Citation: Whitman. "Consumed by Catatonic Despair: An Experience with Cannabis (edible) (exp108716)". Erowid.org. Jan 26, 2020. erowid.org/exp/108716
||(edible / food)
| T+ 2:00
||(edible / food)
Lately I have been fascinated with reading “bad trips” experience reports, and have found parallels with an experience I had consuming edibles (e.g. cannabis). While pot brownies may seem like child’s play compared to most other substances people report “bad trips” on, it seems to me what constitutes a “bad trip” is relative to the experience of the user; for the inexperienced and naïve, edibles may be more than they bargained for, particularly if the better part of a batch is consumed, as I discovered some time ago.
I was an undergraduate student, and had smoked weed only a handful of times at this point. I was somewhat disenchanted with the notion of smoking it (I was apprehensive about the rapid onset and cerebral high) and decided to finish off my remaining weed by making pot brownies. I figured the body high they were supposed to induce would be more to my liking.
I figured the body high they were supposed to induce would be more to my liking.
I prepared the brownies with my girlfriend in a small pan, hastily making a butter with approximately 2.5 grams of fairly potent White Widow. I had one brownie that night (1/4 of the pan, which was small as I recall). I was disappointed to find I felt no effects after a couple hours, and so I went to bed. I did notice I felt more “dreamy” as I went to sleep, but otherwise slept and woke up refreshed the next day.
I concluded that the pot brownies were duds. Perhaps I had prepared the butter improperly (I didn’t exactly look up instructions, I had just ground up the weed in butter and added this to the mix). Whatever the case, the effects were so mild I regarded the leftovers as just ordinary brownies.
I couple days later, my girlfriend was leaving for the night and I decided I would try the brownies again. I was working from home that day and I consumed two brownies (1/2 of the pan) at around 4 o’clock. I completed some more work as I waited for any effects to occur. Two hours later and I still felt nothing. I was sure at this point that the pot brownies were a complete failure. I made some dinner and consumed the last brownie. Three hours in, I had consumed the better part of the pan, close to 2 grams of potent weed, no less on an empty stomach, and my tolerance ought to have been zilch (I had not smoked in some time). So why the hell did I not feel anything??
I proceeded to one of the bedrooms in our basement apartment and layed on the bed. I felt a bit airy, my body felt somewhat light, and I noticed the room moving in odd ways. It was so subtle, as if the light was catching things a little differently. I was happy to feel something from the brownies, and, somewhat satisfied with the results, I continued with my evening.
Things precipitated quickly at this point, and the timeline gets a little fuzzy. Next thing I knew I was enjoying some YouTube on the couch. NYAN cat had just blown up on the internet and I tuned in to watch the pop-tart feline do his (her?) space thing for a while. I remember feeling the whole room move around NYAN Cat, with the kitty just remaining fixed in place. I found this quite hilarious and entertaining, but slightly disorienting. I also found my state rather cliché. Somewhat self-conscious but glad to be tripping, I shut off YouTube and decided to play some Grand Theft Auto 4.
It was at this point the trip took a turn. As I played GTA, I found I could not drive straight. I could not complete any objectives as I would crash into walls and other cars. I began to feel my body moving in different directions. I distinctly remember feeling my hands, gripping the controller tensely at this point, moving to the left repeatedly, while the upper half of my body listed repeatedly to the right. It was as if the top half of my body was sliding off the bottom half, like some extremely trippy version of the spins. I found this feeling terribly disorienting and gave up on playing games.
I started to panic. I was way too messed up, and it had precipitated quickly and I wasn’t sure how much worse it would all get (remember I finished off the third brownie well after consuming the first two). I could feel sheer dread creeping into my stomach, the worst dread I had ever felt. I needed distraction and hopped into the shower, trying to regain composure. I can hardly remember details at this point, I was hardly two hours into the onset of feeling anything, and I was overwhelmed with panic and terror. Instead of letting go and just rolling with the experience, I fought it the entire way, I just wanted the dread to stop.
