One of my secrets that’s not actually a secret is that I’ve had insomnia for a good long while (about 32 months). Now, insomnia is pretty bad, if I do say so myself, and during my travels to get better I have taken a lot of medication. Fun fact: did you know many anti-anxiety pills are also used as anti-seizure medication?
Of all the medications, my favorite to take was ambien. And by favorite I mean the most dangerous. See, ambien in many people leads to blackouts, hallucinations, and sleep walking — or stranger things. For instance, I heard about a woman who would get up in the middle of the night and “sleep paint.” The first time I told my doctor I had blacked out and hallucinated on ambien she made sure I had not decided it was a good time to drive to the store.
However, when I black out and hallucinate on ambien, like most things I do, it is never quite normal. “But Greg,” you may say, “hallucinating and blacking out is never really normal!” To which I respond that the reason it’s so strange when I am on ambien is that I am always aware of the fact I’m hallucinating.
The first time I was on ambien and started seeing things, I decided it would be a good time to call my friend Chloe. I hobbled up the stairs to my phone as best I could while heavily sedated and returned to my room before calling her. Now, I don’t remember what exactly I saw, but I do remember thinking there was someone outside my window which ended up being the silhouette of a chair in my room. And apparently the only thing my friend really understood of my ramblings was something about a girl in my room.
Whether or not ambien made me hallucinate seemed to be completely random, as sometimes I’d take the pill and not experience anything. Other times the only thing that let me know I had hallucinated the night before was that I would wake up with my phone in my bed (sometimes I’d have slept on it…) and people commenting on messages I had sent them later. Fun! Sometimes I would completely forgo texting and skip straight ahead to calling, and once my friend Maryann recorded what she could understand of our conversation for posterity’s sake:
“Green, yellow, blue, I’m seeing people and things with feathers”
“Right now I’m just sitting at the back of a boat. A blue boat. Heading for a carnival.”
At one point she asked where I was and I responded, “In my bed, slash making new architectural forms in New York. No I feel like I’m on the…trail. The Oregon Trail. [something about horses and then something about children].” Then I began to whisper, “There are children on the BACK of the lake. You don’t just come out to the Oregon Trail with old people. You have to bring people to put them to work.”
“And then there are the peacocks and shoes. There is only one shoe for each peacock. Black and white. Now I just see Army guys. Wonky army guys. Rectangular. They’re rectangular.”
If I wasn’t so amused by my own crazy ramblings I would be offended Maryann recorded what parts of that conversation she could make out. Also, Chloe recorded one of the conversations we had had, but it is less exciting because I just am tired, except the part where I go, “It’s like a hundred things are graying at the same time. It’s disorienting.”
Given this fun (???) I had on ambien, you might wonder why I ever went off it. The answer, as most answers do, is because of a guy. There was this one guy I knew who I was interested in, and he actually gave me his number (a friendly gesture only!), and about a week later I was hallucinating. As per usual, I don’t know what I said, but I do remember I was hallucinating something about a Japanese game show, and this guy was pretty big on Japanese culture so I text him for the answer. And then I blacked out. A few weeks later I again text him, only this time I have no idea what I say.
The funny thing is he didn’t seem to mind at all, but, as you can guess, I was a bit embarrassed to have sent things I can’t remember to the guy I was mildly infatuated with. And that is how my adventures on ambien ended. Sorry, world, you’ll have to live without Greg hallucinations for awhile.