Ketamine Therapy: Darkness Into The Light With Baby Steps
Hello and welcome to my journey through darkness.
My website, myketaminestory.com, is a firsthand account of my past, present and most of all an optimistic future.
I am a blogger that suffers from Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD), Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I was introduced to Ketamine for TRD in January 2015. I am forever grateful that I was. I spent the first two years of my treatment focused exclusively on my recovery. I had no choice.
In March of 2015, Ketamine was an unknown drug, to most of us, for treating resistant depression. There were very few articles written on the topic of Ketamine. My husband found one of those few articles by chance. Years later, I am beginning to consider that it wasn’t chance at all.
I was in immense mental pain and anguish for decades, before the word Ketamine was uttered in my home. My history isn’t much different from the numerous people suffering daily with chronic depression. There were hospitalizations and countless cocktails of medications that I can only vaguely remember today. I can, however, remember the horrific side effects and constant suicidal ideation far more readily. It was a constant battle to just live. I didn’t want to be in this world of bleakness and self loathing. I refused to be another statistic but I truly believed that would be my story.
Now, five years later, Ketamine has become a huge component of my treatment and future well being. It seems every March I spend reflecting on my past and how my life has changed and improved because of Ketamine and the hard work I have dedicated to my recovery.
In this blog, I want to revisit the past. I gain massive amounts of insights when I review where I used to be, where I am now, and how I managed to survive long enough to benefit from the growth. It has been a confusing endeavor. I wanted to trust the process. I wanted to believe and be hopeful that this life I was living was worth sticking around for, because my quality of life was minimal and I was exhausted from fighting this deadly illness. I have a new norm. I often discount my ability to cope. It is a progression I don’t always acknowledge to myself. It is a wonderful reminder to reflect and praise myself for all the successes I have achieved. It seems egocentric to give myself credit for walking this walk. A “look at me” mentality. However, if I am being honest, it is helpful for me to write each anniversary about my journey. I have traveled through what has seemed like an endless desert, carrying heavy weights, feeding my soul with poison, and listening to hateful voices convincing me that life wasn’t worth living. It wasn’t, before I was introduced to Ketamine.
The first two years I spent trying to dig myself out of that pit of despair and all the damage I had incurred during the years of trying various treatments to aid me and allow me to function in a world that had been only black and hopeless with no success.
My attempts were futile. It is hard to believe today that I was mindlessly trudging through a desert with all the wrong survival tools.
Ketamine is water. It nurtures my brain.
I need constant self validation during the rocky times. When I am struggling now, my son loves to remind me that “old Susan” would have loved to have the problems I have today. He speaks the truth, but it is easy to forget when I find myself crawling through the desert.
I don’t get stuck in the dunes like I once did.
I have an excellent treatment plan in place. I am learning that with time, more has been discovered about Ketamine - and that knowledge makes my journey a bit easier to manage. It does not clear me from all obstacles or pitfalls, but it does make it possible to see villages up ahead when I find my feet covered in sand.
I have a long history with treatment resistant depression and anxiety disorders. My mental health has been my primary focus; oftentimes without my permission. I wanted normalcy. I craved it. I believe I always will. I also realize that I am not alone in these desires.
I sometimes feel heavy hearted when I reflect on the numerous failed medication cocktails I tried. The months, years wasted. The horrendous side effects I then had to recover and heal from, not to be outweighed by the withdrawal symptoms these mixtures often produced.
To remember the desperation I felt when I went against family advice and agreed to undergo ECT treatments. The months spent inside frozen walls. I would lose years fighting my way to the surface. I would glimpse the light and warmth of the sun only to be torn and unwillingly dragged back to the underworld.
A vicious cycle of torturous hell.
It is healing to know that even during the struggles I face today, I am not hopeless because I know how well I respond to Ketamine and how my world is vastly different from the times before Ketamine.
I have painfully expressed myself over the years. I have dissected my life with my toolbox of therapeutic tricks. I would repeatedly find myself being a prime candidate for hospitalization. I can proudly say that it has been over five years since I have found myself walking through the doors of a psychiatric ward. I credit Ketamine for this achievement. I often give all the glory to Ketamine so it helps me to realize that I am doing things differently, too.
It is not pleasant to bring up memories I want to thoroughly forget.
It feels like I am watching a movie production of a totally different being when I glance back and see myself laying in limbo back in January of 2015 after an almost fatal overdose. My body was fighting to keep me alive while my mind dove straight for what it thought would be freedom.
I had given up completely.
