Ketamine: Some Observations

Hello again. This is Susan from I have given my subject matter a lot of consideration. I thought I might slowly lead into this sensitive topic but decided I am going to just jump right into deep waters and address an issue I have struggled with once during my last 2.5 years of Ketamine therapy. I feel I might be able to provide insight to others that may have questions about Ketamine treatments and possible pitfalls.

I was recently watching a video on YouTube that another Ketamine user posted about his most recent treatment experience. I have enjoyed watching his videos because they are informative and real. My fellow sufferer, whose name is Jon, typically posts videos praising Ketamine therapy. I was aware that he has been struggling for many weeks now. He was actually pretty distressed and it showed in his video. He had been shaken to the core by the outcome of his last treatment. Like me, this gentleman has been getting Ketamine therapy to help his treatment resistant depression and has remarkable success, too. In his case, he has been receiving Ketamine for the last six months or so. I have been communicating via email with him and his latest Ketamine session has me wanting to address his situation in a blog post of my own. The reason I want to share his story is because Jon has valid concerns I want to address.

I want to respect my friend’s privacy so I will refrain from posting a direct link to his video blog just now. I am sure it won’t be too difficult to locate for those interested in knowing more. There are not too many patients writing or vlogging about Ketamine for depression.

In brief, the topic of the video Jon just posted this week was on how Ketamine failed him during his latest appointment. The anxiety he feels has made it nearly impossible for him not to feel discouraged. I will preface this by saying that prior to this recent post Jon has had phenomenal results with Ketamine therapy. I feel very optimistic that my friend will rebound when he is able to move past his fear.

I believe that when you find Ketamine and respond well to the initial treatments, you may encounter a session that doesn’t feel as powerful as previous Ketamine treatments you’ve had, and flashbacks of all the your previously failed treatment regimens weigh heavily on your mind. I experienced it. Doubt begins to swim in and tug at your toes. Doubt is a persistent nag and soon it has pulled you into its vortex. You want to fight back. You want to kick free and change these damaging thoughts that threaten to consume you. I pushed back. I had no choice. These thoughts want to convince us that we will always be suicidal and profoundly depressed. When Ketamine takes action you know how ridiculous this train of thinking is. I know how bogus these thoughts should be, but when it’s time for another treatment of Ketamine they are not at all absurd.

Those of us with treatment resistant depression are extremely familiar with medication failures. We know what it is like to try to be hopeful and have those dreams dashed by reality. The reality is that nothing in our past has improved the symptoms, and here is yet another treatment that we can add to our rejects list.

I am here to add a tiny bit of comfort. I hope. I feel that if you are responding to Ketamine therapy and getting noticeable relief, your chances of continued success are increased. You may wonder why I feel I can make a statement as bold as that. I can because there is no documentation proving otherwise. I say this with a massive smile on my face. I will also add a more acceptable reason for those that don’t find me at all amusing. I feel I can share my findings and insights because of my personal success with Ketamine. I waited a couple years to make my judgments and feelings about Ketamine public. I have a history of failed medications and treatments. A long history. As of 2015, I have only been using Ketamine to manage my depression. I have privately documented and observed myself obsessively. I would not endorse or boast rashly about treatments. I promise you. I naturally question and research. When I was introduced to Ketamine there was absolutely no information available online. In retrospect, I believe this lack of findings was best for me. I suffer with OCD and could spend hours researching and comparing myself to others. I desperately wanted reassurance that I was okay. I also needed to know what to expect. If I was having a side effect I wanted to know that I wasn’t the only one. I needed to know when I should call a doctor. I would not rest until I was well educated on whatever current treatment my doctors were trying. I will admit to you that I can totally appreciate being oblivious regarding Ketamine. I stopped looking and focused on my own recovery. It helped me focus on me and stopped my compulsive comparing.

I do however see the value of knowing what to expect. I will discuss all aspects of Ketamine therapy in future blogs. I plan to continue having Ketamine therapy for my treatment resistant depression and don’t see that changing anytime soon. For now, it does relax me knowing that it has been over two and half years and I am continuing to improve. I have worked through that doubt monster. I choose to stay optimistic.

I have written before about my anxieties about not being able to afford infusions. I have expressed how uncomfortable the thoughts of being engulfed in darkness again, even briefly, can disrupt my world. It is really no surprise that the depression wants to constantly remind us how it is in charge. Treatment resistant depression is vicious. I know in the beginning of my journey with Ketamine that I was terrified to invest all my hope in a medication that was still in clinical studies.

