I’m not sure how to organize this post. I am weak and my mind isn’t completely up to par yet. It may be more disjointed than usual, but I have the overwhelming need to write it right now rather than waiting.
I was at the ER last night. I had a very scary MS attack. Now that you have that info, let me try to back up.
I am a marijuana smoker. I don’t discuss it in online or in public much. Humboldt County, California, where I live, is known world-wide for the marijuana it produces. It’s a part of our community. It really is the main financial contribution to our community. Whether you smoke it, grow it, or have absolutely no interest in it, if you live in this community, it affects you.
I’ve smoked since I was a teenager, and I’ve smoked “heavily” for the last 11 years (since I’ve lived in California). By heavily, I mean every day. I never smoked before work or during work (when I was working), but I would smoke every evening after work and all day long on the weekends. Now that I’m no longer able to work due to MS, I smoke all day. The quantity depends on how I feel… some days I smoke a lot, some days I only have a few hits. I have a medical prescription for it and I smoke for various reasons – I smoke because I have a lot of back pain, I smoke because I have anxiety, I sometimes smoke because I’m depressed, I smoke because I have bad menstrual cramps, and sometimes I just smoke for recreation, because I enjoy getting high.
Needless to say, I am familiar with weed and its effects in most of its forms. Several weeks ago, we visited a dispensary and I got this peanut butter and chocolate truffle. It lists the quantity of THC on the box, which is 40mg. I’ve made edibles at home myself with no way of knowing what the THC content is in a serving… it’s of those things where you generally start slow, see how it affects you, eat more after an hour or so if you feel you need it. So when I read 40mg on it, I didn’t really know what that meant. I did a Google search on dosing. Most things I read said 10-20mg is good for inexperienced people. I’d been feeling a little wild I guess and ate the whole thing. After a few hours, I started feeling a little “too” high, and told my husband I was going to bed. That was the end of that. I felt like I probably wasted a real good high, but oh well. Then a week or so after that, I got a different edible at the dispensary, like a Twix bar. It, too, was 40mg. Since the peanut butter truffle got me too high and made me want to sleep, I only ate about 1/3 of the Twix-like bar. I didn’t even notice a high. The next day, I ate the other 2/3 of it and still didn’t notice much of a high. I discussed with my husband how I guess I’d need the whole 40mg at once to get the affects.
So… yesterday, after a heavy chiropractic appointment, where she “beat me up” a little, I then had lunch with a friend. That’s more than I usually do in a single day. But I didn’t stop there, I then visited the dispensary for some weed and saw they had those peanut butter truffles again, so I got a few of those to take home too. Then I ran a few more errands after that. I was exhausted at the end of the day since I’d done easily 4-5x more than I usually do in any given day. When I say the chiropractor beat me up, I mean I had some messed up shit going on with my back and she really dug in hard in some spots to release a lot of knots that had been there for months… so my skin and muscles all over my back feel bruised (though my actual back pain feels better). The day started with a lot of anxiety for various reasons, social situations mostly, but once those were done with, I found myself thinking they weren’t nearly as bad as I expected them to be and the anxiety and worry was for nothing. I was in a good mood, picked my husband up from work, and went home to relax… by eating a peanut butter truffle.
I think it was about 7:30pm when I ate it, and I decided to eat the whole thing, based on my educated assessment of the last few times I ate edibles from the dispensary and feeling in the mood to party a little harder than usual on a Friday night. Shortly after that, I ate some dinner and even had an ice cream treat for dessert, so there was food in my stomach. If you’re not aware, edibles made with marijuana generally take some time to kick in… for me, it’s usually an hour to an hour and a half and the high can often build for an hour or two after the effects begin. I noticed myself getting restless leg syndrome effects, which often happens to me when I get real high with either marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms and the one time in college I tried acid. That didn’t seem abnormal. My feet have moving, twitching issues when I’m sober, so I always have found it mildly amusing how drugs have heightened it. I pointed it out to my husband when it happened last night and he took it in stride as well, knowing that’s just how my body works.
I was just relaxing in the living room with my husband, watching television. We were both very chill. As the high built and my legs got more restless, I turned to him and commented calmly about how I was really high and couldn’t hold my legs or feet still, even as I tried. They just sort of kneaded on the chair and themselves, kind of like a cat will knead on something soft. A few hours had gone by and around 10:00pm I turned to my husband and was like, “I think I’m too high now.” “Do you want to go to bed?” “No, I did that the last time with the peanut butter truffle and I don’t really want to waste the high.” But by 10:30, the incessant kneading and restlessness of my legs and feet had turned into something more like jerking spasms. It had me concerned, but not especially worried. I told my husband that I probably had better just go try to sleep it off… I’d over done it.