I have stated many times before that my husband and son never gave up their search for a way to lift me up and breathe life back into my corpse-like existence.
I am alive today. It has now been five years, as of March 2, 2020, since I was introduced to Ketamine for depression and received my first Ketamine Infusion. I would love to review, explore, and educate myself and others on just how remarkable Ketamine has been for me with the hopes of reaching down into the dungeons to pull others into the light and offer them hope.
Five years ago, I couldn’t even begin to fantasize about how my life would look if I wasn’t always plagued by suicidal thought and hopelessness. It seemed unattainable. It had never been possible before and even trying to imagine a life without the clutches of depression seemed so foriegn.
Ketamine breathed life into my once twisted, confusing, angry and hateful view of the world. It promises to dig deep to locate me. Ketamine offers me all I need. It makes the years of accumulating coping techniques and management skills not an utter waste of time and money. I am revisiting, on my fifth anniversary, all the therapies I subjected myself to with the desire to help others. I also want to get a renewed vision of where I am now.
I started picking up old strategies and tools I was taught but could’t benefit from in the past – because the hideous demons claimed ownership of my thoughts and perceptions – to see if they may be useful to me now. Remarkably, I have ascertained the true depths in which these past therapies can be of practical and functioning aid to me. I absolutely believe I can use them now because Ketamine suppresses the depression filters for long enough periods of time to make growth and healing possible.
Please join me in celebrating life and the phenomenal drug called Ketamine. I am, on most days, gleeful to celebrate five years of life.
Thank you Ketamine.
I thought I would ruminate. I want to remember things that have been assets for me, like healing through mindfulness in the hopes of helping other sufferers. I have found centering (mindfulness) and breathing practices extremely beneficial and especially when experiencing daily stress and struggles. I have implemented grounding techniques, and I now have them firmly in place to avoid being completely swept away by the goblins trying to steal my light. I practice them regularly and find that today I don’t forget they are available to me, and I don’t have to desperately reach for the methods in order for them to help me. I use them without thinking about it.
It wasn’t always that way for me.
I am learning that there are no right or wrong lessons. I discard the methods that hinder me and hold tight to those precious tools that allow me to redirect and disengage myself from the trolls lingering, patiently waiting, for my self-confidence to waiver or shift. They will attack when I am weak.
I know this.
These trolls, they still find clever ways to taunt me. I find it shocking and anger provoking when I am easily fooled and drawn into their web of deception. I am. They attack when I am looking at and enjoying the vast array of colors and positive energy surrounding me. They frequently appear in obvious places. They more often come silently up behind me and cloud my vision.
These creatures of horror that keep waving to get my attention, or worse, when these lying zombies threaten to suck hope from me, they are unearthing my powers. They now have to go up against my throng of cheerleaders.
They have to beat Ketamine, too.
Ketamine has allowed me to recognize their voices. It took some time and much patience. It has been a bumpy ride, but I am now capable. I have the ability to differentiate. I can often wade past their self loathing comments and hurtful, cunning lies. I listen harder for those positive thoughts. I run to the magical voices singing of love, forgiveness, acceptance and healing. They have my undivided attention now.
Over the years, Ketamine has been a huge asset to me. It aids me time and time again. I have floaters wrapped around my arms and legs keeping me on the surface. Ketamine is my life preserver.
Ketamine has gifted me with freedom from my illness. It has shined brightly on the demons, and I can see them for what they are - and what they are not. They are not truly me. Today, I know without any uncertainty that I am not my disease.
Ketamine graces me with time to learn the subtle shifts. It has taught me where the haters live. It has made it possible to grow and heal.
In the beginning, for decades, my world was just hateful blackness. A brokedown palace. My insecurities and fears were cement walls. Decaying. Ketamine has the ability to shine light on all the colors and possibilities.
I pay attention to the direction of my thoughts and pull them back from the edge over and over again. I am able to do so because Ketamine is working to heal the blacked out parts of my brain that were damaged by my depression. I can drag my attention away. Redirect. Reprogram. It is frustrating and painful at times. It sometimes seems I will be practicing forever. Fine tuning.
Writing these types of blogs and casting light on the past reassures me that I am heading in the correct direction.
It may take years to accomplish what my heart and mind desire, but with the help of Ketamine and my tenacious attitude, I can rewrite my story.