In early 2015, the information available consisted of vague studies and little else. I spent two years working through all my hang ups with Ketamine while simultaneously getting healthier and healthier. It is undeniable how much centers like The Injection & Infusion Clinic of ABQ have helped provide Ketamine to the public. Information is now available. I have spoken to other success stories too. It has been a pleasure to learn that more people are finding Ketamine and getting relief. We have compared notes and remarkably we all agree Ketamine is like no other treatment we have subjected ourselves to before.

I digress.

I watched Jon’s Ketamine video and couldn’t resist posting a comment. I usually reach out to a person in a more private avenue, such as an email or phone call. The last time Jon received Ketamine, it brought up a lot of unresolved issues and feelings. The pain of his memories and thoughts led him to believe and fear that Ketamine was failing him. Trust is difficult to obtain when our histories have demonstrated that nothing can improve the depressive symptoms. It is easy to assume that once again failure has shown its hideous face again.

I was saddened by his Ketamine video. The painful struggles Jon has been dealing with lately made me want to openly reply. I thought it was important; just in case someone viewed his video and had a less than ideal experience. I did follow my public comment to my friend by reaching out through a more personal email. It was my hope that he might routinely check his email. I wanted to reassure Jon. Plus, I am not sure how often he is online. I thought it might be helpful for him to hear my words.

I want to help others considering Ketamine as well as those in the early stages of treatment. I live in this world of treatment resistant depression and understand. I do. It is a complicated world. The depression filters are strong and incredibly believable. Our mental illness has an ugly default setting. Depression lies to us over and over again. It deceives us in very convincing ways.

I highly recommend getting cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to assist the Ketamine. I recently told my doctor that I felt my recovery needed three things. The first and most crucial is Ketamine therapy. Secondly, in conjunction with the Ketamine I need to practice mindful meditation daily. Lastly, I think we all need a professional to help process these new thoughts and feelings. Our depression has been lifted. It is amazing. We are in a honeymoon phase for months. Ketamine is our hero. We have nothing to complain about because we are too busy living life symptom free for the first time ever. As with any relationship the romance begins to waiver. Our expectations of what Ketamine will do for us long term increases. Ketamine taps into your subconscious and mends. In order to move forward completely the Ketamine may bring up unresolved issues from your past. It makes you very aware of connections between your thoughts and behaviors. It allows you to dig deeper and find the root. Ketamine allows you insights into your psyche.

Ketamine experiences are unpredictable, in my opinion. Even after two years I couldn’t tell you in absolute terms what my Ketamine treatment will be like during my next session because it is never the same. The Ketamine flows through your mind like a dream. Most people can’t control their dreams and Ketamine is very similar. I routinely crawl into bed and drift off to sleep and I am not concerned at all with what I may dream about during my REM sleep cycle. I sleep and have random dreams. There are nights that I have nightmares. I am pretty sure the action of going to bed didn’t cause my nightmare. The subconscious uses this opportunity to process information on a deeper level. Dreaming is often unpredictable and random. We don’t always remember our dreams but we dream all the same. Ketamine treatments are as close to lucid dreaming as you can get. It is similar to having a dream while being absolutely awake. You are aware of your thoughts. You are an observer of your own mind. This is both magnificent and unsettling at times. It is a process. Ketamine is healing but you still have to do the work required to make concrete changes.

I try hard to go into every treatment with faith and hope. I like having that deeper understanding and knowledge that Ketamine has worked repeatedly for me in the past and continues to assist me. I know how hard that is. I have cried and cried. And I was so afraid Ketamine would stop working for me. Ketamine is all I have and if the effects of this fantastic drug stop working for me, I am screwed. But it has. Ketamine has worked where no other treatments have.

I cringe when people mention undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) aka “shock therapy”. I went through 12 sessions of ECT several years ago. It was by far the worst thing I ever did to myself, and I would never recommend it. Instead, when my friend stated he would have to look into ECT, my genuine and gentle reply was, “please don’t give up on Ketamine. Don’t stop believing in its ability to help.” It is a process.

Ketamine is a process. I personally don’t feel the Ketamine failed my friend, but more so that Jon may not have been prepared for the emotions that the Ketamine treatment brought up.

Sharing is very difficult when you are vulnerable. It is immensely painful at times. Sharing in open forum runs the risk of haters. It is also challenging to be honest with those in your world; it can be pretty high risk if you make a mistake in judgment. I am sharing to educate and to help others like me. I know there aren’t thousands of resources about Ketamine for us to google. My writings are based on my experience with Ketamine and may be different from yours. I believe, after communicating with several Ketamine patients, that we are having similar experiences.

