Hello and welcome. It is Susan from myketaminestory.com.
I write about my experiences and journey with Ketamine Therapy on my website and also for The Ketamine Academy. A brief summary about me, I have a long history with treatment resistant depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorders. My personal “mental health” resume includes numerous failed medication cocktails, ECT, cognitive behavior therapy, talk therapy, behavioral modification therapies and countless hospitalizations. I can admit that I understand how all of these treatments could potentially help, but they never did for me. It was a little over four years ago that I was introduced to Ketamine for depression. I am alive today because of a drug that is raising many questions and concerns from the professional world as well as those interested in seeking Ketamine to help manage their chronic depression. I want to revisit the beginning of my Ketamine journey as I have been receiving emails asking me about what to expect from Ketamine treatments.
In this blog, I want to spend time focusing on the numerous questions I have been asked over the last several years; a refresher course of sorts. I decided on revisiting and approaching the curiosity and concerns about Ketamine, costs, comparisons to other medications and therapies, and the possible pros and cons of Ketamine treatment again. It may be helpful. My shares are based on my personal experience with Ketamine for Treatment Resistant Depression.
I am a huge advocate for Ketamine therapy. I want to educate and help those trying to find the right medication to combat resistant depression. I am also passionate and find the need to spread the word of Ketamine treatments in hopes of reaching out to the professional world to encourage them to get the proper training to administer Ketamine therapy and become a provider. There is a terrific online Ketamine training course available through The Ketamine Academy.
If I no longer had access to a physician or nurse practitioner willing to administer Ketamine, I am convinced my story would quickly conclude.
Why do I believe that my depression would definitely lead to the end of my story? The answer is crystal clear to me. My depression resurfaces and is continually lifted with Ketamine as my aid. I am now capable of living the life I was meant to. I have seen the possibilities. I have had long periods of time when I am symptom free. I can’t imagine my life without this medication. I have finally found the one treatment that assists me in being free from the suicidal darkness I lived in for over four decades.
I am speaking up.
I want to make sure I never lose the only treatment that has given me hope for a future.
I am willing to take on the tough questions and concerns. Ketamine is hope for treatment resistant depression. I am proof. I want others, like me, suffering with chronic depression, to be aware that Ketamine is an option. It has been my only hope.
I went 45 years suffering with profound depression and debilitating anxiety disorders with no relief from any of the traditional methods of treatment. Every time I would try a new medication, or multiple combinations of pills, I lost hope and had nothing left to offer or build on. Nothing remained. What I did have were plenty of horror stories to share and trust me, no one wanted to listen to my defeated point of view.
I started being administered Ketamine through infusions, and I am now creating more colorful, hopeful narratives.
Before Ketamine, I had no hope or expectations.
I was fortunate to be told about Ketamine back in 2015, and my life has only continued to improve with the aid of Ketamine therapy. I often fret over the idea of someone ending their life because their darkness was too overwhelming that all hope had vanished and they may never hear of the possibility of Ketamine therapy for treatment resistant depression. That could have been my story. It almost was.
My success with Ketamine treatments pushes me repeatedly to write. I am sharing parts of my life that are not at all flattering. It can be extremely uncomfortable. Yet, I know that I need to show the depths of my desperation for understanding. Depression is complicated and frequently misunderstood. My primary motivation is to write based on my experiences with the hope of reaching out to that lost soul, as I once was, with a life line.
I started my Ketamine infusion therapy with a series of six infusions over a two week period. I responded. I hadn’t had any success with previous treatments for my depression.
The fact that something could flip the depression off, even briefly, would inspire anyone suffering with major depressive disorder, without a successful treatment plan, to share. I am pretty passionate to spread the news and use my voice to inform others of this nontraditional method of treating resistant depression.
I can reflect now.
