During benzodiazepine (benzo) withdrawal, people often talk about intense feelings of guilt and self persecution. They feel trapped and hopeless. Blaming themselves for falling into an As Prescribed trap. However, guilt in of itself is a wasted emotion. It does not serve anyone. It only further suppresses true authentic feelings and oppresses others to living by would, should and could haves. Nevertheless, the neuro-emotions felt in withdrawal are just that, neuro-emotions. Feeling of intense rage and sadness flood through every set pathway from within and are saturated can occur instantaneously. The turn around time from a trigger lasts double if not triple the time to bounce back to withdrawal norm as oppose to pre-benzo emotional regulation. Benzos slow the brain down so much that once triggered in the Amygdala, which is automatic upon receiving the information (trigger) visually, mentally, and/or through any sense, taste, touch, or sound, the brain works too slow to access the frontal cortex of self reasoning.
Yes, even taste can trigger a cascade of fearful thoughts to a brain that has been injured by a benzo. Too salty can lead to quick irrational thoughts about having a stroke even if they only took one bite. Take a bite into a soggy piece of lettuce that has gone bad and you are sure you will have listeria by midnight. Even though the brain is slow from the mechanism of the drug, it is just slow, not completely broken. In withdrawal, one has to help it along a little and get themselves back in the driver seat of their mind. First, they have to tell themselves something along the lines of: That was probably a benzo driven thought and I didn’t think like this before a benzo or benzo withdrawal, so it’s probably not my normal baseline self. It’s difficult as their body will still be reeling from the automatic thought and the adrenaline pumping through their veins and alarms going off saying go to hospital right now or hurry take some activated charcoal. They will have to separate their thoughts through mindfulness and active observation. Easy to say when one finds themselves living in the modern day version of The Shining with yourself knocking at the door of your mind with the axe. However, Picasso once said everything you can imagine is real and it is true. It can either way negative or positive. So even though it is only imagined, you are having a real experience of fear as if it is really occurring. However, you can also just see it for what it is. Just a thought. Just as if your brain is an antenna transmitting information passing through it. When you tell yourself, it is just a benzo thought, you start the process of calming down and regaining control.
My brother had a benzo injury before he passed away and he was tortured with inappropriate guilt and apologized all the time for how he teased me when we were kids. He couldn’t remember all the good things he did for me in our life and the great times we had. When the central nervous system, the epicenter of how we experience the world through our senses, is shut down, it feels like the walking dead. Literally. How do we experience life? Through our senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing and seeing. When your depth perception is off, you can’t smell food the same anymore, food tastes like nothing, lights are too bright and shrill of turning on the faucet makes you feel like you are going to jump out of your skin you feel as if the winds of death are blowing through you and the sunset dipping behind you in the horizon feels like it might just be your last one, you can’t feel a life force or anything good. In a state like that, how can one remember when everything just feels dead or like death. Not to mention the neurotransmitter gaba, the gatekeeper of the hippocampus, our memory and learning center is not quite doing its job anymore in withdrawal. Intrusive thoughts and carefully stored painful memories come flying out without notice like a haunting. It’s quite a road to walk in withdrawal. Unfortunately, with the increase in prescribing of benzos at 67% over the past 17 years, we are going to see more suffering from this syndrome. People can heal from a benzo injury. However, it takes a lot of time, unprecedented amount of acceptance of unrelenting symptoms 24/7 for months and sometimes years on end. However, in the end, any shroud of the life and health a person has before a benzo is worth it. It is key to talk back to the negative thoughts, reality test them and build a case of evidence against them. If ever in your life do you need to strengthen your relationship with yourself it is now. Guilt does not place at the table for that and that’ is all it is, inappropriate benzo guilt, a neuro- emotion, nothing more, nothing less. Name it, put a face on it and put it on the shelf. Don’t believe any of it about your self worth for one second.