the only way I can express the trauma

Please forgive my bad literature. I’m not a writer. But I wrote this and am sharing it as a kind of therapy. I will append an explanation–if one is even really necessary–in a comment. Thanks.

The rain has turned cold.

My daughter is playing a few feet away from me. Heedless of the chilly October drizzle, she is amusing herself with a little carved wooden horse. I don’t recognize the toy—she must have found it somewhere in the station, maybe on the platform. It’s broken, as the poor horse has only two legs. But Daiya doesn’t mind. I can hear her humming a little song as she pretend gallops her little stallion through the mud. He charges heroically back and forth, left and right, releasing an occasional happy neigh, in a small semi-circle described by the arc of her arm’s reach.

She is so brave, and so strong. I know that hunger must gnaw at her little belly, as it does, at mine. How long has it been? Sixty hours, perhaps? since only the meager bread and broth in Lódz. Where is her mother? Where is my dear Elka? Already at a camp? I saw her last boarding a train, huddled together in a grey woolen mass with the other women. She was looking back at me, without tears, telling me one last time that she will always love me. Heavier in my gut than the hunger is the Great Fear that I dare not speak: I will never see her again. I close my eyes and press the image of my beloved’s face into my memory. No matter what is to come, I will not forget, moja kochana. I will not forget. I will love you forever, Elka, and I will not forget you. Daiya doesn’t understand—or is artfully, beyond her years, avoiding the recognition—that Mama is gone. Despite the shouting, the crowds, the cold, the rain, the fear, the abiding Unknown that hovers over us in these present moments, and throughout the past three months of living in the ghetto…my daughter is still playing. G-d grant this night that we may sleep in peace…

I still have my daughter. But for how long? Only the Lord knows. Why were the children not sent with the women? Surely, dreadfully, the men in the grey uniforms will take her away at any time. A man with the Death’s Head on his cap and collar, whom we were directed to address as Herr Scharführer, is barking orders in German. I don’t understand, but the other soldiers are rounding up the little ones, now.

I call Daiya to me. I ache to hold her fast in these last minutes. She rises to run to me, just like we were back home…just like she did each night when I came home from a long and hard day. I hug her little body and hold it close to mine. The cold drops strike my face and run down my cheeks. Just treasure this moment, just this one little moment… I speak a silent prayer that G-d will grant me the gift of seeing my little girl and my wife just once more in this life. But my heart is already shredded and dying from loss. I suffer an absence that is to be everlasting.

It is then I realize that I am not at that train station any longer. And it is not raining—I am weeping, and my tears are cold. And my beautiful Elka and little Daiya are surely dead. If G-d is there, if he can spare any pity for me in these blackest of days, so too will I be, soon.

A sob, and I shake myself from this horrific vision. The shower water has run cold. I only envisioned it as my own icy tears.

I had sat down in the bathtub, in the forgiving rain of a hot shower, to ease the aches in my body and assuage the horror in my soul. Yet my brain, craving the flood of γ-aminobutyric acid that the days-departed X had once triggered, allows me no rest, and it carried me back to a life not my own, to an alien time of suffering unparalleled in human history. Why? I don’t know. But the pain I am experiencing seems to need a reason, a context, a justifiable trigger, beyond the pathetic, mundane, and prosaic actual cause, which I dare not confess to anyone right now. I am alone.

The “W” word…withdrawal. From two different classes of drugs, at once. My GABA and μ-opioid receptors scream. My brain and mind are on fire, my heart has been flayed alive, and my body is a walking, pain-wracked corpse. The steep drop in mood-altering neurotransmitters leads my mind inexorably to gravitate to, to fixate upon, the Worst, the Ugliest, the Most Horrific and Barbarous, the Unspeakable, the Brutal, the Pains That Cannot Be Survived. The separation of families during the Holocaust, watching your spouse and children being sold away from you into slavery in 18th-century America, how I will possibly support my family and deal with the shame when I lose my job, what it would really feel like to be crucified or perhaps anally impaled, the most effective and ethical way to kill myself when all this becomes too much to bear, how much my daughter will cry over the daddy who abandoned her…

