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I just didn't feel anything. Sunday May 24, 2015

I've often thought about writing a mental health related blog post, but could never decide what in particular to write about...until this week when I visited the dentist. Probably not the most likely link but bear with me...

Like many others I fear going to the dentist, but to cut a long story short I needed some treatment and, knowing I was a nervous patient, the dentist offered me sedation in the form of diazepam.

I have suffered with anxiety and a form of OCD (obsessive and intrusive thoughts rather than carrying out compulsive physical behaviours) for about eleven years, and I am currently doing pretty well (something I say with much caution since it has a habit of coming back to bite me). I had taken a low dose anti-depressant for two six month periods during my 'anxiety journey' and I have tried numerous therapies and self help techniques with varying degrees of success.

I had never been offered anything stronger by my GP, nor have I wanted it, and had heard the stories about diazepam and valium and their effects, so I was a bit reluctant about taking it but also, rightly or wrongly, rather intrigued. My experience of taking it is of feeling numb. There is no other way I can describe it...I just didn't feel anything. For example, I couldn't cry in the shower before my appointment, despite feeling like I wanted and needed to let it out. Yes, it alleviated my usual pre-appointment anxiety, which was helpful to me on the day...but I remember thinking 'I would hate to feel like this ALL the time'. Whilst I didn't feel worried or anxious, I also didn't feel happy or hopeful about anything in those couple of days. I jokingly said to friends 'so this is what it feels like to be a relaxed person!', but really I was worried that I would never feel like me again, with my ever undulating emotions that make me who I am and have helped me to become a stronger person.

But of course I did return...later on in the week I dropped my five year old nephew off at school as a favour to my sister, and cried all the way to work afterwards over how grown up he's getting and how proud of him I am. Normal service and emotions had been restored, and I was grateful for them.

It's a controversial topic, and I am certainly not denigrating the use of such's a very personal decision and depends on individual circumstances. I guess I just wanted to share my experience and the little bit of insight I got into what it feels like to take it. Mindfulness and sitting with the anxiety and other emotions that come up may be uncomfortable, sometimes downright unbearable, but I know that negative emotions and thoughts pass and that I can and will have positive ones too. And that is how I plan to roll.

A Moodscope member.

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Adam Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 6:41am

That's a very valuable post, thank you Sharon.

Anonymous Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 7:18am

I know I am more functional on than off the anti-depressants, which I take a low dose of. I still feel, but life is more bearable and less chaotic. I know that I never want to experience despair on the same level that I was doing and that for me, the meds relieve reactive depression and anxiety. I think it's horses for courses.

Sharon Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 7:50am

Thank you, Adam.

Sharon Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 7:53am

Thank you for your comment. As you say, it's horses for courses and very much about finding what works for you. The medication I tried previously didn't seem to have any adverse effects, but recently (I wrote this post last year) I was prescribed different medication by my GP which felt too strong for me and totally 'numbed me out' so after a few weeks I decided to stop taking it. It was the lack of any feeling that didn't sit right with me.

Hopeful One Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 7:58am

Hi Sharon - Thank you for your helpful blog describing your experience with diazepam. Diazepam is an example of a tranquilizer belonging to a group of ant anxiolytic drugs called benzodiazepines. Diazepam is the generic name and Valium is the proprietary name(you can tell because all generic versions are spelt with a small letters while proprietary names are spelt with a capital letter) .They are one and the same drug.I expect you knew that .It was just that your blog made it appear that they were two different drugs. Valium is a long acting drug(measured in their half live in the blood stream) and well known for its zombie like effect which you experienced because of this. The shorter acting ones like Oxazepam( they all end in 'am' so easy to recognize) do not suffer from this side effect as they are cleared faster from the blood stream . As your anxiety is short term maybe you could ask your GP to prescribe that. You will have to persist as it costs more and the GP will be reluctant to prescribe as he/she watching his/her bottom line sad to say. I wager your experience will be different.

