Going off of Xanax has been a life-changing experience. My psychiatrist prescribed it for anxiety, and I mostly used it at nighttime to help me sleep. I wasn’t abusing it per se, but I took it nightly. I was on the 2MG tablets, which is the highest dose.
Why Were You Taken Off Xanax?
For starters, let’s get into why I was taken off Xanax in the first place. For those who do not know, I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with tendencies to go manic or depressive if I am not on proper medication. My nighttime meds, which consisted of Zyprexa, knocked me out in the mornings. I was foggy, couldn’t get out of bed, and just wanted to sleep.
I explained my predicament to my psychiatrist and he agreed to put me on an upper: Ritalin. The Ritalin helped me wake up in the morning, and for the most part, I was productive.
However, after almost a year on both Ritalin (in the mornings) and Xanax (at night), my psychiatrist warned me that mixing uppers and downers is not a good long-term solution. He said I should go off Xanax, which I begrudgingly accepted. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. I thought getting off of Xanax would be easy.
The Withdrawal Symptoms
The first few days I was taken off of Xanax, I was able to sleep normally. However, I had very lucid and vivid dreams. I would wake up in sweats, with occasional shaking of my hands during the daytime. As the third day approached, I had unbelievable anxiety. I have to admit I self-medicated because of how bad it was. I tried over the counter sleep medication, which only worked temporarily. I also tried alcohol, which is a big no-no if you know me well. I had sworn off alcohol because it destroyed so many friendships of mine and it caused my health to decline.
This was about when I started reading up on Xanax withdrawal. Every article I read said that you shouldn’t go off of Xanax cold turkey as it can be life-threatening. For example, it could cause seizures, flu-like symptoms, and intense psychological effects. Most articles I read agreed that the physical withdrawal symptoms will ease after four days. I looked forward to that fourth day and hoped the psychological effects would be a non-issue.
Day four came and went. I was still having terrible anxiety and I started to have racing thoughts. I felt I was in danger of going manic since racing thoughts are a symptom of mania. I also was having trouble sleeping due to the intense anxiety and racing thoughts. I would put on music, and every song triggered a memory. With each memory, I would go down a rabbit hole of thought. I could not relax, nor could I sleep. On top of that, I was having short-term memory issues (I’d have blank patches) and my work was affected due to the mental stress I was under. I had minor hallucinations, was extremely paranoid, and my senses seemed to be on overdrive.
As each day passed, it felt like I was doing worse. I sought help on Twitter and Facebook. Everybody I talked to said it would get better. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. My brain synapses seemed to be firing on all cylinders and it felt like my brain was on fire. I didn’t want to go to rehab. I figured the worst was over and I would just have to wait it out. I decided to take double my night time meds in order to help me sleep. It worked. When I woke up the next morning, my brain was no longer on fire. But I still felt like I was outside of my body watching myself. I couldn’t think clearly. My memory was off. It was as if my brain wasn’t quite there yet or that I had lost something. Now it was a wait-and-see game.
3 Weeks After Quitting Xanax
I went and saw my psychiatrist and lectured him that taking me off Xanax cold turkey wasn’t the best idea. He apologized for not weaning me off slowly. He upped my Zyprexa and have been able to sleep on the new dosage.
I had to take a week off of work, which isn’t ideal for a freelancer barely scraping by. Thankfully my clients have been very understanding of my situation and wished me a quick recovery.
My brain still isn’t quite there yet. It’s like I have a tingling feeling on the top of my head that prevents deep thought, which is crucial for a web developer. I have lingering anxiety. It’s a low murmur, but I can feel it in my stomach. It’s hard to relax. It’s hard to sleep.
Am I Fully Recovered?
Not really. Going off of Xanax has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It affected me physically as well as psychologically. I would highly recommend, in hindsight, rehab for those addicted to Xanax the way I was. Without the support of my friends and family, I would never have made it. I now know and respect how addicted I was to Xanax. And since I don’t want to start over the recovery process, I have added it to my list of drugs to never take again.
A New Normal
Without Xanax, my body needs to figure out new coping mechanisms and I can almost feel my brain rewiring itself as time goes on. Thankfully I didn’t go manic with the stress and pressure of the withdrawal. I feel that if I wasn’t on Zyprexa and Depakote, things would have been much worse (Depakote helps prevent mania, as well as seizures).
I’m getting better day by day, but it’s still hard. I cherish sleep when I can get it, even if it’s a cat nap in the afternoon.
Feel free to comment below if you’ve been through the same thing or have any advice to give. Thank you for reading.Haley Lawrence