It Happened To Me Contest Entry: My Psychiatric Medications Made Me Hallucinate

About an hour or two after I took my morning medications, which at the time consisted of a cocktail of Wellbutrin, Prozac, Strattera, and Klonopin, there were aliens in my bedroom.
Publish date:
February 27, 2013
mental illness, medication, ihtm contest, hallucinations

[If you like this IHTM contest entry, comment to that effect below and that will help the writer win big money. Feel free to critique below too, so we can weigh that in our decision -- Jane]

By Paige Singer

2010 was a hell of a year for me. I got out of an emotionally abusive relationship; my best friend betrayed me and I sort of had a breakdown.

In 2011, I ended up taking the year off of school to seek treatment at the Renfrew Center for my bulimia and I was placed in dialectical behavioral therapy (after being diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder) in the summer months that followed.

Afterward, I thought I was ready to go back to school. Recovering from my eating disorder gave me a new outlook on life as well as myself; and while my medications were still being adjusted, I felt ready to take a few classes.

Fast-forward about three months, I loved my sociology classes, I’d done well on my midterms and I finally felt a sense of normal again. Not being in therapy all day, every day felt good. Being productive felt good and while my social life was lacking, at least I had something to wake up and look forward to every day. Then, right after midterms, the hallucinations began.

The first time I had hallucinated, I had taken Nyquil the night previously because I was extremely congested. About an hour or two after I took my morning medications, which at the time consisted of a cocktail of Wellbutrin, Prozac, Strattera, and Klonopin, there were aliens in my bedroom.

I’ve done my fair share of hallucinogenic drugs, but nothing compared to these hallucinations. I could hear, feel and see the hallucinations. They seemed so real. It may sound funny, but I was pleading with aliens not to kill me and my family for about two hours before I figured out I was just tripping.

I called my mom into my room, terrified for her safety, but when she told me she couldn’t see the alien lifting my hand, and that my hand was still firmly on my mattress, I felt a little better. It was difficult and I couldn’t be alone, but I managed to push the hallucinations aside.

After doing some research online and talking with my mom, we figured that the Nyquil probably had interacted badly with one of my medications and I shouldn’t take it again. And I didn’t.

A few nights later, the night before Election Day, I became extremely nauseous after dinner and so I took something that had always helped me in the past: Dramamine, the motion sickness medication. I really didn’t think anything of it. I mean, it wasn’t Nyquil, so I didn’t have anything to worry about.

Again, after taking my morning medications, I began to hallucinate. This trip was different than the last one. It was like my brain wouldn’t work. I knew something was wrong with me and I have pages and pages in a journal where I wrote things I wanted to tell my mom about because I couldn’t remember anything for longer than a few minutes.

And to top it off, I couldn’t figure out how to spell certain words (I’m talking words like: tree) and I couldn’t think of simple words. I was literally losing my mind.

Luckily, my mom came home eventually and as it was Election Day, I still had to go vote, so she drove me to the elementary school near our house where voting took place and gave me specific instructions. Don’t talk to anyone. Apparently, I was being super weird and babbling nonsense, but I don’t really remember much of it.

All I know is that my mom had to help me vote because I didn’t know how. My brain just wouldn’t work. I was so paranoid that someone would “know something.” …Not that there was even something to know. I just didn’t know what was going on in my own head.

My third trip, I can’t quite remember specifics. I can’t drink coffee, because caffeine has really weird effects on me, but since it was Pumpkin Spice Latte time at Starbucks, I sort of said fuck you to the whole no coffee thing. I didn’t even finish half of it before I knew I had to get in my car and drive straight home before things went really south.

The most memorable out of all of my hallucinations was the last one. It was the scariest trip and the even scarier part? There were no other medications or substances I had taken that day that could have altered the chemical reactions in my medications. It was just simply the cocktail of medications that my psychiatrist had me on.

It was a long day at school. I had two sociology classes, back to back, with the same professor. In the middle of my first class, I got the feeling. I just knew it was coming. So, I took a bathroom break to call my dad, who thankfully works at home, to warn him that he might have to end up driving to pick me up at school because I thought the hallucinations were starting. He told me to just try to go to class. He would pick me up if it were seriously necessary.

When I got to my second class, we had to do a group project during class and by this point, especially considering I had an hour break between classes, I was full-on tripping. I turned to the girl next to me who I was supposed to do the project with, a girl who I had never spoken to before in my life, and blurted out simply, "I’m hallucinating so I can’t help."

I’m sure she thought I was a nut job.

I ended up leaving in the middle of class to call my dad to tell him it was most definitely necessary that he pick me up. What followed freaked me out the most. As I was walking to the parking lot, a heard a bunch of people screaming at me that I was fat and annoying, which were things my ex-boyfriend used to say to me.

Logically, I knew that they couldn’t really be screaming all of those horrible things at me -– they didn’t even know me -– but it reopened that wound that I thought I had mended.

By the time I got to the parking lot, things were just getting weirder and weirder. I was seeing people that weren’t there. I saw and felt it raining, but I wasn’t getting wet. And honestly, by the time my dad picked me up, I wasn’t even really sure if I was in the car with my real dad or lying in a ditch somewhere. I had completely lost a grasp on reality. The aliens came back that night and let’s just say, at 22 years old, I slept in bed with my mom. It was the scariest night of my life.

The next day, I went to the emergency room because I was too scared to take my medication and when I got there, they just immediately took me off half of the medications I was on. While I wasn’t hallucinating anymore (yay!), I was more depressed than I’d been in years.

After two weeks in an intensive outpatient program and 48 hours at the inpatient unit at the hospital, without a change in medication because my psychiatrist I’d been seeing who was on my insurance couldn’t find the time to call the hospital back at any point, I signed my 72-hour release.

When I got out, I immediately found a new psychiatrist, who is out of pocket and obviously more expensive, but met with me on a Sunday at 8 am because I was clearly in emergency mode. Apparently psychiatrists who take insurance only really make money off of the number of clients they have, opposed to those who don’t take insurance. If I text my psychiatrist with a problem now, he calls me almost immediately. My old psychiatrist couldn’t even manage to make one phone call.

A little more than two months later and I’m in a completely different place with my life. I’m not overmedicated, my medications are working and I’m not hallucinating any longer. The most important thing I gained from this experience was that after going through all of it, it made me realize just how strong I am.

I’ve now moved out of my parents’ house, a few states away to the warm weather, have a steady job, two wonderful cats and I’ve made some good friends. I’m finally confident with myself and my ability to be independent without my mental illness getting in the way. Also, any desire to trip on acid or mushrooms again has completely dissipated, so that’s probably a good thing, too.