Anonymous Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 8:18am

I, too, am not fond of the tranquilizing medications; I prefer to feel too much emotion rather than not enough. Years ago, early in my journey with bipolar disorder, I told my psychiatrist that I didn't like how numb I felt on the meds, and he told me, "You can't handle your moods, so we need to medicate them away." I thought that was a very clever way to put it, and he was right, of course. As we found the right medications to help control (somewhat!) the wild extremes and as I learned effective coping, established a support system, etc., I was able to go off benzodiazepines. To this day, I do not take them willingly, although I am on other classes of drugs.

Anonymous Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 8:38am

You remind me of the song "I miss the mountains".. When I have felt flat or neutral for too many weeks it is oddly reassuring when there is an episode of strong emotion, even if it is something negative like anger or despair... I have not been offered benzos, and a low dose of daily meds mostly keeps me within " normal parameters " ... I would dread going back to being out of emotional control again, but yes I do do miss the feeling of euphoria I used to get in short bursts... It is odd getting used to being "normal" and is taking quite some adapting to... But I know I am one of those for whom mindfulness and a soak in the bath is not enough

Anonymous Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 9:35am

Hi Sharon.
I can relate to your post on quite a few levels. I remember the last couple of times I was on anti-depressants and how I hated feeling numb, and just stopped taking them. Recently, and I suspect it is due to hitting my 40s, my emotions are all over the place. I can especially relate to weeping over a 5 year old nephew as that happens quite a lot for me at the moment. I like being emotional, I like that I am affected profoundly when I see something sad happening to a child or an old person. I don't like the suffering that the vulnerable go through, but being this in touch with my feelings moves me to be more mindful of my actions and what I can do each day to help someone else. However I have only ever been diagnosed with Depression, so cannot know how essential the drugs are for members on here who have major mental health problems. In my case though I have realised that being extremely sensitive is just a part of who I am, the depression is something which often accompanies that part of me. I wish I had known when I was younger how to ride the depression, how to do Meditation, and learn from it, instead of being medicated. Thank you, Nancy.

Hopeful One Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 10:23am

Hi Sharon- and oh by the way antidepressants and anti anxiolytics like diazepam are two completely different class and type of drugs and act in completely different ways.Anti depressants do have a sedative effect which can feel like a tranquilizer and minimal if any anti anxiety effect and equally anti anxiolytis have little or no antidepressant effects..

Julia Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 10:48am

Depression is such a complex health issue! It's association with anxiety, insomia, vivid imagination creativity etc would suggest that not one drug fits all. I am open minded about anti depressants and benzos. Sometimes they help. Other times they don't. I can't say I like the ups and down,especially the more frequent downs but I am trying to accept the whole package as me. This is me and maybe nothing can change this. I would rather have a vivid imaginatiion and appreciate and seek
out beauty etc than lack these things which many who claim they are happy don't appear to possess. So basically Sharon I agree with you. However kthe valium does have its uses and helped you with the dentist. I am about to get on a plane and valium or alcohol will help me!

Elizabeth Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 11:07am

Not a fan of anxiolythics, though I have taken some for a few months and they have helped a lot. But please don't drink alcohol because of anxiety. Perhaps nothing happens once, but trying it more often is the way to dependence ...

Anonymous Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 1:04pm

Very interesting post Sharon. I'm a pharmacist and have never taken any of the benzodiazepines, so it's good to hear your experience with them. It's really good that you accept that your negative feelings come with the positive, and that to learn how to manage that. I can definitely sympathise with the dentist phobia!

Anonymous Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 11:19pm

Hi Sharon, I really enjoyed your post. I absolutely love reading everyone's differing experiences, I find it thoroughly fascinating and always helpful. Personally I haven't found any medication a benefit so I'm running without, but I do think one man's meat is another man's poison so with or without is by case. My wish is that health professionals (and ultimately money providing politicians) would see it that way. Thank you for your blog and well done on getting one out there! Love from the room above the garage x.

Anonymous Sun, May 24th 2015 @ 11:23pm

Hi HO, you always have such knowledge of 'stuff'! How do you know so much, about everything? I know about which day I think I'm in and whether I need to wee...other than that I'm just winging it!! :-) love ratg x.