When I had my first Ketamine Infusion, on March 2, 2015, I was dead inside. I had nothing living inside. I remember coming out of my first treatment not feeling much more than that the infusions were very pleasant. I also remember that as my husband and I were headed back to our hotel, I felt discouraged that the feelings I had during the therapy didn’t spill over and stick. I was silent. I was trying not to judge. I had five more sessions before I would allow my negativity to flood and drown me.
I just wanted to go back to bed.
It was during our drive back to our hotel that my hubby suggested going to a New Jersey Mall and visiting its Apple store that I had my first glimpse of something different happening.
I am not a fan of malls. In the past, just the thought of shopping and crowds could send me into a panic attack and tears. I waited for the anxiety. The panic at his wanting me to attempt such a horrendous task. During those days, I spent most of my time indoors suffering with agoraphobia. I expected anger and tears. Now, I paused with interest. This was different. It felt strange.
I exclaimed, “Wow, that is odd! I am having thoughts that would have caused tremendous conflict and panic. The thoughts are still present, but my body is not responding. Isn’t that interesting?”
Mild and unimpressive? Maybe. I didn’t go to the Apple store that day, but in retrospect I gained insight and distinctions between my mind and body.
That would be the beginning. I went on to do all six infusions with tiny glimpses at what life could be like without depression.
I have feared my whole life that my depression was self induced. Terrified that I was at fault. Ketamine awarded me with the jackpot. I am not my depression. That might seem obvious but trust me it was far from any truth I believed.
I continue to explore with interest. I don’t take things at face value. There is always more to a story. Ketamine has made me an excellent investigator. I am making connections. What is more amazing is I am making changes; positive growth.
I am hopeful.
Ketamine opened my eyes. It offers me insights. It makes it possible to appreciate all the glorious colors. It opens my mind. I know that Ketamine helps me see past the depression. It reminds me that I have an illness, but I am not my illness.
I believe in hope. I was given the opportunity and tools to catch sight of what could be.
It has been five years being treated with Ketamine. It went by fast. It went by painfully slow. There has been one very obvious change; I am living.
My depression surrounded me and begged for me to give up and follow obediently. It yanked on every appendage. It demanded my full attention. It promised me freedom. It is sinful how convincing these lies are when the depression is demanding every thought I have and feel.
This false freedom has a cost.
It will cost me my life.
I have been getting relief from these debilitating symptoms with the help of Ketamine and my creative toolbox, and I can honestly state that I do see growth and healing. It may have taken a couple years to admit it to myself.
I am living. I have been engaging in life a lot longer - five years longer - than I thought possible. In a way, it is my anniversary. It is my Ketamine birthday. I feel I was given back my life in 2015.
Ketamine and I celebrated five very interesting years together on March 2, 2020. It has taken years of daily practicing for me to confidently believe I am capable of dealing with my emotions and that I am healing as a result. I now have methods for coping with my mental illness firmly in place and tend to successfully avoid being completely swept away by the goblins trying to steal my light.
I want to stress that this has been a process. I didn’t get to where I am today without bruises and scratches. It was frustrating work. I need to relay that message not to scare people away, but to make a point. A realistic assessment. An authentic representation of Ketamine therapy. It takes baby steps. I constantly had to work on my expectations of this treatment. I wanted results instantaneously. I believe, as I look back over the last five years, that I got the outcome I was ready for at any given moment in time. I struggled with adapting to the changes I was experiencing because my depression was lifted. It was challenging. I can’t imagine if I was given the gifts I have today because of Ketamine that I would have been ready for them back in 2015.
Let me take you back once again to March 2015. I was actively suicidal. I was tormented by the hopelessness I felt and an unwavering desire to die. I had anxiety that consumed and paralyzed me. I was plagued with fear. In my mind, the depression dominated every aspect of my life. I was a trembling child with a long history of failed treatments.
I had very low expectations of what the outcome would be following my initial Ketamine infusions. I had been taught over and over again to distrust all forms of medications claiming to be the next best antidepressant. I had tried a plethora of drugs claiming to attack or enhance the areas of the mind responsible for depression. I was very familiar with words like serotonin, neurotransmitters and dopamine.
I didn’t want to, no couldn’t, no wouldn’t, keep fighting in a war that left me decimated and reeling from all the side effects.
In the beginning, after my first infusion, I saw little to no difference in my depression and outlook on my well being once the session was over. I did feel like I wanted to hold onto the serenity I had experienced during the infusion, but it was short lived. I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed and sleep.