I know where I was headed before Ketamine. I was dead inside. I had no hope of that ever changing. I have written before about how my husband never gave up on me. When he explained his findings on Ketamine, I rejected them based on the costs and fear. Multiple times over the years I have put my family through financial ruin trying to discover a treatment that I would respond to. I didn’t want to cause more stress for my family on a treatment that wouldn’t work. I had been there, done that.
I wasn’t afraid of dying.
I was terrified of having hope.
I went into that Ketamine clinic expecting nothing.
I told my husband that I would undergo Ketamine infusions and that if it didn’t help me, he had to agree to let me go.
It wouldn’t take long for me to start believing in possibilities.
It would take time - I had decades worth of pain to heal.
I know that I was only slightly hopeful following my first infusion. I felt . . . relief. I can best describe the feeling as a small break from the OCD thinking, anxiety and constant state of intense depression. It was mild, but it was as though someone turned on a nightlight for me. The first thing I noticed following my first infusion of Ketamine, and I can still vividly remember, was my awareness of being able to take a full breath with ease. I could truly breathe for the first time. In the past, I had habitually held my breath. My anxiety made breathing literally painful which often created even more anxiety for me. I was as tight as a ball of rubber bands unable to expand. So, when I was left without the discomfort I felt when just breathing, I was actually shocked. It was such a pleasure to have even the briefest glimpse at what might be possible for me if I continued to respond to Ketamine treatments.
Many of the changes went unnoticed by me, but my family could see the subtle differences in my mood and approach to living. It would take months for me to begin to feel concrete changes.
What did happen for me was I started to believe in the maybes; in the possibilities. The depression and anxiety were in the background. My perceptions on life and my ability to be a part of the living were (and continue) to evolve.
However, it has been a frustrating task trying to locate a qualified professional to administer Ketamine at a price I could afford. It breaks my heart that many will never be able to afford the initial 6 recommended infusions. Many of us, myself included, could never afford long term Ketamine infusion treatments if needed, which for me is a reality: I discovered that I need Ketamine boosters regularly. The depression always resurfaces. Ketamine remains my antidepressant. It was remarkable luck, maybe, that I was told of a doctor willing to try intramuscular Ketamine shots, and his office is only an hour from my home. I am forever grateful. I would not have been able to progress and heal without Ketamine.
Options are needed.
I truly believe that Ketamine can help those with treatment resistant depression but recognize that I wouldn’t have been able to afford and continue getting Ketamine infusions if I didn’t have my current doctor. There is a demand for affordable solutions for Ketamine therapy. The current average price per Ketamine infusion treatments around the country is in the $400-$600 range. It is unrealistic for many. There is a need for more Ketamine providers and The Ketamine Academy can help interested and qualified professionals learn how to become Ketamine providers and begin helping those of us with treatment resistant depression start living full functioning lives.
I am currently having Ketamine administered by intramuscular shots. There are not too many or I should clarify, not enough, providers offering IM Ketamine shots or even Ketamine infusions for that matter. I have been getting Ketamine every two weeks for over four years now. I couldn’t have afforded to do that if I hadn’t located a doctor willing to learn and work with me. I have had tremendous relief from my depression and anxiety symptoms. I am grateful to my doctor, whom I never worked with prior to my Ketamine regimen, for being open to listening to me advocate this unconventional use of the drug. I am forever appreciative of his willingness to work with me financially. We have learned so much together. My doctor has been able to see my positive progress and it excites us both. He is now treating a couple of his patients using Ketamine with great success. There really aren’t enough qualified individuals willing to step up, train, educate and offer Ketamine at a price that is affordable. I implore those practitioners and doctors to challenge themselves; Ketamine could save lives as a result.
