Thank You Ketamine: My Journey Over The Last Four Years
Hello and welcome. 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 depression.
I have a long history with treatment resistant depression and anxiety disorders. My mental health has been my primary focus; often times without my permission.
I wanted normacy.
I craved it.
I believe I always will.
I sometimes feel heavy hearted when I reflect on the numerous failed medication cocktails I tried. The months wasted. The years spent in isolation trapped inside my mind and hell. 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 and agreed to ECT treatments. The months spent inside frozen walls. I was locked up for safety in multiple psych wards. 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.
I was laying in limbo back in January of 2015. My body was fighting to keep me alive while my mind dove straight for 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 because of a drug that is raising many questions and concerns from the professional world and patients alike.
It has now been four years, as of March 2, 2019, since I was introduced to Ketamine for depression and received my first Ketamine Infusion, and I would love to review, explore and educate others on just how remarkable Ketamine is for me with the hopes of reaching down into the dungeons to pull others into the light and offer them hope.
I thought I would ruminate.
I might even visit a few more avenues of healing I stumbled upon over the past four years.
There have been numerous tools in my toolbox that I was just unable to use or see the benefits from. That is not to say that they were unhelpful to me, only that I could never see the progress I was making. The relief felt temporary and often times unseen by me due to the depression filters blinding me and keeping me stuck in the fear of change.
Things like healing through mindfulness practices have been my number one instrument for growth.
Centering and breathing and their importance when experiencing daily stress and struggles have been bountiful for me.
I have implemented grounding techniques to keep me in the moment and which make it possible for me to reduce my anxiety when the world is overwhelming my senses.
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 these methods for coping with my mental illness firmly in place and tend to avoid being completely swept away by the goblins trying to steal my light.
I have written a lot lately on the different strategies I use for managing my life and recovery. In this article I want to return to the beginning of my journey. I want to discuss for those considering Ketamine therapy what it was like after my first six infusions. 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 four 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 to March 2, 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, dopamine.
I was extremely aware of treatments and what the different classifications were. Antidepressant treatments like Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI), Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI), Tetracyclics, Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI), Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA), Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) and Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I was treated with each type of drug at different times in my life over the course of three decades fighting my war with depression.
I had little to no confidence that yet another type of medication used to treat depression would work for me. My family had hope and would try desperately to talk me into having faith that maybe this time….. I honestly was afraid to believe because I knew the depths of despair I was already living with that one more blow to my psyche would shatter me completely and I would have nothing, absolutely nothing left besides a heartbreaking goodbye. It was impossible for me to postulate. I refused to entertain Ketamine working for me, because I couldn’t afford another disappointment. I was presuming the worst would happen as that was my learned modus operandi.
When I met Dr. Steven Levine for my consultation, I was more concerned with not being eligible to receive Ketamine. I was telling myself all sorts of negative stories. I figured I would not be a candidate for Ketamine infusions due to health issues and all the failed treatments I had in the past. I mean, intellectually I understood that because of my past history with antidepressants, ECT, and hospitalizations I would be a perfect prospect for this new experimental therapy.
In early 2015, Ketamine was still pretty unknown, especially in the field of psychiatry. There was very little written on the drug and that was different for me as I tend to educate myself on every aspect of the medications I took in the past. I think this was a positive component for me because I couldn’t form preconceived notions on what my outcome would be.
I am thinking back to my first visit. I was profoundly depressed. I had nothing to lose as I was at the end of my rope. I had already told my family that this was the last medication I was willing to try. I just couldn’t keep fighting in a war that left me decimated.
I spent about forty five minutes talking to Dr. Levine about my history, and because I pride myself on being well informed about the medications I take, I asked many questions about Ketamine and the infusions. I felt he did a remarkable job at explaining to me the drug Ketamine, how they felt it worked and what I might experience during my infusions. He basically helped pacify my anxieties.
I think the thing I remembered the most was his using the game show Family Feud as a way to effectively describe the top five words used to describe the experience. I really found that reassuring and quieted my fears. The top five answers on the board were bizarre, odd, peculiar, dream like, and an out of body experience. I think that sums it up accurately.
I found Dr. Levine willing to explain the procedure and offered ways to cope with the treatment if I felt anxious. One of the suggestions he made was if I started to feel overwhelmed, to close my eyes. I also recall him saying that there may be times when I would want to talk and describe what I was experiencing but may not be able to articulate it.
It was helpful.
