A few weeks ago I was in hospital as I was so depressed and overdosed on my Valium. I was given a new medication called Effexor. Now I am back here because I am too high, apparently.
My sleep has been horrendous for months. Insomnia, nightmares, and dreams that don’t make any sense at all. One time I had this dream that my dad stormed into my room and made me get off the inflatable mattress I sleep on. He wanted to bring in my bed from his house, but there was no room. Then he and Mum told me they wanted me gone. Then I was taken back to our old house, where I had a series of dreams which made no sense. The dreams were not particularly nice. I wanted to wake up but I couldn’t. Just when I thought I’d woken up I found it was just another dream, and then another. I was stuck in these series of dreams, I couldn’t escape. It was like I was on weed again! Trapped inside dreams, trapped inside memories, trapped inside my subconscious mind. It was terrifying. Finally everything turned black. I heard this flat beeping. The hospital monitor had gone flat, I thought I was dead. Then I woke up. I checked the time and it was 3:30pm, August 3rd, 2022. I was back, but I was left wondering: is this all just a dream too? It took a while for the anxiety to settle down. I felt like I had a million butterflies thrashing about in my stomach.
I hadn’t got any relief from the new medication yet. I have had a very bad experience with antidepressants and believed it would not only not work but damage me. I felt hopeless. I arrived at my psychologist’s office in a fit of rage. I threw cushions around her office, and then lost the ability to speak. I had to draw and write to her.
Then one day, something changed. I’m not sure what it was exactly, probably a combination of things. I hadn’t known what to do about the new medication so had been praying for a sign from the universe. I believe my prayers had been answered. I was seeing flashes of lights at night. One night my room lit up for a second and then went dark again. Another night I saw four flashes. I felt like it was a spiritual entity trying to communicate with me. Things were going well with my psychologist. We did some somatic work. She held my hand, and I realised this is all I really needed: something as basic and human as physical touch. I started going after the things my soul craved, such as connection. I went onto MeetUp and found a support group for women in need of feminine energy and sisterly love. It sounded exactly what I’ve been looking for. It was even in my area. It was like the stars were aligning. I was the first to join and the organiser and I started messaging each other. She then put up an event. I started to get super revved up.
I finally returned to badminton (I haven’t been able to play for almost a year due to covid and then the vaccine mandate). I also believed I had ADD and that what I really needed was a stimulant called Vyvanse or Dexedrine. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist about it.
For once in my life I was hopeful. I was good. A little too good, according to my regular doctor. I can’t really remember the session, but I think I prattled on about the new women’s group I’d found and the mysterious flashes of lights I was seeing which I believed were signs from my spirit guides or something.
My good mood left just as quick as it came. I called my case worker and told him I felt like shit. He said the doctor had asked him to call me on Friday that week as the doctor thought I was becoming manic. I said my good mood had gone now, and I probably would never get it back again.
That night I got no sleep, even with sleeping pills. I only slept for one hour during the morning before I had to get up and see the psychiatrist who I hoped would give me a stimulant. I was exhausted at first, but quickly picked up. The psychiatrist said yes I do have ADD and gave me Vyvanse. I brought the script to the chemist and picked up my goodie bag full of uppers/stimulants, downers/sleeping pills and everything in between. I don’t know what the chemist made of me. I then met up with my new NDIS worker, who I really like. We went for a long hike. The sun was out, both literally and figuratively. The view from the top of the mountain was glorious and when we got to the bottom the lake was sparkling. It was turning into a fabulous day. That evening I played badminton and I thrashed the other team. I returned all their shots, and all on only one hour’s sleep. On my way home my foot was shaking. I wasn’t sure if it was from the game or a side effect of the antidepressant. Now I realise it was the mania setting in. Mania and anxiety can look very similar. They both can result in shaking, tingling, and pacing, all of which I’ve been getting.