I should mention that in the early part of 2015 when I was introduced to Ketamine infusions, the information about Ketamine and its uses for depression was extremely limited. There were less than a dozen locations worldwide offering Ketamine Infusions. It is because of my experience and difficulty with trying to find a Ketamine infusion clinic or a professional with the ability to administer Ketamine that I highly recommend providers to explore The Ketamine Academy’s online training course in order to reach more depression sufferers. I am constantly updating my Ketamine Provider & Location List located on my website and I am willing to add those offering to treat patients with the use of Ketamine. It is crucial. I am dedicated to trying to make it possible for others to find a Ketamine Provider in their area and start the healing process to gain back life.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression, which is also known as major depressive disorder, at the age of 18. However, I feel that I have suffered with depression all of my life, being semi aware of it at the young age of eight. I reached out for help and started doing talk therapy and was then referred to a psychiatrist when my therapist had a firm notion that I potentially had more going on then an eating disorder. I was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder during my first of many visits to a plethora of psychiatrist offices over the decades, trying to discover a treatment plan that would rid me of my suicidal ideation and profound depressive state. I initially sought help because I felt that something was desperately wrong with me. I was walking through my life feeling isolated and alien, with thoughts of death that plagued me daily.
My depression led me into hospitals for psychiatric care; both inpatient and outpatient care, more than a dozen times, over the course of twenty years. Doctors have tried a combination of 3 or 4 psychiatric medication mixtures to lift or alter my depressed state and lower my anxiety levels. I was probably written in excess of two dozen or more combinations, or “Cocktails” as it is often referred to, in order to find a solution and free me of my , all to no avail. I also received twelve ECT treatments over a three month period, about 15 years ago. I regretfully conclude that none of those treatments ever worked, and the horrific news is that it would take weeks to discover these medication plans weren’t working - all the while continuing to suffer with depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation.
A major advantage to Ketamine therapy compared to previous treatments is the fact that Ketamine doesn’t take 4-6 weeks to figure out if it will work. That can not be said about traditional antidepressants. Even though I was anxious to have faith in Ketamine, I liked that I would know right away or within six treatments if the Ketamine was potentially going to work or not. It may take all six before feeling that Ketamine is a vital asset to your treatment plan.
It took one Ketamine session for me, within an hour, I felt a slight shift. It was fairly minor, in the beginning, yet something felt different and new. The anxiety I could never escape was lowered within an hour. I was alert and felt calm for the first time in my life. It was fast acting. My results were kind of obvious to me when comparing them to my past medications where I never felt any different even after six or eight weeks. I wasn’t completely sold on Ketamine therapy, but I was willing to have it administered again and again and slowly I found the Ketamine lifting the fog and darkness I was living in due to my profound depression.
I realize that Ketamine infusions are costly. However, I must say that if I were to add up and report all the costs I have accumulated over the years on all the medications, hospitalizations, ECT, behavioral therapies and outpatient treatment programs, you would be surprised at how the numbers and debt piled up over the years. My balance after insurance coverage was a constant financial stress. What I mean is that just the copays put a strain on my family. It was even more painful when none of the treatments worked for me. They just added another layer of depression and hopelessness, and many of the medications just made me a suicidal zombie. I only wish I could have that money back to invest in my future Ketamine infusions. I must move past that, I know.
It is the investment and uncertainty of a new treatment that pushes me to discuss the topic of Ketamine as an antidepressant option.
It is upsetting that our mental health has to be attached to finances. A price tag. How much are we worth? That should never be a question we have to ask ourselves. I advocate the use of Ketamine and implore qualified professionals to get the training needed to become providers in hopes of reaching more people suffering with resistant depression and potentially lower the costs of treatments; to save lives.
I know that Ketamine is known to be a psychedelic drug, so I want to touch on my experiences with this side of the drug to help those considering Ketamine therapy. I do want to disclose that I have experimented with mushrooms and LSD in my early twenties. I wasn’t completely in the dark. I was still unsettled because I knew that if this medication didn’t work for me, I was done with trying anything else. I was at the end of my rope. I didn’t really expect Ketamine to help me because nothing else had ever benefited me or offered me any relief from my suicidal depression. I was more concerned with the what ifs……
What if it doesn’t help me?
