I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.
People on withdrawal boards sometime “cop” to having taken something to sleep in addition to whatever it is they’re withdrawing from. When they do this they are invariably responded to with a scolding and warnings of gloom and doom. It’s really a rather dangerous and knee-jerk reaction. Insomnia can truly be dangerous and ugly. And controlling others choices on how to take care of themselves is, well, another form of coercion much like we find when we are first told we need drugs. You must take these drugs/You must not take these drugs. Both commands deny choice to the individual.
We all know what is best for us. Learning to listen to our body is part of healing — the most fundamental part of healing, really. That means listening to yourself over everyone else and it also means learning to trust that others too ultimately know what is best for them. It means NOT forcing your opinion on them when it comes to the care of their own body.
Someone the other day admitted to taking a benzo for sleep on a withdrawal board I visit from time to time. She was not a benzo user but someone coming off other psych meds. She was simply not sleeping. Some people thought this was a very bad idea and let her know that. This is something I’ve seen play out many many times on withdrawal boards. I’m not denying that we need to be careful with any substance we choose to put into our bodies, but I do feel strongly that people have the right to make their own choices. Always. And when people are going through something as difficult, as well as potentially dangerous, as psych drug withdrawal can be they need to be able to speak openly without fear of condemnation with the people they go to for support.
I responded with something like this to the thread — I’ve made a lot of edits for the post and it should be clear the post is now a response to what I’ve witnessed over the years on many boards. It’s not just a response to what happened the other day:
It’s true that taking benzos can be a slippery slope…it’s also true that we must do what we must do along this sometimes treacherous healing path…
I often took emergency doses of this or that for a long time…I had 6 years of coming off drugs and once I was off I virtually never slept for 2 years…I was in dangerous and severe crisis routinely…pretty much daily. I was bedridden and could not leave the house for ANYTHING…no exaggeration…and yeah, I took emergency baby doses of all sorts of different drugs while I could still tolerate some medications and while my body was still in that egregious condition…usually it was minute micro-doses because the nature of my drug sensitivities meant I couldn’t tolerate anything resembling a normal “therapeutic” dose.
The alternative was screaming all night long and freaking out the neighbors…seriously…it was really ugly at times. And you want to have decent relationships with your neighbors. I was sometimes afraid they would call the cops when I was really bad off. I also put my husband and caretaker at risk when he couldn’t sleep for days when I was very ill.
I’ve not needed to take anything for a long time now…my body is healing. I now sleep some minimal amount that allows for some consistent well-being, fragile and tiny as it might still be at times. (2016, things are greatly improved now and I always find natural means of falling asleep now)
I don’t think anyone should be chastised nor feel chastised for doing what they need to do to survive. Dogma is dogma whether it’s passed on by psychiatrists telling you you must take drugs for the rest of your life or from anti-med folks telling you you can’t take one dose of drug to save your butt from dangerous sleeplessness. When I was taking micro-doses I even took them daily for several months before that became unnecessary.
I never felt I could openly talk about what I absolutely had to do in order to survive, though I generally have always referred to it in my writing…I thought the fear of open discussion sucked and I still do. Now that I’m completely on the other side of it, I’m speaking up.
Coming off drugs is dangerous at times…sometimes very dangerous when sleeplessness occurs for extended periods…we do what we must…I know I am not alone in having taken emergency doses in the process of coming off completely…and also I know that those of us committed to coming off drugs that have to do that still get to where they never need to do that again. It’s simply part of the withdrawal process sometimes.
We do what we need to do…
And sometimes we really really wish we could talk about it but can’t and maybe if we try we sound funny doing it…or disingenuous or something…because we feel scared and alone and know there are many people who will judge us for doing what we need to do to survive.
Peace. Be kind to yourself. And to one another.
Here is a post that has lots of suggestions for natural sleep:
Now that I’ve found a lot of things to support me I never need to take tiny doses of this or that drug anymore but I do still sometimes have severe insomnia. There is severe and then there is dangerously severe. We learn the difference and slowly our injured bodies heal as we learn how to care for them.
Learning to avoid pharma 100% may take some time, but it’s totally doable. I’ve done it and I’ve interacted with 1000s of others now who have done it too.
Lastly in brief: If you’re withdrawing from psych meds you want to avoid hospitalization at all costs because once you’re in there you have no control over what goes in your mouth (or worse yet what is shot into your butt)
An occasional drug ingested by choice is a much better deal.
Later in response to someone saying that it’s because of our own painful journeys we sometimes want to control the choices others make to save them from a similar fate. This is true and understandable. In withdrawal forums we all share these stories so everyone is well aware of the potential for harm. I followed up with this:
We all see, very clearly the devastation these drugs wreak…that’s why when one is up against the wall and chooses to take something it’s pretty clear they feel they have no other option…and we cannot know in that moment what else might have helped.
My history with psych drugs is so extreme, it’s really impossible to tease it all out exactly which drug caused which problem. It’s clear they all cause havoc in the nervous system …and I never hesitate to tell people about how the drugs harmed me…they hear…so they don’t need my judgment about their choices when it’s clear they know what that drug did to me and in turn the potential of that drug harming anyone, including them, if they choose to take it.
And of course it’s also understandable when we want to do just that (judge and warn and control) and I am by no means free of having feelings that want to control those I love and care for if I think they might harm themselves with the use of psych drugs.
I do, though, try to step back before expressing any of those feelings…and no I don’t imagine I’m always 100% successful. We learn as we go.
The other time it’s wise to go back and take emergency doses of whatever it may be someone needs is when it will help folks avoid the hospital during the withdrawal process. One of the worst things that can happen when we are coming off drugs is to get hospitalized and find ourselves among doctors who reinstate and force us back onto a whole cocktail of drugs. I’ve seen that happen to a lot of people. Sometimes an emergency dose of whatever it is one needs gets them through that difficulty so they can continue making their own autonomous decisions outside of the hospital.
That dogmatic anti-meds positions can be dangerous is true in many other circumstances too. Here is one other: Some thoughts on stopping psychiatric medications – pros and cons to coming off
Update 2016: It’s become clear to me that whenever it’s possible that it’s helpful for folks who’ve not begun withdrawal and have the time to consider a carefully thought out plan to attempt to bring greater well-being to your body before starting the withdrawal. That means learning how to profoundly nourish your body/mind and spirit prior to beginning a withdrawal. For suggestions on how to go about doing that check the drop-down menus on this blog for ideas. Anything that helps you learn how to live well can be part of your plan. That plan will look different for everyone as we learn to follow our hearts and find our own unique paths in the world. Things to begin considering are diet, exercise and movement, meditation/contemplation etc. Paying attention to all these things as you do them helps too. The body will start letting us know what it needs as we learn to pay attention.
*it is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care. Really all doctors should always be willing to do this as we are all individuals and need to be treated as such. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up
For a multitude of ideas about how to create a life filled with safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page.