and just like that, it’s December…

One of the things I’ve said to my friends a lot lately is: Time is weird.

Maybe it’s due to getting older. Or maybe it’s the way living with chronic illness can impact days and weeks and months and years, making them slide together while at the same time changing so much. Or maybe time truly is getting different in the whole cosmic sense of things.

But for quite a while now, it’s felt like time goes fast…and slow…all at once.

Here we are in December already. Not only is it almost the end of another year, we’re almost at the end of the TEENS. It can sort of boggle my mind when I think of how it’s almost 2020…and how long it’s been since the numbers of a year did a repeat like that with zeros – 1010…and how long it’ll be before it happens again – 3030. (Yes, my mind boggles for odd reasons sometimes!)

December is my birthday month. It’s a month in the midst of holiday time.

It’s a month that invites looking back over the months of the current year, and looking forward to the year to come.

When I look back, when I think of all the months of 2019 leading to now, I can’t really even describe how I feel. But there are words and phrases that come with the feeling: Wow. What a year. Have I really survived all that so far? Yay, me! But what a journey in hell.

(For more context about the “journey in hell” thing, this post about tapering off anti-anxiety medication says more about what I’ve been going through.)

In some ways, January 2019 seems like a long, long time ago.

In other ways, it seems like this year has gone by in a blink.

Time is weird.

And as I look ahead, I feel a mixture…

There’s some anxiety, because my brain right now is still firing on fear, looking for danger, wondering when another shoe is going to drop.

There’s hope, too, and the good kind of anticipation. I have my 2020 word-of-the-year, I’m letting myself set a few goals for the first time in quite a while, and I’ve got plans for immersing myself even more in painting and writing.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on fiction regularly – and that feels really good.

And a couple of days ago – on a day that included painting at the canvas, and working on fiction, and going to book club, and laughter and talking and pizza and sweets, and a late afternoon phone call with a dear friend – I realized that afternoon (and it hit me a few more times as the day and evening went on) that I felt more “normal” (as in normal-for-me in the way my life used to feel) than I’ve felt in over a decade.

It wasn’t only that I had fewer physical symptoms that day (it’s true that I had fewer symptoms, and I’m very very grateful for days with fewer symptoms!). And it wasn’t only that the anxiety wasn’t very high (I’m always grateful when that happens too!).

It was the way I felt in my own skin. Something that’s hard to describe, the way I moved through the day, the way the day felt inside of myself. I honestly can’t explain it.

But it felt like my life a long time ago, the way my life used to be, the way I used to be.

And it felt so good.

It gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, that part of myself isn’t gone forever, erased by anxiety and physical problems and broken relationships and financial stress and benzos and anxiety.

It gave me hope for 2020.

I’ll be honest: I’m afraid to hope.

But there it is.


Time can be weird, a mixture of fast and slow. Feelings and emotions can be weird too, a mixture of so many things – anxiety, dread, joy, hope, and more.

But here’s the thing: We can hold it all.



it’s been 100 days…

It’s been 100 days since I took my last teensy-tiny dose of xanax, the prescription anti-anxiety medication I was prescribed for many years.

But my journey with getting off xanax – a journey that has been (and still continues to be) unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone – started long before that August day.

By the time I took that last dose, I had been slowly and gradually tapering for 17 months.

By the time I took that last dose, I was down to crumbs of the lowest-dose pill, taking approximately .015 mg. When I started my taper, I was on a daily dose of 1 mg (and my prescription allowed for me to take up to an extra .5 mg daily for “breakthrough anxiety”).

Xanax is one medication in a class of medications known as benzos, short for benzodiazepines. Generically (I always took the generic) xanax is alprazolam. Other commonly-prescribed (in the US at least) benzos include ativan (lorazepam), klonopin (clonazepam), and valium  (diazepam).

There are millions of people in the US who are prescribed a benzodiazepine medication. If you’re not taking one, chances are you know someone who is… although they might not tell you about it. There’s still a lot of stigma about medications that are usually prescribed for mental/emotional health (although many prescriptions for benzos are for other things, such as insomnia or pain).

