Citation: Mount Analogue. "The Reality from Behind Closed Eyelids: An Experience with Melatonin (exp89425)". Erowid.org. Nov 19, 2011. erowid.org/exp/89425
I am seated at my computer desk. It is 3:11 AM, on the Saturday of January 24, 2011. I am typing up this report in order to hopefully somehow explain, even in the most clarifiable way what I experienced not ten minutes ago.
At the moment my head feels cloudy; I feel very strange and not at all at ease. I am shocked. I am awed, as it were, by what happened to me between 12:55 PM and 3 AM. (Yes. I recall the very moment in which that inferno began to rage within the deepest vaults of my mind.)
Before going on to explain fully the circumstances that occured, I think it would be worthwhile to note that I have had profound perception-altering experiences with large amounts of cannabis, and I have also experimented with the occasional alprazolam (Xanax), copious quantities of alcohol, and several different types of synthetic cannabis/spice product/herbal incense/etc. I also on one occasion ingested enough of a DXM-containing cough syrup in order to feel its sedative effects. (it was quite a bit like being drunk or on other downers.) I've smoked and chewed tobacco, taken nicotine and caffeine pills, and I frequently drink coffee, tea, and/or espresso. I have also had several failed attempts at smoking Salvia and inhaling nitrous oxide (N2O), and I have briefly practiced zazen meditation, several different types of yoga, and neurofeedback training.
Nonetheless, none of these experiences even pale in comparison to what happened to me this night (technically last night and part of this morning)
Recently (over the course of the past month) I have had difficulty sleeping. I have also been quite anxious. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in the past, as well as ADHD, OCD, learning disabilities and dysthymic depression - and all of these factors come into play in my daily life. I've taken numerous different therapeutic medications in order to help me deal with these issues on a day-to-day basis. Most lately my prescription has changed from 12.5mg Seroquel (quetiapine) at night to 3mg melatonin at the same time before going to bed.
While I've maintained an interest in and studied a lot of information regarding psychedelics (admittedly much unexplored in this region however), metaphysics, altered states of consciousness and existentialism, nothing could prepare me for the sheer chaos and absolute terror I experienced this night. The dream that I had took me further away from (and at the same time closer to) any normal sense of reality than any other impression I've had of a mind-altering drug.
The day was coming for a close to me not seven hours ago, when I began to prepare to get to bed. It had been a good day, despite the cold New England climate that had the roads iced over at a seemingly near-constant basis. I spent my time with my girlfriend. She had staid the night at my house and I made us breakfast in the morning. Afterwards we watched 'El Topo', the semi-famous cult acid-metaphysical Western by Alejandro Jodorowsky, a philosophical art film director who also happens to be my most favorite filmmaker.
Later on we fooled around in bed, watched television and surfed the Internet together. Then we had dinner and she left.
When I returned home it was about 8:30 PM. I quickly got dressed, brushed my teeth and otherwise prepared for bed. I had picked up some melatonin supplements as my psychiatrist prescribed, as she felt that Seroquel was not a good drug to have me take on a long-term basis (due to apparent side-effects). It's worth noting that while on 12.5mg of seroquel I rarely slept, and I would often have to take Xanax and Benadryl on top of my medication in order to relax my often restless mind. On higher doses (when I felt desperate enough for sleep that I would go out of my way to double-dose), I had on several occasions had these sort of 'night-terrors' as I like to describe them, wherein I would be half-awoken out of a dream state in the middle of the night, with my eyes open, feeling as if I were dreaming and/or sleeping while still perceiving the world around me in a sort of tunnel vision. This would often be accompanied by paranoia, confusion, agitation and a sense of delerium. After about 5 minutes I would always fall back asleep. I would best describe these experiences as being related to sleepwalking or hypnopompia.
I am not sure if any of these medications had had an effect on the experience, but I will make note of the fact that up until this point I had been taking the aforementioned 12.5mg of Seroquel (an antipsychotic sedative) every night, about an hour before bed, along with 100mg of Strattera (atomoxetine; an SSRI and ADHD treatment) and 50-100mg of Luvox (fluvoxamine; also an SSRI as well as an antidepressant and anxiolytic) every morning.
I decided upon impulse that since I often had difficulty sleeping I would take 6mg of melatonin instead of the 3mg that my psychiatrist had recommended. I believe now, in retrospect, that this was a huge mistake. After reading up on melatonin I had realized that there was no defined overdose, and it interested me that melatonin supplements were definate dream potentiators and slight sedatives. According to my online research, the pineal gland in the brain naturally produces a typical 0.1mg of melatonin every night during sleep.
So at approx. 9:30 I ingested 3mg of melatonin. I resolved to do some web surfing in order to kill some time, and I had also intended to read a little of a book I was given as a gift for Christmas ('The Rum Diary' by Hunter S. Thompson). I soon became sleepy however, and my mood and cognitive functions seemed subtly changed to th point where I felt an urge to sleep. It was then, at around 10 PM that I decided to take another 3mg dose of melatonin.
I climbed into bed around 10:10 and from what I can recall I began having hypnagogic feeling within minutes of closing my eyes. I felt very drowsy and somehow semi-conscious as my dog climbed into bed with me and continuously barked.
At this point my memory seems fuzzy. It didn't feel, however, as if I had slept when I opened my eyes to see that the clock read 12:45 AM. I assumed that I simply had gone hypnagogic again (as I am used to doing without actually being able to sleep - thus I have sleeping issues, or more speicifically issues in entering into REM sleep I believe), and I closed my eyes once more.
I found myself at the top of a large and wide spiral staircase, somehow huge enough to fit many people and yet being confined within a small house, lined with white marble. I walked down the staircase and greeted my cousins, a few friends, my girlfriend and an Indian child.
