaomei Wetlands

Over Chinese New Year the boyfriend and I accompanied some friends to the beautiful Gaomei Wetlands in Qingshui District, Taichung. Although it was exceptionally windy, and crowded, it was still a memorable and enjoyable visit. We even got to leave the boardwalk and get our feet wet when the tide went out.


Mother Monster

My partner in mischief
My soul mate on earth
Stitched in my head
Not long after birth

It crawled in one day
Through my ear no doubt
Hitched to your words
That you can’t help but spout

Deep down it burrowed
And made a fine nest
Look, now we’re twins
We can match how we dress

I can be mini mommy
Validate your sad life
You can stand to remind me
Who I may someday be like

All the while I must live
With this thing in my head
This monster you gave me
Makes me wish I were dead

Finally learning to see it
And approach being me
Believe I’ll sever our ties
If it means being free

You may be gone now
But I’m left with my mate
This darkness within me
I must strive not to hate

I try tame it, befriend it
Accept it fully
But even without you
It’s a vicious bully

Yet over long years
I have honed inner strength
I’ve practice my skills
And studied at length

I believe I will triumph
Despite my ill head
Grow to live with its presence
Even love what its said

Because only in darkness
Can we truly see light
Only through struggle
Do we learn how to fight


My father is a pilot
Always over the weather
He’s urged me to try it
But I can’t break my tether
Every time I try to fly
The sun catches my eye
And I fall back under

My mother is a maker
She tried to make it work
But she’s also a taker
And couldn’t shake that quirk
Every time I try to fight
It never turns out right
And I feel worse than ever

My sister is a teacher
Truly trying to be false
Her husband is a preacher
And I believe he has no pulse
When I try to understand
It falls out of my hand
And I lose my grip forever

My brother is a memory
Forsaken to the void
A waste of precious energy
A fate none could avoid
Every time I try to mourn
I’m overrun with scorn
And I wail into the nether

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A pretty little petal
Laden with a heart of sand
Betrayed the stinging nettle
And set out across the land

It withers in the sunshine
But travels by the tide of night
And when the crooked skies align
It glows its own peculiar light

Picked up by a traveler
On a roll and restless tumble
And with its lustrous splendor
It caused his horse to stumble

Then one still and eery eve
Its tiny heart began to stir
It left that startled horse bereaved
And devoured the traveler

A mighty big flower
Unladen by its own hand
Causes wandering men to cower
And dominates this land

But closely look behind its glow
And see a sight to grieve
As its spines begin to grow
A pretty little petal leaves

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