Hello all. This 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 without my permission.
In this blog, I will discuss how I have been able to stitch the past and present together with the help of Ketamine treatments. It has been over four years now that I have been receiving Ketamine injections regularly. I must say that in the beginning it was very frustrating to understand how getting well takes time. All I wanted, I thought, was not to feel suicidal every waking moment. I wanted to silence the negative chatter that kept me wanting to escape. I didn't want to be a prisoner locked up in my thoughts and dark feelings. I wanted to experience the life I thought others were so fortunate, lucky really, to have been given.
Why was I being punished and plagued with this all-encompassing death sentence?
That is how I saw my mental illness; it was like I was a death row inmate and I was the only one that could see the bars and locks. I was in solitary confinement, just counting down the days to when I would freely and willingly flip the switch and end my life. I truly believed that if I could just discover the correct medication to rid me of my depressive symptoms all would be well. The reality is much different than the whimsical dreams I had about how others lead their lives when they were not tormented by the evils of clinical depression. A depression, that after decades and decades of attempts, I could not find the antidote for.
I felt I had a sick and twisted mind that would not respond to traditional means for combating the disease.
All the wasted time.
All the suffering.
All the side effects.
The memories lost due to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).
Cocktails of medications.
I began to believe and was convinced I was the problem. I was creating this dreadful world inside my mind. It was all my fault.
I was more intelligent and could figure out a way to swallow the painful feelings and push through the darkness.
I wasn’t a failure.
I was good enough; perfect. A person worthy of this life given to me. I must truly be a horrible person to think this way. If I was acceptable and loved surely one of these medications would alleviate my symptoms and allow me to live.
I could control my obsessive thoughts.
I could slay the dragon.
I could be someone else.
If only, if only, if only, led me to thinking it is all my fault. I am a disgrace. I am pathetic. I can’t cope. I have no strength, no courage. I must enjoy misery more than happiness. I deserve this confinement and self destructive existence. I must be a truly terrible person.
I am nothing.
If it wasn’t me that was the problem, then I would definitely be responding to the drugs and therapies that have helped numerous people before me.
I am the problem.
However, I guess I could never honestly persuade myself to these beliefs because something about all my efforts and desires to try new medications and therapies to rid myself of the beast that is depression countered the logic that something must be fundamentally wrong with me.
Yet, at the same time it was difficult not to argue with myself because my actions and attempts to take my life would leave me feeling like a fraud. I mean, how can I say I am trying to get better if I keep participating in self-destructive behaviors?
I was exhausted and hopeless.
I was only scraps of dull fabric in an unmade tapestry. All my sewing needles were bent or broken. The thread I was using was knotted or completely frayed. I was a damaged illustration of what might have been, if only.
My arms felt like concrete. I felt a heavy weight on my chest. It hurt to breathe. My days were filled with questions and uncertainty. I was involved in severe daily panic attacks and my insomnia was out of control. I wasn’t capable or able to pick up the materials I needed to piece my life together.
I feel that with the depression comes paranoid beliefs. My world was filtered with some obscure dirty lens. I could pull back the camera and wipe the lens clean and the reality around me was still utterly foggy.
How am I to make creative art when I can’t see the beauty around me?
Depression hinders and kills.
I know I began to think people were against me. I would unconsciously search for all the behaviors and actions by others to support these thoughts.
The textiles before me were tarred and unusable.
Depression tears down your self esteem and desire for life. It makes you hate, yes hate, everything you are. I felt unnecessarily weak in character. I lacked all confidence in my ability to create. I felt nothing. I thought only of death and the end.
The pictures around me were dismal and bleak.
One day, four years ago, Ketamine changed all of the mute colors.
It has taken time to swipe away the cobwebs and clear up the cluttered room that houses my supplies and crafts. The self assurance I gained from being free of depression, if only briefly, following my initial Ketamine infusions, made it possible to begin to select strong threads and materials to work with and start to create a masterpiece.
The title of my creation in the making? Hope.
I have gained so many treasures over the past several years, with the benefits coming straight from my treatments with Ketamine, that I have numerous projects in progress.
The patchwork is slow. The stitchings flawed at times. I am discovering new fibers and techniques to try.
The colors are changing; developing.
I can still find myself afraid that this time the Ketamine therapy won’t work. I am not as terrified as I was during the first few years, but I am a natural worrier. I am working on that.
I know now what being without depression feels like. I can’t go back. I sometimes fear what would happen to me without Ketamine. When the depression steals my attention, I can only focus on disastrous self-destructive thoughts.
I have also noticed at those times that colors are not as bright. It is as though I am walking through thick fog. The world and the people in it are all moving and showing all appearances of living, but I walk around in a haze; suffocating. I can still feel as if I am drowning. I don’t feel like I am a part of society.
I am an invisible visitor.
I only desire to find my safe place; in the past this often meant solitude with suicidal ideations. I resist isolating myself now. Ketamine is my life preserver. A flotation device that can leak if I wait too long to get my Ketamine therapy pumped back into my throw ring.
