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Published: August 19, 2016

woman distracted

The discomfort of withdrawal can overwhelm you

There is no doubt that withdrawal from psych drugs is a long, painful and debilitating process. This is evidenced by the people writing about their symptoms on a regular basis on social media. It seems to me though, that focusing on symptoms seems to make the sufferer feel worse. That’s how was if is for me.

How can this situation be avoided?
My solution is distraction. Distraction doesn’t heal you, but it gives you something else to focus your attention on and that is gold as far as I am concerned. I distracted myself in as many ways as I could think of.
1. I went out in the garden, enjoyed the sunshine and pottered around. Sometimes I just sat and enjoyed the surroundings.

2. I joined meetup.com and became a member of several groups with like-minded members. One of these groups was a cruise and walking group which regularly went to Stradbroke Island, a lovely island off the Gold Coast in Queensland. I didn’t have to walk if I wasn’t well; I could sit on the boat or the island, enjoy the sunshine, scenery, entertainment and good company and forget about myself for a while. I even started my own ESL Meetup group and ran it for about 18 months, until I started working.

3. I spent a lot of time making nutritious soups for myself.

4. I studied, first at TAFE to get the certificate 4 in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and later at a University and gained the Graduate Certificate of TESOL. I also became a qualified Life Coach during that time. Was it easy NO! It was really, really tough! But it gave me something else to focus my attention on during those long nights when I couldn’t sleep and in the process, I was also creating a future for myself. I became qualified to work as an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language)

5. I joined a community garden.

6. I wrote a book – a few in fact.
7. When I left my husband, I found myself living in an empty house. I didn’t have much furniture, so I made crafty things to hang on the walls and decorate the place.

8. I worked on my spirituality and let go of a lot of negative habits and traits. I am still a work in progress though.

9. I did some volunteer work prior to becoming employed at TAFE. I have found that volunteer work was a great way to test the water to see how I coped with work – at first I only worked a few hours a week and gradually built up from there. There are a lot of organizations seeing volunteer assistance, there is sure to be one that appeals to you.

Did I do these things every day? No! I did them when I could. I also listened to my body and tried not to push myself too much, though that old habit of pushing myself too hard is a difficult one to stop. There were heaps of times when I over did things and gave myself setbacks. The overall trend though was one of increasing confidence, an improved outlook on life and improved quality of life. I made new friends and formed new relationships and reinvented my life.

To work or not to work
While I was a moderator on a forum there were quite a few people who suffered greatly throughout their tapers but still going to work every day. One was a pharmacist, another a sales consultant who traveled the USA extensively as part of her job, others were nurses and teachers. They really struggled but it seemed to me that these people, who continued to work while tapering, seemed to recover more quickly and go back to normal lives. That of course is a very sweeping statement but it was an observation that I made.

I can tell you that I also found going back to work very, very difficult and I used a sort of mental tick list as the hours went by. There were many times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to drive to my workplace let alone teach all day but once I got there things improved. I had other people to worry about; it wasn’t just about me any longer.

My students are lovely – they wheel my teaching trolley to class for me and they are infinitely patient. They understand that I am not always well because, although I don’t complain to them, they understand what not feeling well is like. Many have lived in refugee camps for years and know more about suffering than most. They give me hugs and compliment me all the time and give me the occasional gift. If I ever felt bad about myself, their love for me bolsters my confidence and it gives me a purpose. It is fantastic. I work hard but funnily enough, I always feel better at work than when I have time on my hands to focus on my aches and pains.

Tapering slowly

I am convinced that I would never have been able to do these things if i didn’t take very good care of myself, tapering slowly. as my body guided me. I was a very gradual process to go from extremely ill to being able to function and there were a lot of steps inbetween.

Are You Too Sick to Work?
I know that many of you are sick – way too sick to go to work. There was a time when I was also too sick to work also but by making small changes like, going outside to sit with my bare feet on the earth (if it wasn’t too cold), making sure that I got plenty of sunshine to help avoid depression, choosing a hobby or interest that interested me, becoming part of an online community and connecting with supportive friends were strategies that i used to get back on track. These simple ideas were a good way for me to begin to reconnect with life again. Recovery is a long process. I took baby steps at a time,. You can also try this – you will get there.

Here are some more ideas about distraction – especially if you are feeling unwell.

  • Try creating an online business – many people going through withdrawal have very little money. I have heard of a lot of people making a fair bit of money from eBay but there are many other businesses that could slowly be created. This is definitely a work at your own pace kind of distraction.
  • Mind games or jig saws are great way to pass the time – especially if you can’t sleep at night.
  • Join a forum and make friends over the internet. Be careful about any personal details that you give out though.
  • Grow a tiny garden. Nurture some seeds to life – connect with nature, no matter how restricted you are by agoraphobia.
  • Give yourself a beauty treatment.
  • Do an online course to learn something you have always wanted to learn but didn’t have the time for.
  • Get a pet – a dog will love you unconditionally.
  • Do some yoga stretches, to help those poor muscles of yours.
  • Go for gentle walks, even if you can only walk around in your house or back yard.
  • Ask someone to go to the library for you and borrow some talking books or other resources.

More important than any one of these suggestions is to remember that the state you are in at the moment is temporary. There is a way out and a positive state of mind makes a great deal of difference to how you find your way out.