Citation: Anxiety Girl. "Panic, Depersonalization and the in-Between: An Experience with Cannabis (exp111191)". Erowid.org. Jul 11, 2019. erowid.org/exp/111191
My husband had been pressuring me to smoke marijuana with him for a while. He's been smoking on and off since he was in high school, and he's now a twenty-six year old man. I expressed my concern to him in the past that it might not go over well for me. For one thing, my parents always had a very strict attitude about drugs, and I just knew that would run over into my thoughts as I took it (shame, paranoia, worry), and for another thing, I have something called Sensory Processing Disorder and another better known thing: Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
With sensory processing disorder, I already have a distorted experience with every-day sensations. For me, touching something like silk in a sober state of mind is something I'd like to avoid at all costs. Just thinking about touching silk, newspaper, cardboard, or dusty concrete makes me gag. It's a complicated disorder, but the fear of physical discomfort and inability to properly process light and sound were a legitimate concern for what I would experience while high.
Well, before I finally consented to get high with him, we had just had a huge fight. I was depressed and hating myself, and my husband was upset with me for being self-deprecatory. He told me I would probably feel better if I just smoked some weed. So, he helped me light his little glass pipe and instructed me to breathe in. I took three deep puffs. I asked him at one point, “Are you trying to get me blazed?” His response was, “Kind of.”
I should mention that this is a good grade of weed. He mentioned to me later, after the experience, that was probably a factor in what happened. I’d never smoked before, and this is good stuff. He has been smoking it, and still smokes it several times a day with no issue whatsoever.
So, after I take the puffs, I sit in bed. My husband asks me every few seconds if I feel anything. I keep shaking my head, though something is beginning to creep up on me. I can feel off a bit, but I can’t place what the feeling is.
I would say about 10 minutes passed before I began to really understand what I was feeling
about 10 minutes passed before I began to really understand what I was feeling
. He looked at me and said, “Are you feeling it?” and he kind of laughed, probably noticing the look of “What the hell?” on my face. I nodded, but he seemed to realize that I was not okay. He asked me what it felt like and I had to think about it. At this point, my heart was beating so hard in my chest that I was beginning to feel weak. I knew this feeling. I knew this feeling, but it seems like I couldn’t have recognized it unless I was there.
This feeling was a panic attack.
Dread. Deep, hollow dread that felt like hot, numb, black air rising through all of my limbs. I begin to feel the need to cry for help. My sweet husband, realizing I was about to have an issue, comes over to the bed and holds me. He tells me to breathe. He puts his head to my chest and begins to really understand that I’m not just acting weird as my heart is banging rapidly in my chest. I just keep thinking to myself, “I’ve felt this before. I know what this is.”
Truly, it had been a long time since my last panic attack, but I always recognize it when it starts to come up. Breathing deeply and drawing myself to the present usually helps, but this time, when I began to slip out of my body, there was nothing I could do to draw myself back in. It is a true miracle that my husband was there and attentive or I would have probably tried to leap out a window to “wake myself up.”
The breathing he instructs me to do helps, and he tries to keep me laughing. I remember that he kept joking, and laughing about how weird I was being helped to tether me to reality, but eventually, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I knew he was talking to me, but it was like my thoughts were so loud that there was nothing I could do to draw my focus back on him. It’s like when you space out in class and you have to say, “Okay, pay attention. Focus on the words.” Except, that didn’t work, all I could focus on were the thoughts in my head. Eventually I told him that I didn’t understand a word he said, and he thought that was funny. That helped as I tried from then on to see this as something funny and not terrifying, and I could see that he wasn’t going to be offended by the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about. It also helped me, when I was cognizant of myself, to tell him exactly what I was experiencing even my wild, tripped out thoughts about being in another dimension.
From this, it seemed to progress into a 'lock' in my head. I truly don’t know how long this stage lasted, but I’m going to say an hour. Through all the stages, my arms and legs and face are oscillating in this numb heat, and I’m certain that I’m dreaming. It’s like the feeling where you’re stuck in a nightmare and you’re about to die, but you can’t wake up. I remember thinking, “I’m dreaming, and I’m about to die, but I can’t wake up, so that means I’ll die in real life.” So, for that entire hour, I was almost completely oblivious to reality because it seemed like I was experience a perpetual moment of de ja vu, watching and rewatching everything that just happened a moment before and trying to focus on it. I know that my husband talked to me during this time, but I didn’t understand a word he was saying, nor could I understand anything I tried to read. I also could not interpret what I was looking at. Now that I think back on it, the most visual input I understood was an imaginary one in which my mind was like a long room and I was stuck in it trying to talk quiet enough that the echo didn’t distract me from real life.
Thankfully when this stage subsided, I could begin to understand, with great effort, what was being said to me and what I was looking at. I continued to feel like I was outside my body which is very difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it before. Sometimes I felt like I was swirling into a black void, floating in space, and sometimes I simply felt like everything was fake and I was a pawn in someone’s imagination.
Perhaps most prevalent of all the sensations was the acute, creative paranoia. Because I felt like I was in a dream, I was pretty sure that my husband had been part of a conspiracy to draw me into this “revelation” that life was hollow and fake, and he was forcing me to realize it. I repeatedly told myself that he was like the guy in the Matrix that offers the red and blue pill, and I had fallen prey to a vicious attack that would ruin my existence for eternity. I began to be terrified that my mind had been “opened” and all people who did drugs lived in this horrible realization that nothing was real. I later referred to this version of my husband as his “shadow self.” In fact, I didn’t see this man as him at all at a certain point. I imagined that he was my husband’s “other” and he lived in this realm alone, and he had to draw me there so I could live with him in the “in between” world forever.
I like referring to it as the “in between” because it felt like purgatory, or like I was jammed in between sleep and awake, between dimensions even. It was like I was drawn from my body into a dimension below the real one where I would never be able to escape, and I would never be able to see my real husband again.
When the paranoia began to fade, and I was able to understand all the sensory input, I began to research other episodes of depersonalization talked about on the internet. (Do. Not. Do. This.) I freaked myself out every few minutes to the point of almost having another panic attack, all the while, still feeling like I was never again going to be able to feel like I was in my body…that I was never again going to be able to connect with my husband. During this whole episode I felt like there was nothing I could do to connect with him, could not listen, nor care about him or anything he said.
Thankfully, all of this faded too. Eventually, when the effects had worn off in about 2 and 1/2 hours, we both ate a gigantic burrito. This helped extremely to bolster my depressed/shocked spirits.
I went home from eating at the restaurant and slipped in and out of my body for the rest of the night, but experience none of the other side effects. I have been fine since awaking the morning after that, but I’m not sure I’ll ever smoke weed again. I should mention that it felt like this lasted at least eleven hours. That's the number that paranoid self kept telling me.
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