One thing about me, I have extremely vivid dreams. In my sleep I've flown through flooded canyons rich with sunlight, been a character in a video game, fought a ninja version of the Pope (Crouching-Tiger style), walked with Vikings, lived as a cat, foraged through nuclear winter, packed parachutes, and seen a zombie version of my mother stalk my four year old little brother, just to name a few of my more memorable nighttime voyages.
However, nothing in my previous sleep-life prepared me for last night’s dream. Or rather, what happened to me in conjunction with its unfolding. The dream itself is nebulous, somewhat unimpressive; all I remember from it is that I was holding a small glass vial, full of clear liquid, and that it was important I drink it. Very important.
For six days now I've been taking an analgesic called gabapentin, which inhibits neurotransmitters related to nerve pain, something I've struggled with since breaking my spine four years ago. Until now I've been on mid-strength narcotics, but recent changes in drug laws in the US have made these more difficult to get. My doctor told me I could wait 4+ months to get in with a pain specialist, or try the gabapentin. The hydrocodone makes me depressed, so I said I’d give the new drug a try. She warned me it would make me drowsy, so she instructed me to take it before bed, only 100mg a night to start. I have noticed a decrease in tingling, numbness, and stabbing pains, which made me sure the drug was working.
But in the back of my mind, I wondered about side effects, impacts on my psyche or personality. Hydrocodone made me sad, but what was this alteration in my brain chemistry going to mean?
Last night, I found out.
I have a memory which is located somewhere between sleep and waking. I’m sitting upright in my bed, bright full-moon light enabling me to see clearly. My eyes are open, but I’m still dreaming. In my left hand, I’m holding the glass vial. Even though it doesn’t exist, I’m holding it, can feel it’s delicate fragile weight. In my right hand is something heavier and real--a travel size bottle of TreSemme dry shampoo.
Now, this aerosol canister, along with the rest of my toiletries, is usually kept on top of my dresser, which means I must have risen to go get it. I don’t remember doing so. I don’t know why I picked dry shampoo of all things. I do remember opening my mouth and spraying it inside, one short burst. At the same time I saw myself drink from the vial.
That tastes terrible, I thought, and promptly drained the glass of water I keep at my bedside before lying back down and sinking deeper into sleep.
At 3:30 am, I’m not sure how much later, I awoke with a clear mind.
Shit. I ate something. I remembered. I ate something, something I wasn’t supposed to eat. What did I eat? Oh Jesus. What did I eat?
The inside of my mouth tasted like three bottles of gin gone wrong, all juniper and bitters. I went into the bathroom and chugged more water straight from the faucet. In my bedroom I turned on the light and looked around for evidence of what I’d consumed. I tried to discern from the taste what it might have been--not floral enough for perfume, a strange medicinal quality. I prodded at my stomach, feeling for pain, but I felt fine, aside from the mild fear-born nausea. Nothing presented itself immediately as my midnight snack. I didn’t remember clearly how I’d eaten it either. Had I drank it from a bottle? I seemed to remember drinking from a small glass bottle, but the only thing like that in our house was two men’s cologne samples I’d given my roommate. I went in the living room and looked at them just to be sure.
Our little black cat followed me back into my room, leapt onto my bed and mewed for company. I turned off the light, but was afraid to go to sleep. Would I ever know what I’d eaten, or did I have to write it off as a mystery? I followed the cat with my hands, petting her--and there, in the far reaches of the bed, was the canister. I sat up holding in in my right hand for the second time that evening and gasped, the memory returning more fully.
I ate dry shampoo. I fucking ate dry shampoo. I thought. I should have read the back of the can immediately, but instead, I flung it across my bedroom in horror. As I lay back, my mind unpacked the problem. I knew I hadn’t emptied the whole canister, so I probably didn’t actually swallowed any, just coated the inside of my mouth. The taste was awful, but no long term harm done.
But what about the harm to my mind? The doctor told me the side effects would wear off in 1-2 weeks. Here I am at the end of my first week and this is beginning. Was it just a fluke? I did have a few drinks yesterday, was it a co-effect with the alcohol? I still don’t have answers to these questions; after all, it’s been less than 12 hours since it happened. I’m going to keep using the drug until Friday and see if it happens again.