Altered States

I have never been particularly interested in seeking out altered states of consciousness: generally I like being as sober as possible – knurd, even.  But sometimes, an altered state finds you.

I was messing around in the back yard, trying to get past the rosebushes to pick some cherries, when I was bitten by a spider.  At least I think it was a spider – I never saw the damn thing.  After  a bit a spot on my chest began to hurt like hell, and it kept on doing so for more than a week. It didn’t want to heal, either – it just kept scabbing over.

By itself, pain gets boring.  But there was another effect, which was interesting.  I would feel as if I’d just awakened on a crisp fall day.  I felt sharp, alert, but not hyper.   It came and went.  Unfortunately, the pain came and went along with it.  Sharp, alert, a feeling almost like the smell of pines – and agony.  I think it’s not going to be a big popular success.

Too bad  the spider wasn’t radioactive.

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15 Responses to Altered States

  1. Nyk says:

    I also recently developed a taste for coffee. I noticed it improves my alertness during the day to a moderate extent, but the effect is not extreme – I don’t think I am more alert than at my peak alertness when not drinking coffee.

    I would also try some of the drugs that are assumed to improve cognitive function (Modafinil is often mentioned), but I think I will settle for coffee until more is known about long-term use side effects (if any).

    I am interested in altered states which put me more in touch with reality – not less; this is why I find drugs like marijuana and heroin unappealing. Hopefully one day we will have an anti-akrasia pill and an IQ-boosting pill.

  2. j says:

    You have been stung by a scorpion and possibly you are now an addict. On the road to Bombay there are scorpion merchants where addicts pay to be stung. The venom is painful, but then users are taken over by a feeling of euphoria, much like a drug high. The good news is that you are not going to turn into a spiderman, but watch out for signs of scorpionmanship.

  3. erica says:

    When you say you felt “sharp,” and “alert” do you mean your senses seemed keener (for instance, you noticed colors to be brighter, or you perceived sounds that normally seemed to exist in the background now occupying your attention as if they had become louder, crisper, etc.) or do you mean you felt “sharp” and “alert” in an intellectual, cognitive way?

    I ask because all my life I have loved to drive, no matter the traffic or the terrain. A few years back, I developed what are panic attacks, particularly when driving on congested freeways or on uncongested freeways that are unfamiliar to me and even more weirdly, on even uncongested, two-laned roads with a not-too steep grade, while going downhill is no problem at all. I have learned that the first warnings/symptoms of an impending attack that ultimately results in sweating, heart racing, excessive blinking, and panic unless I can get off the freeway are gradual changes in the acuity of my senses: the light from the sun grows extraordinarily bright; the sounds of the radio grow increasingly louder and louder; I can smell the odors produced by any Burger King or hamburger joint within miles no matter how tightly my windows are closed, no matter that no one else in the car can smell them (this occurs even in areas where I’d not know that any such places exist for miles and miles). In short, the senses are as acute as they can be all at once, and I am, I guess, on sensory overload. It’s the closest I can come to understanding what a child with ADHD might feel. It sucks. It really, really sucks, particularly because it limits my getting around.

    I’d love instead to feel your alertness (if it is the senses to which you are referring) without the “hyper.”

  4. erica says:

    Ah, forgive me. I read too quickly, and missed focusing on part of one of your last lines that probably answers my question:

    “Sharp, alert…a feeling almost like the smell of pines–and agony.”

    Seems there’s a price attached to heightened awareness one way or another as any good manic-depressive artist might point out.

  5. dearieme says:

    “Seems there’s a price attached to heightened awareness”: aye, the buggers will nail you to a cross.

  6. AG says:

    Pain would make you sharp and alert. In a physical fight, the pain/injury will give you additional release of adrenaine rush.
    My scecret method for quick craming of knowlege is inflicting pain on your body while trying to memorizing your text book. The pain will make learning faster and knowlege become permanent memory.
    Actually I did not invent the method. Ancient Chinese did.

  7. Robert King says:

    Tentatively–sounds like Tegenaria agrestis bite. Did you get any necrosis at the bite site? If so–you may want to get this looked at–it can kill flesh and give lesions that last for a long time (or a short time if it kills you). Spider bite effcts are surprisingly poorly understood and effects ar often disputed–I suspect becasue of lots of individual variation in species and venom susceptibility

  8. dave chamberlin says:

    I always thought that the american indian vision quest was particularly weird. Starve yourself and stay up for three days until you get visions and find your spirit animal. There are a number of shamanic hallucinogens that are still legal because the effects of them are extremely unpleasant. Ayahuasca is a particularly interesting one because a number of takers have extemely similar halucinations. After puking ones guts out the real fun begins as many users are terrorized by snakes, pumas, and insectoid creatures. Why you can order yourself up a batch on the internet any old time, just don’t say I didn’t warn you the those nasty insectoid creatures weren’t going to come and get you.

  9. Nanonymous says:

    I would also try some of the drugs that are assumed to improve cognitive function (Modafinil is often mentioned), but I think I will settle for coffee until more is known about long-term use side effects

    Try nicotine. It varies quite a bit individually but it does wonders for some. None of the known health effects of smoking (other than addiction) is attributed to nicotine, so the patches should be safe. As a recovering former smoker, I miss nicotine immensely.

  10. j says:

    Robert, It is wildly improbable that Dr Cochrane was attacked by a hobo spider or any other native spider. There is no record of them causing altered states or necrosis. Most probably it was a scorpion – thanks to global warming, New Mexico scorpions are advancing and colonizing Northern states. They love high temperatures and are active in summer. Scorpions are predatory and hunt crickets and roaches and small mammals. Once I was attacked by a scorpion in Judean Desert, it caused temporary hallucination.

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