I don't clearly remember the exact moment my brain broke, but I remember the exact moment before: sitting on a canvas camping-style chair, controller on hand, every single receptor in my brain tingling. I didn't know it at the moment, but I was having a cerebral event.
At 2 PM that cursed Monday, I consumed 35mg of edibles in gummy form. The pineapple flavored ones were gross. The blue ones weren't bad. We'd procured them from a legal, local dispensary, along with pre-rolled joints and some sweet fresh weed. My brother insisted on rolling his own joint. We smoked that joint outside, passing it back as the last sunrays of summer slipped away.
I have, in my life, been high exactly once. Buzzed, a few times from when a certain sibling would hotbox me with their friend, parked in a secluded forest. Fuzzy, that one time I had the thinnest of slices from my grandmother's excellent pot brownies. The green herb which gives life spice seemed like more a ceremonial, celebratory substance than an everyday vice, and I treated it accordingly, is what I'm saying. And I was celebrating that afternoon -- celebrating my new job. (New-ish, I had started it the month previous and had some interesting adventures.)
My cerebral event occurred some time after 4PM. I remember checking the time, but 4PM was the last time I remember before things went loopy.
Our internal narrative - the running story we construct from millions of receptor signals flipping on and off - is extremely malleable. My first frightening realization was that I had, in some way I couldn't quite grasp despite physical attempts to reach, changed. The previous me had been replaced and the present me was suddenly aware of the world. Temporal memory surged into immediate consciousness: it felt like being sucked through a straw. Scared and paranoid, I went to the fridge to see if I could find something to eat. I didn't find It. I peered into the trash can. There it was: a consumed container of chili.
I did this reboot cycle five times.
At some point before the other roommates arrived, I looked into a mirror. My eyes were hellfire scarlet.
I vibed between realities while I sat in that chair; when I scanned the room I saw an infinite line of possible selves, each different. I felt like a helium balloon. Walking became a challenge; I was only tethered to our reality when I looked straight down. My view of our world folded and bubbled and curved in unpredictable fractal ways.
I ate a Wendy's chili without spilling a single drop.
I had quite enough of the sensation by 8. I bid my brother a good night.
"I hope I'm not high in the morning." I told myself, turning out the light.
My vision was shattered into three competing fields of view; robbed of depth perception, my brain tried to conpute my position in each of these possible views at once, leading to this bizarre sensation of simultaneously existing in three places. In my leftmost view, I could feel my heart in the center of my chest. My left eye and right eye wrestled for dominance. My nose constantly occupied all views, a bizarre artifact from when my brain's real time editor logged off. Voices sounded distant.
When I tried to read, words seemingly leapt from the page and hovered in the air. I avoided reading. This effect extended to television; if I directly watched the TV with my rightmost field of vision, it would expand to fill the entire room. This also applied to videogames, causing my heart to race; while I watched my brother's character free fall, I felt like I was physically falling as my reality was overwritten by the green pallette of Fortnite. Speaking was a challenge; forming the right tongue shape to verbalize in English sometimes took me two tries. I acquired a temporary stutter that cropped up when trying to communicate rapidly. At all times I felt like a balloon tethered to a skeleton: floaty and unsure, pulled in every way by the wind.
This wasn't a nightmare. This was now my life.
At work — one city and one carpool over — I spent my first day back staring through laptop. Not at my laptop, but through it and into the white wall behind it. From my logs, I can see that I shipped out hardware by pure muscle memory. It seems that I shipped it correctly; I have not yet been told otherwise.
I will never forget the sensation of feeling every poop particle pass my sphincter. These were some of the most satisfying poops of my life.
Wednesday, I tried to order a Grandpa burger combo with a side of onion fries at the neighboring a&w. I had forgotten my card at home and left in shame, empty handed. For lunch, I ate a massive bowl of oatmeal and pudding. It was the most delicious oatmeal I have ever eaten. On the long road home, I felt motion sickness for the only time in my life. I was terrified.
I do not remember Thursday. It was a day and I was present, I am sure. That's how time works. But I do not remember it at all.
Friday, I made an eyepatch out of sticky notes and explained my situation to my coworker. I was able to fulfill my duties, one eye down, as only one field of view remained, but with zero depth perception. At noon, I went to a pharmacy to get an eyepatch proper; they had none, so I improvised with gauze and bandage roll. Infuriatingly, I had three competing fields of view for the rest of the day, despite looking like the Hot Topic take on Apollo Justice.
I spent the night seeking a medical answer. Canada still does not have paid sick days; I would have sought medical advice sooner if I had been able to afford it.
A doctor with a South African accent assured me that I probably did not have a stroke; strokes tend to take out more than just the visual editor center of the brain. A nursing student I cornered told me it was a TIA: a transient ischemic attack, a temporary restriction of blood flow caused by plaque that disrupted my brain for the briefest of moments, not doing permanent damage, but whose effects can last weeks. These usually come before a stroke and most of the time TIAs happen unnoticed. I was told that the effects should subside soon.
These effects lasted an entire week. I woke up on Tuesday of this week to find I suddenly had one field of view. The effects were over. I survived. Not everybody is so lucky.
The link between Cannabis and strokes is documented but not fully explored as of yet; it is theorized that the elevated heart rate associated with THC-induced paranoia can push a borderline risk factor into happening.
At 25, a stroke does not have to be my destiny; with careful risk management, daily blood thinners, and a drastic reduction in body mass, I can avoid a reoccurance.
Despite everything, I find myself quite attached to life. But giving up greasy burgers feels like giving up a core part of myself. Here, then, is the duality of man: torn between eating a food that will probably kill him, and living a long and productive life without a delicious food or the essay to show for it.
A real heck of a birthday present, this conundrum: Cannabis broke my brain; losing burgers could break my heart.