Jac Mon, May 25th 2015 @ 12:35am

Thank you Sharon for sharing your views. I am feeling pretty well nothing and am not on meds. Would love to float off on a cloud of nothingness but your post made me think fat maybe I could do with some help. Thank you.

Laura Mon, May 25th 2015 @ 9:10am

I wasn't diagnosed as bipolar until I was 32 years old, though I had been suffering for the previous 18 years. Upon diagnosis, I started taking a combination of anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, and anti-psychotics. Unfortunately, it took roughly 8 years of med adjusting before we found a combination that actually worked. We have had to adjust things a number of times since then, too. I have also been prescribed benzos and other sedating drugs for short periods of time. I am one of the 60% of people with bipolar disorder that have abused alcohol in order to try and cope with my seemingly uncontrollable feelings. For many years now, I have been a recovering alcoholic and pillhead. I mention this only because I think it is impossible to give advice on medications to someone else, unless you know their case inside-out. My mom can't handle most medications - she gets nauseous on 1/2 a xanax. I, on the other hand, seem to be impervious to most drugs and therefore require a higher than normal dose (and I'm not talking about tolerance). Each drug affects each person in a different way. And we need to consider other health conditions, life circumstances, and goals as well. My meds may be perfect, but I would be an absolute frazzled mess without them.

Anonymous Mon, May 25th 2015 @ 8:20pm

Hi laura, I agree we are all very different in whether we need meds, and how they affect us, I think I am lucky as a low dose seems to have a good effect,. Because of the stigma around mental illness it took me a while before telling friends that I have to take meds.. I tried on my own to decrease the fluoxetine which didn't go too well.... I'm trying again but very very very slowly.... I'm not sure if it is entirely because I want to rely less on meds, or whether it is feeling social pressure that needing meds is "wrong".. Yes I know higher doses can have undesirable physical impacts, but as the doctors say it is a " risk-benefit" equation... After all there is no point in being the healthiest corpse in the mortuary if going without effective meds sends someone quite literally over the edge.... . A.

Anonymous Mon, May 25th 2015 @ 9:03pm

Well done for writing your blog. Keep writing. If anything works for you, then use it. Diazepan is not popular now because they decided anti depressants were the new wonder drug. However the former can be useful, and if you were living in Europe or USA everyone has them in their bag. Along with the problem you mention is also the one that tells us we shouldn't take pills, or to take them so farely or sparingly that they never have time to work effectively. Anti depressents can be just as addictive as diazepan in the sense that many go on them and continue on them because at a some level they need them. Nothing wrong with that, but a book from the library and read up all these type of drugs, you can then make a more informed decision about what you were told at age 11 as to what your behaviour is. Get Clare Weekes book, they are one pence online so only the p&p. You will probably identify with the whole books. Try going to a support group like Al=anon, whether you think you are affected by a family addiction. You will hear your story and many more who have overcome what you talk about. Diazepan is affective because it is a 'hypnotic', there are others that work in different ways particularly Xanax but you need a private perscription so have to pay for your doc to sign it and to pay for the chemist. Valium and things like Xanax are effective because they work in a short time so are often used for phobias/panic. Whilst people are very negative about medication they often to not mention that we swallow painkillers happily, we spoon in sugar and pile on salt we work in the gym for hours and they are all obsessions just as is alcohol so be kind to yourself. We are too quick to say we don't want to take something when sometimes we should be saying 'yes, let me try it'. Yet a doctor who is interested in you and what your next step could be. I absolutely agree with the previous writer.

Sharon Thu, May 28th 2015 @ 10:19am

Thank you for your comment, Jac. I'm really pleased to think that my post may lead you to getting some help/support...personally I think there is a lot more out there than there used to be. My experience of medication has been mixed, and I have chosen to go without and work through things with the mindfulness and medication techniques I have learnt over the years. Peer support is really useful too, and I'm not sure whereabouts you are but would highly recommend looking up what's around. Good luck x

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