I spent freshman year living in an on-campus freshman dorm. Those first couple of weeks, everyone was feeling each other out in terms of social-sexual status. Determining who would be spending what kind of time with whom, it was like we were all self-evaluating specimens in a taxonomy lab. Sorting, labelling and placing ourselves according to competing theories of classification.
I was so socially incompetent, however, these proceedings might as well have taken place in my absence. Even my dorm/class t-shirt insulted me. It felt like a personal attack, and may very well have been. On the shirt was the twinned profile of a young couple kissing. The slogan read, “Some People Just Don’t Get It.” And me being one of these people who “just don’t get it”, my so-called friends made sure I knew about the t-shirt.
Playing dumb, I bought a t-shirt. Wore it a number of times. Then found it missing from my laundry. Probably because someone stole it to keep me from wearing it. Not sure who was more embarrassed. Me, or the people hoping to humiliate me. If it even was a prank at my expense. But, whatever. I shrugged it off. After all, there were classes to attend to and papers to write, right? In short, I was busy with my own version of college non-life.
For four years, I functioned as a student. Nothing more. And even as a student, I was mostly unremarkable. Still, I felt personally superior to just about everyone and everything. Because I was figuring stuff out. You know, important stuff. I was a delicious cupcake of wisdom with Christian frosting and Pagan sprinkles on top. I knew right from wrong and was always teaching my favorite class. “How Things Ought To Be - 101”. I tolerated gays, but wanted a wife. I rarely drank to excess, but if I got drunk (or even just tipsy), I was a “happy drunk”. I drew the line at drugs, though. Never felt the need to do drugs.
Until I did. Feel the need. It was my senior year. As I surveyed life after college, all my options seemed empty. So, I turned to drugs to shine a light on my future, to maybe reveal a new direction worth taking. First, I did pot. Not a lot, but enough. After that, it was mushrooms (once) and acid (twice).
The mushrooms and acid sharpened my visual acuity and put me in low-grade states of slightly elevated awareness. That was all. Pot, on the other hand, fractured my sense of time, and that was engaging. Still, although I loved my time highs more than either laughter or body highs (and body highs made me pretty uncomfortable anyway), I never experienced anything like what I wanted, which was to feel better after the drug wore off. I ached for something lasting and transformative. Something to leave me thinking, years later, “Hey, that was a turning point.”
According to a drug dealing friend of mine, what I wanted was a drug called ecstasy (MDMA - methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine).
Ecstasy was big in ‘92. After graduating, I attended a vaguely off-campus party. An enemy of mine - who knew my drug dealing friend - handed me my pill personally. Individually wrapped in crumpled tinfoil, it was supposed to be ecstasy, but probably wasn’t. Because, instead of sinking me down into a calm lake of liquid purrs, it netted me with needles of anxiety. Majorly uncomfortable, I ducked out of the X party and rejoined the ranks of the beer drinkers. Thoughts and perceptions of self and other battled within and around me. Deep Distrust, my base camp, launched me behind enemy lines before I realized I’d been conscripted. A fresh recruit in The Royal Army of Paranoia (TRAP), I’d no idea who we were fighting, or why.
All I knew for sure was this. The drug I’d been given had damaged my ability to feel either safe or secure. It magnified my personal sense of anxiety, and this lasted well into the morning. In fact, it lasted even longer than that, but how long is difficult to gage when the sources and modifiers of my fear have been multiple. Regardless, before my “ecstasy” trip, I’d fretted in private. Now, I felt cornered and forced to monitor in real time whatever was said around me, even if I couldn’t quite make out the words.
Having been chemically prepped for a breakdown, it was only a matter of time before I’d have one.