Stopping one of these medications must be done slowly and gradually, because it can be life-threatening to stop too quickly.

And stopping one of these medications, even in a gradual and slow way, can bring about a whole host of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. This doesn’t happen for everyone, and especially if the person is withdrawing from one of these medications for the first time.

But it’s what has been happening for me.

Actually, my neurologist believes (and I agree, especially after coming to learn so much more than I ever did before about benzodiazepines and their impact on every system of the body) xanax was probably contributing to my physical problems for years before I ever started tapering off the medication. But I didn’t realize it, and neither did any of the doctors I saw in my quest to figure out what was happening to my health. Ironically, the one medication I was willing to take turned out to be incredibly costly to my life.

This journey has been completely nonlinear in terms of symptoms and healing, and it can change (from mostly-okay to terrible, or from excruciating to tolerable) within a single hour, and multiple times within a day or week.

And although xanax once helped calm my anxiety enough for me to feel “normal” – not zoned or zonked out, not numbed or sedated, not stoned or sleepy, simply like me but without such severe anxiety that I couldn’t function – tapering and withdrawing from xanax has resulted in chemical anxiety that’s worse than the bouts of debilitating anxiety I had before being prescribed the medication in the first place.

My journey to discontinue xanax has been physically difficult, with many physical symptoms, some of them quite scary, and there have been times I’ve seriously wondered if I would make it through – and this really is one of those things where the only way out is through.


For today to mark 100 days completely free from xanax feels like a milestone and a victory and an accomplishment.

And yet…

The journey definitely is not over.

I’ve been told the average time to heal from this is 6 to 18 months. In that context, 100 days seems like a short time.

I still have physical symptoms that come and go, and wax and wane. And although overall I think things are getting slowly better, physical symptoms are still with me daily and still impacting my life in ways big and small.


I believe I am healing.

And even though the journey is still difficult most every day, and even though I still struggle with physical symptoms, and even though I still deal with chemical anxiety that can sometimes feel through the proverbial roof, and even though I sometimes get scared this is my “new normal” and it won’t get better than this –

Again and again, I bring myself back to believing I am healing, and I bring myself back to choosing to focus on joy, and I bring myself back to doing what I need to do to get through.


All of this – my lifelong struggle with anxiety that has impacted my life in so many ways, and the horror show of benzo tolerance and tapering and withdrawal, and the high anxiety I continue to have – all of this is why I talk here so much about joy, and calming, and soul nourishment.

Because those things are life necessities for me, and I know I’m not alone in that. And one reason I share my stories, and share what helps me, is in case someone comes across my words and recognizes something about their own journey… and maybe they’ll feel less alone.

There are many things I’ve done to help me get through my taper and discontinuation. Things I still turn to, especially as many of them help me with anxiety in general, and anxiety is still such a problem for me. I’ve written about some of them before, and I’ll probably be sharing about others.

But in case you’ve found this post and you’re tapering from (or are dealing with the discontinuation of) a benzo, I’d like to mention some of the things that have been helpful for me. I’m sure I’ll leave some out, and these are in no particular order:

laughing (at anything, whatever you can find that makes you laugh)
brain retraining
calming techniques
things that help the vagus nerve
very gentle exercise
energy medicine
prayer and spiritual connection
laughter yoga
avoiding foods/drinks that result in feeling worse physically
being careful with supplements
breathing techniques
and did I say distraction?? (in case it’s not obvious, that’s a huge one)

Getting off a benzo can be done, but it’s important to do it safely.

And if you’re on the journey to withdrawing from one, or have discontinued one and are dealing with symptoms, please don’t give up hope, please keep going, and please know you’re not alone – even though this can feel like an incredibly lonely and isolating time.

The journey to healing isn’t linear, it’s a road that twists and turns, with ups and downs.

But we just keep following that winding road – and we keep heading for the light ahead. And if we can find moments of joy and calm and delight along the way, we grab hold of them whenever we can.