A Little Squirt of Crazy

nasal sprayTo begin, an apology to anyone with an anxiety-related mental illness. I have no intention of implying that anyone with an anxiety disorder is “crazy” (which is considered an inappropriate usage) but really, crazy is the only reasonable term I can come up with to describe what I recently experienced. It was a really brief glimpse at what it might feel like to suffer from anxiety/panic attacks and to experience what people with mental illness must face when dealing with the medical system, but I don’t purport to speak for anybody else, to define anxiety-related mental illness, or to present myself as an expert in any way. Rather I want to share my experience of a very specific situation that was one of the most terrifying events of my life.

Early in February of 2015, I came down with a cold. It moved though fast and I was feeling remarkably better after only a few days. Then the second wave (or a second cold) hit. This time it was bad and I started taking a pile of cold medicines to try and make life a bit less miserable. Specifically I was taking one of those daytime/nighttime cold pills and making regular use (but still following the usage directions on the package) of a generic store-brand nasal decongestant spray.

I had started out with pills that included pseudoephedrine, and those worked reasonably okay. When they ran out I turned to another, similar product that replaced the pseudoephedrine with phenylephrine. For those not in the know, or who missed the early seasons of Breaking Bad, pseudoephedrine, despite its efficacy, is being phased out of cold medications because it is regularly used as an ingredient in the production of meth. (As a cold medicine it tends to make people fairly stoned, but it also works decently well at its intended purpose.) Phenylephrine, the drug now being used instead, does a pretty crap job of actually decongesting anything, which means that in all likelihood, more people will do what I did and will use  decongestant spray on top of that.

The problem with those decongestant sprays is that you can only use them for 3 to 5 days or you risk a rebound effect (it takes more of the medication to work, and it doesn’t last as long); addiction to this product is pretty rampant. So after 5 days (specifically, February 15th) I stopped using the spray.

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How Do You Handle an Emergency?

This morning while waiting for a bus in front of my building, I heard a huge thud from the street. I turned around to see a car stopped in the centre lane and a girl on her hands and knees in the curb lane. Immediately the driver began screaming, even before he got out of the car. He made no effort to help her up, he just stood there in hysterics, screaming and crying.

The young woman made no noise at all as she tried to get enough breath to contemplate getting up. Another bystander and I rushed to help her. We checked to see if she was able to stand, directed the driver to move his car to the curb, and held her steady as she got to her feet. Through it all she was stoic, resistant even, wanting only to be on her way to her original destination. We tried to convince her to let us call an ambulance, to at least let the paramedics check her out. We urged her to stay and give a statement to police. She would have none of it, only promising to visit a doctor so that I’d leave her alone, and the other bystander walked her across the street and into my building where she was headed.

Meanwhile the driver continued to flip out. Through the conversation with the girl, I was also trying to calm the driver down. He stood there, screeching, “I’m sorry! Oh my God!” over and over again. It took me asking two or three times to find out if he had a cell phone. Four times I told him to call 911 while he fiddled with the phone, putting it back in his pocket and then pulling it out again. He never did place the call (no one else at the scene had a cell phone on them), and as the girl left the scene, he stood there wondering what to do.

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