I spent many, many years in a self-imposed isolation. I felt I had no choice because I believed I was severely ill. Having spent over 20 years on the planet crippled by severe panic attacks, anxiety symptoms, and the depression that came along with it, hanging out with friends was something I just couldn’t do. Heck, standing in line at the grocery store was torture. A casual chat at the grocery store? Impossible! I am not kidding when I tell you I used to pray for cancer instead. I am also not being dramatic, this is the truth.
Technically, I was what they call “functional” — modern medicine saw to that! While I am grateful for medication–don’t misunderstand me–without it, I would have been completely agoraphobic. But because doctors didn’t really know much about what was ailing me, more often than not, I was over or under-medicated. Often severely. And even with medication, I had break through panic attacks.
With medication I could socialize, go to work, and be a soccer mom, but it was in a semi-coma, zombie-like state. True, I was having my severe panic attacks only occasionally, but I was pretty much only present in body. The medicine took me far away. I slept 12 dreamless hours a night and took naps every day. This was the side effects of my medication. Also, I was unable to cry. My inability to shed tears hurt actually. I went through the deaths of my 2 beloved grandfathers and could not mourn in the usual way.
I decided to wean off Klonopin
I decided a few months ago that I wanted live a better life. I wanted my emotions back. I really wanted to be awake and alert for my loved ones, but more importantly for myself. This is my life after all, not some dress rehearsal. Panic attacks or not, I wanted to start getting off my medications. My choice today is to wean off Klonopin.
I was able to find a primary care physician who listened to me–no easy task 😉 — and he supported my decision to wean off my medications under his care.
Medication withdrawal is very serious business, and requires being under a physician’s care. Over the years, I had tried to wean off my anti-anxiety and depression meds by myself. Big No-No! Two years ago, when I tried to wean off Prozac, I had terrible side effects: I felt like I was being shocked or electrocuted, and I couldn’t stop crying. My sleep was all messed up. Worst of all, I didn’t realize how badly I was doing until my dear friend pointed it out to me.
She couldn’t believe I went cold turkey on my Prozac after being on it for 18 years. Certainly I knew better but I wasn’t thinking clearly. With my history of suffering through my childhood, teenage, and young adult years, I just figured it was my job to endure whatever life handed to me. It was no different with this disturbing Prozac withdrawal. Clearly my self esteem needed some serious adjusting as well– which is something I continue to work on in my 12 Step Recovery Program (I’ve been going to Al-Anon for 10 years).
But let’s fast forward to my most recent medication withdrawal under the care of my doctor. This was the big one for me, my Klonopin. I have been on Klonopin (I won’t say the dose, but it is very high) since 1988, when I was first diagnosed with panic disorder. My doctor gave me a suggested schedule for weaning off the Klonopin, and stressed that I was free to go as slowly as I needed to, and STOP the weaning at any time. Also I was to call him if I was in any trouble, symptom-wise.
My Klonopin withdrawal symptoms were quite severe, even with the very gradual weaning schedule I was following. I woke up in literal puddles of cold sweat every night, and had to change my pajamas and lay on towels to “sleep”, if you could call it that. I didn’t get a sound night’s sleep for over 30 days, often awakening 3 hours after bedtime and then not being able to fall asleep again (this is called terminal insomnia). Since my body was relearning to fall asleep, I wasn’t allowed to take any sleep medications to help me with that.
I also had a lot of very disturbing thoughts, mostly of a sexual nature. These thoughts were awful and they really plagued me.
The worst side effect of my Klonopin withdrawal was that my severe panic attacks returned. Here is an example of one. Even with all my book knowledge and years of therapy behind me, I was immediately freaked out again, and started to wonder if this was going to be my life again. Panic attacks are HELL on earth, plain and simple.
One day at a time, I am doing it
With the grace of my God, the care of my doctor, the support of my family and friends, and through living my life by learning to face my fears and wait for the panic to pass without retreating (I am using the Panic Away program, it is wonderful), my life is 50% Klonopin-free today. I see with my own eyes, and it is undistorted. Maybe a little blurry because of time, but it is real life, and it is beautiful. The smells, sounds, and things of this world are truly miraculous to me. I actually think I must sound like I’m a bit loony today because I’m so happy today for the small things. I guess it’s just that I really don’t take much for granted. Anyone who has lived life on heavy meds and successfully weaned off them knows what I’m talking about. 😉
Yesterday I had lunch and a fun afternoon with my friend. I’ll admit I was nervous at first because I felt naked without the backup pharmacological courage of Klonopin to stave off any panic. But my friend knows my deal and she was fine with it. I trust and love her tremendously. Eventually I simmered down. Before I knew it, we had been in the restaurant for 3 hours. It was sober and wonderful, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together. Thank you Sarah. Oh, and food was delicious too 🙂
So for today, being off half my usual dose of Klonopin is working for me. This is the choice I make every night before I go to bed. I really like reality and living in the world without that hazy drugged feeling. I really like sleeping naturally and waking up naturally. My life is a blessing and a constant challenge, and I am truly grateful.
However, I am not setting my expectations too high. If my panic attacks increase in frequency, or I find myself avoiding trigger situations instead of facing them, then I know I need medication again. In short, if my life starts to go back to hell, I’m going back on my meds– no shame, no guilt.
I share this with you because it is my hope that you can learn to live happily too — despite panic disorder, panic attacks, or social anxiety disorder –whether you’re on meds, not on meds, or somewhere in between. In this blog, I share with you my free anxiety tips that have helped my in coping with panic attacks and all the stuff that goes with it.
Do you have any experience weaning off Klonopin or other medications for anxiety and panic attacks?
I wish you peace,
PS. When you set yourself up for success, you put yourself in the very best position to master anxiety…Yes, you can even successfully wean off Klonopin like I did. I HIGHLY recommend you try The 60 Second Panic Solution. This is a COMPLETE anxiety-busing and wellness program that I’ve been using since 2014 with excellent results. It works like a charm! 🙂 Do check it out here.