When I posted the piece entitled “In the near absence of friends…” the other day I also posted it in my benzo group and I sent it to a few old-timers who have been through this nightmare, but who have emerged victorious. One of the people I shared it with is Baylissa Frederick who is the author of Benzo-Wise: a recovery companion. She also has a website and community online here. Her work has helped and inspired many people through this process.
Here, printed with her permission, is her response to my piece on the phenomena so many chronically ill people deal with–the perceived abandonment by many of our friends and loved ones. For most of us benzo folk we can look forward to the day we are healed and recovered. Baylissa speaks graciously about how we heal and cope with this:
What you’ve shared on your website resonates so well with me and reminds me of my own experience. Prior to withdrawal my phone rang off the hook, I had to put boundaries in place to have any space at all… invitations, visitors, friends needing favors – you name it. Then came withdrawal and, after a while, the phone stopped ringing (except for a few family members and friends) and weeks went by without my seeing another human being except for the postman.
I just found this note from my old blog.
Sometimes I think of the friends who either disappeared or gradually became less accessible as the symptoms persisted and the weeks turned into months, then years. After going through my own grieving process over these lost friendships, I hold no resentment and fully understand how easy it must have been for them to have become drained and impatient with my excuses to avoid going out, or my forgetting important dates, and even my unspoken pleas for acknowledgement of the potency of benzos as I tried to explain the symptoms. Prior to my experience, I would not have thought it possible for an approved prescribed drug to cause such harm.
Ironically, many of the people who doubted I was in withdrawal have now found me but only because in a sense, my book justifies my experience. Now that I am recovered, in all of Wales I have four friends who communicate regularly. But with this has come an overwhelming peace. These few people, I know, love me unconditionally.
I have mourned the loss of many people I thought were friends… I thought they would have been able to cope better or that they trusted me enough to accept my given reasons for my challenge (i.e. that it was benzo withdrawal). I also gained friends through withdrawal including a lady who is now one of my dearest. We are like sisters. She lives in the US but has travelled all the way to the UK to see me. Her children call me aunt.
I’m really sorry that you and hubby are having to deal with this isolation. People get scared. It’s almost as if we’re contagious. Release them with love. New friendships will come into your life. I can tell that you are a loving, caring person… these are the people you will attract. For now, you may just have more space than you need and it would be nice if hubby could be better supported. However, this is the reality of benzo w/d (and, as you’ve said with other chronic illnesses).
Just in case you haven’t read the book, I’ve cut and pasted a journal log from it for you to see.
I’m going to sign off now as I have to go out for a bit.
If I lived close to you I would certainly visit often. For now, I will write.
Sending lots of wellness thoughts,
“April 19, 2008
“When I think of my relationships – those that survived, those I have lost and new ones I have made, I have no regrets. I think about my caring, loyal family members and friends who supported me throughout the tolerance and withdrawal years, and am overcome with deep gratitude. I feel so honoured to have had their attention and care. I do not know how I would have coped otherwise. I also think about others who found my experience too much to cope with and avoided contact. In some cases I did too, as I did not have the emotional energy to expend at the time. Coping simultaneously with withdrawal and the more demanding relationships can be emotionally draining. It was necessary for me to let them go. Stress-reduction was my objective and it worked. I have released these relationships with love. If some friends or family members become unavailable and inaccessible during your withdrawal, it could be because they are unable to relate to your experience or they simply cannot cope. You may be able to reconcile some of these relationships after you recover or you may have to lovingly release them from your life. What you will find is a special gift – that of being surrounded by people who genuinely and unconditionally care. You will also find that you are now left with ample space in your life to accommodate new, loving relationships.”