Take it from this physician: Beware the dangers of benzodiazepines

It’s 3 a.m., and I wake with a jolt. My heart is pounding out of my chest. I stumble out of bed to take a beta blocker hoping it’s enough to quiet my heart so I can doze off again. I sleep fitfully the next three hours, experiencing weird dreams and terrifying nightmares.

At 6 a.m., I take my Valium. Nauseated, I lie in bed for 30 minutes, so I keep down my pill. I must get my six-year-old daughter ready for school. Between my confusion and the stress of all the little steps it takes to get out the door in the morning, I am brought to tears. These simple tasks were no big deal before my illness. I left my job as a cardiologist to care for my daughter shortly after her birth, but now caring for her is a struggle. I can feel my blood boiling with rage as I glance at the clock and realize we are running late. I have no patience or tolerance for stress these days. Somehow we leave on time, and I make the eight-minute drive, focusing with every last brain cell to get us safely to school.

Today, I have volunteered to paint pumpkins for a school fundraiser. The pumpkins are heavy and difficult to maneuver as my muscles are weak. My once steady and capable hands shake as I attempt to paint detail work on the pumpkins. I last for a few hours then hobble stiffly to my car, my back muscles locked in spasm. I choke down lunch and lie down for a few hours due to crushing fatigue. A babysitter comes in the afternoons to help with school pick-up as I feel unsafe to drive later in the day. Around three p.m., my blood sugar begins to drop, and I must eat to stave off the impending panic attack. Somehow I manage to get leftovers on the table for dinner. After that, my energy is spent, and I lie on the couch most of the evening. These days nothing gets done well. I am simply in survival mode.

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