“There would be no-one to talk to at all if your service had not been available”
“Without this service I would have stayed on medication with no hope of getting better”
“There are hardly any services of this type in the UK and they are doing an excellent job with limited resources -their helpline is always busy!”
“I would not have been able to understand my condition and how to cope with it”
“I may have ended my life, not being validated or taken seriously is frightening and causes helplessness”
“I may not have discovered the cause of my debilitating symptoms. I also experienced a lot of suicidal thoughts and feelings, the staff at Bristol Tranquilliser Project helped me to work through these and kept me safe and alive”
Client Story 1
'No Matter How Bad It Gets, You WILL Recover'
No matter how bad it gets, you WILL recover. You don’t need to believe that, because it will happen anyway. That’s my conclusion having undergone a horrific 3-year withdrawal from 10 mg of Diazepam, which I took daily for just four and a half months.
And it WAS bad. Really bad. A doctor took me off the pills ‘cold turkey’ as he said it was a low dose and I should be fine in a few days. He was so very, very wrong.
Now in my mid 60s, with a major heart attack behind me… there were so many times when I thought I just wouldn’t make it. Unfortunately all those close to me had passed on in the previous five years, so I really was alone - except for Ian Singleton and Roy, former withdrawal advisors at the Bristol Tranquilliser Project, who kept me going. I did have a few acquaintances, but they didn’t stick around to help. As it turns out, I didn’t need them anyway. Because in three years I went from being so sick that I could hardly stand, was unable to read or write, couldn’t see, walk or eat properly, went down to a small size eight - to being back to normal, enjoying life … working as a part time journalist and generally feeling like my old self again. What’s more, I have come out stronger than I was before, because not much bothers me after what I have already been through in withdrawal.
There was no miracle cure for me, it took time. And an awful lot of patience, together with total acceptance of my situation. My symptoms were many - a terrible roaring in my head, together with what felt like electric shocks going through my brain. I also developed IBS-like stomach symptoms, tingling hands and feet and felt so very ill, alone and tired for a very, very long time. I had constant anxiety (which I never had in my life before), couldn’t go in large supermarkets because I couldn’t stand the lights or the checkout queues and couldn’t even watch TV as I found the light and sound disturbing. Neither could I stand company for very long. And I probably had a longer withdrawal because I am older. Younger people can recover much more quickly.
What helped were a few things I picked up:
Firstly, however horrific your symptoms, they won’t really do you any harm. Yes, they are completely harmless (source: Ian Singleton, former senior withdrawal advisor, Bristol Tranquilliser Project). Hard to believe, but true in my case, anyway.
Secondly you are not mad, you are not suffering from any mental illness, you have not ‘lost it’, it is not any kind of ‘old problem’ returning. It’s simply a physical illness in which your central nervous system is damaged and is slowly and painfully recovering. Its just broken, and it hurts until it gets better – it is absolutely normal. And it does, eventually recover. In fact, it IS recovering all the time, even though it doesn’t feel that way. It’s like you were in a terrible traffic accident and it might take quite a long time to get back to normal. Thirdly, don’t worry if you lose ‘friends’ because of your illness. If they don’t stick around, they weren’t friends anyway, so you lost nothing.
Fourthly, the only person who can get you out of this is yourself. Others can help, but they can’t ‘make it go away’. It’s better not to become too dependent.
And finally, you can’t set a date for recovery. You just have to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, so to speak. “The longest journey starts with a single step” (The Buddha). You just have to keep taking those steps till you get there! And your brain will set the schedule, not you.
A couple of other tips that helped me - I noted my progress on a calendar by briefly jotting how I’d felt that day and giving a score out of 10. By looking back several months, I could see that I had made progress that otherwise wouldn’t have been noticeable.
The other thing that really helped was that I kept doing ’normal’ things every day, however bad I felt. Just anything I could do really, such as a little cleaning, mending something, taking a walk, writing, reading a little, talking to someone or making a sandwich. This was key to my recovery.
Of course all of this is purely from my point of view. I’m not an expert and I’m nothing special. But I have been through the process. And if I came out the other side OK, then I’m sure that pretty much anyone can.
