Thursday, March 23, 2023


It was a strange start to my holidays. 
I ran from a chaotic, grimy gas station in the north of the city to a waiting car. In my hand there was a blue plastic bag, containing the medication I had been prescribed, rattling as it bumped up against my legs. The stern lettering on the script- CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE: PRESCRIPTION VALID FOR 48 hours, meant that I had needed to go into the nearest pharmacy and get them to check where I could get it, as it wasn't always available. This strict time limit was coupled with the fact that I had also booked a weekend stay in a gorgeous lodge in the middle of pristine cloudforest outside of the city. Somehow, I had managed to secure transportation and find somewhere to buy my medication- the aforementioned chaotic and grimy gas station. I ran out of the car, into the gas station, credit card in hand. I ran back out, into the waiting car. As we sped down the highway, the city fell away into lush tropical valleys.
Once we had settled into our rooms in the lodge, I examined the medication that I had gone so far out of my way to buy. I took out the small bottle of pills from my backpack, and unfurled an instruction leaflet that was as long as a medieval tapestry. Inside the bottle, under a wad of cotton wool, was a month’s supply of dun-coloured, eighteen milligram tablets. I contemplated taking one right there and then, but hesitated; I had heard that initial side effects could be unpredictable, ranging from a dry mouth to verbal tics, to unpredictable angry outbursts. I had such a wonderful weekend of hiking secluded forest trails with my significant other ahead of me, and I didn't want to ruin it due to an adverse reaction. During the day I would come back into my room and see the bottle standing there on the table, bathed in sunlight filtering through the forest canopy, and my curiosity grew. On the final day at the lodge, this curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take the plunge. I took a tablet with my breakfast, and after a leisurely morning of drinking coffee and reading, my partner and I decided to walk one of the trails while we waited for our transportation back to the city. 

The path went down a steep mountain spur, cutting deep through the cloudforest. A veil of cloud and fog lay heavily over the canopy, occasionally parting to reveal stunning views of the valleys below. As I admired the scenery, I started to notice changes in my mind. It was somehow speeding up, like the initial cycles of a turbine or particle accelerator. During my struggles with anxiety, I had often experienced the feeling of racing thoughts- the feeling of being overwhelmed by millions of negative ideas. But this was different.  
In my mind, thoughts were vague entities with no clear boundaries. They would drift languorously by, phasing through each other. They were ephemeral, transitive; when I tried to grab them, to make them concrete, I was left with only the vaguest spectre of them. I would get lost in their depths, a fog of imagination billowing around me. Meanwhile, in the real world I would be staring out the window, or off into the distance, seemingly in a trance. This made the changes that would occur in the next twenty minutes all the more profound. 

My mind continued to accelerate. My thoughts were agile and three dimensional; solid objects that I could reach out and touch. They had the velocity, the sheer force of a bullet train and the sophistication of a state-of-the-art, quantum computer.  Below me, in the valley, the morning sun cleared away the clouds and fog, and acres of rainforest gleamed in the light of day - a mirror of my cognition. A sluggish haze was being burned away, and a gleaming substrate of heightened mental activity was being revealed beneath. The raw energy of possibility and potential surged through me like an electric current. I walked down the trail, towards something new.