I took my girlfriend by the hand and we went upstairs. We walked into a dimly lit, purplish-colored room where I found us both automatically undressed and about to engage in sex. It was just then that an unknown individual that I assumed was my other cousin (who evidently hadn't been present on the staircase) jumped onto the bed absolutely naked and screamed, 'HI!' at me. I turned around and a man with a long beard and a pinstripe cap greeted me. He appeared familiar to me in the dream, as if he was a friend. I looked aorund the room and noted its likeness to my actual bedroom - the one in my house. Everything was in place as it was in real life. Everything seemed so detailed. I knew that this was an unordinary 'state'. Suddenly I turned back and said to the man that I was, 'High as balls.' I began to laugh and then something very strange happened.
Up until this point in my life I had only ever dreamed lucidly on two occasions in my, both when I was much younger. However at this point in the dream i suddenly became aware of the fact that I was dreaming, and that I had taken melatonin, and that because of this the dream felt completely and utterly real.
I was terrified. For an inordinate amount of time my mind delved into blackness and I felt terror rising up in me. This was too real. I could feel the bedsheets. I could smell the air. The unreal staircase had been felt so clearly under my feet. All sensations in this 'dream', be they tactile, olfactory or otherwise, were perfectly simulated. This horrified me beyond belief. (It's worth noting that I have on a number of occasions experienced panic attacks in my daily life - panics associated with dissociative, depersonalized, or derealized episodes that I liken to existential crises brought on by my passion for overanalyzing ontology and metaphysics. Thus things being too 'real' in quality, or even 'unreal', often frightened me.)
I then lost my lucidity briefly. I exited the actual room that I had fallen asleep in in real life, assuming I was now awake and that it was the morning. I walked down the hallway and went into the spare bedroom that I have in case guests spend the night.
When I opened the door to the room, however, I didn't see the familiar twin beds set aside by the window. What I did see, however, were many semi-empty pizza boxes. (It's funny to note that before sleeping I had eaten a couple slices of pizza from a pie that I had bought at a nearby Costco.) The boxes were stacked on top of each other, all around the room. I opened up a few to see a couple pizza slices or crusts here or there. And then I individually counted them, numbering thirty-two. This seemed odd to me, and so I left the room and at the top of my staircase (this time perfectly resembling in all sensory aspects my actual staircase - not the one from beforehand) called out to my Mom downstairs, asking her why there were so many pizza boxes in the spare bedroom.
I don't exactly recall how she replied, but I get the sense that what my Mom said to me was, 'you're dreaming.'
Suddenly all the lights in the house died or dimmed, and it became nighttime. A sense of existential despair overwhelmed me as I realized that I was stuck in a dream that I could not escape. It was too real - everything became too real again. I went lucid once more, and my memory and sense of time began to lapse. It felt as if in moments a week had gone by. I recall a sense of pure terror and mental agony, as my perceptions shifted into strange and warped views of the cosmos. I could see the stars - individual points of light in the universe. They were so bright, and so colorful. They felt so 'there', so present and actually real.
I 'woke up' again in my bed, and I began to scream for my father, and my mother. I was crying as the bed warped and shifted around me.
Suddenly I was standing in a hallway lines with white marble. I think there may have been someone else there with me, but I can't clearly remember. I looked to my right and saw a pasychedelic, moving tapestry displaying an image of Jimi Hendrix being devoured by a giant squid as LED light son the tapestry morphed and swam across my vision.
I remember thinking to myself, 'how can this be happening? I realize that I'm dreaming, and it's all so real. I can feel, taste, smell, hear and see everything around me. It's so perfectly extant. How does melatonin produce this state of consciousness? How the fuck does a supplement from Rite Aid do this?!'
Again I 'woke up' in my bed, hoping this time that I was actually awake. I ran downstairs to where my Mom slept to wake her up, because I felt the urge to talk to someone as I was having a panic attack. For a moment I had assumed that I had somehow binged on DMT (even though I've never done it) and was overdosing and experiencing an incredibly powerful psychedelic state in which I was so disoriented that I couldn't comprehend fundamental forces such as time and space.
As I entered the TV room where my Mom often sleeps, my dog jumped from the couch she was on and ran to attack me. As she did so, my dog morphed into a vivid and strange specter whose body engulfed everything around me, including the room and my mother.
Only the phantom and I stood in the void that was now the universe. Its amorphous mass seized me and it held me, looking into my eyes with its horrid face. Its face was that of death, a skull surrounded by a hood. I was convinced for a moment that I was truly in Hell - that I had somehow died and had been damned by God.
The figure held me and traveled through my old house where I resided as a child in Texas. It traveled through my memories and my thoughts and told me that I was dreaming, and that I was truly shocked and afraid.
I woke up. But I wasn't sure if I had really woken up. I went to my father and I felt his hand, to see if it was real. He asked me what the hell I was doing. I walked outside of his room and sat there for a minute, trying to integrate this experience into my life. How could this have been possible? To say it was horrifying was an understatement. It was certainly the most profound dislocation of reality I have ever felt.
I woke up at 2:34 AM, and afterwards began typing this. I am still not altogether convinced that I'm not still dreaming, and as I sit here at 5 AM on January 29, I fear dreams, and I fear sleep. I tripped for the first time in a dream. And it was beautiful and terrifying and ineffable. Sometimes I wonder if life is simply a dream within a dream... I suppose that's what all my searching has been for, to know the answer to that simple but fundamental question.
Melatonin, while being a chemical produced in our brain or a pill you can buy in bulk or pull off the shelf at some pharmacy, is an essential substance which regulated our sleep-wake cycles and ultimately influences how our consciousness works. It is something to be respected, because even if it doesn't get you 'high' in the traditional sense of the word, it can profoundly alter reality behind closed eyelids.
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