Ketamine Therapy: Healing Is Not A Linear Journey
Hello again. It is Susan from myketaminestory.com.
I am a blogger that suffers with 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 focused on my recovery. I now have an excellent treatment plan in place, but that does not clear me from obstacles or pitfalls. I journal regularly. I educate and advocate for Ketamine Therapy to help treat chronic and resistant depression.
I have written for several Ketamine websites, entirely based on my experience with Ketamine therapy over the past several years in treatment. As I approach the five year mark since I began getting Ketamine treatments, I realize just how many ways I am dealing with my life differently. My journey with Ketamine therapy and healing has not been a linear experience. It has been frustrating at times, and in the same breath, it has been rewarding and uplifting. Ketamine has changed my life in ways I could never have predicted. In this blog, I will explain how a recent profound and suicidal depressive episode led me to recognize my growth, and my ability to tolerate and navigate the darkness I was in differently. It was only after my Ketamine injection pulled me up and back into the light that I could reflect on my recent plunge into the dark abyss.
It has been many months since my last fall into what I classify as irrational depression. A depression that has no outside cause or link to life stressors. It is a depression that upon waking, my first thought is that I want to die. There is no reason. It is heavy and illogical to me. I can’t find a start point of an ending. I am stuck in the middle of a nightmare that has no beginning. It makes it truly difficult to find a way out of it. There is no light source. There are no cheerleaders in my head rooting for me to search for a healthier exit. It weighs me down. I feel like I want to scream for help, but my words get trapped in quicksand, and I am drowning and being pulled downward. It is physically daunting. It is concrete on my heart. It is a dense and cloudy haze in my head. It is confusion. It is unforgiving. It robs me of hope. Depression is not new to me. I have battled for numerous decades with this insidious disease. It is a familiar place for me to find myself. I don’t willingly visit. I burned the directions. It is not part of my default setting. Thanks to Ketamine therapy it has been a long time, so long that I can’t remember the last time I was a prisoner.
I awoke to terror and aloneness. What the hell? Where did these thoughts come from? Why the forbidden suggestion upon waking? It makes no sense to me. I have learned through the years that depression is not an analytical emotion. It is a short circuit. A wiring issue in my brain. It is substantial. It is black and red in color. It is a frightening and unpleasant reality. It feels inescapable. It can hit me faster than an unseen Mack truck on a straight road. Depression is not my friend, but often times we are forced to live together. Ketamine allows me to send my enemy away for long periods of time. I do not miss my nemesis while it is on hiatus. I still find myself flabbergasted and outraged when my antagonist returns.
This is what took place for me about three weeks ago. I went to bed feeling slightly off, which is not uncommon for me a day or so before my next Ketamine appointment. I have a harder time sleeping and processing incoming data or stimuli. I discover that it is frustrating to do routine daily activities. My concentration is hindered. I recognize these as signs that I am due for a Ketamine injection. A maintenance or booster treatment of Ketamine quickly resets me. I am grateful for Ketamine; that is truly an understatement to how Ketamine really works for me and allows me to engage in a life I never thought possible. My gratitude for Ketamine is immeasurable and lacks a cohesive word to define it.
As I was saying, recently I went to bed feeling as though my old companion was returning, and I was thankful to have a Ketamine appointment only a few days away. I work very hard at labeling my emotions differently now. I have an array, a spectrum, that I evaluate my depression so as to minimize my anxiety and fears about the onset of my clinical depression. I use the word depression when I feel it is chemical and can not be controlled by cognitive behavioral strategies. What I mean by that is, my inability to use my tools to work through my mood fluctuations. I also feel like it gives my depression less power and control over my life. I understand that it is a word game. However, it does give me a sense of where I am at in my invisible depression graph. It may seem like a false sense of security to those that have never experienced chronic depression, but it helps me to define the degree or level of depression I am experiencing. I use words like blue, low, unhappy, down, melancholy, sad, heavyhearted, discouraged, upset, and miserable instead of the word depressed because depression has always meant one thing for me. Ketamine has allowed me to experience emotions that feel like chemical depression but tend to be temporary. I highly recommend assessing your moods with various words to find out if you notice a difference or shift in the way to deal with them. It has been beneficial for me.
Anyway, I digress. I went to bed feeling heavy and a sense of dread. I was fortunate to have the next day off from work because it would have been a call out. I have fewer days that I can’t leave my house or bed now, but it happens. That morning was a prime example of how clinical depression immobilizes and paralyzes me. My first thought is that I wish I were dead. That is dark. It is a state of being that I don’t wish on anyone. It is encompassing and consuming. I couldn’t summon the ability to get out of bed. I knew in my mind and heart that my dreaded companion was back.
