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Explaining my absence: the horrors of March and April 2023

TW: This blog post deals with themes of drug use and psychological and perceptive issues. Read at your own risk and only if you are of legal age in your country.

As some of you may have noticed, in which case I'd be honored you keep visiting my site for updates, I have not been making many updates to this site in a small while; March and April so far were pretty empty. Because I know how frustrating looking at a website that has not been updated in a long time can be, I wanted to write a blog post explaining my absence and the way forward.

GIF: Beat-up looking brain glitching out

Around the beginning of March 2023, I travelled to a country where Cannabis consumption was legal, and along with a few responsible friends, hit a bong. I had only once ever gotten high off of weed before, I assumed it was because of my body weight, so I did not particularly monitor the level of intake. This time was different however; a few minutes after taking in the last hit, I felt my perception getting noticeably different, ramping up fast, in a way that I recognized from that one single previous experience.

I lost my peripheral vision and subconscious object permanence, meaning that I forgot about things, locations and people located outside of my field of vision. Every new situation, including just moving my head and looking around, was like entering a new location overall, which was extremely stressful to me. Any time I moved my eyes and looked somewhere else, time and my gaze seemed to freeze (in the same way that you get "stuck" looking at a point sometimes when you're tired), which made me panic. My perception of time was very distorted, and five minutes in real life felt like an hour. My vision started flowing inwards as if I was zooming in warp drive in a piece of science fiction media. All this combined led to me having a serious and continuous panic attack for the rest of the trip including a very fast heart rate, hyperventilation and pacing through the house to keep up a semblance of grip on reality and attempt to stabilize my consciousness, especially intensified by the fact that I knew I had no way out of this until it would finally fade. I felt like my brain took me on a rollercoaster ride I did not consent to, and since I am my brain, there was no way to break out or just relax for a bit. It was torture.

Recovering from this trip was difficult and for a few days it felt like it was still lingering somewhere.

I started noticing issues cropping up one or two weeks after; I had been addicted to caffeine and a craft coffee enthusiast before, but suddenly drinking coffee or energy drinks made me anxious and nauseous. One day it was heavily snowing outside and the snow falling all around me. The thick layer of falling snowflakes gave me tunnel vision all of a sudden. My nerves felt like they were "lighting up" and I felt something like a seizure coming on; I quickly closed my eyes and had to spend the rest of my walk like that. From there on out, I started getting sick and nauseous off of riding trains, cars and buses, too.

Over the next few weeks, this intensified, resulting in daily panic attacks due to derealization, severe background anxiety and multiple visits to a psychiatric outpatient clinic.

Throughout this entire ordeal I kept a journal. Have some excerpts:

"Now, as predicted, after a session of watching TV, suddenly triggered another attack. Strong anxiety with physical shaking and crying, feeling of visual tunnel vision and lack of acuity, visual flashing/auras and things going 2D, afterimages and color static. Chaotic spiralling thoughts I cannot control. Derealization; occasional "flashes" of the feeling that I am dreaming or in an unreal, existentially threatening situation. Small things suddenly feel threatening or ominous: noise, plushies, my own body movements, passage of time, darkness. Familiar places feel unreal and wrong. Distorted sense of time. Fear of only having repressed all of this when I was doing fine, and that I am broken and nonfunctional in reality. Fear of feeling like this for the rest of my life. Fear of losing my good judgement and the ability to tell real from psychotic as this situation worsens."

"Current mood: shaking, clattering teeth, disordered thoughts, fear. Can only keep a clear mind my suppressing thought and hyperfocusing on something, like writing this."

"One of the biggest discomforts is the fact that I seem to do everything "manually": move my eyes, look at my surroundings... might be that that is also where the derealization comes from? Inability to form thoughts and being forced to make eye movements scares me. Feels like I am asleep and conscious. makes me feel like I'm on constant autopilot in an uncomfortable, nonconsensual way. "Waking up" from that is an anxiety spike."

"Major breakdown, screaming, crying, derealization and paranoia, induced by watching something with light horror themes."

"Everything gradually is getting worse. I feel tired and nauseous every day, and the inability to visually focus on anything is debilitating. I just want to stay in bed all day."

"The by far most irritating effect right now is the lack of situational awareness and "peripheral thinking". I feel like I only exist in this moment, unable to break out of it, with no sense of time or place or what I still have to do, how to socially interact, or even have the situational awareness of how long I have been or have to be somewhere. It feels like I have to do everything consciously, and no subconciousness is there to help me out with things."

Now that I am on some kind of medication, it's going o-kay, which is to say, I do not get daily existential horrors anymore. Still, my quality of life is currently falling towards zero. From this blog post onward I will however try to be a little bit more active on this site again, updating it with whatever I need.

If there can be a bottom line; please don't do drugs, or if you have to, at least stop considering Cannabis a "soft drug". They're not harmless, and even if 90% of interactions end up fine, the chance at living through this kind of existential horror is worth no high. Watch out for yourselves please. Love y'all.