Others Really Can Get It
(original post February 28, 2015)
I’m perched on my chair in the living room as usual sipping my coffee. I typically drink it black, but in the winter I often indulge by adding some flavored creamer. Today it’s cinnamon roll creamer - very nice. I will switch to black coffee after the first cup. It reminds me of my drinking rituals more than five years ago which I would follow from this very same spot. Usually two glasses of something at least 80-proof (about four shots in each glass) followed by two or three strong beers each of which was the equivalent of two “normal” beers or, more properly, beers that normal people would drink. I am digressing.
Last Friday I met with a group of people for the purpose of supporting a young lady who is currently in benzo withdrawal: my good buddy, Jayson; my brother and his wife; my niece (who edited my book); the young lady, Angela; and her nine-month-old baby (a very cool little guy).
Of course, everyone received a book, and the discussion centered around that for a good while. This led into a general conversation regarding psych drugs. Nearly everyone at the table (We were at an Eat n Park restaurant.) had experience with psych drugs in the past. (My brother still takes citalopram and clonazepam and “seems” happy, but that’s another story.)
One of the first things that struck me was that my niece (and editor) was very vocal about the issue. As the two of us edited the book (over four months), I could tell from her editorial remarks that she could “feel” my pain as she read. It became obvious the further we went in the book. She actually “gets it.” She related her short-lived experience with Prozac to some of my experience with the SSRIs. Her experience was validated by what she read in the book. That was a very awesome thing for me. It’s one of the purposes of the book – to try to reach others by validating their experience with psych drugs in a way that psychiatry, as currently practiced, will not do.
At the restaurant, Angela and I were sitting at the middle of the table across from each other. She was in a good window and feeling relatively well. As we ate (and afterwards), the two of us shared our benzo withdrawal symptoms with each other - from the relatively “common” symptoms of fear, panic attacks and depression to things like burning pain, feeling like you need to explode, severe akathisia, derealization, electricity flowing through your body, hot/cold sensations, extreme sensitivity to sound and light, constant suicidal ideation, feelings of insanity, dizziness, vibrating brain and body, heart palpitations, and on and on. Everyone was silent as we were relating those symptoms to each other. At one point my brother chuckled a little. Our conversation sounded inane (and possibly insane). No one else at the table could relate to these more bizarre symptoms – except for my niece who was familiar with some of the descriptions in the book – especially the derealization.
[I have to leave for a few hours but will hopefully be back to finish this post.]
Yesterday, my brother and his wife visited me here at home. They had thought about asking Angela (who lives near them and is now in a horrid wave) to come along. I wish they had –maybe next time. They had both read my book since our meeting last Friday. Our discussion was very eye-opening. Until they read the book, they had no inkling of what I had been enduring for so long. They had not the slightest notion of the absolute anguish that the psych drugs and their withdrawal had caused me. They had seen me during that time but were clueless. They were both apologetic to me. It was beyond anything I could have expected or even imagined. My sister-in-law said that, as she read my story, it felt like she was right there with me feeling the pain. In the book, I reiterate some of what I went through (from part 1) in the second part. She said it was extremely disturbing to her because it made her feel the anguish again. The big point is simply: One week ago they did not understand. This week they clearly “get it.” I was amazed.
Last Sunday I delivered a copy of my book to a friend who is an RN at a nearby hospital. I told her that I was interested in her review of the book. She has never been on psych drugs of any kind or withdrawal from anything. She messaged me about an hour ago with this:
“The book is amazing! I have trouble putting it down, which is a problem because of my three classes worth of homework! It will take me a while to get through the book because of my class load, but I will continue to read! I can feel your raw emotion and vulnerability. You do an excellent job putting on paper what it feels like. I think all healthcare providers should read this book! Thank you for being brave and putting yourself out there to help the rest of us understand!”
She actually says she understands and that all health care providers should read it. I almost fell on the floor. That is one of the big things I wanted the book to do – reach “normals” – help them to actually “feel” the horror. I think that has been achieved. I am really in awe of that.
Obviously, it is possible for others to understand at some level of “feeling.” Of course, there is no way for them to experience the seemingly infinite torture, but they can, apparently, feel “enough” to know that those who go through the experience are fighting a vastly painful life-and-death battle.
I didn’t know if it was possible to “move” others enough in an effort to help them see and feel the hopelessness and pain that many endure while on psych drugs and during withdrawal from them.
Now I know. It can be done. It really can.