“Symptoms” and acceptance

The symptoms I am having as a result of withdrawal are first and foremost physical. I’ve been rendered physically disabled. This is a result of my particular body and history on meds. Not everyone who deals with withdrawal will get physically sick like me.

The psychological symptoms or psychiatric symptoms I deal with are no worse than what I’ve dealt with at various times ON a complete med cocktail and in fact some of my symptoms have improved greatly, like anxiety. And as I refuse to medicate the symptoms away they become easier and easier to deal with because I am forced to accept them. Once I stopped searching for the quick fix in a pill, which ironically led to more pain, I started simply accepting my reality. This makes living with pain much easier and is the first step to healing in my mind. I believe the symptoms I have now are primarily caused by the withdrawal itself.

I suffer at different times with anxiety, irritability, and depression and despair—mania is not in the picture and actually has not been for more than a decade—some bipolar I am. The symptoms I do have are much worse when I’m premenstrual and the despair kicks in from time to time if I’m unable to get out of bed for any length of time. I feel like I’m missing out on life.

I am up now after midnight because I laid down to bed and was struck with anxiety. In the past I would have panicked and popped a Klonopin and been to sleep within an hour. Now I don’t panic! The anxiety is manageable and it still passes within the hour. Panicking as a result of feeling anxious is worse than the anxiety itself. I can’t tell you how I’ve come to this point where I generally don’t panic anymore, except I’ve read a lot about mindfulness and acceptance. And I meditate when I can as well. Really feeling without judgment works wonders and we are usually told instead to ignore our feelings and force ourselves to do things in spite of feeling miserable. I do the opposite. I embrace the feelings, sit with them and truly experience them and they pass much faster. Resisting our strong feelings causes them to worsen. Taking drugs was a way for me to resist my feelings. And then to add insult to injury the meds make me feel worse in a myriad of ways.

The depression and despair is harder to deal with when it strikes, but it too passes relatively quickly within hours or sometimes a few days. It seems almost always linked to severe physical disability. When my physical energy picks up, I feel better. I also spend a lot of time physically ill in a fine mood. I just get tired of the physical illness sometimes and I’m basically mourning at the loss of being able to do all my favorite things including hiking in the mountains where I live. Seems like a pretty normal response to me. Though I believe a deeper acceptance of my situation can conceivably get me to a place where this despair will also pass.

And like I said, there is no mania. I don’t get manic.

I do like Jayme when I have difficult feelings. That was what I was explaining in “I have a pain in my heart.” I can’t recommend the link to Jayme’s piece enough. I’ve put it on this website before and I pass it around to email groups all the time. It contains real wisdom. Unfortunately, I can tell from my stats that most people don’t follow links.

And now the anxiety that got me up out of bed to write this is gone. No Klonopin. Just a bit of writing and contemplation.

For clarities sake, I’m still on a maintenance dose of Klonopin but I have long since reached tolerance and it does nothing but keep me from entering further withdrawal. I am currently withdrawing from Risperdal and almost done. The Klonopin will be withdrawn soon enough. Perhaps I’ll face more anxiety then. I don’t know. It was prescribed for sleep. The anxiety came when I became tolerant to it, a common adverse reaction to long term use.

Oh, and I didn’t mention some other symptoms specifically of withdrawal for me. I am extremely sensitive to light and noise. This seems to happen to people (though not all) withdrawing from any psych med, from antidpressants to neuroleptics as I’ve seen in my withdrawal groups. It’s a physical symptom—a distraught central nervous system. I can watch very little TV and almost no movies. Loud noises of any kind are hard to bear. My dog’s high pitched bark is hard to bear. The vacuum cleaner has a high pitched sound and is difficult. If I’m walking close to traffic that noise is difficult. Sometimes noises feel like an assault on my body. Light is similar. I sometimes need to where sunglasses indoors and somtimes I have to shut myelf in a dark room. Severity of both these symptoms vary. The noise sensitivity never goes away completely.

And lastly I’m acutely sensitive. Again especially when premenstual, but this intensity comes with the withdrawals as well. My feelings are hurt very easily. And I’m sensitive to stress of any kind. I have to be careful about when I take phone calls for example. Things people wouldn’t consider stress is stress for me. But these sensitivities come and go so sometimes I can get out and about and see people and chat, etc. Sometimes I need to control all stimulus whatsoever. Another reason my own private space is so important.

The light, noise and general senstivity can trigger irritability.

In any case, as I practice acceptance all these symptoms are diminishing, except maybe how easily I get hurt. And the light and noise sensitivity. All the other stuff—anxiety, depression, irritability etc are getting better as I practice acceptance. I may still feel them but they don’t have the same power over me anymore.