I spent some time on the couch before having another shower; this was the low point in the experience. As the water cascaded over me, random childhood memories came up; in particular, my dad taking me to swim at some run down hotel. I could see, as if in a dream, the uninviting chipped paint of the pool deck, and what looked like a chunk of shit dissolving at the pool bottom. I remember distinctly the feeling that I had fucked up. In utter dismay I repeated this to myself in the shower “I fucked up, I fucked up, I fucked up,” my head pushing against the wall. I felt so trapped and claustrophobic, completely inundated with shame. This is a feeling I will never forget; it was extraordinarily difficult to be with. I felt so vulnerable, the despair was endless, and I felt like pleading but I had no one to plead to.
Upon leaving the shower I made a plan. Pushing aside the sinking sensation of dread washing over me, I decided I needed to metabolize the pot in my body, and going for a run might help with that. I was so desperate for the experience to end. Running just made sense at the time.
I dawned my running shoes and bolted down my usual 5k path through the city. My breathing felt very weird, like I was sucking air rather than breathing it, and my mouth got terribly dry. I felt very self-conscious being in public given my current state, though I’m not sure anyone could have guessed what was racing through my head as I passed pedestrian after pedestrian. I ran across the city walking bridge, usually my favourite spot, but in this case I had the uncanny feeling I was running away from something. Just as I reached the half way point in my run, I became very paranoid. I was sure I had passed the mother of a childhood friend and was terrified at the prospect of talking to someone in this state, let alone someone I had not seen in several years (in retrospect I don’t believe I ever saw this person). I kept my head down the entire way home, just wanting to be back in a safe place where I couldn’t betray my psychotic state.
I got home and had another shower. The dread continued and I just curled up in a ball on my bed. My mind was racing, terror gripped me, and I was spinning and spinning and spinning. I must have passed out.
The next morning, I woke up and was dismayed to find I was still very much high. The terror and dread was somewhat lessened, but replaced with panic at the notion that I was somehow permanently fucked up. I felt very confused, as if someone was hitting a reboot button on my psyche, I just kept forgetting and remembering my predicament. It was an extraordinarily uncomfortable feeling, and I had zero solutions. My girlfriend arrived home and I explained I hadn’t sleep well. I didn’t explain what I had done or what I had been through. Eventually I headed into the university to try and get some work done.
Biking in I was still fighting panic, my heart beating fast. That damn reboot button just kept going off. One moment I am panicking, the next I’m forgetting and then remembering how terrified I was all over again.
One moment I am panicking, the next I’m forgetting and then remembering how terrified I was all over again.
In hindsight it was just typical memory loss/confusion brought on by the cannabis, but given what I had been through, and the fact that I was now 20+ hours after eating the first brownie, I really just thought I had permanently fucked myself up. Once at school I made my way into the lab; a co-worker commented that I looked like shit. I didn’t doubt it. I tried my best to do work but eventually gave up. I could not focus at all. I was too scared at the prospect of being like this forever.
The day continued and I eventually left town for my girlfriend’s family cottage. To my huge relief, I started to feel normal once we got there, 26 hours after consuming the brownies. I know edibles were supposed to stay in your system for longer periods of time, but I was seriously messed up for the better part of a full day. I felt jovial and relieved and enjoyed that evening, glad to no longer be grappling with some unknown terror.
In retrospect, I believe this could have been a positive experience. Something terrible surfaced but I squashed it all back down, refusing to acknowledge or deal with it, blaming it nonchalantly on the edibles afterwards. The despair and shame I felt in the shower has come up since my edibles experience during a meditative practice, and it caused me to dissolve into tears. It was at this time that I sought forgiveness; whatever I felt in the shower that day, that crippling catatonic despair, it dissolved in that moment, and I had the most pleasant and amazing experience of liberation. I still do not entirely understand where this despair came from or how the childhood memories related to my emotions. I don’t know how or why the edibles exposed this despair, but meditation certainly provided me the composure and renewed opportunity to move through it.
Finally, I recognize I made several mistakes that precipitated my “bad trip” on edibles. Incorrectly preparing the brownies, allowing myself to consume far too much, being alone in a basement, generally being inexperienced with what to expect or how to handle it. I didn’t try cannabis again for more than a year after this, terrified at what had happened. I’m happy to report I now use cannabis occasionally to supplement my meditation exercises, to help peel back those unknown layers of my psyche. I anticipate the day I am ready for psilocybin based hallucinogens. I am just waiting for the right time and place.
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