They Don't Know What to Do or Say
(original post October 30, 2013)
When I was suffering for two years in benzo withdrawal, I honestly expected (and insisted) that others must know what I was experiencing. How could they not understand? After all, my inner turmoil and agony were so profound and intense that it must surely be radiating from my being and absorbing into their being by osmosis or diffusion or some other process. How dare they not be able to feel my anguish? How could they be so unfeeling and cold-hearted?
As I look back through healed eyes, I was clearly angry not so much about my plight but rather the fact that other people were living and enjoying life while I could not. What right did they have to enjoy themselves while I was so miserable – with no end in sight? The world was doing just fine without me. How intensely rude. I even hated our two cats. How could it be that even the cats were happier than I? And those damned crows cawing and taunting me. (Okay, I digress.)  
In my first few months, my friends and family were very devoted and concerned about my well-being. After three months of my whining and bellyaching about how badly I felt, they all started to avoid me. No one asked me how I was anymore. They were sick of my standard answers – “Hangin’ in there.”  Or “Barely holding on.” I was a real downer. I was depressing. I was making them like me.
For thirty years, my wife and I would talk about our days every afternoon when I got home from work. Thirty years of communication ended after only a few months of my incessant complaining from withdrawal. I could focus on nothing but my anguish, and my anguish was wearing her down. Before withdrawal, our son would often drop by for a visit, and we would have great discussions. My misery wore him down as well. He still visited, but I was reduced to a silent, emotionless zombie who sat and stared. He had no idea what to say to me, but he was very careful not to ask me how I felt anymore.
Even now, as I have healed after going through the hell of withdrawal, at times I must remind myself that there is no “snapping out of it” and there are no “bootstraps” to pull on. I want to see my friends “hurry up and get well.” A healed brain wants to apply logic to the process of the healing of others by suggesting rational courses of action. But logic has no place in helping a brain that can be healed only by allowing time to pass – by simply existing till it’s all over.
I was painfully reminded of this earlier today when I had the opportunity to speak with the husband of a lady who is going through withdrawal right now. He is a strong man who, when he is confronted with a problem, resolves that problem and goes on with life. He is the “go to” guy – the problem solver. I heard the anger of frustration in his voice. Being a “go to” guy myself for most of my life, I wanted desperately to give him the answer of how to best help his wife in a “tangible” way. But I could not. It is not possible for him to understand his wife’s suffering. He knows that. He is worn and tired. He misses his wife, just as my wife missed me. It’s such a hard place for everyone involved.
It’s a helpless and hopeless feeling for those in withdrawal. It’s a helpless feeling for others who want them back. They don’t know what to do or say. Maybe the best thing is simply to provide hope in whatever way possible….with words, a hug, a smile, a nod….to simply listen to the seemingly unending misery without speaking….to affirm that wellness will arrive….to simply wait with them as the time passes and wellness shows up….and it will….in time.