Client Story 2: '20 Years Of Psychotropic Medication' I am a 58-year old female. My story begins over 20 years ago, in my thirties, when I had a quite stressful career. The first visit to the doctors was for something to help me cope with the stress which resulted in a prescription for Propranalol (a beta blocker). This I took as needed for approximately 18 months, but the effect began to wear off. I then spent several years on Amitriptyline (a tricyclic antidepressant), this drug I blame for my heart arrhythmias, which I still suffer with today. When sleep became a problem I had various sleeping tablets prescribed starting with Temazepam (I was never told it was addictive) and Zopiclone. I took the latter drug for many years, always assured that this was not an addictive sleeping tablet. In my forties I was prescribed Flupenthixol (an anti-psychotic drug). This medication, although an antipsychotic, was prescribed by Doctors in low doses to treat anxiety and depression. After 5 years on this medication my speech began to slur and the anti anxiety effect began to wear off, yet again the doctors would not believe that this drug could cause any of these problems. As my speech became worse a lot of neurological tests followed and even a tentative diagnosis of multiple sclerosis followed from a consultant. My GP at this point decided that I should just stop the medication, which resulted in the most terrible withdrawal symptoms which ruined my life for years, although my speech came back perfectly. Yet again my doctor could not believe that these terrible withdrawal symptoms, both physical and psychological, were a result of stopping the medication, so I was put on Diazepam (a tranquilliser) in my early fifties and was actually told by a GP that they were not addictive and would cure all my problems. When the effect of the Diazepam started to wear off, my GP increased the dose, not knowing that the anxiety problems were actually being made worse by the tablets. I became agoraphobic and very ill with severe physical and psychological problems. It was at this point, in desperation that I discovered the Bristol Tranquilliser Project and went to one of the support meetings where a Project worker told me that all my problems were actually caused by the drugs I had been taking over the years. Coming off of them would be a long slow process but would actually give me my life back to how I was 20 years ago. A difficult concept to believe. But coming off of Diazepam was so horrendous, I can remember sitting in front of a Consultant Psychiatrist begging him to prescribe me something, an antidepressant, anything to help. He was the first professional to say that he didn’t believe there was anything mentally wrong with me and all the Psychotropic medication they had prescribed over the years were to blame (this coming from a top Psychiatrist). But after constant pressure from me he prescribed Citalopram (an antidepressant) to help me get off the Diazepam which he described as ‘poison’. Although, in his opinion, Citalopram wasn’t much better and equally addictive. It took 2 years to gradually withdraw from the Diazepam, this was an horrendous time and as the Psychiatrist had warned it took a further 2 years to withdraw from the Citalopram. Without the constant support and encouragement from the Bristol Tranquilliser Project, I would never have been able to do it. Even then there were many times where life was so hellish I considered going back on the tablets, because although I felt terrible on the tablets I felt even worse coming off! How I survived still today I don’t know, but I did and I am now 2 years off all Psychotropic medication and can actually see that it was the drugs that were making me ill both mentally and physically. Although today, at 58, it’s still not plain sailing and there are times that I don’t feel very well, it’s nothing compared to actually being on the tablets and I can say it was the hardest but best thing I have ever done.
Client Story 3: After years of taking various different antidepressants and occasional sleeping pills due to a long bout of depression in my 20s, I was struggling to get my life back on track as I was unable to work. I got in touch with Bristol Tranquilliser Project and started attending the group meetings as well as having one to one counselling which enabled me to start withdrawing from Venlafaxine, the antidepressant I was taking at the time. I did it very gradually over 2-3 years and although it was a very difficult process, I made it through with the advice and support of the Project. I was eventually able to start working again and move out to my own flat. My life has got even better since then and I will be eternally grateful to all the staff at the Project for their invaluable help.
Bristol & District Tranquilliser Project 0117 9500020 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bristol and District Tranquilliser Project is a company limited by guarantee (No: 5126531) and is a charity registered in England and Wales (No: 1104033). The Project is funded by Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucester (BNSSG) Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and other charitable organisations named under sponsorship.