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Lena Dunham Shares Her Experience Withdrawing From Benzos

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Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Coming off psychiatric medication can be tough.

Lena Dunham knows this well. She recently told actor Dax Shepard on his podcast, “Armchair Expert,” that she is six months sober after three years of misusing Klonopin, a benzodiazepine she was taking for her anxiety. She went off the medication with the guidance of her doctor.

They also discussed Dunham’s experience with undifferentiated mixed connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, endometriosis and the guilt that often comes when chronic illnesses affect your ability to function. Shepard shared he’s been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.

Her conversation with Shepard had a lot of quotes you might relate to if you take (or have stopped taking) anxiety medication. We’ve listed a few that stuck out to us below. Head here to listen to the full episode.

On what it was like when she first started anxiety medication:

“I feel like the person I was supposed to be… Suddenly I felt the part of me I knew was there was freed up to do her thing.”

On when she knew taking “benzos” was becoming a problem:

“It stopped being I take one when I fly, and it started being I take one when I’m awake.”

On being afraid to come off medication:

“I was diagnosed with pretty serious PTSD… it stopped feeling like I had panic attacks, and it started feeling like I was a living panic attack. The only thing that was noticeable were the moments in the day that I didn’t feel like I was going to barf and faint… At that point, [the medication] wasn’t making it better, but I just thought, if I don’t take this, how much worse will it get?”

On not being sure what’s hurting you more, the medication or the anxiety:

My thought was, I’m not in pain because I take pills, I take pills because I’m in pain. I’m not anxious because I take pills, I take pills because I’m anxious. Then suddenly you realize that entire thing is turned on its head.”

On what withdrawal can feel like:

“People should know. Nobody I know who is prescribed these medications is told, by the way, when you try to get off this, it’s going to be like the most hellacious acid trip you’ve ever had where you’re fucking clutching the walls and your hair is blowing off your head and you can’t believe you found yourself in this situation.”

On facing consequences:

“I don’t blame myself for my illness. I don’t blame myself for the sexual abuse I experienced. I don’t blame myself for the physical abuse I experienced. I don’t blame myself for the challenges of being a woman in this world and an anxious woman in this world and living in this body. But I do see the way that I medicated myself negatively impacted people around me, and decimated my decision making and hurt my creativity. I just feel literally on my knees grateful every day.”

Have you ever stopped taking psychiatric medication? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Originally published: October 31, 2018
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