For me, it was my family that first noticed a difference in my mood, long before I did. It would take all six infusions before I had a couple days in a row where I felt slightly optimistic about the drug and its effects on my depression. Then it would disappear and I was back in that familiar state of gloom. That was not at all how my husband and son described me during the early days, though. I was obsessed with the fact that I still felt that heaviness and intense depression. However, my family would repeatedly comment on the fact that I was engaging in conversations, participating in suggestions for dinner, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, wanting to do activities even if I was still unable to be present for them or have the energy to join in. They could see that I was entertaining thoughts of “wanting to”, which was a shift from hiding in my closet and shutting down completely. This was encouraging to them. As for me, I was still finding it frustrating that the Ketamine didn’t last or at least that feeling of peace I experienced during the infusions hadn’t seemed to linger.
It is all about perspective. I wanted drastic changes, and they saw the subtleties.
I was exhausted and uncertain. They were hopeful.
I did notice the times when I laughed. I wanted more of that. I wanted so much more, but I was able to determine with the help of outside observations from those closest to me that I was improving. That gave me courage.
I would soon learn that Ketamine takes time to heal decades of depression and faulty coping mechanisms.
I would say the most difficult part of my recovery has been not understanding the two versions of myself.
I would walk into my doctor’s office feeling suicidal and less than an hour later feeling as though, phew, I can do this. I will be okay. The depression filters, as I refer to them, were switched off.
Night and day.
Two different people.
I also felt intense, extreme, anxiety. I started trying to predict when the depression would return and prepare for it. I would overtax my senses. I would plan everything I needed and wanted to accomplish in the five to seven days I was certain I would be free from the beast. I would force myself to push through the exhaustion because I knew that nasty demon was lurking in the background.
My anxiety was wreaking havoc in my life.
I realized this approach was not helpful. I decided that I needed to address my obsessive compulsive behaviors that were leading to my extreme and oftentimes debilitating anxiety.
Once I accepted that my recovery was only just beginning, I was a tiny bit more open to trying suggestions and picking up those tools I had buried in my toolbox in the corner of my mind.
I have had years of cognitive and behavioral modification tools and techniques I was taught during the decades of battling this horrendous disease. The ones I felt didn’t work to my satisfaction because the suicidal depression had my full attention. It was time to try them all again. It was time to bring in more strategies and coping skills. I had so much to learn and relearn. I had years of bad habits for managing my depression and anxiety. Many methods that were self harming and self defeating. I had to break the cycle. Ketamine lifted my symptoms long enough to try new things; new ways of coping in healthier ways.
Eventually I would realize that even when the depression would try to claim me, I was able to tolerate it a fraction better than the last time it showed its ugly face. I was getting better at looking for ways to distract myself from the evils of depression. I began to reprogram and redirect the default settings that were in place due to years of conditioning and lack of ability to do differently. I had to learn a new programming language so to speak. I had to delete old code and replace it with functions that actually worked and that wasn’t easy. I didn’t know what was working and what was hindering me.
Time and practice.
Practice, practice, practice.
I am learning that I don’t have to like it, but I do have to accept it as it is. I have to accept myself at any given time as well.
Five years seems like a long time, but compared to the thirty plus years I was plagued with unsuccessfully-treated depression, it is truly only a fraction of my life. Every year I see more healing and growth. The obstacles I once had are non-existent, but new ones appear. I am constantly having to demolish walls I built to protect myself from the enemy known as depression.
The biggest asset I have at my disposal is mindfulness living. Staying in this moment, handling what is in front of me, the here and now, and trying not to control or predict the future. I can’t control when the depression visits but I will not let the fear of its return rob me of today.
I do a lot of affirming. I switch up the way I allow myself to talk to inner Susan. It is different, difficult, exhausting and frustrating at times, but still an enormous leap from where I was.
As time marches on, I am seeing the progress. I don’t need my friends and family to point it out to me any longer. Reminders are welcomed, but not always necessary.
I am no longer filled with red hot rage or the anxiety that kept me stuck and trapped. I do have triggers that work against me, but I am aware. I have clarity. I have Ketamine routinely offering me longer periods of time away from the devil, and I am eternally grateful.
I pray that others suffering with profound depression will somehow find their way to my website so I can introduce them to the possibilities of Ketamine. I ask a power greater than myself to bring as many practitioners, fighting for their patients and wanting to participate in positive change, to read my words of hope.
Until next time, feel free to comment or shoot me an email. Better yet, if you are a healthcare provider, why not sign up for the Ketamine training course today through The Ketamine Academy. Be a force of positive change. Be an option. Be a place for those suffering with Treatment Resistant Depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to turn when all other avenues have been exhausted.