Barb’s Bad Trip, or The Importance of Researching Drug Interactions

I’m really happy to say that aside from the persistent cough from hell, I am over the horrible head cold I contracted at the beginning of February. It was a bad one. It scared me, if I’m honest. I thought I was never going to feel better. I was wondering if it was a function of getting older, or if bugs are evolving into frightening, insidious things that attack you from a whole host of angles. Either conclusion had me worried about future illnesses.

But it turns out that I brought much of my woes upon myself. Because I had such horrible vertigo and mental confusion, and a desire to sleep at least 20 hours a day, I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. If I had been, things would have gone much differently.

Much of the time I was so dizzy that I felt as if I were floating 6 inches above the ground. And unfortunately, I often didn’t feel as though I were floating upright. Sometimes I felt like I was sideways or even upside down, or swinging slowly back and forth. And I couldn’t focus on anything. People would tell me things and I’d forget them 30 seconds later. And I couldn’t recall words for the simplest things, which made it impossible to communicate clearly.

Me (while floating upside down), “Hey, um, what’s your name? Could you get me a thingamajig? I need it for… something or other. La la la la la…Zzzzzzzzzzzz”

The scary part is that I tried to power through. I drove my car in that state. I operated a drawbridge, possibly the heaviest piece of equipment on earth. La la la la la.

But I just had a weird, modern head cold, right? I’ll be fine. Nothin’ to see here. (My goodness, but people look funny when you’re looking down at them from midair. Wheeeee…)

Sometimes I’d start to feel better, and I’d get all hopeful, and then a few hours later I was floating again. I didn’t know what to do. I felt so awful.

And then one day, something happened that even I couldn’t giggle haplessly through. I had a dentist appointment to get a filling in a tooth. I remember driving there. I remember walking in the door. But I don’t remember anything about the visit. Nothing. I “woke up” halfway home, half my face numb from Novocain, not knowing where I was. And I was alone. Driving.

Okay, so this isn’t just a simple head cold. Something is seriously, seriously wrong. So wrong.

So I started reading up on the medications I was taking for the cold. My doctor had been out of town, so her colleague had suggested, among many other things, Nyquil, Dayquil, Mucinex, and either Robitussin or Delsym for the cough. Well, I had all those things in my cupboard. (Actually, I had Mucinex DM, not plain Mucinex, but heck, it was Mucinex, right?)

It turns out that all of those things, without exception, have one thing in common. Dextromethorphan. And what are some of the possible side effects of Dextromethorphan? Dizziness, mental confusion, and exhaustion. And oh, by the way, one should not take Dextromethorphan while taking a certain kind of anti-depressant that I just happen to take.

Oh, joy. Much of this had nothing to do with the sickness at all. In actual fact, I had been stoned out of my flipping mind for two weeks. And I’d start to feel better, but then I’d take some more meds to help speed up the process, and I’d be tripping once again. 24 hours after I stopped taking all of that stuff, I felt just fine, except for the cough.

I can’t stress this enough, dear reader. Read about your medications before you take them, even if they are over the counter things. Ask questions. Discuss their interactions with your doctor and/or pharmacist. Be an active participant in your health care.

The ugly truth is that I could have killed myself or someone else. That’s such a sobering thought that all the Dextromethorphan in the world can’t wipe it from my mind. That was a bad trip, and as with most bad trips, it could have easily been prevented.

This experience also reinforces my desire not to do drugs. Believe you me, I’ll just be saying no for a long time to come. No, no, a thousand times no.


Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!

My Late Night Symphony

Have you ever been so tired that it felt like your mattress was hugging you? You sink into it’s soft embrace and feel a sweet relief like no other. It makes you wonder why you ever resisted bedtime as a child.

This night was one of those nights. It had been a long day at work. The annual Seafair in Seattle always brings out a lot of boats, which translates to a lot of drawbridge openings for me to perform. That, and it was brutally hot. The control tower is poorly insulated, and the window AC was not keeping up. It was so hot, in fact, that we had to hose down the bridge because the metal had expanded so much that we couldn’t raise it without risk of damage. And to add to the drama, it was septic tank pump day. So I had a lot of comings and goings, openings and closings. And poop smells.

And, also due to Seafair, my commute home was even worse than the usual nightmare. Nothing says Seattle like being able to put your car in park on the interstate on 5 separate occasions on your way home. I had mixed emotions about coming home, already sweaty, to my hot house and my hungry dog, but I knew one thing for sure: I wanted my bed. Desperately.

After throwing open every window and turning on every fan, and then feeding Quagmire (who always acts like he’s starving), I made myself a sandwich so I wouldn’t have to turn on the oven. Then I took a cool shower.

When I finally climbed into my beloved bed, I lay there, flat on my back, feeling like a bag of wet cement. I stared at the ceiling. I doubt I could have saved myself if the house caught fire.

Have you ever been too tired to sleep? Yeah. Like that. I was in a stupor for a good couple hours, I think, based on the number of times Quagmire came to check on me. I just lay there waiting for the sun to stop torturing my time zone.

Finally, around 9:45, I managed to reach over and turn off the light, and roll over onto my stomach, which is my preferred starting position for the journey at hand. Quagmire curled up by my hip, which, I have to say, is the most comforting feeling on earth. Sweet, sweet rest.

Oh, how to describe what happened next. Actually, I was at a loss, so I Googled “the sound a jackhammer makes”, just for you. Apparently the official spelling is:


I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I speak with a certain amount of authority because it was happening less than half a block from my bedroom window. At 10 pm.

Please tell me. For the love of all things holy, who runs a FREAKING jackhammer in a residential neighborhood at 10 pm? Who?

Surely this wouldn’t last long, I thought. No one could possibly have the NERVE to keep this up for any length of time at this hour.

Wrong. It lasted all night long. All. Night. Long.

Interspersed with that sound was the distinctive sound of heavy equipment backing up.

Beep Beep Beep Beep…

And for some reason two trucks were signaling each other by horn.

Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot.

Apparently the double toot was a signal to back up, because no one, of course, could be bothered to used a two way radio. Oh, no. Of course not. So what I got was:

Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot. Beep Beep Beep Beep…

All. Night. Long.

And I wasn’t the only one suffering. At one point I heard my neighbor shouting at them. For all the good it did. And another neighbor went outside and started blaring HIS horn. I’m not sure about his thought process, but I definitely related to his frustration. I think if any of us owned pitchforks or torches, it would have been mayhem.

Meanwhile, I was in a fog, desperately rummaging through my unpacked boxes in search of ear plugs. I never found them. I tried putting a pillow over my head. I closed all the windows, despite the heat. Even Quaggie started to get desperate and began to bark and moan. I may have even shed a few tears. I can’t remember. If I got a total of two hours of sleep, in fits and starts, it’s a miracle.

When I left for work, they were still at it. And they didn’t look even halfway done. I fantasized about crushing the jackhammer beneath the wheels of my car. They are completely repaving a road that, in my opinion, was already in excellent shape.

I’m buying ear plugs on the way home tonight. And maybe a pitchfork. If this goes on for two nights in a row, no court in the land could possibly hold me responsible for my actions.


Cheer me up. Buy my book.