This morning I awoke from a dream and wrote down the words “scrouch pendi” on a pad. It seems I had invented a new dog breed while I was sleeping, and I was telling someone about this right before I opened my eyes. Throughout the morning, I laughed whenever I thought about the new pup my psyche had conjured.
Wherever did this name come from, I wondered. Had I heard the words before in conversation or had I read them online or in a book? Curious, I looked up the word “scrouch” and discovered that, according to Urban Dictionary, scrouching is the act of crying, “usually excessively, after having an orgasm” and then “instantly falling asleep” afterwards. “Pendi,” I read in Wikipedia, “is a village in the municipality of Monidigah in the Lerik Rayon of Azerbaijan.”
Which got me to thinking about the mind and its inscrutable mysteries. I know so little about what animates me, really, and, just when I think I understand something true about myself, the knowing evaporates. Sometimes I am startled by the idea that I am utterly alone in my thoughts and that no one else can ever enter inside them.
These days I find I am hungry to understand the mind of the person who commandeered Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; the mind of the man who killed three soldiers, wounded sixteen other people, and then took his own life; the mind of the youth who in a minutes-long rampage stabbed twenty-one students and one adult. How can I even begin to understand the thinking of another, though, when I don’t even know my own mind?
I have used Ambien twice in my life: Some 15 years ago, I took it one night after a protracted bout of insomnia, and my daughter found me sitting on the floor in the living room clacking away on my computer. Apparently, I got up to do this after going to bed, and I had no memory of it the next day. About eight years ago I tried taking the drug one more time, and I have a vague memory of sitting in the dark and carrying on a conversation with an inanimate object.
I was very frightened by the hallucination, and I vowed I would never take Ambien again. Some years later, it became public knowledge that getting out of bed when not fully awake and doing an activity without remembering it is a not uncommon side effect of the drug. Hallucinating, it seems, is another.
Feeling agitated, aggressive, or suicidal are also potential side effects of taking zolpidem, the active ingredient in Ambien, and over the past several years a good deal has been written about the link between the drug and some of its more frightening side effects, which include delusions and violent behavior; yet, it is the most popular sleep medication prescribed today, and its use has increased 220 percent over the past five years.
In the hours after last week’s tragic shooting at Fort Hood, the media stories included mention of the fact that Ivan Lopez, who killed three soldiers and wounded sixteen other people before taking his own life, had been prescribed Ambien, among other drugs. It appears he was suffering from a sleep disorder as well as from anxiety and depression, though there is no obvious connection between these disorders and his military experiences since he had not been exposed to direct combat during his four-month tour in Iraq.
Although I am not saying that Ambien made Lopez do what he did, I am saying that it cannot be discounted as a factor that might have contributed to his descent into madness.