My depressive symptoms have many faces, and I can recognize the familiar ones easily without questions now, but it wasn’t always that way for me. It takes time to piece my life together. When I watch people talking, and I believe they are judging me severely, I ask myself one simple question. Is this the voice of depression? The cascade of misunderstandings continue. I am convinced the world is against me. It horrifies me to know that I willingly believe that every single person in the universe hates me. I understand the whys. I loathe depressed Susan. I find myself pulling too tight on the embroidery thread that I am using to mend my tapestry of hope and they threaten to break and leave me dangling.
When the depressive symptoms resurface, and they always do, I find it frustrating to accept them. I am discovering the length of time between injections of Ketamine can be close to twenty-one days now, but as the appointment time approaches, the obstacles are drastically more difficult to maneuver and my art is placed in a holding pattern.
I can’t fathom anyone appreciating me or my mental health issues. I surely don’t. I do feel fortunate that I have a wonderful support network and that the suicidal thoughts have been minimal. The more informed I am about what my symptoms may look like, the better I can address the issues and know what to expect and how to cope with the shifts.
Ketamine is not like other antidepressants. A major positive about getting Ketamine is it doesn’t have lasting side effects to deal with. However, the therapy itself has been something I have had to adjust to over time. It has been a struggle to be reintroduced to myself and how to handle the raw emotions that were disguised by the depression.
The problem I face when I am about two days away from getting my maintenance Ketamine shot is just how unpleasantly aware I am that I am heading into depression and having no control over stopping the progression into darkness.
I have been using Ketamine as a treatment for depression for over four years now. My fourth anniversary was in March. The most fascinating aspect of Ketamine therapy is the ability it has given me to distinguish what is my true self. The person I am without depression. It is so obvious to me now how completely different a bad day or a bad week is from clinical depression. It is like turning off the lights; pitch black.
I seriously feel like two people.
I have found that in the days leading up to my next Ketamine appointment I begin to sink into that familiar pit of despair. It is baffling because most of my time in between treatments I feel somewhat “normal”.
I wasn’t sold on the idea that there was a real distinction between being depressed and experiencing life as others do. There is a huge difference for those of us with treatment resistant depression. I completely understand the differences between clinical depression and situational depression now. I even understand how a really awful year, full of loss and disappointments could make a person feel. However, what I am referring to is depression so thick you lose the most important part of life….. yourself. No amount of time or counseling will alter the belief that life is not worth staying around and trying to be a part of it.
As many of those that are aware of my ruminations have read in past blogs I am revisiting the subject of treatment resistant depression for those just finding my articles and website searching for help for themselves or a loved one.
When my depressive symptoms re-emerge, I feel like I can’t push past the emotions. I have noticed that I physically feel heavier, and it is difficult to hold my head up; my eyes feel glued to the ground. I lack all my motivation, drive, and I move slower. My smile is gone and it becomes impossible to breathe correctly. If I don’t get my Ketamine injection within the next few days I know the symptoms will only worsen. I never look forward to these overbearing feelings. It is a struggle to think with all the depression filters on. It has been my default setting for decades and it is not an easy path to stay off of.
I find I don’t recognize myself anymore. The depression grabs hold so unbearably tight and no amount of coping strategies I have been taught and utilized previously will help me.
I have been known to ask myself many times over the last four years why I can’t, I am not kidding you, I can’t push past the sinking feeling as I spiral downward. I honestly have no control. These feelings of doom can still anger me because I want so desperately to be the lead in my life. I am trying to accept that I am not. I have mental health issues that I didn’t ask for but must learn to live with. I have major depressive disorder, and I have to approach my life differently. I get that. I know there is much more work for me to do in order to heal. However, I notice that I am more negative, self critical and impatient as the days draw closer to my Ketamine therapy.
It is interesting to observe from a clinical point of view, but I am a human being and not a science project. I continue to wrestle with understanding, acceptance and living.
I have been getting Intramuscular Ketamine shots every two weeks for years and have been fairly stable for many months now and recently decided to extend my time between booster shots to three weeks. I wanted to know if I could tolerate and manage my life for longer periods of time, because I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I don’t have the issues with profound depression I once had. I have been feeling pretty positive and addressing my outside issues without the chaos that my mental illness once claimed in my life, and I am seeing the progress and benefits of using behavior modification and cognitive therapy techniques.
Wouldn’t it be great if I were cured?
That would not be the case. However, I was able to go further between appointments without symptoms arising. I went about nineteen days feeling upbeat and engaged in life. Then, the typical signs that the depression was knocking on my door and I had no ability to lock it out started to reappear.
Acceptance is needed. Anger arose. I felt discouraged and slightly deflated by the knowledge that even though I went for a longer period of time between Ketamine treatments, my determining that I would no longer suffer from clinical depression were nevertheless misleading.
It arrives, and I am feeling the desperation that is always linked with my depression.
This day, it couldn’t arrive fast enough for my liking.
The last couple of days have been grueling and sparks animosity and unforgiveness in me. I don’t appreciate feeling out of control of my emotions, and as hopeful as I feel about getting reprieve from the Ketamine, I do battle with negative, self defeating, and overwhelming doubts and the dialogue, aka depression, wants to own me, force me to believe that this hateful cycle will never end, and that even Ketamine won’t save me this time.