The next day I took the Vyvanse for the first time. I opened the capsule and poured half of the white powder into yoghurt like a drug addict. It was also the day the women’s group were meeting. I’d never been more excited in my life. I had so much energy that I even decided to meet another friend for dinner beforehand. I wanted some alone time in nature before I went out that night so I put on my Katwise coat, walked to the park and sat by the lake. I cried, both happy and sad tears. The happy tears were because I was finally starting to feel better and felt like I was on the right path. The sad tears were because I wished my case worker was my friend. I’m terrified of losing him and have nightmares about it. He has seen me through so much and knows me better than anyone. He’s funny, smart, great at this job and kind. I love him. I’m worried that if I become well he will close my case and I will never see him again. But I was able to sit with those feelings and let them pass through me. I rarely cry and it was a nice release. My emotions were flowing again. I didn’t care if anyone saw me crying. My fog had lifted and I felt so connected with nature and its beauty: the sun’s reflection on the water and the ripples on the lake. What a fucking marvellous day! Sometimes my case worker asks me to rate my mood, and I had no idea how I would rate it. Then I thought, you know what, this would be a 10. I could feel the full spectrum of emotions and it felt very healthy. This is one of the types of happiness that Leunig writes about: happiness blended with a mysterious sadness. Sometimes people walking their dogs would pass me and I startled easily, something which I didn’t know is another symptom of mania. Yet apart from that I felt calm.
I wanted to stay out there longer, but I had a zoom session with my psychologist. I made my way back at a leisurely pace. I was a little late, but I didn’t care. I turned my laptop on and it made its usual loud, revving up noise. There is something wrong with it. The noise usually goes away after a few minutes, but it irritated me more than usual as I was particularly sensitive to noise. When you are manic, you are often more sensitive than usual to sounds, lights, everything. For the remaining 20 minutes I couldn’t stop smiling and talking. I jumped from topic to topic. A few weeks ago I couldn’t talk at all and now my psychologist couldn’t get a word in.
After I finished my session and started getting ready to see my friend, my case worker called me. My day was getting better and better. He asked me how I was and, giggling, I told him I was “fucking amazing”.
“Oh no”, he said, in a concerned voice. “How long have you been like this for?”
“A day” I told him.
“Have you got into trouble with the police?” He asked me.
What a stupid question. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or being serious. But then again who knows what manic people are going to do. I had a friend once who was manic and he used to pinch the caps off police officers’ heads.
“No,” I told him. I then told him all about smashing people at badminton, the stimulant, my plans for the evening, everything, as I paced around the house.
“I’m vibrating on a whole new level now” I said.
“We have to do something about your mania” he told me.
I then went hysterical and begged him not to. That is something I’ve learnt about mania: ALL your emotions are heightened, not just the good ones. Very quickly it will flip into something else.
“We do” he said, regrettably.
“And we’re going to have to talk to the doctor who gave you the Vyvance”
“Don’t bring me down from this!” I told him.
He told me not to drive, and to call psych triage if I needed to. I agreed.
“Enjoy your good mood while it lasts” he told me, and hung up.
I knew I shouldn’t be driving. I was so delirious I could barely bring up my friend’s street on Google maps. But I did drive there. I drove past his street, then freaked out, but managed to do a u-turn and found it at last. When he got in the car I was still giggling as though on drugs. I warned him that I was manic. We then made our way up the mountain to the restaurant. We made it there ok. In fact, it was like I drove even better than usual! As we walked down the street, I felt powerful. I felt like people were looking at me because I was a fucking god. We sat in the restaurant, and while I usually hate music playing in shops etc., the music sounded amazing this time. I was transported to the Amazon rainforest. I wanted to get up and dance, and nearly did, but felt a bit embarrassed being the only one dancing. I ordered my meal but didn’t eat any of it as I had no appetite (apparently a side effect of stimulants). I just drank lots of water. We both enjoyed the water which had a slice of orange in it. We went through at least 6 jugs.
I had the best night. My inhibitions were down and I could connect with people much better. The music was better. The conversation was better. My friend said he’s never seen me so happy. Finally I skipped to the counter and paid for the meal. I dropped my friend home, touched his arm goodbye, and gave him a soft dino I had bought for him. I am a completely different person while manic: outgoing, the life of the party, affectionate.
I went straight from my friend’s house to the women’s event. When I met them I was still buzzing, but that quickly wore off as soon as we went into the pub. I felt uncomfortable the minute we were seated. We were not socially distanced. Even though there were spare seats we were seated right next to everyone else like fucking sardines. The ladies started chatting and I got quieter and quieter. My body felt tense and my good mood was gone. I think I had really high expectations about this event and it was like I was disappointed or something. When I got home, I was grumpy and missed my euphoria. I decided to go to the park and play some ethnic electronic music to bring it back. It was 10pm and I headed out to the park. But then I got scared being out there all alone. I thought people were after me and I didn’t even know if these people were in this realm or not. I thought about calling psych triage, but I knew exactly where I’d end up if I called them. I ran through the bushes and in the end my angels led me to a safe place. I stayed there for a while and played some music from my phone until the battery died. Then I just lay there, until I realised my mum would probably be freaking out wondering where I am and not able to contact me as my phone’s off. That’s when I made my way home. I was worried I would be greeted with an ambulance, a tonne of police cars and a furious mother when I got back to my house, but thankfully she was fast asleep and didn’t know I was out.
