ben·zo·di·az·e·pine | \ ˌben-zō-dī-ˈa-zə-ˌpēn \
-any of a group of aromatic lipophilic amines (such as diazepam and chlordiazepoxide) used especially as tranquilizers*
Benzodiazepines can come with a whole lot of baggage. Valium, Diazepam, Xanax, or Ativan, call it what you will, but in some circles, if you’re using these, it’s best to keep it a secret. It means that there is something wrong with you. Maybe you’re weak. Maybe you need therapy. Worst case scenario, you’re a drug addict.
Well, I’m none of these things. I am a normal, curious, creative, generally happy woman who happens to also have an anxiety disorder. Every 9 months or so, I get a new prescription for Clonazepam, which I take when my body is buzzing, or I can’t sleep too many nights in a row, or I have to get on an airplane and fly somewhere. If I don’t have at least a few pills in the bottle going into the Christmas season, I panic.
Knowing I have that little orange bottle in my fridge makes me feel prepared. And if you’ve ever met anyone with anxiety, you’ll know that we’re not good with surprises. Nothing is sexier than a good plan.
On a daily basis, to keep my anxiety in check, I also take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. It keeps me from jolting awake in the middle of night, thinking that I’m going to die because I feel like I can’t breathe. And on the days when my anxiety is a bit more in my face, I know that my little white pills have my back.
Incidentally, I did manage to go off all anxiety medication for about nine months a few years ago with no adverse effects.
This is what I did:
1. I exercised vigorously. I did squats, burpees, lunges, planks, and weights. I walked, jogged, and skied. I sweated my ass off for 45 minutes to an hour, 5-6 days a week.
2. I eliminated all sugar, alcohol, and caffeine from my diet.
3. I meditated daily for 20-30 minutes.
I don’t want to prescribe a course of action for anyone, but this really worked for me. Unfortunately, at about the nine-month mark, I had an epiphany. I am not this woman.
I love to read, write, knit, throw pottery, and hand-felt wee animals. I love my morning coffee, preferably in bed, with toast and jam, and a good book. Almost everything that I love to do requires me to sit on my ass for long periods of time. I am not, nor ever have been, an athlete. I don’t like living a life that requires abstinence, eschewing all the things that I love. I would have made a lousy monk.
Instead, I decided to accept myself as I am, to love the things that I love, eat a mostly healthy diet, switch to decaf, drink the occasional glass of wine, and try to go for a walk every day. And take my meds. That’s a long-term program that I can stick to.
For the record, I do believe that Benzodiazepines can be dangerous when used improperly. And, frankly, I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a few hours with a psychotherapist.
I’ve always been an open book, so I’m ok with people knowing that I take meds to help with my anxiety, just like I’d be OK with people knowing that I would take insulin if I were a diabetic. I’m just trying to be the best that I can, and if there is something that can help me with that, then why not take it?