I don’t always remember my dreams. And I rarely try to. I’m so attached to my conscious dream of many years, which is the dream of enjoying good health. If I’m feeling at all healthy, I’m happy. I’m not searching for more. I spent too many years trying to understand why I was chronically ill and growing worse with inexplicable pain, cognitive challenges, mystery gastrointestinal problems, and confusing anxiety issues. Then I discovered that doctors were continuing to prescribe a neurotoxin for me that was taking me down gradually and possibly irreparably — originally to slow my system (junk science) when I had CFS/ME and once recovered, to give me, a lifelong insomniac, the false impression that I was getting a good night’s sleep occasionally — because it was never a good night’s sleep in the clinical sense. Not with Klonopin (aka clonazepam). That’s just not clinically possible with benzodiazepines and Z drugs like Klonopin, Ativan, Ambien, Lunesta, and Restoril.
After my recovery from CFS/ME in the late 90’s I could not mask the symptoms of the new mystery illness I was developing. One doctor convinced me that I had chronic metals toxicity, so I treated that off and on for a few years…until that diagnosis no longer made sense. I’d detoxified, demetalized, drained and dripped till the diagnostic tests indicated that I was undoubtedly free and clear of toxic heavy metals. Really, if that was the problem, please explain why I still felt so ill much of the time.
From that point on any practitioner I saw had an easy time chalking my problems up to stress, a resurgence of CFS/ME, or continuing post 9/11 PTSD. To a point, I had been dealing with 9/11 PTSD in the early 2000’s. I can now more easily recall the day and when I veered into PTSD mode. Yes, I had been shaken by the rumble of the first jet’s flight path in front of my living room window; and yes, after reaching family members to tell them I was okay, I headed up to the roof to watch in disbelieif as another over-thousand people died when the second tower fell. But that was not it. It was the fact that I, thinking I was going to prove that we, as Americans, keep going, walked the five blocks southward to my office on Greenwich Street, determined to work that day, to prove American strength. Still passing “snow people” escaping the towers, I crossed the Canal Street barricade and headed to Vesey and Greenwich, where I exchanged a few words with others loitering in wait on the corner. On guard was a clutch of first responders, NYFD. Standing with purpose, all were visibly on edge. Building 7 was in everyone’s sights, burning. I walked up the steps of my office building to unlock the door. The company lieutenant shouted “Run!” Collapsed and now a burning tidal wave of fire-hot debris and molten steel, hoping to crush everything in its path, Building 7 charged toward us. I ran with the first responders, members of the NYFD brave who knew that many of their brotherhood were already gone. We ran together. We ran like hell until we made it the few blocks to Canal Street. I felt a body shift that was nothing like anything I’d ever experienced. Parts of me shifted within. It was a lateral, basic, powerful, undeniable shift. And it was not good. That much I knew. A welcome stranger and I grasped on to each other, held each other, clung to each other. After a few moments we disengaged, stared knowingly at each other, as though in a preternatural state of understanding, fear, love, and relief. Then we walked away. We simply walked away from each other and from all the others who ran from Building 7, toward our separate responsibilities, destinations, and lives.
The CBT I did for 9/11 trauma helped for about ten years. Despite the effects of benzodiazepine tolerance creeping in often enough, I held strong. Like many who are iatrogenically-injured and live without an awareness of the source of our mystery illness, I found ways to cope…
Until my daughter was 9-years-old. It was late May and I was enjoying life and a good turn of events. It was the end of a school year that I had found particularly stressful, but relief had come. After a difficult year, she would be leaving a private grammar school that had been a bad match for her and returning to our town’s warm and fuzzy public elementary school. Things were also going well with a film I was producing. We were nearing the end of post-production and knew that the film’s prospects for a good festival premiere and for international distribution were excellent. Feeling drowsy one evening while watching television with my daughter, I resolved to stop taking Klonopin. I just didn’t like the idea of taking a pill for reasons that no longer seemed to apply. And I thought the effects of the Klonopin I had taken the night before for sleep might be the reason I was drowsy so early in the evening.
A few days later I googled stopping Klonopin; though my escape from the benzo beast took much longer than expected (a 22-month-long taper), I was finally armed with the truth. I made my way back to a semblance of normal life. Much changed, of course. Because this experience, when you’re one of the unlucky millions who should never have been prescribed a benzodiazepine or a Z drug or an anti-depressant or any number of psychotropic medications, will change you at your core. It will bring you to your knees and while you are praying, begging for freedom, you will find yourself essentially changed. It can’t be avoided.
As part of that change dreams tend to change. I have natural sleep now. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to my new normal of regular sleep and dreaming. As a rule, I don’t care about remembering specific dreams, I’m just so grateful to be having them. Though I have to laugh a little about a recent dream that bears mentioning here because it relates to As Prescribed’s funding hopes. The dream…
The value of the funds we need to finish As Prescribed are encased in a football-size imperfect globe of precious metals that is worth enough to take care of all our financial needs. It is clear to me that we need to hide the stone in a safe place before we can store it safely. We plan to deliver it to a bank and arrange to have the value exchanged for the dollar amount. We are living in a dangerous place. Are we in a war zone?
Perhaps it felt like that because I’ve been reading Samantha Power’s Education of an Idealist and am also thinking of the psychiatrist we filmed who was finishing school in Serbia just around the start of the 1990s Balkans war.
Our building has decent storage in the basement, so I am able to hide the precious metal deep within a large rolled-up carpet of recycled newspapers and hide it there for the time being. I have an accomplice. I cannot picture who it is now; in the dream it felt like a member of the As Prescribed film crew. This is tense stuff. We are in dangerous circumstances and we know it. We wait anxiously for word that our precious metal globe can be moved safely.
The day comes when things seem stable enough to transport the orb, our hope, without incident. I unlock the door to the storage room. The carpet roll with our treasure is gone. I am panicked. I call the building’s custodian who tells me that he had been storing a number of similar-sized recycled newspaper rolls in another building, and, having access to our storage space, decided to do us a favor and sell all the recycled newspaper rolls to a firm in China. They are all on a freighter to China, including the glittery globe, the answer to our funding needs. But is China still taking our recycled newspapers? I ask. And, dream logic — yes, absolutely, I was informed. Needless to say, I am crestfallen. I want to vomit.
I woke up.
So here we are…
Since I had that dream, we ran a successful fundraiser on Facebook raising $1500.00 from generous supporters on FB. We are now incredibly fortunate to have a generous couple of means, who believe in the film and our cause, make a large donation to As Prescribed through our fiscal sponsor, Women Make Movies, this holiday season. This will cover close to 25% of the funds needed to finish. Another large donation from a charitable fund is expected to reach us by year’s end and that will will cover another 15% of the total needed to finish. So we are close to having half of the funds needed not only to finish the film, including the cost of animations and original music for our soundtrack, but to cover all initial marketing with a festival release plan.
I usually face our need for finishing funds as a grim reality. But this year, the outlook is bright. It’s better than the dream, in fact. Oh, and I’m feeling pretty healthy this holiday season too.
Wishing the same to all who read this. Though I know that too many are still suffering, still living the benzo nightmare. May you all wake to better days soon.
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