I continued to go for walks and see people over the weekend, though the euphoria was no longer there. I thought I must have just been really excited about the women’s support group. Finding that it wasn’t as good as I was expecting, I thought that was the end of my good mood. I emailed the Spiritual Emergence Network Australia about my experiences. I was still getting tingling and vibrations in my figures and scalp. Sometimes I worried the medication had damaged my nerves and I got really depressed, but other times I saw it as signs of a spiritual/kundalini awakening. I tried hard to bring the euphoria back with music, but I just couldn’t. In the end I realised I just can’t force it and I just need to listen to what my body needs. If I’m tired, rest. If I’m energetic, move. If I’m ecstatic, dance. My sense of time was a bit strange. Sometimes it slowed down. Sometimes it sped up. I ordered some hot chips. When I arrived to pick them up I was wondering what was taking so long. They then told me that they had to cook them again as I didn’t come and they were getting cold. I thought it had only been 10 minutes, but apparently I’d taken 20 minutes to get there.
I wasn’t expecting my good mood to come back on Monday, but for some reason it did. I took the full dose of the Vyvanse Monday morning and was looking forward to seeing my psychologist later that afternoon. My day started to get better and better. Nothing could kill my mood, even hearing that the person I sat next to Friday night had covid. I felt invincible, I felt that nothing could touch me, even covid. I did tell my psychologist that I’d have to meet her on Zoom though in case I had it. I had the house to myself which was nice. I had so much I wanted to do before I saw my psychologist. I had a shower, but while in the shower I suddenly felt weak and faint and anxious. I worried maybe covid was setting in. “Calm down, calm down” I told myself, and the feeling passed. I knew belief is a powerful thing and if we really believe something, we can manifest it. It was another wonderfully sunny day. I wanted to go for a walk, and I also wanted to talk to my psychologist. So I ended up doing both! I dressed up in my bright pink native American headdress and I spoke with her on the phone while walking. “What a wonderful fucking day” I told her. She said I didn’t sound right, and I asked her what do you mean? I spoke non-stop for an hour as I paced up and down the bush track. It must have been the most draining session she’d ever had. We came to the end of the session and then I started to get really agitated. I told her I’m a lightworker and people hate me and want me gone.
“That’s ok not everyone has to like me,” I said. “But they want to hurt me. I’ve seen it. I saw it when I was on the marijuana. There’s evil here. Why do people torture each other? People hate me. I saw the emails from high school!” I screamed.
“I can tell you are upset”, she said to me.
“Can I contact your case worker and ask him to check in on you?”
I agreed. She also wanted to call psych triage but I said there was no need. After she hung up I heard voices nearby and darted up one of the tracks. I sat by the track and calmed down. My psychologist texted me saying she couldn’t get through to my case worker but will email him. She suggested heading home now as it was getting cold. She said she’d message me again tomorrow morning. I felt so blessed I had such a wonderful, caring support team! A few friendly locals passed me. My mood was still good, I asked how they were and would have been happy to talk further with them and tell them everything about my life but they left. One person’s dog growled at me because of my bright headdress so I took it off while they passed.
I had no idea what I was in for that night. If I had of known, I would have let my psych call triage like she wanted to. I was sitting at my computer writing emails when all of a sudden, out of no where, I was hit with some of the worst anxiety I’ve felt in my life. My heart was racing, I was shaking and I thought I was going to die. This was exactly how my episode on the marijuana started. I immediately dialled 000 and asked for an ambulance. I spoke with the operator and then quickly calmed down again. I felt silly, embarrassed and dramatic. She said a person from their psych team would call me back shortly. I spoke with that person but when she hung up I still didn’t feel right. I felt like there was something really wrong with me and they kept saying it was all in my head. I was freaking out, so I called a friend. I thought I’d have to keep her on the line while I walked to the hospital which is five minutes away. My friend said my brain must have been so starved of dopamine all my life and now these new medications have given it so much dopamine it doesn’t know what to do with it. She told me to take a sleeping pill and go to bed. But I didn’t. I sat up having an existential crisis. I wrote the following email to my psychologist:
“How did evil come into existence? Does separation really exist, or is everyone just a reflection of me? And me a reflection of them? Am I god? If everyone’s a reflection of me, then am I evil? Am I evil because I have forgotten I am one with other people so what hurts them hurts me? When we come to the end of our lives will we realise that we were all wearing masks, and we were all the same being interacting with ourselves? All there is is god. One. Lonely. Is that is why we decided to have this experience of separateness, this idea that others exist? How can one possibly feel both alone and at one at the very same time???? I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to myself. I’m disappearing down the black hole now. When I truly, truly realise the gravity of what I’m saying I feel like I’m going to die.”
