“Check my pulse,” I turned to my partner, Alex, who was lying in bed beside me. We had eaten weed gummy bears hours earlier. He was doing fine and I… well, I was asking him to check my pulse.
“It’s really fast, isn’t it?” I asked, wrist held out in front of me. He nodded.
“Can people die if their pulse is too high for too long?” I pressed. Alex seemed to pause and consider this before shaking his head ‘no.’ He also began growing jagged teeth and his skin was turning green. Neither were good signs.
Our German shepherd came in to the room and sat below us with a ball in his mouth. He dropped the ball and looked down at it and back up at me. Tongue out. Head tilt. Puppy eyes. All the signs of a predator biding his time.
Wait, no, that’s just my dog, I thought. He plays and eats ice cubes aggressively, but he’s not going to attack me. Right?
I couldn’t wrestle reality back in its place. I was — no other way to describe it — having a bad time. And the dog and my partner were on this ride with me until I could find peace.
Is This an Acute Psychiatric Crisis? Maybe.
With my back on the mattress, I slowly moved my arms and legs through the air as if I were swimming, because in that moment, I was swimming. The air felt thick as water and I was trying to keep calm by moving through it. From the outside, it probably looked like some New Age cardio.
The dog, watching me, eventually gave up and slinked back to the living room. On his way out, he looked over his shoulder one last time before snorting in annoyance.
Alex, bless his heart, was scrolling through Instagram while I swam laps beside him. At this point, I’d outwardly calmed down, but inwardly I was still clinging to any sense of earthly familiarity. As long as I was swimming, I was leveled in my panic. A nice, steady panic.
I rode the waves of irrational thought until I hit a swell idea: breathing exercises. Mind you, using breath to calm down has never worked for me (even completely sober). My uncontrollable heart rate causes my breath to quicken, and not being able to control my breath skyrockets my heart rate. Trying this — as high as I was — produced the same negative result, but even worse.
By attempting to regulate my breathing, I’d propelled myself back into a rising panic, and not a familiar one. Instead, I was now descending into terror. A never ending vacuum itself. A black hole of endless torment.
The only rational thought I had left was that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. In some reality, I was just lying in bed. There was nothing else to do but ride it out. And before I knew it, I started singing:
Remember those walls I built?
Well, baby, they’re tumblin’ down
And they didn’t even put up a fight
They didn’t even make a sound
“Halo” by Beyoncé was recorded for her third studio album, I Am… Sasha Fierce in 2008. It’s a soaring ballad. It was probably not composed with near psychiatric episodes in mind, but wow, this magic pill I stumbled upon seemed to be having a positive effect.
My singing then would not be described as soaring (you try mimicking Beyoncé’s vocal runs while maintaining a steady back stroke), but nonetheless I had found my weed gummy antidote.
With My Head Now Above Water…
Slowly, that black hole I’d found myself in at least had a familiar soundtrack. I jumped from “Halo” to “Hello” by Adele, and before I knew it, I was calm and level. Not wanting to lose pace, I kept to a catalog of heart wrenching ballads.
The dog ran back into the room to see if the consensus on play time had shifted, but unfortunately for him, I kept on singing.
Alex patted my head and kept scrolling through his phone like, just another Tuesday, am I right?
My head was figuratively (and technically, literally) above the water now. Singing these songs I loved had a way of calming my nervous system to the point that, while I still didn’t feel grounded, I had a better attitude towards not being grounded.
And this is partially why I think I’m prone to bad times — I don’t let go. I cling and scrape at control. I will desperately thrash my limbs to keep my head above water when it would really be a lot easier to float.
And I’m not the only one who reacts this way.
The Unforgiving Effect of Edibles
THC edibles in particular have a stronger effect on people than inhalants. A 2019 study found that between 2014 and 2016, edibles represented only 0.32% of Colorado’s total cannabis sales, but accounted for 10.7% of the 2,432 cannabis-induced visits to the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital Emergency Department.
If I hadn’t known that a marijuana overdose in nearly impossible, I might have shown up to the ER myself.
Edibles can be tricky because ingested pot takes longer to kick in, making it harder to gauge when you’ve had enough. The edible high lasts much longer, too, which for me, was the worst part; it felt like hours of distress.
For a good reason, many states with legalized marijuana require packaged edibles to contain a warning about the delayed effects of consumed THC.
Still, it’s easy to read that, say “okay,” and then mess it up anyways (like me).
My Anxiety Antidote
If there are two things I learned from this experience, then they are:
- Do understand how much THC is in your edible — start small and give it several hours. My experience in retrospect is funny, but at the time was terrifying.
- Do sing to yourself if you overdo it, especially familiar classics like Beyoncé’s hits. For me, music is also calming for general anxiety, too — not just edible-induced. But this is not to say songs are an end-all cure for everyone’s anxiety. Ultimately, singing won’t take the place of licensed mental health care professionals because we don’t live in a Disney movie — sad.
The idea to sing came naturally as if God said, “I’ve seen this before,” and planted a karaoke bar in my head. In reality, studies have shown that singing reduces cortisol and stress and increases the response of hormones and neurotransmitters, such as endorphins and oxytocin, that create feelings of happiness.
And through my own n=1 experiment, I can concur that singing profoundly reduced the monumental anxiety caused by one seemingly harmless edible gummy bear.
That night of staring at my ceiling in terror provided a valuable lesson. Now I know that, if I’m feeling anxious, there’s a whole catalog of familiar songs I can resort to for stabilizing relief.
It’s just another reminder to sing in the shower, and of course, that less is more when it comes to trying edibles.