As I approached my mid-thirties, I decided it was time to finally quit the antianxiety medications that I’d been taking for nearly a decade and a half. The Paxil (an SSRI antidepressant) and the Xanax (a potent benzodiazepine tranquilizer) seemed suspect. The meds, which had been prescribed in college for panic attacks, had seemed to help my anxiety for a while, but eventually it became obvious to me (and before that, to the people who loved me), that these medications were doing more harm than good. At various times throughout my years spent on the pills, I experienced: fatigue, increased anxiety, weight gain, depression, blunted emotions, high liver enzyme numbers, and a general “out of touch” feeling (a feeling that I was somehow out of touch with my true personality and values, and also out of touch with my goals for the future).
Bottom line: I decided that I’d be better off without the drugs.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how one looks at it), I didn’t know anything about SSRI withdrawal or benzodiazepine withdrawal at the time, so I quit the medications (after some tapering) and then I waited for my life to quickly get better.
And when the opposite happened—when my life was turned upside down by strange body pains, terrifying dreams, skin-peeling anxiety, murky depression, torturous insomnia, and a host of other bizarre symptoms—I didn’t know what to make of it.
Doctors weren’t any help, my family members were scared and confused, and eventually I felt hopeless. I wondered if I was dying or maybe suffering from some permanent disability. Thankfully, I was able to find information online that helped me to define my situation (as SSRI withdrawal and benzo withdrawal), and then, well, it was a challenging process of moving forward on my own (with support from my family).
The withdrawal symptoms were painful, but eventually things got a little better, and then, later on, they got a lot better. The withdrawal “tunnel” was long and dark, but eventually I found light at the end of that tunnel (and along the way, I learned a lot about how we can encourage healing and positive self-development).
For those of you out there who are still thrashing though the thick of antidepressant withdrawal or benzodiazepine withdrawal, here are a few of those healing and growth tips that I picked up along my journey.
"Listen to Your Body. Practice True Self-Love."
1. Listen to your body when it comes to food, drink, exercise, and stress levels.
Some people would say that you should never touch a drop of coffee or alcohol during the benzodiazepine or antidepressant withdrawal & healing process. Some people would say that you shouldn’t take any supplements. Some people would say that you should avoid exercise, so as not to ramp up symptoms. So what is the real “prescription” for healing? There is a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there, but, to be honest, most of it is simply opinion, not science. The healing process is very individual, and a big part of finding healing in your own case will involve getting in touch with your body, your mind, and your emotions, and paying attention to how those things are affected not only by various foods and drinks, but by the power of suggestion, by the goals you pursue, and by the company you keep.
So, what did I do during withdrawal as far as food, drink, exercise, and stress levels were concerned?
Food: Once my appetite came back, I began to eat much healthier. I began cooking for myself more and eating out less. I also made sure to eat regularly throughout the day.
Drink: I cut out coffee and soda for periods of time due to anxiety and body pains, but I later resumed the consumption of both of these things. Also, I greatly reduced my alcohol intake, but I never swore off a nightcap completely (a note: moderation is very important here).
Exercise: I generally tried to make this a regular part of the healing process (exercise is simply necessary for anyone to have a decent life, withdrawal or no withdrawal). At first my exercise only involved light activity (maybe walking a few times a week), but then as I got stronger, I began running and lifting weights. I now run eight or more miles at a time regularly, and I also engage in strength training. It’s amazing how we can progress with time and persistence (and that statement applies to so much more than just exercise levels).
Stress: I learned how to say no to certain things on occasion (such as social functions or work presentations). I pushed through professional and home responsibilities and made sure to go about my regular life as much as possible, but I also realized that a lot of our stress is self-imposed. So, if I truly didn’t feel comfortable committing to a “nonessential item,” I didn’t. We really do have the power to reduce stress in our lives, and it is imperative that we do so while we healing from benzodiazepine withdrawal and/or antidepressant withdrawal.
2. Learn that it’s okay to pamper yourself. (Guys, you can call it self-care.)
Okay, the term “pamper” might sound overly feminine, but how about “self-care?” Guys, this whole self-care idea is for you, too. Things like enjoying comfort food, baths, movie nights, reading in bed, etc., are necessary parts of the recovery and healing process. After we stop taking medications such as Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, and so many others, our bodies and minds need loving care to repair and restore themselves. “Pampering” or, said another way, “excessive self-care,” is an important part of that restoration process.
"Stay Spiritual. Stay Positive."
3. Get spiritual.
I believe that there is no substitute for getting spiritual during withdrawal (or during any life crisis). I myself am a Christian, and I leaned heavily on devotions and Scripture readings during the healing process, especially on the readings that involved the Psalms of David and on the loving and restoring words of Jesus in the New Testament. In my opinion, benzo withdrawal and antidepressant withdrawal present us with challenges that are simply out of this everyday world—supernatural, metaphysical—and we can’t survive these challenges on our own.
Nurturing a spiritual connection each day allows us to release our burdens to God; it gives us the opportunity to ask Him to heal us, and to move us through each day in His loving and protecting hands. I encourage everyone out these who is going through the prescription drug withdrawal process to make daily devotion and prayer a part of each day. These habits will serve you well, not only during the healing journey, but for the rest of your life.
4. Take in positive information.
There is simply too much negativity out there when we search for information about benzodiazepine withdrawal and antidepressant withdrawal. Horror stories and defeatist thinking abound when we try to find information and support, so we must learn to walk away from these things and replace them with useful, positive content instead.
To ensure that you keep progressing in your healing journey, you must find inspirational, motivating, uplifting videos, books, and/or message boards. You are what you take in, and during the healing process, you need to feed your mind and body positive information and encouragement.
"Believe in your future."
This is related, in part, to my Healing Suggestion Number Four, but it is separate as well, because it comes from deep within yourself, not necessarily from any external sources. You must believe that you will persevere. You must believe that you will find a better life! You must believe that you deserve a happier, healthier life, and you must envision those brighter days that you will have in two months or six months or a year or whatever. A better life will be yours. Believe it!
The process of moving through benzodiazepine withdrawal, antidepressant withdrawal, or withdrawal from other medications can be uniquely challenging, but it can be done, and it can even lead to personal growth that lasts a lifetime. No matter what scenario you might be struggling with right now, please know that your healing—your better life—is out there. And each day you are moving one step closer to reaching it.
Lovely Grind Author & Web Creator
Tags: Benzo Withdrawal Support; Antidepressant Withdrawal & Healing; Spiritual Support for SSRI Withdrawal; Spiritual Support for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
CONTACT ME ABOUT COACHING
If you or someone you know is struggling to survive the pain and confusion of prescription drug withdrawal or chronic stress, I would like to offer my coaching services. Stress can suck the joy out of life, and the withdrawal process can be challenging (I know from experience). However, with the proper tools and mindset, these things can be survived and even used for greater growth. If you or someone you care about is trying to quit antidepressant or benzodiazepine medications (or simply trying to reduce stress levels), please click here to email me about coaching options and availability.
MICHAEL PRIEBE is is a writer and personal development coach. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to comment on politics, sports, relationships, and spiritual issues. Last year he released a workday devotional, The Lovely Grind: Spiritual Inspiration for Workdays (ORDER HERE), and he currently blogs about a variety of topics at michaelpriebewriter.com and lovelygrind.com. You can get all of his blog posts by signing up for his mailing list here, and you can enjoy all of his YouTube videos here.