I went to bed but I was too afraid to fall asleep as I thought I would not wake up. I just wished I had someone by my side to hold my hand and keep me connected to this world. Yet I felt it was pointless reaching out for help as no one else really existed, they were just extensions of me and I’m all alone in the universe. I was completely, utterly alone and it was the most terrifying feeling in the world. Still, I tried reaching out. I tried calling Psych Triage but no one answered. Fucking useless. Finally I dialled 000 again. I cried and cried on the phone and told the operator I didn’t know what was wrong with me. He kept asking me if I had mental health issues and I said I didn’t know. In the end I was put back onto the psych nurse I spoke with earlier. I read her the email I wrote to my psychologist and this time she said she wanted me to go to hospital. She organised for a taxi to take me.
I arrived at the emergency department. The receptionist asked who I am, and I said I’m the same as her. I said I was God. She must have thought I was speaking total nonsense because I was given a bed straight away. A nurse did my blood pressure and my arm turned to jelly. I felt safer to fall asleep in the hospital as I had people around me if something went wrong. I asked for some temazapam but they wouldn’t give me any. So I was awake all night. At one point I got up and started hitting things and pacing about. I didn’t know if I was awake or asleep, whether this was all a dream, whether anything but my own mind was real. “I assure you this is real, I can feel pain in my leg” said the nurse. I think they eventually read my notes from the outpatient mental health service and found out that I am manic. They felt I desperately needed some rest. At one point someone came into my room and started moving my bed. The nurse begged them not to disturb me, terrified they might awaken the manic monster within.
“If she becomes manic do not let her leave” I overheard one of the nurses say. At one point I did look for an exit but the nurses stopped me and told me they’d have to call a “code grey” if I leave. I am amazed by how serious they take mania, yet when you’re depressed and suicidal you’re just left out on the streets.
Later in the morning my doctor came to visit me.
“It’s fucking good to see you” I told him.
“And wouldn’t it have been even better if Jordan was here too” he played. “What happened Zoe”
He knew it must have been pretty bad as I hadn’t wanted any help previously. I was having so much fun. But my case worker must have seen something that I didn’t. I had no idea it would all turn so horrible.
“I know Zoe very well,” my doctor told the nurses. “She is manic and psychotic.”
I was given two options: to go home and be visited by the CAT team every day who will watch me take a mood stabiliser. Or to stay in hospital. My team had been trying to get me into hospital for a while now but there are no beds available. The only spot available is this same place I was at a few weeks ago: the crisis, short stay psychiatric unit. So here I am. I’m kind of glad I can only stay here for a few days as I don’t like having no control over my medication, and one of the other patients is driving me insane. She is obviously extremely manic too. She swears and speaks non-stop on the phone. We don’t have proper rooms here, only curtained areas, and I am SICK TO DEATH of hearing about her fucking life as a Jehovah Witness, her suicidal psychosis and her trip to hospital in a taxi. She is calling everyone she fucking knows and telling them. She doesn’t ask a single question about their lives. “Do you want the address of where I am so you can send a card?” she asked someone this evening. For fucks sake. There’s also a very annoying TV right next to my room.
I have discovered there is a name for what I experienced Monday night. It is called Solipsism Syndrome, or astronaut syndrome, with periods of extended isolation predisposing people to this condition (makes sense, as I have been isolated most of my life):
“Related only tenuously to the philosophy of solipsism is solipsism syndrome, which is a dissociative psychiatric condition that causes the subject to believe all reality is internal and everything outside of them does not exist or exists simply as an ethereal or dreamlike state. People experiencing this syndrome often feel a detachment from reality, apathy, indifference, and intense loneliness, which can be dangerous and lead to other serious or life-threatening mental conditions. Astronauts living in space for long periods of time have experienced this syndrome, and it is believed that infants experience this type of world-view until they are old enough to grow out of it” Dan Cavallari