Sunday, December 30, 2012

biting my tongue

Another pier driven into my memory stems from a few months after encountering the heart-drum. After a lackluster summer internship in Seattle, I found myself faced with an awkward relocation. I spent a good thirty hours packing-up an apartment against the deadline of a flight departure time, flew to New York on a redeye, slept a slight handful of hours, and negotiated a convoluted sequence of transit legs (buses, a towncar, shuttles, and ultimately shotgun in a friend's car meandering deep into the Adirondacks). In the end, I found myself relaxing at last in a houseful of good friends, after about sixty hours of stress and anxiety with perhaps four hours of sleep.

The result was quite unexpected. I have some corroboration from psychiatrists and peers that my experience is not unique, but remains uncommon. As my adrenaline levels began to finally relax, and a massive adrenaline burn began to creep over me, the dopamine-regulated pathways in my fatigued CNS modulated their behavior in a curious fashion. For a period of perhaps half a day, my CNS ceased to respond to racemic amphetamine salts as therapeutic for ADD symptoms. Simply put, it responded, instead, as it might to methamphetamine. I found myself on a speed trip. Massive hyperfocus, extremely high energy, continuous social activity, and decreased impulse inhibition.

Although famished, I finished no more than a slice and a half of pizza in the course of a two hour meal, as I could not cease talking and engaging people. At one point I bit straight through my tongue while attempting without reservation to simultaneously eat, respond to a question, and initiate a new, separate conversation. After a brief pause to rinse my mouth, examine my tongue, and allow clotting to begin, I directly resumed conversation. Needless to say, I engendered a great deal of concern among my friends. The experience was quite unpleasant, especially in the immediate aftermath as it became increasingly clear to me that I had been acting well outside rational control. I was mortified. Yet I could not regain control. The evening wound to a close. Still I shifted and spoke and could not stop. I was steering, yet the accelerator was floored, the brakes gone.

In the end, I sat awake, downstairs in my pajamas in the dark, in a chilly cabin there in upstate New York. A couple of friends came downstairs to speak with me, to verify that I was well, that I'd calmed down. Later, another stopped and sat with me on her way upstairs from brushing her teeth and we talked quietly for a while of more calming things than my unhappy, unnerving state. Having been the last to arrive, the beds upstairs were all full, and I had the use of a small couch above a low bookshelf, and a pile of dusty blankets. We did our best to make it a comfortable pile. Then she went to bed and I lay there, wondering at myself, at my brain's ability to surprise and alarm. Sleep was hours in coming.

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