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.