I remember my first intense panic attack like it was yesterday. I was 21 and I was thousands of miles away from home and it felt like the experience was literally breaking my brain.
At the time I didn't know what a panic attack was. Days later, I wound up in the hospital because the panic attacks were so frequent I could barely eat or sleep. At the hospital I was prescribed Ativan and was told to try and avoid stress and to take one tablet a day as needed. I did that. I honestly found that I didn't need to take it every day either.
Unfortunately, just when I thought the panic attacks came to a halt, they came back and I started taking more Ativan. I saw a psychiatrist and therapist but I wasn't getting why I was feeling like this. All I knew is that one day I was my normal self and the next I was far from it. Depression began to seep in because my anxiety was so debilitating and I couldn't do the things I loved doing because I wouldn't leave the house.
I was so devastated and I felt like I had no other ideas on how to get better so I started taking a slew of antidepressants. I have probably tried almost ALL antidepressants and as each one failed to help me I started to lose more and more hope. I was eventually switched from Ativan to Klonopin because it was so debilitating. Not to mention that all the side effects from the antidepressants made the anxiety worse and before I knew it I was taking 1-3 Klonopin's a day.
That is when things started to spiral out of control. I began taking Klonopin every time I got upset. If anything stressful or mildly upsetting happened I took one.
It got to the point where I would end up running out a week or even two weeks before my next prescription was scheduled to be refilled. Throughout the span of two years I went from 0.25mg to 1.5mgs. I felt like the drug had dumbed me down and diluted my ability to think. It was truly an ugly feeling but anything was better than feeling sheer panic.
I also had a fair share of terrible psychiatrists, whom all sounded great when I first met them. I remember one in particular. She was from Benjamin's Behavioral Health which is in Houston where I used to live at the time. I would go in there and every other appointment they had me trying out new antidepressants every other few weeks because I told her that nothing was helping. They prescribed me Lexapro, Effexor, Paxil and Prozac. They even prescribed me Adderall when I told them I had trouble focusing. I didn't have to say much without them pushing another script in my face.. and me, being naive and scared at the time, took it because I was desperate to feel better again.
I had a bad reaction to Prozac and it happened around the Thanksgiving holiday and I was taking my Klonopin more than I should have because the side effects of the Prozac where so bad that I began having awful suicidal thoughts and started cutting myself. I was so scared and I reached out DAYS before the holiday and I was ignored. No response, no email, no voice message or call back. I ran out of my Klonopin and despite what I told them, they only refilled my Prozac. I began to freak out and after three days of no Klonopin, the withdrawals began to seep in.
At the time I didn't think it was withdrawals because I had no clue Klonopin would do that to me. I know, I should have been more thoughtful and asked more questions, but every time I presented my concerns to the psychiatrist at that place, I was dismissed and told not to read up on stuff on the internet. I never was given ANY type of warning about this nasty benzo. That in itself is horrifying and evil. And while I want to put full blame into that facility, I feel like Big Pharma is the monster and that psychiatrists are just puppets. Anyway, I thought I had a stomach flu but when I began sweating, hallucinating and only sleeping for 4 hours per night, my mind began to wander.
When I saw that everything I was feeling was being checked off on the benzo withdrawal list, I panicked. I blamed myself and at that point it had only been a couple of days worth of withdrawals. I read that you could die from stopping benzo's cold turkey and that scared me.
On day three of feeling horrific, I frantically make an appointment with the facility I went to even after being ignored because I was desperate. I gave them $150 all to be told that they were firing me as their patient all because I went to multiple pharmacies. They explained that it was a red flag but I had multiple pharmacies because I was moving around a lot but even after I explained this they dismissed me and only refilled a different antidepressant and no Klonopin.
I left, crying, feeling ashamed but also angry because they didn't care about my withdrawal symptoms. At that point I had been on Klonopin for two years. I felt pure panic shake me to my core once I realized I had no Klonopin and that I wasn't going to get any. I thought about what would happen to me and I frantically set an appointment up with a clinic and to my luck, they prescribed me the medication.
Going through withdrawals was so terrifying. I had awful thoughts. I told my parents that I couldn't be left alone because I didn't trust myself to be alone. I told my dad to move the guns in the house because I was scared I'd shoot myself. When I took the medication after days without it I felt a wave of relief wash through me almost seconds after taking it. This relief also scared me, because at that point, I knew it in my bones that my body formed a legit addiction. However I was too scared to attempt to quit, I NEVER wanted to experience that feeling ever again. So I took them and life felt the same again besides the dependency I had.
A couple years pass and when I was around 24 I was told by my new psychiatrist that the antidepressants weren't working for me alone because I showed symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. This made sense to me but upset me deeply because it made SO much sense. I was then put on Zoloft, Trileptal which is a mood stabilizer, and my psychiatrist brought me down to 1mg and when I moved to Colorado my new psychiatrist dropped me down to 0.5mg and then to 0.25mg and then to 15 tablets instead of 30.
Tapering from 0.5mg to 0.25mg was tough on me, especially when I went down to 15 tablets. I broke them down into quarters and took one per day. I felt a little depressed, anxious, irritated and tired, but nothing extreme. I tapered for about five months and now I feel clearer.
I had panic attacks getting off. It was scary. But I knew it was what I needed to do. I read stories of people saying they felt like them again. I heard people say that they felt like their life was theirs again and that gave me courage. It was a day by day thing. Wave after wave. Nights before bed were the hardest. I had to sleep with a night light on and often woke up my boyfriend up with my bad dreams and panic attacks.
However, slowly I began to realize that maybe the Klonopin was causing the depression and anxiety and when I got off, I slowly began to feel less dazed, more alert, and I felt my brain was beginning to heal.
Getting off of Klonopin was one of the best decisions of my life and if I did not get off of it I feel like I would have continued to waste my life away.
With love, support and a safe environment anyone can overcome this.
Support your loved ones who are going through any type of addiction, whether it is given to you by Big Pharma or whether it was given to you by the street. If you are suffering from an addiction PLEASE know that you can DO IT. Be patient with yourself and understand that you are not alone and addiction can happen to anyone. Believe in yourself.