When the time came to write this article, I had to review my life stories to determine which ones were the most monumental in transforming my whole “Self.” Then I had to decide which of those stories I was brave enough to share. The process of choosing also has been transformational because I had the recurring revelation that this whole life we live is one big process of transformations, ever-changing, ever-evolving.
The saying, “You learn something new every day,” is not entirely accurate; we are learning new things every second. The most important part of the process is to remember to be aware of the lessons.
My biggest lessons came from experiences throughout my whole life. I was a sickly child, born with a double ureter, and I had surgery at age 4 after months of recurring infections and courses of antibiotics. My immune system took a beating, and I’ve been extra-susceptible to infections and other illness since that time. I’ve also been in a battle with migraines for 20 years.
When I was 22, I took a trip to the ER by ambulance. I thought I was having a heart attack, but it turned out to be a panic attack.
A trip to my doctor diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. He started me on a very common, strong benzodiazepine. I had gone to nursing school, so I knew that people built up a tolerance to this drug, and I made a conscious effort to take as little as possible. For years, it was my security blanket. When my heart began to race, I could count on that little pill to calm me down. When I couldn’t sleep because my mind was racing, I could count on that little pill. When I was feeling completely overwhelmed, I could count on that little pill. I became dependent.
I took my tiny doses four to six times a day. I continued to struggle with migraines and headaches. I did my best to function as normal as possible given the way I felt, and I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia along the way. I also did my best to cope with my own internal struggle. Taking this drug went against everything I believed in, but I was scared to stop taking it for fear that I would have a real heart attack. I assumed that I would have to take this drug for the rest of my life or, if I wanted to stop taking it, I would have to check into a hospital to detox.
I decided to cut back on the benzodiazepine a few years ago in an attempt to wean myself off. I was able to decrease my daily dosage by two-thirds but not able to stop completely. I just could not seem to rid myself of this drug’s grip on me. It was driving me crazy, so I finally made the solid decision at the end of 2013 to wean myself off it altogether. I asked my sister to keep an eye on me. I made a schedule and planned out how I would decrease using what I had. I thought it would take a month or so, but I broke myself completely free of the drug in three days. I was so angry that I had let this go on for so long that I just wanted to stop, and I was ready to put myself through whatever it took to let go.
The first two days of decrease were rough. The anxiety was atrocious, the tightness in my chest was scary. On the third day, I could start to feel major changes in my cognition, my overall perception, my strength, my appetite, my vision, and my whole body. I didn’t sleep for five days. I started to have true emotions again; they had been covered up with what I call, “benzo fog.” I knew that I was going to have to learn how to feel all over again—and to cope with those feelings. However, it was like I was completely reborn, renewed, refreshed, and rejuvenated. Most importantly, there was a huge sense of pride in this accomplishment. My fog had lifted! And I was able to see how beautiful life was once again. I had a newfound gratitude for all that I had been through, where I was going, and who I am. My head also hurt less often. I was ecstatic!
I had dealt with other people’s drug addictions in my personal and professional life, but I had no idea that I was addicted to this benzodiazepine for nearly 15 years.
It made me sad that I had blank spots in my memory from that time period, and it made me sad that I had walked around for so long in that fog. I felt like I had to apologize to everyone who had ever been a part of my life. I wasn’t myself. I vowed never to touch that drug again. I also vowed to let others know my story and experience. And I vowed to remind others that our mind is powerful beyond our comprehension. We can accomplish absolutely anything we set out to do.
Each day is a bright new day as I feel healthier and more energetic than I have since high school. I let go of the guilt and shame I was carrying for those 15 years. I now work hard to keep my anxieties in check with breathing techniques, yoga, meditation, a healthier diet, and exercise.
I had to relearn what I already knew before getting caught up in the pharmaceutical world that most Western physicians adhere to these days: I truly believe that we were put on this Earth with absolutely everything we need to survive and triumph in this lifetime. Only when we accept and live mindfully with that inherent truth will we properly thrive as individuals and altogether as a global unit.
Kelly Slevin, MTP, BA, PBT is the founder of the Sunflower Institute and has a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology. She is a passionate writer, teacher, adventure-seeker and works hard to push herself and others to overcome obstacles we all face. You can read about Kelly and find all of her works at www.kellyslevin.com.
This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at Amazon.com, BN.com, www.Transformation-Publishing.com and all ebook formats.