Before my shot, my doctor likes to have a recap and wants me to summarize my last three weeks and how I am coping. I want to bypass this exchange and just get the Ketamine injection.
I went into his office feeling dreadful. I was dragging. I walk through the office door and I sit down, shift my weight on the sofa, and attempt to deeply inhale and exhale. I know I won’t be able to blatantly state,Give me Ketamine now!” I know by now that exclaiming my impatience will lead to deeper discussions about my state of mind. Yet, all I am thinking is, stop the depression now!
We talk. I review with him. I mention my symptoms and their intensity. I say I am discouraged by the return of the depressive feelings; that it once again means I still need to work on acceptance of my mental illnesses. It is a theme. You would think after suffering for decades I would be more accepting, but I am not. We discuss and touch on the ways I have been taking care of myself. How, even with the presence of my hated friend, I am tolerating it better and better with time. I respect that. It is not an easy task. I am discovering personal growth is a painful process. We wrap up conversing about my time between appointments and my feeling lacking in the department of self forgiveness. I mention that the reality is that my hope was that maybe I wouldn’t need Ketamine any longer, and I resent being wrong.
My doctor just smiles. We both know that this hasn’t been the first time I have had this wish.
When he gives me my shot, I quickly glance at the clock. It is a habit. The effects I am looking for usually occur within 7-9 minutes. I used to obsessively ask what the time was because of my anxiety and irrational fears that this time I wouldn’t respond positively to the effects of Ketamine. That feeling doesn’t consume me today. I casually want to be aware of how much time will pass before I feel that switch and observe how my negative thoughts begin to evolve and turn hopeful and positive. I find something soothing in the knowing.
Ten minutes…. Maybe less.
I notice I am no longer aware of the heavy feeling in my chest. I can take a full breath. It occurred to me years ago that before the Ketamine I would actually have a difficult time breathing. I routinely use centering exercises to ground myself in the present moment. I have been practicing this technique since I was introduced to my Ketamine doctor. He taught me the importance and skill of centering and focusing on the breath during my very first visit with him. Looking back over the years, I remember, in the beginning, how difficult the practice was for me. It felt unobtainable to me. When I began implementing the grounding and breathing applications I could, literally, only perform it standing in front of a mirror. It was as though I had no sense of how it felt or what it looked like to breathe properly; no sense of connection to my body or mind. I think I had unconsciously conditioned myself to hold my breath out of my massive anxieties and fears of living life constantly afraid and unhappily. I was always trying to escape being suicidal me. I am proud to say that I can and habitually use my breath and focus to calm myself with little effort.
However, I found over the past couple days leading up to my Ketamine injection that I couldn’t benefit or utilize this coping strategy. Why is that? I believe that one reason may be that my depression constricts my muscles. I am aware that centering makes me focus on the present moment, and when I am depressed I want to do everything not to draw attention to it. It is probably a combination of factors as to why breathing seems complicated to do when the depression resurfaces.
Anyway, I digress.
As my appointment progresses, I am calmer and lighter. I feel giddy. I feel light on my toes. I am always in awe of the insights I gain while I am getting Ketamine, as well as, when I return home. I have even caught myself dancing to the Jeopardy theme song. I am shaking my head because yesterday, overnight even, I was dragging to motivate myself to get up to use the bathroom. It is like two people. Night and day.
My thoughts are not nearly as negative and self loathing.
The camera lens that was foggy and distorted yesterday is on auto focus and the clarity is undeniably crisp. I am still exhausted. Ketamine doesn’t fix everything but it sure makes my life more manageable. I say that with a big smile.
I am thinking, “What is Ketamine doing for me today?”
It is making it possible for me to function. I embrace what tomorrow may bring instead of crying at the thought of having to relive another depressive episode. I have started many, many days crying because I wanted to die and I hated the world for keeping me here.
Thanks to Ketamine, I feel ready to face my commitments and the depressive symptoms are nonexistent.
Night and day.
I have managed to accomplish a few more stitches in my patchwork called life.
Thank you Ketamine.
What is even better is the slight smile I catch on my face when I pass a window or mirror. I am thrilled to report that the Ketamine will continue to assist me in being depression and symptom free for the next 19-21 days.
I am blending the colors and creating a new me.
I am curious as to what my tapestry of hope will look like next week, next year. What new colors will I add? What shade of thread will I select? Will I find appreciation in the dark colors I once despised? Will I have gratitude for the spectrum of light radiating and shining new prospects for me off the color wheel? What fabrics and designs will I weave into my story? I am excited about the possibilities and the desire to pick up that sewing needle.
What would your tapestry look like if mental illness loosened its grip on you? What piece of art would you want to represent your journey? What colors would you add to the overall appearance?
What is even more fascinating to me is that without the darkness and shades of my depression and the years of nightmarish colors, my artwork of hope wouldn’t have the contrast it needed to demonstrate my growth. I will passionately try to remember that, when the depression returns, as it will…..
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.