These are a few excerpts from my memoir published in 2020 by Moonglade Press: 191 pages including photos. All images and written content subject to copy right law.
Connecting the Dots
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something- your gut, destiny, life karma, whatever.
Steve Jobs, August 25, 2011
Little did I know how right Mr. Jobs was when he made that statement in 2011. I had no idea at the time that my decisions to take a series of medications prescribed to me by a trusted friend and family doctor would lead me to write this book, co-found a nonprofit, and lecture to mental health professionals all over the world on a subject about which I knew very little in 2011. I didn’t know ten years earlier, in 2001, while I was preparing to graduate summa cum laude from Brigham Young University, that the young man who kept “accidentally” running into me on my way to and from campus would become not just the love of my life, but someone whom I would rely on for my very existence. A man who would prove to be the hero of my life’s story, a story I never intended to tell . . .
I lay on the floor of my bedroom, bathed in bright yellow sunlight from the glass door and two extra windows Paul had designed into the floor plan because he knew how much I loved the sunshine. I saw the light, but I felt only darkness. My body writhed in an agony which consumed me. I imagined I looked like a parody of Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where Indiana Jones, lying on a stone table, is transformed into a mindless, soulless servant of evil. His cries echo in the lonely cavern as his body and hands seize unnaturally until, finally, the transfiguration is complete. He sits up and smiles. Would my ascent from hell leave me with the same disturbingly evil grin on my face?
My old neighbor Noel called my cell phone to check up on me. It had been a while since we’d moved away. I was heartened to know she still cared and grateful for the distraction. I wanted to tell her about everything that was going on, but I didn’t even know what was happening to me. All I knew was that it was painful to hold the phone up to my ear. My brain hurt from trying to interpret her words and form a reply. It hurt to feel the sun on my skin and the floor on my back. My bra straps felt like a strait jacket. Pain wasn’t even the right word for it; I wouldn’t have described it that way that afternoon. It was just endless, suffocating torture.
Physician Heal Thyself
The irony in tapering off a benzodiazepine is that you have to keep taking it. Week after week, month after month, I reduced my prescription by such minute amounts (roughly 0.05 mg) that, by medical standards, it was insignificant. Every morning, I made up my liquid suspension by dropping the Valium pills in 300 ml of water then shaking that up and removing 1 ml more than the day before with a syringe. Twice a day I recoiled from the poison I was forced to drink. I saw myself as Dumbledore in the cave by the sea with Harry Potter, willingly drinking the potion of despair, yet crying, pleading, raging at being made to so. They say the only way out of hell is to keep going. For me, it was to keep drinking. Sip by sip; I drained the waters of the lake of fire and brimstone. Milliliter by milliliter, I got closer and closer to freedom.
I listened bitterly as Paul went into the details of how he planned to care for his disabled wife over the next few decades. I was so grateful to him for everything he had done and was still doing for our family, and I didn’t want to be angry with Paul for lacking faith in me. I sifted through the darkness of my muddled brain for a better way to look at this. Then, in that singular moment, my mind was illuminated by the realization that Paul was planning on staying with me for the rest of my life, no matter what! Even though I was no longer a partner in our relationship or contributing in any substantial way, even though I was no longer talented, or beautiful, or witty, or fun, he was planning on being with me and caring for me throughout our marriage. Not just until death do us part, but for eternity as he had promised to do when he knelt across from me on the altar in the Salt Lake Temple. I shrank from the belief that this could be possible. Why would he do that? Why would he even consider being with me for the rest of my miserable life when his held so much promise?
Then the answer filled my soul. Because he loves me. He loved me even when boils covered my face, and my hair was falling out. He loved me when I couldn’t read our children a bedtime story or crack jokes at the dinner table. His love wasn’t based on how talented I was or how much I could contribute financially. He simply loved me, and that meant I was worthy of love even when I had nothing of worth to offer.
I remember the first time I stood in line at the grocery market, a year or two after tapering, and actually thought to make small talk with the woman behind me. I smiled at her, made eye contact, and joked about something or other. It felt great! I was exuberant about my little accomplishment.
These breakthroughs weren’t like mile markers on the hike towards the summit of recovery. They were more like buoys in the fluctuating whirlpool of rebirth. Whenever I felt myself being sucked back under the vortex of nasty symptoms, I could say to myself, “I reached that marker once before. I’ll get back there again.” Ring by swirling ring, I slowly inched farther and farther away from the turbulent epicenter of the benzo abyss, but the maelstrom was infinitely larger than anyone could have guessed . . .