I know from experience with Ketamine therapy that it sometimes takes time to process years of suicidal depression. Depression so profound that leaving your home feels impossible. It is because of this emotional pain that I have found I confused the treatment process with my depression and anxiety disorders.

I watched the Ketamine video and listened to the words. I totally believe that Ketamine allows you to have these intense insights, and often these views into our psyche are depressing and extremely painful. I could relate to the frustrations. For me, I was terrified that Ketamine would fail. It was close to two years before I was convinced I found the right treatment. It took some time for me to stop terrifying myself with thoughts that the depression would return and kill me if Ketamine ever stopped working. I thought about it a lot. I believe it would be hard for anyone suffering with treatment resistant depression and undergoing Ketamine therapy with success. Ketamine helps, but we still have to endure the pain and process on the road to getting healthy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Talk Therapy are wonderful tools for helping sort through the confusion. Depression taints everything.

I have had a similar experience with Ketamine therapy once. I felt so doomed. It was a one time thing and really a breakthrough in disguise. I have touched on the subject in another post. I didn’t want to leave my doctor’s office. I can feel the shift when the Ketamine hits my system. There was one incident where I thought I did not feel any relief from the returning depression and I freaked out. I started catastrophizing. My thoughts latched onto the habitual belief that I will one day end my life because of my depression and lack of successful treatments. I circled the drain. Unlike my friend who has been afraid to return for another treatment out of fear of discovering Ketamine has stopped working, I didn’t want to wait the two weeks to try again. I didn’t want to waste anymore time obsessing. I had to put Ketamine to the test. I had traveled so far away from the permanent state of depression that I refused to accept that Ketamine simply wasn’t going to work anymore.

Ketamine is Hope. It is my hope.

Ketamine allows clarity, and often times it is extremely difficult to feel this turmoil because my depression has numbed most of my emotions and memories of pain. I am constantly frustrated with learning all these new emotions and finding the correct descriptive words for what these feelings are.

I usually leave my doctor’s office feeling uplifted, and I admit, when I thought I didn’t get that relief I have grown to expect during my visit I was super angry. I was crushed. I was so bloody angry. I was also scared. The doubts started ringing between my ears. I was severely depressed by the idea.

Ketamine works in mysterious ways. It has been 2.5 years of treatments now, and I often find myself struggling. I am no longer dealing with the depression but all the baggage left around from trying to cope with chronic depression. It is life. We all have obstacles we must conquer to be whole.

I really feel that the Ketamine allowed Jon to process painful events from his time trapped in the arms of depression, and he was unprepared. I have learned my depression default setting makes suicide seem like a logical solution. When life hits me with overwhelming feelings, my thoughts automatically return to suicide as the only real solution. I wasn’t too excited to learn that snippet of evil. I think once I made this connection, I could exam the bigger picture. It was probably the worst two week period I have had to endure. The doubt monster is full of passion when we are in a weak moment. For me, knowing that Ketamine has given me relief at all, when nothing else has, is powerful!

I am so confident that the next treatment Jon has will give him the relief he is craving and afraid he won’t get. I am. I strongly suggested and highly recommended moving his next appointment up. Jon doesn’t get Ketamine every two weeks like I do. His treatments are six weeks apart; sometimes longer. If he is anything like me, he will probably obsess for the next 6 weeks that the Ketamine won’t work.

It is difficult to need Ketamine. It is painful and utterly uncomfortable. I used to worry obsessively about what I would do if Ketamine stopped doing the job I expect, but I am here over 2.5 years later. I had one experience where the Ketamine didn’t get it right. I laugh because looking back, I realize it did. It was a gift wrapped in pain. It forced me to work harder to figure out why I didn’t respond in the typical way I usually do. I know that it was exhausting. I obsessed on all the pain I caused because of my illnesses and only wanted to die. Life often feels pointless to me. I feel these are my default settings and the depression is a lying bastard that wants to destroy me. I worried about it all.

Ketamine gives me clarity. We may not always be ready for what it shows us. We have been in darkness so long that the sunlight burns. I think that the Ketamine was telling Jon that it was time for him to face these painful feelings of regret.

I think Ketamine gives you a crash course in the grief process. It is frightening, but I know I have to process and push through. Change comes.

The Ketamine will give Jon relief and after his next treatment he will probably kick himself for waiting so long for relief. The ego and illness want 100% control, and I think it lies to keep that power.

I realize that my Ketamine friend is in a bad place right now and if the only thing he can absorb from my ramblings is to make a sooner appointment I am okay with that. I just don’t want him to continue torturing himself unnecessarily. Trust me, I do know. Recovery and healing are not linear. I hope if there are others facing the doubt monster right now that my words will offer comfort and strength to keep striving to get well.

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