What if it does help me?
What would that feel like for me?
What will I experience while the drug, Ketamine, is in my system and will there be any long lasting side effects afterwards?
When I met Dr. Levine, back in 2015, at his clinic in New Jersey, he tried to prepare me for what I might experience during my infusions. He shared that he likes to tell his patients what Ketamine is like using the analogy of playing Family Feud. The top five answers on the board of what Ketamine is like are: strange, odd, weird, intense, dreamlike. I would also have to add that, for me, it was a very introspective time, spiritually awakening, with out of body sensations; like you literally feel like you come out of your body. Overall it wasn’t a horrible experience for me. It is somewhat comical thinking back and reading journals I kept on my experiences. I remember saying to my husband who was in the room with me ‘I don’t know where my body is’. I couldn’t see my entire body. It was like having tunnel vision. My attention was focused internally. It was the strangest thing, but I was not upset or afraid.
I was more curious.
While I was investigating this feeling, I remember my whole face lit up when I saw my feet. I felt disconnected from my body. As though you come out of your body and you are able to wander around the room without moving an inch physically. It resembles lucid dreaming; dreaming, but you are fully awake. I felt I was in a dream and all of this bizarre shit was happening, while being consciously aware and in tune with all of your thoughts. In this type of dream, you are the observer of all around you, as well as, what is deep in the subconscious.
I felt light.
I was experiencing the world in the third person. I was a separate entity. It feels very spiritual. I wasn’t as critical of myself. I was able to just look at myself and have thoughts about everything and anything without feeling overwhelmed by my own thoughts and feelings. I felt like a different person; a person that maybe doesn’t have to die but could heal. I was watching my thoughts and reactions as if it were a television program. It is very profound.
You have, or at least I did, this insight into yourself from a third party point of view. These thoughts feel much deeper and truer than the common superficial levels we communicate our emotions or perceptions of self. The thoughts are fast and it is fleeting. It is like water cascading over you. You have to flow with it. You don’t get caught up by the rocks or soil. I just keep going with the thoughts. Easy. No judgments. What a relief; especially for someone that suffers with OCD. No attachments, just watching and letting go.
I could also look at the wood door to my room and see the shapes and textures of the wood. I would look at them and give them a story in my mind that made the door appear to come to life. It was as though I was giving the door life. The Ketamine allows you to look at the different things around you with a fresh clarity. I personally didn’t see horrible demons or anything. I didn’t see things appear before me that were not already there when I walked into the room. It was more like my mind was just enhancing the surroundings in a superhuman way. I was experiencing possibilities. The world didn’t feel so black and white. Depressed or happy. Anxious or peaceful. It felt interesting and engaging compared to the grey, dreary and negative place I was viewing my world prior to the Ketamine infusion.
Yes, most of the time the Ketamine was an enjoyable experience for me. However, Ketamine, it can bring out things inside of you, deep childhood issues and spiritual epiphanies too. I wasn’t always ready for the new information and feelings. I will share that I cried during two of the treatments. It was bizarre because I almost felt like I was Buddha on a mountain with my inner insights. It can feel a bit intense at times. Dr. Levine reassured me that crying is natural when you have years of stored unexamined emotions. I didn’t understand why I was crying. That was unsettling. How could I feel relief and still want to cry? I understand now that having an emotional release after years of pent up dark feelings can feel so great it brings you to tears. It was as though I was washing my emotions clean; to think differently moving forward.
I really paid attention to the time. I was obsessed. I frequently would ask what time it was. I would ask repeatedly in every session.
I wanted to reduce my anxiety level and made mental notes during each session. I also made it a habit to state my observations out loud to my husband so he was pretty aware of my thoughts and feelings during each infusion. I wanted to hold on to the insights I had during my Ketamine session to discuss with my therapist at a later date.