I thought this post was done but I just read Coco’s post at Balance and Banana’s. She talks about her visitor’s, Teary, Paranoia, Envy and Depression. I’ve already talked about depression, but I actually do deal with teary, paranoia and envy too. These I see as purely imperfections in my being that can be healed through acceptance too. (though I often see teary as a great friend!) I really believe all these feeling are profoundly human and are simply pronounced in some of us that are sensitive. Again all these guests, as Coco calls them come more frequently when I’m premenstrual so clearly, our chemistry plays in a role in how we feel. But all feelings are chemistry—joy and love too.

For me these feelings come from not loving myself. And in practicing acceptance the goal is to love myself. Sometimes now when I meditate I am flooded with love for a brief while. All the negative goes away. People heal completely in this fashion, like Jayme above, like Sally Clay and Cheri Huber the wonderful Buddhist teacher, who speaks in plain English. Some people are afraid of Buddhism, but she is extremely accessible to anyone.

In any case, I guess what I’m sharing here is that through acceptance and loving oneself healing is possible. I trust that I am on that journey and have many role models to look to. We will never stop being human and with our humanness we will always feel good and bad, but how we interpret, deal and cope with those feelings can be profoundly altered.

Final Note: I began this post several days ago. Last week in fact. In that time I’ve had really bad PMS. I’ve not been a happy camper and I’ve not been particularly accepting. Nonetheless, this process of acceptance is a journey and we come in and out on our way to peace. So while it crossed my mind on a couple of these ugly days that this piece is hypocritical, I just reread it and I see it’s not. We are not perfect. And these are goals which in my gut I know will heal me—are healing me.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

11 Responses

  1. It’s not hypocritical at all, Gianna. As you say, it is a journey, and sometimes we backslide and sometimes we move forward, but it sounds as if your feet are firmly upon a path that will lead to healing. Accepting our feelings and allowing ourselves to experience them is so important to our health. And following the things you know in your gut to be true is just as important. It’s something I’m working on, too. I’m glad we’re on this journey together.

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  2. Dear Gianna,
    This is a great post. It shows how we can face these symptoms head on rather than retreating in fear. It’s heartening to know you can eliminate a panic attack or anxiety in such a short time period without medication.

    After getting off most of my medication, I only feel depression (and these days, it’s one episode a year although I’m hoping to end it entirely), irritability and anger (far less than before), and hypomania (far less than before).

    I do a series of wellness activities to stave off each or lessen their impact. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. In terms of depression, I realize that sometimes there is a reason for a depressive episode. It’s telling me that I’m moving off track and need to reevaluate, or something or someone is making me unhappy.

    Since I’ve taken away the “fear” element from the equation, if I can listen to the depression, and figure out the message, that’s another way for me to end it.

    Anyway, enough about me. This is a truly thought-provoking post. I visited Jayme’s site and read her post. It, too, is highly thought-provoking and well worth reading. I’ve ordered one of Cheri Huber’s books and look forward to reading it.

    I believe we are all onto something important that few other people are writing about. When a person feels the only path toward wellness is medication, it’s a totally powerless position to be in. Basically, it means you have no control over your life, and can’t do anything to make yourself feel better.

    But some of us are taking other paths, which are highly empowering. What you’re doing is truly a major breakthrough and this is an inspirational post!

    Susan

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  3. Gianna,

    I’m dumbfounded on why the term ‘hypocrite’ comes up in this post –

    Go to Susan Bernard’s site, and read the post on ‘Courage’.

    This is what I read in this post – I see a very courageous person – not a ‘hyprocrite’.

    Don’t meant to be too hard on you here Gianna – but, you should remove this word from your vocabulary….You simply are not a hypocrite.

    Sue me.

    Duane

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  4. Gianna,

    I was particularly moved by your reference to mindfulness. I found as a lot of my symptoms cleared I was drawn to being Awake, instead of the many varieties of Escape. I still feel physical pain to be a challenge to sit with, though this morning I could briefly send some intense love to my impending migraine (have done little but hate them bitterly for years). I think it helped (but so did grapefruit seed extract, Zyflamend, digestive enzyme, Magnesium taurate and B6). Nutrients for body combined with nutrients for soul.

    Warmly,
    Sue Westwind

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  5. Thanks for a great post Gianna, and for mentioning me 🙂 I feel like I’m just beginning this journey to wellness, after too many years of stuffing things down. I think some of the things you mention are going to be really helpful. And you are so not a hypocrite. It’s called being human… and a agree with Duane, a very courageous one at that.