In the past, I would have entertained these suicidal thoughts. I would have ruminated on ways to die. I would have spent the entire day planning and plotting my death. I would have given up and spent the day feeling victimized by my mental illness. After years of Ketamine therapy, I react differently. My default setting has changed. I am not always aware of all the growth and progress I have made. I am definitely not known for giving myself credit for the battles I have endured or conquered. Ketamine has lifted my state of mind numerous times and has allowed me to do the tough work needed to tolerate and manage my illness. I now search for ways to combat the darkness and suicidal thoughts. It is not to say that I haven't tried in the past. I did. It was and continues to be exhausting. Distraction and acceptance are underrated. They are also skills that needs fine tuning and practice when I am not in the throes of depression. I am a novice. I apply myself and implement my tools. Ketamine makes it possible by lifting the symptoms of depression long enough to witness the results of behavior modification techniques. I work regularly with a dialectical behavioral therapist and ask for homework. I do not want my illness to define me as it has in the past. I want to optimize my circumstances and take back my power to succeed and not become a statistic.
On reflection, I do realize that I have faith that when I get my next maintenance dose of Ketamine, I will be relieved of my depression. Ketamine is hope. However, I do need to be alive and able to get to my next appointment. Before Ketamine, I never experienced a day when the beast of depression was present. I had no hope. I tried every traditional treatment available to me. Nothing worked. I was stuck. It is not living.
One thing I find interesting is how all the tools I have learned over the years always seemed to disappear when I needed them. I could not assess them or remember what worked for me when I wasn’t in a full blown depressive episode. Now, I am lingering and defeated. I need to use these tools to keep myself from listening to, the ever growing in volume, gremlins. My disease wants to capture me and torment me. I want and need some kind of repellent to keep them at bay. In the past, it has been unfortunate, and yet a bit fascinating to me, how I couldn’t locate a single coping mechanism that would help me during the intense depression. It sure feeds into the statement, “What is the point to all these cognitive and behavioral modification therapies. They never work when I truly need them.”
This past depressive episode has allowed me to experience the fruits of my labor.
My therapist and Ketamine doctor tend to repeat, repeat and repeat the same statements to me. I suppose it is for my own good; as it seems to me that I am a slow learner.
“Susan, practice, practice, practice. When you feel good, practice. When you are angry, practice. When you are happy, practice. Every opportunity you are given, practice.”
I am resentful. I can admit that. I can honestly say that the resentments don’t consume me as they once did. Yet, there is still much work to do. It is a journey after all and it is not a destination. I forget that.
“Susan, practice the art of not knowing. No one person has all the answers. It is okay to not know.”
What?!? This is news to me. I am attempting to be humorous, but there is a ton of truth to my thinking and wanting to know everything about everything.
I am inquisitive. I figure if I know the why’s then I will understand myself and do things differently. If I see the full picture then nothing with be able to catch me off guard or unprepared. I also love being introspective and self aware. I used these traits to protect myself from harm or punishment. Unfortunately, I can’t predict the future or how others will respond. That has been a painful lesson for me. That doesn’t make me happy. It is reality though. I can only control how I act and react. Grrrrr.
“Susan, embrace your feelings and sit with them. They are what they are so just let them be and feel them.” I only want to feel positive and good feelings. Who wants to sit with the uncomfortable?
I practice, practice, practice. I am not always a willing but a willful student.
My therapist often reassures me of the difference between willingness and willfulness, because I am extremely hard on myself and have high expectations. I also confide in her that I feel like a toddler throwing a tantrum. She reassures me that I am a willing participant, and it is okay to be upset.
It never feels okay.
I googled willingness and willfulness and found the following:
Willingness is bringing the attitude of full participation to your life. Willfulness is disconnecting from your Wise Mind and the opposite of willingness. If willingness is realizing you are a part of and connected to life, willfulness is denying reality, refusing to be part of the cosmic process, or giving up hope.
“Susan, whatever you resist will persist. Practice radical acceptance. Remember that you don’t have to like or approve of everything to find acceptance.” I will offer full disclosure. This is by far the most difficult for me. I have been working on acceptance, probably all my life, and it kicks my ass over and over again. It doesn’t matter the type or circumstance, if it doesn’t match with my “prediction” of events I tend to spiral like a spinning top toy. I have dedicated the last couple years to focusing on accepting what is. Meditation, being mindful of the moment I am in.
These are just a few statements they tend to reiterate. There are other bits of wisdom; numerous others. These are the ones that got me through my latest depressive episode.