I remember that it felt like I took a couple shots of Tequila. I got all warm inside, giddy, and relaxed. I would then feel many of the dissociative effects I have already mentioned above. I did get that “trippy” feeling during several of my treatments, but not every single one. The sessions were all different. I could only count on one thing once the IV needle was in place and the Ketamine entered my system, I was calm. During one of my sessions shortly after that intoxicated feeling began, I was able to see the textures in the walls and doors. The colors and paints appeared puffed up; like I was viewing the world like a 3D movie. I would expect that to happen during the next appointment only to experience a new event or discovery about myself. It was not like the hallucinations or color trails associated with LSD and mushrooms. I feel with Ketamine it seems more internal to me; like there are things going on inside of your mind causing the things around you to look the same but enhanced. It just feels differently. It is not easy to put into words. Something inside my mind was altered and healed. It is very dreamlike.
I remember there was a box of tissues in my room and it had a magnolia blossom design on it. The flower was gorgeous during my infusion. I could see the petals in detail and colors so rich it soothed me instantly. In fact, I made sure that tissue box was always present in my treatment room.
I also remember feeling as though I was in the womb; loved unconditionally. I could love myself unconditionally. New, very new for me.
If I had to add a single word of caution it would be to watch your expectations. I think that the major drawback for me is that you never really know what is going to happen during that hour you are being administered Ketamine, even though it is the same type of treatment every time, it has proven to me that it is never going to be the same; the treatments I have had have varied each time. They definitely follow a well defined path, but they have been utterly and completely different. I also noticed over the past four years that the intensity dims. I rarely feel any altered states now. I feel the shift occur in my thoughts and outlook on my life. I can go into a Ketamine treatment depressed, anxious or even suicidal and suddenly I am speaking more optimistically and calling bullshit on the previous dialogue. The negative thoughts seem unbelievable and untrue when only minutes ago I felt convinced these thoughts and feelings were gospel and unchanging. The only similarity now when I get Ketamine is when things start and when they will end. I can have faith that Ketamine will repeatedly lift the depression and I will walk out of my doctors office feeling symptom free. I often shake my head. I feel like two different people. Susan with the depression filters on and now a version of Susan as I was truly meant to be, when the depression doesn’t hold me hostage.
One last insight from my experience with Ketamine and my recovery. There may be times when you will not be able to talk to due to the mind activity and the attention you give it.
When I initially asked Dr. Levine if I could have someone in the room, he did warn me that I might not be capable of talking to my husband. This was new. To be honest, I didn’t believe Dr. Levine. I hadn’t experienced an inability to communicate. I typically found myself sharing what was transpiring. I found that I was casually chatting away to my partner about what I was feeling without incident. I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly I was pulled into inner thoughts that I wanted to follow. Insights. I mentally raced to catch up so I wouldn’t miss anything. I was unable to talk to my husband. I glanced blindly at him. I wasn’t able to see him through the thoughts visually shaping before me. I was running circles in my mind trying to absorb this gift. A gift. That is how I feel about Ketamine. All my chasing for introspection made it difficult to talk.
I could hear Dr. Levine’s words in my head saying if it starts to feel overwhelming, just close your eyes. It will help. And it does. All of a sudden, I said to the room, ‘I am not going to be able to talk anymore.’ I wasn’t afraid. I was intrigued.
In the end, all of the effects you feel from the Ketamine Infusion are done by the time you leave your appointment. After four plus years, I feel like there are no lasting adverse effects from my treatments; just the helpful benefits Ketamine provides for me. The consistent healing and freedom from my depressive symptoms.
If you would like to become a provider of Ketamine Therapy try enrolling in The Ketamine Academy‘s online Ketamine Infusion Therapy training course; it would be an excellent decision and could be extremely helpful for others like me. The Ketamine Academy online program will surely benefit you and the mental health community.
In conclusion, If you know of anyone suffering with treatment resistant depression, like I do, let them know that Ketamine therapy may be an option worth looking into. It has been and continues to offer me relief from my symptoms.