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.