It finally happened. It only took almost two years, but it finally happened. I am proud to announce…
…I have tapered off Ativan!!!
This little almost microscopic pill was in control of my life. Sure, I owe it some credit for saving me from body shaking, hyperventilating, heart-palpating anxiety. But… it controlled me. From the first moment that Benzo entered my system in January of 2015 when I was last hospitalized, I knew what would happen. I knew I would succumb to this drug just like I have so many times before to its siblings: Valium, Xanax & Klonopin. Drugs that force me to relax (which is very necessary at the time). Drugs that force me to sleep. Drugs that force me to become ‘normal’.
For the longest time I hated being on medication. I despised the fact that a little pill was necessary in my life to retain some ounce of normalcy. Every time I tapered off a medication, I threw a little party in my head to not being controlled by a substance anymore. I longed for the day I wouldn’t be on any medication. Although it did occur, and lasted for four straight years, I once again became dependent on medication, and many of them, that January of 2015.
When I admitted myself to the hospital, besides telling the psychiatrist I was having thoughts of hurting myself and bordered on having suicidal ideations (which I was), I had to agree to put myself on whatever medication they gave me. I needed the help, so I desperately agreed. That night I started on 5mg of Lexapro, 100mg of Seroquel and .5mg of Ativan, the latter would be given to me 3 times daily. I’ll fully admit, I was a complete mess and was in dire need of the aid of medication in addition to therapy. I welcomed these meds with open arms.
After suffering on and off for decades, I finally decided to let go of my irritation at being dependant on medications. I welcomed it inside my ‘guest house’ for tea. (Please read Rumi’s poem ‘The Guest House’ below).
Over these last almost 2 years, I tried multiple times to taper off the Seroquel and the Ativan (yes, with the aid of my Psychiatrist – NEVER taper by yourself). I failed on these attempts. I realized I was not where I needed to be mentally, and although I cried when these attempts were unsuccessful, I pushed onward and took my meds. It was only about 4 months ago that I finally, successfully, tapered off the Seroquel!
The next item on my agenda was to tackle the Ativan. Although, I was not on the prescribed dosage from the hospital anymore, I was still actively taking .5mg in the evening for sleep. With this last hospitalization (and the events that occurred a few months prior) my anxiety at night was excessive. I feared bed time. I internally fought going to my room because I knew my bed was a cause of extreme anxiety. My therapist didn’t quite understand this anxiety. After many visits with him, we figured out that it pertained to noise. My brain assumed every loud noise, forget loud, every noise would keep me from sleeping and when Stephanie doesn’t sleep, Stephanie goes off the deep end. We processed my anxiety over loud noises and although I’m still highly irritated when I hear any noise in the evening, I was able to talk myself down from the ridiculous thoughts that I would never sleep again.
I was now ready. The time to taper off the Ativan was now.
I consulted with my Psychiatrist the best way to do this. At this point, I was down to .25mg of Ativan at night (have you ever tried to cut that tiny .5mg pill in half?!). I have been through tapering before but I wanted her best recommendation. She honestly said to me, “I think you got this. You know exactly what to do.” I started with 2 more weeks at the .25mg. Then I proceeded to .25mg every other day for 2 weeks and then, last week, .25mg every 2 days. By the time I got to my last dosage (Saturday night), I just said screw this and didn’t take it.
So here I am, Ativan free for almost a week now and I am doing just fine. My bed does not scare me. When noises pop up at night, I logically tell myself it will not last and that the ear plugs will block it out. I’ve talked myself out of my Anxiety without forcing it. I am proud of myself.
With all that said… please do not skew my view on medication. It is a valuable aid in Mental Illness recovery. I only taper off meds when I know I do not need them anymore, when I know I can live typically without them. I am off the Seroquel because I am not having a psychotic episode anymore and it was not helping me sleep anymore. And I am off the daily Ativan because I do not need it anymore. I still filled a prescription for it because when I do have Anxiety attacks, I will take it. I am still on my Lexapro because after battling Depression on and off for more than 2 decades, and after the suggestion of a few doctors, I have decided that it is probably a good idea to remain on an antidepressant for the rest of my life. I am more than okay with this decision. One day, I hope to taper off my sleep aid, Trazodone, but for now, I am content and living ‘normally’ and that is what matters the most.