My wife and daughter sleep peacefully in our bedroom. In two hours it will be time to wake up—I have already been awake for sixty hours now—and to rouse my little one, feed her breakfast, and drive her to daycare. Then for me, work for eight hours. How will I ever make it? I lack the strength even to stand and walk. Merely being alive right now is an immense struggle, one that I find myself wishing more and more that I would lose. In fact, I pray for death. And the sooner it comes, the better. The sleeplessness is torture. The anxiety and dysphoria and despair reach levels that can only be comprehended on an experiential or perhaps spiritual level.

I turn off the now-cold shower.

G-d grant this night that I may sleep in peace…

Please don’t take moral offense at the historical theme I chose; I am not comparing my suffering during a relatively brief period, to the terror and misery of the Holocaust. Surely there is no real comparison. But the suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones in the Holocaust is an apt metaphor to describe the depths of emotional and psychological suffering that a sudden withdrawal from benzodiazepines often triggers.

From 22 April until 17 May 2008, I was in withdrawal from both benzodiazepines and opiates. The withdrawal from either one of these drug classes can be extremely difficult and painful. Both at the same time? Cold-turkey, with no medical supervision? Actually dangerous, possibly even deadly. A living hell.**

On more than one occasion during those 25 days, I literally prayed for death. I didn’t believe in God much anymore, but I was more ready to die than I have ever been, and at times I really thought I was going to. Only the thought of how my wife and daughter would have suffered, kept me from taking my own life. I sought treatment at hospitals, telling them everything, but the doctors did nothing. Apparently they either didn’t believe me or had little experience dealing with it. I dared not call a suicide hotline or express my death wish, because then I’d have been involuntarily committed. In other words, I’d have been made to suffer in a cold hospital, rather than in my own home, my own bed.

I haven’t talked about it much, nor touched on it in much depth during my psychotherapy. I guess I just haven’t been ready. But I was traumatized by the experience. I actually have some PTSD symptoms from it: anger, crying fits, flashbacks, nightmares.

The worst of all it, beyond the pain and discomfort of the opioid w/d, were the psychological/emotional symtoms brought about by the sudden cessation of the GABA-flooding benzos. When the literature says that benzo w/d symptoms can include “anxiety, depression, dysphoria, and paranoia”, it’s a massive understatement. I literally never thought that a human could be in that much psychic pain. It’s indescribable. My mind was awash in the most horrific, terrible, painful images and memories imaginable. I was neurologically obsessed with suffering. Hence the visualization of losing my wife and daughter in the Holocaust.

I don’t know how I will ultimately cope with all this, but I felt like I had to write, for some reason.

Thanks for indulging me.
**Benzo withdrawal, when not medically supervised and treated through substitution therapy, is literally life-threatening, unlike the w/d symptoms from most other drugs (except alcohol). The psychic/emotional trauma can even lead to suicide. (More)

Pretty powerful stuff, Cy, especially with your afterword. Well written, too, IMO.

Grats on making it thru your struggle; keep up the good work.

FWIW, I’ve found your posts on the board to be generally coherent, sometimes very entertaining, and on the whole a welcome addition.

I know you’ve been here since the beginning of the year, but please allow me to say: welcome back, and welcome to the Straight Dope.*

*yeah, that felt kinda weird to write to a guy who detoxxed himself.

Sometimes doing it the hard way is the best way.

Thanks, y’all, for the welcome to SDMB and for not hurling rotten tomatoes at me. :slight_smile:

I hope you get some good sleep real soon. I enjoyed reading your story. I understand the Holocaust thing even though I never went through it. I can’t imagine that kind of mental pain but listening to certain music makes me feel like I’m there. I can imagine the physical pain and I hope it subsides. This is something I do. I turn it over. I just ask God to take all my pain and put it to good use.

Pain is also a powerful motivator and how many great songs were written when a song writer had a bad break up? Also how much great literature, poetry and art comes from suffering…

So this is not all in vain because when you feel better your going to appreciate it.