What is truly amazing is that I could recall these statements and implement them. I didn’t realize that I was utilizing these messages of hope until several days after my Ketamine appointment when I was speaking with my therapist about how after my last Ketamine treatment I still felt like the depression was lingering and was wondering what that was about.
I laugh and share that I know I am supposed to practice the art of not knowing, but I feel there is something here to investigate.
It was during my session that I discovered that the discomfort I felt while suicidally depressed was intense, and the fact that I was so focused on it after my Ketamine therapy was probably related to fear and anxiety. It has been awhile since I have been that profoundly depressed. It takes time to heal and move forward. I have mentioned that multiple times in my writings. Healing takes as long as it takes. Time has to be my friend. She also reminded me that we grow the most when we are so uncomfortable that we make the necessary changes.
That got me thinking.
I realized that I did so many things different during this last depressive episode. I was able to use many of my coping techniques without belittling myself for not using my toolbox. It was an automatic occurrence.
I used distractions and acceptance.
I was depressed. That is fact. I couldn’t change it. I let it be. I didn’t entertain or engage in suicidal thinking and I did act on them either. I sat with the horrible state and “embraced” it. I roll my eyes at the word embrace because if feels as though I am saying that being suicidally depressed is okay or that I enjoy it; neither is true. They don’t have to be true to accept what is.
I was depressed.
What could I realistically do?
I immediately thought of a comedy sitcom. It wasn’t easy to watch, and I got annoyed a lot, but I also laughed a few times and that allowed me to disengage from the incessant chatter the depressive gremlins were offering.
The point, for me, is that I search for an alternative. That is new. The depression was present, however, it wasn’t consuming all of my attention.
I really felt great knowing that I used so many of the tools and lessons I have been spending my daily life practicing. It doesn’t seem to make a huge contrast when I am implementing them every day, but it turned out to be a massive difference when I truly needed them to help me through this latest darkness.
In closing, I am finally seeing what all my homework assignments and practices can achieve for me. If I am patient. If I can remember that healing is not a linear journey. Healing takes time. Practicing reframing my thoughts and seeking out healthier ways to perceive the world around me is vital. Perception is key. Challenging myself to question my self-defeating thoughts may not stop them from occurring, but I don’t automatically believe everything I think to be absolute truth either. It sure helped me to not feel overwhelmed during a very difficult dark period. I didn’t fight against myself but had patience with what I was capable of doing in a given moment. The greatest gift was that it was automatic to try to think of what I could do to get through the pitfalls of my mental illness. That has been my highest hope for myself by routinely applying the tools in my toolbox. It is happening. My default setting is being programmed to aid me and not destroy me.
A small success, but I will take it. I will allow myself to truly feel a sense of accomplishment.
That is the journey. It is the healing process. I can’t change four decades of programming and processing information in four years. It is beginning. It is a start. I am able to do the work because Ketamine lifts the depressive symptoms long enough for me to practice.
We all need a platform to stand on and be heard. I truly believe Ketamine is a worthy topic. I sincerely want to inform as many people as I can. It is possible that we may all know someone suffering from Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I believe they might benefit from Ketamine Infusions or injections. I know that I definitely have, and continue to have amazing success with Ketamine therapy. I know how frantic I have felt when I had no hope, no light guiding my way. If one person reads this blog and can help themselves or someone they love out of darkness, it is worth the time I put into my writing and sharing. I know from experience how life-altering Ketamine can be.
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.
Ketamine is hope.
If you are interested in educating yourself further on Ketamine therapy for Treatment Resistant Depression, check out the four-part series I wrote answering questions about Ketamine use, based on my experience with Ketamine therapy over the past years:
My first blog, Ketamine: Addressing Questions & Concerns focused on my early experience with Ketamine Infusions.
In part two of the series, Addressing Questions & Concerns About Ketamine Therapy for Treatment Resistant Depression I addressed questions and concerns about Intramuscular Ketamine vs Ketamine Infusion therapy.
In my third blog, Frequently Asked Questions: Redefining Depression With The Assistance Of Ketamine Therapy, I was a bit more random. I had emails with several questions and themes, and I addressed as many inquiries as I could.
In my final question and answer dialogue, Pondering Concerns & Questions: The Benefits Of Ketamine For Treatment Resistant Depression, I discussed research, clinical studies, and the need for changes to occur within our insurance companies and federal government so that maybe one day Ketamine will not be so difficult to afford or obtain from any qualified professional.
I hope these personal blogs from a patient that suffered for over four decades with treatment resistant depression will be helpful in convincing you why Ketamine needs to be discussed and how it could help you or someone you love.