I stood up from my desk and, suddenly, the room started to rotate. I made my way into the living room, bouncing unceremoniously against the walls, clutching furniture along the way, and collapsing, heavily, into my reclining chair. For half-an-hour I prayed to the gods that be to clear my mind. I promised to stay off my computer and eschew any electronic devices in the future. I forgave all those who had transgressed against me during my lifetime, and asked, only, that my precious travel journals be spared the recycling bin. Then I called my daughter.
“Cary, I feel very, very strange. I think you’d better come down.” I tried not to slur my words.
Cary arrived. “What have you eaten today? How much water have you had?“
“Not much. A friend came over and he shared a mo mo and half a mango.”
“That’s not enough. Here is some water. Did your friend feed you something else?”
“What have I told you about eating? You’re obviously hypoglycemic.” She started searching in the refrigerator for high calorie foods. Out came orange juice, figs, bread, chili….
I stood up to protest, whereupon my legs and entire body started to tingle and shake. I looked out the window. “OMIGOD, the mountains are all golden and shimmery. When I close my eyes the images turn purple. It’s lovely….Oh, dear, I feel sick to my stomach.”
Cary took out the frying pan. “You need to eat. You have all the symptoms of someone whose blood sugar is low.” She had been hovering over her iPhone, searching for relevant medical information.
So I ate and things got worse. “I’m so tired. I think I’m dying. I’m having a stroke, just like my father. The world comes and goes. You either like it or you don’t like it. I feel so unattached. It’s lovely and it isn’t lovely. Am I making sense? I think dying is very relaxing.” I was slurring my words and I felt extremely stupid, which made me start to laugh and move my arms as if I were trying to swim to the other side, wherever the other side was.
“Mom, why don’t we lie down together and rest?”
“No, no. If I lie down I’ll die. I know it.”
Cary called a friend who is a doctor, and she said to call 911. Then she asked me to write my name. I couldn’t get to the end of it before I slumped into my daughter’s arms and could no longer speak.
911 asked, “Is she breathing?” “Yes, she’s breathing.”
This is it, I thought. I knew I was dying, and I felt so young, so not ready….
The next thing I remember is my doctor, bless her, standing over me and asking me questions. I think I was laughing at my silly answers, and begging her not to think I was crazy. Then came what seemed like ten young men hovering over me asking me more questions as if I were in kindergarten. “Don’t talk to me like that,” I remember saying. My blood pressure was 70 over 40, causing alarm. I didn’t care about anything or anyone. I just wanted to pee, but didn’t want the whole army to come into the bathroom with me. I was totally humiliated and felt like a non-person. How much worse can it get than that?
I couldn’t open my eyes, but remember being bumped down the stairs, hoisted onto a stretcher, and moved into a waiting ambulance. More wires and tubes than I thought existed were plugged into me and wrapped around my arms and legs and under my breasts. EKG, IV, all to make sure I’d make it to the hospital.
Blood work, another EKG and one CAT scan later a catheter (that’s the worst!) provided a urine sample, which answered the question hovering over me. How could I be so loopy and incoherent, when nothing seemed to be wrong?
At 11 pm, the attending physician strode in, slightly stern. “All your tests are good, and your urine is clear, but….
Mrs. Peterson, tell me about your marijuana usage.”
“I hate the stuff. I lose my memory, I get horny, I never touch it.”
Cary looks at him, mouth agape. He continued, “Your urine tests positive for marijuana.”
I was gobsmacked.
Cary now turns and looks at me and, suddenly, the light goes on. Oh, dear, now I’m in trouble. This afternoon, after my friend left, I was so hungry that I started rummaging in the freezer, hoping to find something to assuage my hunger. I came upon a slice of what I remembered as hazelnut bread, given to me by my neighbor a couple of years ago, when I was suffering from jet lag and couldn’t sleep.
“Try this, Meg…but only a tiny bit at a time. It’s an edible. That is, cannabis baked in my fabulous hazelnut bread.”
“I won’t take it. I had a terrible experience with three small cupcakes fifteen years ago.”
“Take it. You never know. But be sure to label it M for medical.”
He was so generous, I thought, and maybe one of my friends might need it some day. So I put it in the freezer, forgetting to label it.
So, if any of you, my dear readers, wish to experience the prelude to death, which I do NOT recommend, I have a friend who can help you. But please take just one tiny piece. Don’t be like me…a starving fool who ate the whole thing!
They discharged me from the hospital with a diagnosis of marijuana intoxication, and the nurse dutifully read me the handout on substance abuse and where to get help. I begged them to add “accidental” to the diagnosis. Behind the professionalism, their eyes sparkled and I do feel they believed me and were all delighted at a good outcome and a good story. Oldest yet to succumb to edibles!
I share this story with you, not because I’m proud of my ill-advised behavior or because most people have found it rather hilarious (so much for sympathetic friends), but because now that marijuana has been legalized in so many states, we all need to be aware of the ease with which anyone can overdose on edibles. You usually don’t have any effects for at least an hour, and I have had friends who, because they felt nothing at first, ate more and more, and had very disturbing experiences. It is no laughing matter. We need to be fully aware of the impact of this substance on us, individually. Can you imagine what could have happened had I been behind the wheel of a car when “my trip” kicked in, rather than bouncing from wall to wall in my living room?
So these weren’t to be my final hours after all. Dramatic they were, to be sure, but also rather freeing, once the fear had gone and acceptance replaced it. And the lesson learned is still, two weeks later, lingering in my body and my mind, having had a profound impact on my rather frantic OCD ADHD life. I’ve had many moments of soul-searching, something that usually follows such a crisis. And when I lighten up a bit I am reminded of that wonderful Sondheim ballad from Follies, sung so poignantly by Elaine Stritch, I’m Still Here. Yeah, and very glad to be!