Saturday, February 18, 2012

Greatest Love Of All

Hello, Today as the world say's goodbye to Whitney I decided to share a personal story of how she influenced me. It is hard for me to write about this, but I feel the need to because I have learned throughout the years that sharing your story can really help others. This blog is about removing Stigma and Shame from illness that Society places upon us, so this is where I should feel that freedom to share my story as well. In 1986, two years after I moved out of my Parents house I began to have Anxiety Attacks. I remember feeling at that time that oh no, I'm going to become my mother who suffered terribly with Mental Illness since I was born. I was not well informed about Mental Illnesses because no one talked about my mother's condition to me as I grew up. Luckily (or at least I thought at the time) I saw a commercial on TV for a free Anxiety Clinic at Mass General Hospital in Boston Ma , which was close to my home. I began treatment there for my Panic Attacks and it was great at the time, the pills they gave me took my Panic Attacks right away and I was able to fully function once again. The medicine they gave me was Xanax. Young and nieve at the time, only 21 yrs old I had no idea of how addictive that medicine was. So the longer I took it the more and more dependent I got on them and soon I was in trouble. In 1989 I tried to withdraw off them with another medicine while at home with the help of a Doctor from the Mass General Clinic. It did not work, the withdrawals were terrible, I even had a seizure in front of my 5 yr old daughter, which I now know could have killed me. After that I had to go into treatment to withdraw off the medicine. I later learned withdrawing off Xanax is as hard as withdrawing off Heroine. While in treatment I was switched to Prozac and since then I have never taken another narcotic for my Anxiety and I never will. I never want to go through anything like that again. When anyone at the treatment center had completed their stay and was ready to leave they would hold a group session. Part of that group session included the person leaving selecting a song that inspired them as they went back out into the world, having overcome whatever they were in treatment for. I choose the Greatest Love Of All by Whitney. It inspired me to love myself and have a renewed love of life. Especially knowing at that point, thanks to the Doctors there, that I was not doomed to live my mother's life. I was not her, I did not have her disease, that I was going to be ok to raise my daughter. So I really felt a connection to her because of that point and time in my life, she really inspired me with that song. Learning that she died with a bottle of Xanax in her room really hit home for me, because that could have happened to me. At the same time it is a reminder of how grateful I am that I made it through that dependency. Even though we don't really know her true cause of death yet, I hope it was not due to these medicines. If that turns out to be the case, I can only hope that it will truly help raise awareness of the dangers of taking benzodiazepines. I know now that she is resting in the peace that she never had, and I'm so grateful that she was here. Her legacy will include connecting with people, in many different ways, for many different reasons like she did with me. She will be truly missed.

Another one of her songs that represented
a tough time in my life, losing my mother.


  1. Very touching story Janet, I had no idea Xanax was so addictive. To be honest I am contemplating using it to help me go through my tough times caused by my boyfriend's illness. But I'll reconsider and ask for another option. I am in a deep depressing episode and I need some support, it's the very first time in my live when I'll be using that kind of medication. Thank you for your confession Janet, it's inspiring..

  2. Thank you so much Unikorna, I really appreciate your comment on this post, it was tough to write about a time in my life that I really don't like to recall. I'm so glad you opened up to me about what is going on with you. It is understandable that you are in a state of depression with all you have to deal with right now. Taking medicine does not make you less of a person, don't feel ashamed if that is what you need to do. Now I take paxil for my anxiety and it works great, and it is a non narcotic. There are many good meds out there for depression and anxiety that are non narcotic. For your own personal safety I would definitely suggest trying those ones first. If you find a good Doctor he or she will work with you to find what is right for you. If it turns out you need something like xanax, then make sure you are monitored well to prevent an addiction. I wish I could give you a big hug in person, hang in there and keep me updated on how you are doing. If you need any other advice or need to talk to someone I'm always here for you!
    love ya,

  3. When my first husband died, the doctor insisted that I take xanax. I was grief stricken and devastated with the swift changes in my life. I had no idea how dangerous the drug was . . . especially since back then, I was depending on large amounts of rum to numb the pain.

    I TRUSTED my doctor to know what was best for me. She was aware that I had a drinking problem.

    Of course if I had done my research, I would have found out how dangerous this practice was. However, when you are truly in need of the medication, chances are you will not do any research. I didn't even think about it since I trusted my long time doctor.

    I've recently weaned myself off of them with the help of my new doctor and only take it if I am having a really bad panic attack.

    Thanks for this post! Society needs to be more aware of the dangers of these medications since many doctors won't make you aware . . . which in my opinion is part of their job :(

  4. Thank you so much Gina for sharing your story. I am really glad that in the long run things worked out ok for you with these medicines. When your going through the pain that you did I can understand numbing the pain anyway you can to survive it. I've been there myself. I also trusted my Doctor back then and would still have a drink or two sometimes with Rum, (my favorite choice of drink back then) and did not know the dangers of mixing them! It's amazing how much faith we put in them without questioning anything they tell us is alright for us. I also agree that Society needs to be more aware and hopefully by sharing our stories we have helped someone else who has been uniformed by their Doctor.
    Thanks again Gina,