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  6. Pablo

    these are just some thoughts that were triggered.

    What is a healthy relationship with the future?

    Fear is the way we lure future pain into the present.

    Hope is the way we draw future happiness into the present.

    But in either case we are straining to fix the future and give it a shape that in reality has yet to form.

    The middle way is faith – the willingness to try.

    That means we don’t have to meet the future until it has started to unfold in the present.

    It means the future is a culture out of which things grow rather than a darkness in which things lurk.

    When the future no longer looks threatening we can welcome its arrival instead of trying to hunt it down.

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  7. Doe

    Gianna,

    I really loved this post and felt myself resonating strongly with almost all of it.

    I don’t seem to have a lot of energy lately for writing or articulating my thoughts much, which is a little frustrating, b/c your post triggered so many feelings, so many that it’s overwhelming for me to try and respond…where do I start? I don’t know.

    I’ve come so far on my withdrawal journey. I have to remind myself of that when I feel there’s still so much further to go. I know it will take me a long time to get off of the prozac I am on. But I’m on just 5 mgs a day–that’s amazing–I should really pat myself on the back for that.

    I don’t deal with physical symptoms much at all anymore at this low dose (although when I do a reduction, I know I’ll feel tired and achey)…mostly what I deal with now is dealing with my original state–the state that led me to medicate to begin with. Being really sensitive–what others call “over sensitive”…getting my feelings hurt easily, being paranoid that people are talking about me, that people don’t like me..all these anxieties take so much of my energy, that sometimes I have to admit I think “Maybe this whole thing is crazy…I mean just take the pills, they make it so much easier!”. But I know at this point, there’s a price to pay, and I’m no longer willing to pay it. I feel the drugs take away a big part of my spirituality and soul–and I want to know this part–deeply and passionately–including the searing pain–before I die. I mean what else is there? I think that self-hatred and the social anxiety that produces is my main issue. Knowing that helps. I have tools now that I didn’t in my early 20’s when I began taking drugs to ease the self hating tortures my mind would inflict on me. Meditation is so key. It’s made more of a difference than anything. I had a major turning point when I realized I wasn’t my thoughts. This is just static on the radio. It’s not me. Once I really saw that, I couldn’t go back.

    So now I’m back to square one…dealing with me, and all that tortuous stuff, without the thicker skin that the drugs give. It’s hard. But it feels familiar…like I’m back to that younger self that just needed some love, acceptance and guidance (not drugs)…and I’m going to give it to her.

    I definitely think love and acceptance can help heal ourselves and then we in turn become healers for others. And I think you are meant to be a healer, Gianna, and that your posts, whether happy or sad, victorious or despairing, are very healing for us all to read. Thanks.

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  8. Val

    [What Doe said] — heh heh!
    But I too, used to sneer my lip w/disdain at all those weenies suffering from PMS – until I have drawn closer to menopause & started suffering them myself… Deep dark despair/depression/irritability/bloat/carb cravings/etc etc!
    Damn I will be glad to be THROUGH w/it; 34 yrs is ENUFF!

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  9. I love what Doe said. It might be easier to take a pill, but you do lose something. You pay a price. Some may not mind the price or may not even notice the pice they are paying.

    I was in AA or a good while and still could not feel much of a contact with a higher power, even though I was going to meetings, doing service work, reading, and helping others. However, as soon as I got off the last of my medication, I started to feel a closeness with a power greater than myself. No matter how hard I tried, nothing worked until I was off of all drugs.

    I’m probably super sensitive. Yet that can be a great strength. I have done a lot of volunteer work, helping people in the conmunity. The main reason I make this effort is that I feel for people with problems. That is I’m sensitive to the suffering of others. I’ve done well in my field of study–science–because I’m sensitive to details that others fail to observe.

    Jim S

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  10. i’m grateful to find your blog and read this inspiring post – i feel understood, less alone. i’ve given up the med cocktail as well, although i’m a rapid cycler so i get the highs and lows, mostly lows. the medications either didn’t work for long, didn’t work at all, and/or made me feel much worse. the withdrawals were horrible. i’m presently taking adderall to help with the fatigue and focus needed when i travel and teach and ambien when i’m away from home and can’t sleep. i’m a buddhist practioner of mindfulness and using that instead of meds – eckhart tolle’s books and cd’s are helping lately to remind me that i am not these thoughts or emotions, being the witness. i catch myself wishing the sadness/anxiety were gone at times, a reminder that once again i need to let go and accept the present moment, exactly where i am. thank you.
    katie

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