September 21st, 2013, is a date that is burned in my memory as literally the worst night of my life.
My girlfriends and I had planned it months ahead of time. We were going to go to a show, and take molly — a relatively rare occurrence for our group — for a night of unfettered lady partying.
I’d taken molly a few times before — the first time in May 2013, and then twice at a festival over the summer. Every time I’d enjoyed myself considerably, and felt fine the day after, with no discernible comedowns or negative side effects. For this October night, we’d bought the pills over the summer and stored them until we could all get together. We picked a date, picked a show, and got together at a bar to start our night.
At 10pm, we each took a pill. They kicked in as we were walking towards the venue; all of a sudden we couldn’t stop giggling or holding hands. Once at the concert, we got lost in a wave of dancing, drinks, cigarettes — and, for me, running around and texting all of my friends/hugging every stranger I met and drinking loads of tequila. We split two more pills between the four of us at 1am. We closed out the night down by the water, hanging with a couple of French guys we’d met at the show.
Finally, at 5am, we headed back to my place to turn in. That’s where the problems started. Laying in bed, I kept tossing and turning, unable to go to sleep. I felt nauseous — I got up to vomit and nothing came up. Finally I passed out, only to wake up a few hours later with absolutely paralyzing anxiety. I mean so debilitating I couldn’t leave the house — a feeling I’d never experienced before. Thinking it would wear off after a few hours, I called my ex-boyfriend, still a good friend, and asked if I could come over. With some trouble, we made it to his place, where I proceeded to install myself on his couch, and did not leave for four days.
Each day was worse than the day before. I’d wake up at 5 in the morning with my heart feeling as though it was seizing; I spent my days completely unable to eat or drink, and experiencing unreal amounts fear throughout my body. I called in sick to work for half of the week, hoping that it’d just take one more day to feel better.
When I tried to go into the office, I became so overwhelmed that I called my boss and told her I was having a breakdown; I needed to work from home. At the end of the week, tester kit in hand, I tested the residue of one of the capsules we had leftover, and it came back negative for MDMA — it tested as one of the chemical compounds used in bath salts. When I got those results, a knot settled into the pit of my stomach. “What have I done?” I asked myself.
A week after our night out, I still was not much better. I called my parents and told them what happened — though they were upset, they were also incredibly understanding, for which I’m grateful. I also went to see a psychiatrist, who could not tell me what was going on medically, only to give myself time to rest. I spent hours combing the internet, drug forums in particular, trying desperately to get some sort of insight into what was going on — the most I could turn up was that sometimes people suffered long term comedowns from ecstasy-type drugs — this could last weeks, months, or even years.
A second week went by, with me working from home again. After seeing no improvement in my sleeping, eating, or drinking habits — and still in the clutches of massive anxiety — my parents and I decided I should take a medical leave and move home.
Once home, we began a round of meeting with primary care physicians, psychiatrists and therapists. No one could tell me what had happened to me or my brain, or how long these symptoms would last. Instead, their best guess was to treat the symptoms, which led to me being put on Lexapro. I spent each day in my childhood room, alternately panicking or crying about what had happened. It was also then that I began to notice the creeping bouts of depression crawl in.
A few months after being home, the Lexapro has tamed my anxiety but not touched my depression, which feels so debilitating at times that it can literally be painful to move. My psychiatrist added Abilify, which fortunately keeps the depression at bay, but is not without its side effects. However, I’m grateful — after three months off of work, I’ve been able to return to my city and my life and function pretty much as I did before. I like to tell people that I’m at 90% functionality and 70% personality. The biggest struggle at the moment is that, while I’m not depressed with my current med cocktail, I don’t feel like myself, which is a peculiar feeling. But I’m working on it.
If I were to list the most frustrating part of this experience, it would go as follows. The first are the what ifs — what if I hadn’t taken a pill that night? What if I hadn’t taken a second? What if I hadn’t had alcohol, or tested what I took, or waited a few more weeks before I rolled — would I have been able to avoid this? After a few minutes, this line of questioning peters out, since its futility is obvious.
Next is the lack of knowledge surrounding what happened to me — the lack of answers, or the lack of knowing anyone else who has experienced this. There are support groups for depression, but not for substance-induced depression. There are treatments for depression, but uncertainty if those treatments will work for me, someone who has possibly sustained brain damage.
Then comes the struggle with the medications. Though I have been on anti-depressants before, I lived a comfortable life without them before this experience. Now, I need medication so that I can leave the house. But they don’t make me feel like myself. I’m on a merry-go-round trying to find the right cocktail. I don’t know how long I’ll need them for or what’s going to work — if the next pill I try will be my magic bullet or make me crash. The Abilify also keeps me from losing weight, which, being someone who is perpetually body conscious, has caused me some stress.
Overall though, there are also many blessings. I have a great doctor, and a great therapist — my healing dream team. I was able to keep my job. My friends have been nothing but supportive, and are always happy to lend an ear. I got to spend wonderful quality time with my family, who took me in, helped with my care, and didn’t castigate me for what I saw as a self-inflicted wound. I’m taking better care of my health. And I know that there is a silver lining to this — that somehow, this experience, like every other challenge I’ve undergone, will lead to more growth and happiness.
In the meantime, I hope that this can serve as a helpful reminder to others to take care of their bodies, and to be mindful when experimenting. And I’d like to thank people for reading this -– being able to write down what’s happened to me has been incredibly cathartic.
This article originally appeared on xoJane.