September 2015, a year and a half after hospitalization.
Both my cousin Merrill and I are unabashedly obsessed with Disneyland. Whenever we can, we have a blast racing from ride to ride, maximizing fast-passes and hitting up all the best snack stands.
That day in the picture was different though. That day I ambled. I avoided abrupt movements, more focused on breathing and touching cold things than conquering the park. Pain radiated down my spine and through my limbs, buzzing in the most uncomfortable way.
It my first real trip since being hospitalized and the night before Disneyland I was convinced that I was going to die. I had taken a newly prescribed low-dose antipsychotic. Unfortunately I had mistaken anxiety for mania and was taking the wrong medication. What resulted was my worst nightmare. My body shut down in a matter of minutes. I remember collapsing onto my face. I couldn’t breath and dug deep to find the strength to dial my mom. Hardly able to speak I told her what happened. She had coached me through several panic attacks by now, and assured me that the meds were just doing their job. That they wouldn’t kill me. Soon I passed out.
In the morning I woke up dazed. Life was in slow motion. I could barely talk, walk or think. I got my psychiatrist on the phone and he led me through a meditation exercise, putting my hands in the bowl of ice water, feeling the cold. Sensory redirection. .
I kept my plans that day. It started slow but by the end, the drug had mostly worn off. Medications can react terribly. Despite everything though I still trusted my psychiatrist. It was a lesson for both of us about what my body couldn’t handle. I was terrified. Finding the right meds is one of the toughest challenges people in the mental health community face. It’s a harsh reality of life on meds. Luckily I have been able to find the drugs that work for me.
At least that day… I got to recover at the happiest place on Earth.