Every now and then, someone asks me for serious life advice.
Sometimes this doesn't work out too well, like when I suggested to a woman who wanted to know how to stop her neighbours from beaming mind control rays through her walls that she might perhaps not be perceiving the world in an entirely accurate way.
(She immediately realised that I, like most other people in the world, was in cahoots with her neighbours.)
Sometimes, though, my advice works out quite well.
The following correspondent found me, a couple of years ago, because of my old page about nitrous oxide. She said that what I told her helped a lot.
So maybe it'll help someone else.
I went in for elective surgery yesterday and had a really bad experience with nitrous oxide. They gave it me to relax while they were doing my IV. I had visions of dying and questioned whether to give up or not. There was some sort of phrase that kept going through my head the entire time. Right after they put in the IV, I jumped up and pulled it out and threw the mask off because I felt I was "crossing over" (dying).
Have you ever heard of this happening? I can't get these visions out of my head!
Well, a hospital is not the best place to take psychoactive drugs, and just before surgery is not the time when you're in the coolest and grooviest state of mind. So it's not surprising that you had a bad trip.
What happens when you take nitrous is, for most people, not anything like what happens when you take a "real", long-term hallucinogenic drug. It's more like rather suddenly mixing up dream-state and awake-state in your mind, so you can start dreaming with your eyes open for a little while, then come back to reality when the nitrous wears off, only a minute or two after you stop breathing it.
And, just as you can have horrible nightmares if you fall asleep at a stressful time, you can have a similarly horrible nitrous dream. (I'm surprised more people don't try to kill their dentists.)
But relax - a dream is all that it is.
One thing that's very important for people to realise when they take psychoactive drugs (for pleasure, or whatever) is that when everything goes all weird, that's what's meant to happen. It can be difficult to remember this when your brain's been scrambled by something really powerful (ask your local Robitussin fiend, if you can get his attention...). But this is not the case for most psychoactive compounds - most of them don't turn you into someone completely different.
Try to enjoy it.
If you can't enjoy it, just hang in there and endure it.
For something like nitrous that doesn't last long, you don't have to endure a whole lot.
If you're now troubled by recurring thoughts that you didn't have before, or if you start having hallucinations when you haven't taken any drugs, then get thyself to a doctor, pronto.
If you're only troubled by the memory of what happened to you in the hospital, though, then you're just freaked out by a bad event. If you've never had a bad trip before, your first one is likely to be memorably nasty. Similarly, you'd probably be troubled by the memory of being in a car crash. That, in itself, is nothing to be concerned about unless it really starts becoming an obsession and screwing up your life. Like any other bad experience, it'll fade in time.
Incidentally, I think experiences like this can make you a significantly more sensible person. This isn't because I've got some hippy-trippy idea about you connecting with the universe. It's just good to know that it really doesn't take much for your perception of the world, and your thought processes, to be changed in profound ways.
Every day, someone who's been straight as a die all their life, never touched the wacky weed, I'm high on life, blah blah blah, has a hallucination for some reason (stress, fever, food poisoning, sleep paralysis...) and decides that he or she has definitely just been talked to by God, or aliens, or ghosts, or whatever. They quit their job, they write some darn wooly-headed book, they annoy all of their friends - all because they'd never had their mind thrown for a loop before.
I'm not telling you to go out and drop acid for a year (a friend's very... experienced... father once told me that you actually need to set aside about a decade if you decide to get into LSD...). I'm just saying that if, at some point in the future, you find yourself thinking that Everything You Know Is Wrong and you've had some profound connection with the universe that's not available to normal mortals, it might be a good idea to remember that time when you freaked out in the hospital, and see if God feels like talking to you tomorrow, as well.
(If He does, by the way, try to remember that it might just be schizophrenia.)
I hope you feel better soon.