I brushed my teeth, shakily. I took out my contacts, shakily. I performed normal bedtime functions. But as I undressed and got into bed, the twitching started getting really terrible. It wasn’t just my feet, it was full body trembling and jerking. Now I was beginning to get worried. My husband had come into the bedroom with me (to make sure I was okay, I think) and as I laid down in bed, the trembling got worse. My teeth were clenching together hard and chattering. My whole body was quivering. I asked my husband to lay down with me and maybe just hold me to see if that helped. When it didn’t, I asked him to maybe rub my legs, as they seemed to be the worst of it. He tried to no avail. Him holding me almost seemed to make it worse. There was no way I was going to sleep when my whole body was jerking around.
My heart was beating very fast and my breath was short. Since I’m diabetic, whenever something feels “weird” with my body, the first thing I do is test my blood sugar. I couldn’t even do it myself, my hands and body were shaking so bad, I had to have my husband do it for me, but the numbers were normal. Still, my hands were cold and we had a hard time getting any blood to come out of the puncture in my finger. That, combined with the shortness of breath (it almost felt like something heavy was sitting on my chest or squeezing my heart), made me worry that maybe my blood pressure was dropping to a dangerous level, and I don’t have a blood pressure meter to test that.
Now the spasms in my legs were so violent and so frequent that my body was almost locking up. This was a seizure of some sort. It had to be. I was fully conscious and able to recognize it but unable to do anything about it. This began to be very scary for me, as I’ve never had a seizure. I’ve never been so absolutely out of control with my own body. I chattered through my teeth to my husband that he should help me get pajamas back on because I didn’t know if I’d even be able to walk down the stairs to get in the car for an ER visit, we might have to call an ambulance. He helped me calmly, always keeping an eye on me and asking me if he could do anything else. I sat on the edge of the bed, shaking all over, taking as deep of breaths as I could (which weren’t very deep due to the pressure I felt in my chest), willing myself so hard to calm down and relax, but I couldn’t. It felt like massive adrenaline coursing through my body… like when you’ve been in a bad car accident, though that usually only lasts for a short time. This had been happening for an hour and getting worse. My husband, in all his calmness and clear headedness, asked me if I should take some gabapentin. “Isn’t that supposed to help spasms and twitching?” I hadn’t even thought about it! They prescribed it to me partly for those reasons, but since I rarely have issues with those things, I tend to just take it to relieve my back pain. I thought it was a good idea and probably wouldn’t hurt, so I did. Still, I began worrying that I was going to have a heart attack and so I made the decision – “Let’s go to the ER.”
Driving to the ER, all I could think was, “What am I going to tell them?! That I ate an edible and then this happened? They’re going to take one look at my pink, blue and purple hair and think I’m just some kid that got too high and am freaking out when I know that is not the case… that this is an MS attack. But was it brought on by too much weed? Is that even possible? What if I actually have a heart attack and die?! I’m going to be a media joke… the first person to die of a weed overdose. I’m sure the additional anxiety of those thoughts didn’t help my situation at all.
By the time we walked into the ER, I was completely sober, my high being whisked away by fear (and it’d been almost 4 hours since I’d had the edible). I was having a hard time walking, having to lean onto my husband. Legs and arms and brain feeling like jelly. The ER wasn’t very crowded and they called me to triage within the first 15-30 minutes of being there. Some of the spasming had subsided, but as I sat with the triage person, my legs were still steadily and violently twitching. The good news was he said my blood pressure and heart rate were fine. I asked how long the wait to be seen was and he said it was running about two and a half hours. I verified that he understood I had MS and was probably having an attack, and he said he knew. I notified him that this was new to me, but it was my understanding that if I got a solu-medrol injection (heavy duty steroids) immediately, it would help stop the attack. He said he knew that too, but there was nothing he could do… they had no available beds. And so I was sent back to the waiting room.
In the waiting room, several of the other folks waiting began grumbling to each other about how long they’d been there. One couple said they’d been there for over three hours. We settled in for the long, long wait, assuming I’d be kept overnight in the hospital like last time, at least one night to get the first injection of the solu-medrol. Over the next few hours, the spasming seemed to be less frequent, but still pretty hard when it hit. Now it seemed solely isolated to my legs, my hands and arms had stopped their spasming. At one point, 5 minutes had gone by with no spasms. I asked my husband to look at the time and let’s see how it goes over the next half hour. If they hadn’t called me back and the spasms stopped, I decided we’d leave. Twenty minutes went by with nothing. I felt so tired… fatigue had settled in hard after about 20 minutes of waiting at the ER. My body had been spasming for the last four-five hours non-stop. I have to imagine that’s like working out for four-five hours non-stop. I just wanted to go home. When that half hour had passed with no spasms, I made the call to leave. I wonder if it was taking the gabapentin that helped calm the seizing?