I talked a lot during my infusions. It has been four years, and I still tend to vocalize my experiences to my current doctor. It is like a stream of consciousness. There have been times where I find myself mesmerized by the sensations and experience and can definitely state that the top five answers are correct.
It is definitely strange, but not necessarily in a bad way. I have enjoyed my treatments with only a couple of upsetting episodes. A negative, for me, was on the third infusion I burst out crying and could not stop. I was literally crying uncontrollably and could not for the life of me explain why. It was as though a dam had broken. It was embarrassing and a bit frightening. A valve ruptured and all the years of pent up emotions came spilling out and it was not a pretty sight. I even screamed profanity at Dr. Levine and demanded he leave the room and not return any time soon; all the while shedding tears and shrieking. This was not my experience during the first couple infusions and did not make me happy. I felt ashamed by my behavior. I was reassured at the end of the session that it was okay to cry and people react differently and there is no right or wrong way to respond during treatments. Looking back on that appointment I really feel it was cathartic and healing. It wasn’t pleasant to feel that exposed emotionally, but I think I had been holding that anguish in for decades.
Most of my Ketamine treatments have been extremely gratifying for me. I find them insightful and healing. I feel immensely calm and reassured. I see myself and the world I am living in more optimistically. I felt free in so many ways. I discovered happiness.
In the beginning, after my first infusion I saw little to no difference in my depression and outlook on my wellbeing once the session was over. I wanted to hold onto the serenity I had during my infusion and it was short lived. I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed and sleep.
For me, it was my family that 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 was gone and I was back in that familiar state of gloom. That was not at all how my husband and son described me though. I wasn’t looking at what I was doing or saying that was different. 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 entertained the 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 the feeling of peace I experienced during the infusions.
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 meet my current doctor about three weeks later, and those weeks were not fun at all. I had been given a glimpse of the possibilities Ketamine had to offer and I wanted it now.
I would soon learn that Ketamine takes time to heal decades of depression and faulty coping mechanisms.
It has been extremely frustrating at times.
I would receive a reprieve from the depressive symptoms only to have them resurface at very inconvenient times. The depression would take me out of commission for days leading up to my next appointment. I would grow angry. It felt like such an intense punishment.
Had I not suffered enough?
Why must I keep getting the rug pulled out from underneath me?
I didn’t understand how the day before I was partaking in life and wake the next morning feeling suicidal.
It was the most difficult part of my recovery; the not understanding.
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. I felt clarity of mind and hopeful.
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 often times debilitating anxiety.
My doctor taught me about centering and meditations. Mindfulness practices.
I was resistant.
Why couldn’t the Ketamine fix all of me?
Why couldn’t the Ketamine effects be permanent?
I didn’t feel I should have to work or fight anymore. I did my time. I wanted that part of my life in the past.
It doesn’t work that way.
The Ketamine was doing the job it needed to by giving me a reprieve from my symptoms and I was going to have to work with it.
Once I accepted that my recovery was only just beginning, I was finding 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 behavioral therapy and behavioral modification 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. I had years of bad habits for managing my stress and depression. Many methods that were self harming and self defeating. I had to break the cycle.
It was challenging.
I failed many times.
I did however find hope.
Ketamine was hope for me.
It 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.
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.
And more difficult still, acceptance.
I still struggle with acceptance.
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.
Four years seems like a long time, but compared to the thirty plus years I was plagued with untreated depression it is truly only a fraction. Every year I see more healing and growth. The obstacles I once had are non-existent, but new ones appear. I am constantly having the 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 and handling what is in front of me. 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 and frustrating at times, but still a leap from where I was four years ago.
It is a journey.
I may not always like that, but that is the reality. I can either resist and know that what I resist will persist, or I can do something differently.
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 needed.
I am no longer filled with red hot rage or anger that keeps me stuck. 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.
Thank you Ketamine.
Thank you for being my antidepressant.
Thank you Ketamine for saving my life.
Thank you for all the moments in between doses.
Thank you Ketamine for the clarity and insights you continue to offer me regularly.
Thank you for today.
I am grateful for all the numerous ways you have changed my life.
Thank you for the reprieves so I am able to do the work I need to do in order to heal.
Thank you Ketamine.
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 four 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 verses 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 could help you or someone you love.
Also, 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.
I have been generating a Ketamine Providers and Locations list and I update it regularly. Please visit my personal website for the full provider list. This list may help you find a clinic in your city or state. I update the provider list regularly. I highly recommend individuals contact me if you administer Ketamine or if you are aware of a Ketamine provider not in my directory; I will happily add new Ketamine clinics.
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.