I will be the first among many of you who I hope will follow, and admit that I am benzo dependent. It started 6 years ago when I had a major mixed hypomanic episode and didn’t sleep for longer than 15 minutes at a time for 4 weeks. I ended up in hospital on a string of meds. One of them was Dormonoct, a sleeping tablet. I was also prescribed a massive dose of Xanor SR as well as Urbanol. Things didn’t go well for me for the larger part of the next 5 years. I was a nervous wreck, but drowsy as hell. Some of you might know what I’m talking about when I say I was so doped up I couldn’t keep my eyes open but I couldn’t sleep either and my stomach was in knots most of the time.
At night I would wake up atleast once an hour at night from pure nerves. The plan was to only drink the range of benzo’s I was on for 6 months max, but I wasn’t okay after 6 months, I was getting worse… 6 Years later, I’m still on Dormonoct and Rivotril.
Okay wait, what are benzos? Let me give you a quick overview. Benzo’s or benzodiazipines are psychoactive drugs that enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter, GABA, receptor. Benzos have a sedative, sleep inducing, anxiolytic, anticonvulsive and muscle-relaxing effect… okay okay, in short it is most of your calming and sleeping tablets. It helps with anxiety, insomnia, agitation and even seizures. A few of the most common ones are: Xanor, Urbanol, Dormonoct, Rivotril, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin.
Now that we’re all on the same page. Let me return to my story. I’ve got a bad case of treatment –resistant bipolar disorder type 2. I suffer from extreme mood dysregulation and cycle daily between hypomania with mixed features and plain ol’ depression. If that is the cake then the cake topper is the insane insomnia. My biggest trigger is lack of sleep. One bad night and I’m in tears, two bad nights and I’m looking for a blade, three and I’m in hospital. Due to this, no doctor has had the balls to start the slooow process of taking me off the sleeping tablet, in fact, when things get tough my dose gets bumped up to two pills, plus some calming tablets. I’m in a good space now, so at the moment I can fall asleep and remain in bed (I won’t call the time in bed sleeping because that would be misleading and I’ll get to why in a minute) with one Dormonoct and half a Rivotril.
The reason why I don’t call my time in bed at night sleeping is because I constantly wake up, for brief periods and usually I fall aleep again but I don’t ever complete a REM cycle. Here is a fun fact, prolonged use of a sleeping tablet, decreases the quality of sleep. Hmmm, so this sounds like a bit of a catch22 sitiuation doesn’t it?
This leads me to my next blog in this series: Benzo dependency where I will talk more about building up resistance to benzo’s (leading you to need more to get the same effect) and the ensuing misuse of it. In this series I will also cover how to recover from such a dependence as well as alternative treatments for insomnia and anxiety. So there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hold on, take this train ride into the night with me…
PS. Please feel free to comment on your experiences with benzos or what you are using at the moment.