I wanted a hit to calm my nerves, but I was a little leery of weed at that point. We were both hungry leaving the hospital so we grabbed some terrible fast food, ate it quickly at home, and both crawled into bed exhausted. Needless to say, I slept like a rock. My poor husband dragged himself into work today at my urging – I felt weak, but alright this morning and I knew he had an extremely busy day waiting for him. It’s now 3:30pm and I’ve been spasm free all day. I’m seriously fatigued and weak, using two canes to walk around the house when I need a glass of water or the bathroom, but otherwise doing nothing at all until I decided I needed to write about my experience.
I told a friend about the experience I had last night. He wondered if I actually got panic or anxiety from being too high and that triggered my attack. I don’t recall feeling panic or anxiety at the time because I know exactly what being too high feels like and I know that it’s nothing to worry about, you just have to chill ride it out and take it easy and you will come down from the high eventually. It’s nothing to worry about. But… I have been experiencing so much more anxiety just in general lately. It’s been so noticeable, affecting a lot of life for me. Like I said, I was anxious about going to the chiropractor that morning… she was actually my employer when I got diagnosed. I was anxious about telling her last fall I’d call her for lunch and then never doing it. I was anxious because I knew the lady who had taken my place would ask questions about the job and I have such a horrible memory that I wouldn’t be able to help her. I was anxious because I’d heard through the grapevine that the chiropractor’s husband had died over the summer and I didn’t find out until months later, so I felt bad that I didn’t attend the funeral and never sent a sympathy card (I thought it was too late to do it when I found out and didn’t want to bring up hurt that she was healing from). I knew she’d bring it up and then how would that go? I felt anxious because I asked a friend if she wanted to have lunch after my appointment, but I hadn’t talked to this friend in six months or so and would she feel like I’d been neglecting her? I felt anxious because I knew I had several errands to run after these things and would I have the energy and be able to do them? So my whole day was full of anxiety.
This is how my brain has been functioning a lot lately and I honestly don’t know what to do about it. I think I’m going to have to seek counseling or meds or both because it’s clearly getting overwhelming and interrupting life. But could it cause an MS attack? I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to this before then I’ve gone overboard with weed. Well… I was doing some research online today about MS and anxiety/panic attacks and I’m not finding a clear answer. MS and anxiety go hand in hand, that much is clear. But I’m not finding very clear answers. One site says,
However, MS can also cause anxiety and depression as a result of the illness itself. Anxiety inflames various parts of the brain, and when the brain experiences damage and stress, it’s not uncommon for a person to experience anxiety. Depending on where the inflammation occurs, it may also provoke panic attacks as well. It’s not entirely clear why the mind causes anxiety when it’s experiencing problems, but it’s been well established in the literature.
…though it’s not a reliable source.
I found one person on a forum describe almost the exact same kind of attack as I had, preceded by too much marijuana, but the discussion on the site is closed.
So I’m not sure if this is even possible (I’ve heard it isn’t so sorry if this is wrong), but I’ve recently had a run in with panic attacks. Although it started out almost like a small seizure, I heard that conscious seizures like the one I think I may have experienced are called simple partial seizures, but it turned out to be more of a panic attack eventually. I had felt slight derealization (or maybe depersonalization, I can never tell the difference) on and off all day, then eventually it hit me hard. It looked and felt like the walls in my room were super close, the air looked stuffy, my arms and legs went numb, got a high-like feeling when I hadn’t taken any drugs, and I was seeing some small things like tons of eye floaters and things twitching in the corners of my eye. Then the panic hit and my heart was pounding, my muscles wouldn’t stop trembling, and I was having hot and cold flashes. I ended up hearing sirens that weren’t there at some point, time was going by really fast, and it was just a frightening experience. I seriously thought I was sick and dying at some points, if this wasn’t the first panic attack I’ve had then I would have been even more scared. I was up the entire night because of it.
I have not been diagnosed with seizures or panic disorder, but this is the second time this has ever happened. I did get into Cannabis for the first time about a month ago, but when I had a weed induced panic attack from smoking too much (very similar to what I experienced the other night) only after second time of using I decided not to touch it again as it really freaked me out. I’m almost positive I have had a small seizure before also, but it was a while back.
Was this a normal panic attack? Could I have given myself panic disorder from just that small drug use? (I’m not looking for a diagnosis, I just want some insight on what someone thinks about this so I know where to go next.)
So I will just call my neurologist on Monday when her office is open and let her know what happened. I have no doubt she’ll want to see me immediately. And I will tell her exactly what happened. And we’ll go from there.
Overall, a very scary experience for both of us. We knew at some point another big attack would hit and I’d probably end up in the ER again. That just seems inevitable for anyone with MS. I just never imagined the seizure part! So… another notch in the MS belt, I guess.