I’m on Ketamine!
That’s an odd thing to hear, isn’t it? Amber? On a party drug? Amber hates parties. Amber would literally explode if she ever went into a club. What’s she doing Special K for? Is this a dark web thing? Amber, are you buying drugs on the dark web? Did all of those anti-drug specials in the 90s fail you?
Oddly enough, it was my doctor who suggested it.
A few months ago my psychiatrist sat me down for a frank chat about my mental health. I’ve been going to the same one for over three years now and she was able to point out my own personal pattern. I’d be okay for a few months, then I’d spend a month horribly depressed (or struggling with anxiety), my medicine would be adjusted, I’d be okay for a few months, then a month depressed, etc etc. I wasn’t shocked at all as that’s been my life for an odd twenty-something years now. I’ve been on dozens of different medications and they would help a little but never fully get me to “normal”. We, the nice doctor said, need to do something drastic. Have you ever heard of Ketamine, she asked.
I most certainly had. Not from personal use, but from the few sketchy friends I’ve had over my life. The party drug, I replied.
Her answer was shockingly not “Amber I think you should go out and party hard. Just fucking go crazy.”. Instead she told me about the semi-recent development in using Ketamine to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, all of that stuff listed in my personal records. That she personally knew a doctor who did the treatment and that more likely than not it would be covered by my insurance. She even called him up to help me schedule an appointment and get all of the referral papers in order. By the time I walked out of her office I was scheduled to start my treatment in two weeks and had at least a dozen open tabs on my phone about what the fuck Ketamine even was.
Ketamine, for those who don’t know, is a dissociative anesthetic that’s fallen out of favor with people but is still used on animals (at least according to my hasty research). It’s main side effect is a dissociation/out of body experience with the possibility of hallucinations sprinkled on top. While it is used illegally for getting high there were a lot of articles and papers about it being used to treat depression. Well, I thought, might as well give it a shot. Worse comes to worse at least I can say my insurance paid for me to get high.
Two weeks later I found myself in a tiny doctor’s office located next to a dance studio. The first thing I noticed was holy shit this place was silent. Everything was muffled. Nurses and patients spoke in soft whispers. The noise of everyday life was simply not there. It reminded me of being in a library but with far less coughing. A very quiet nurse walked me through the paperwork before I met with the doctor. Don’t worry, the nurse said, he’s real nice.
The doctor was in fact real nice. He sat down with me and explained everything in details that flew right over my head. He then explained it to me in a way I could actually understand. Depression, he said, was like an old fashioned TV with an image burned into the screen. That no matter how many times you change the channel you still see the same thing over and over. Medications can adjust the brightness or fix the static, but that image will still be there. Ketamine, however, was different. Ketamine got rid of the image. Because Ketamine physically changes the pathways in your brain, instead of working around them. It doesn’t work with everyone, but when it does work it’s life changing. He couldn’t promise me a miracle, but he could promise me a shot at things being better.
Well, what did I have to lose?
I have now been doing Ketamine treatments for nine weeks. Twice a week for one month, once a week for the next month, then every-other week. Here’s what my typical treatment looks like:
I arrive at the doctor’s driven by someone else (shout out to Sebastian, thanks Sebastian) because as they stated multiple times you cannot drive up to twelve hours after taking Ketamine. And without spoiling anything boy are they right. After filling out paperwork on how I’m feeling that day I’m escorted to a cubical in the center of the office. Inside the cubical is a super comfy chair, a side table, a phone charger, a jar of candy (very important) and a lamp which I immediately turn off for reasons I will discuss shortly. The nurse sits me down, takes my pulse/blood pressure, and leaves to fetch me a fuzzy blanket and noise canceling earphones. These are also very important.
The Ketamine is given to me via three nasal sprays taken five minutes apart. With the first one I feel nothing. By the second one I feel a little loopy. After the third one I think okay, I can handle this. I think this every time and every time I am drastically wrong. Folks, when the Ketamine hits it hits hard. All of a sudden the world gives out under me. Those arms and hands coming off my body aren’t mine. Clearly they’re being piloted by someone else! What about my toes? Do I even have toes? I try to look at my phone but everything is wiggling too hard. And that’s when the sensory overload hits.
I want you to take a moment to pause and feel the world around you. Feel the clothes against your skin. The light coming in through the window. The constant purr of the refrigerator. Everything that you normally just push aside to focus on more important things. Now imagine all of those sensations were EXTREMELY ILLEGAL. Like sirens going off as cops break open the door and slam cuffs on you illegal. This is why I turn off the lamp. Why I slap on the noise-canceling headphones. And why that fuzzy blanket is the only thing saving me from losing my God Damn Mind. For the next two hours of my life I do everything I can to turn into a potato until the high passes.
Oh, and the candy is there because the spray’s aftertaste is awful. Yuck.
Reality returns almost all at once. I go from potato to sitting in a chair feeling a bit foolish about forgetting my toes. The nurses take my pulse and blood pressure again. The doctor then sits down and has a chat with me about how the session went. Asking if I had an issues, any dissociation, hallucinations, that sort of thing. Then after a minute or so of making sure I fit comfy in my meat suit I wobble out the door to my ride home. Although the high has passed the side effects last a good 2-3 hours afterwards. Usually that means I spend the ride staring at various flashing lights and then devour everything in my kitchen when I get home.
But Amber, you ask, is it working?
And my answer?
Holy shit YES.
The depression is gone. Gone. Gone! My anxiety is silent. Life is better. Colors are brighter. Food tastes better. Talking is easier. Going outside is easier. Everything has changed. I’ve been crushed by my depression and anxiety so long I never noticed its terrible weight. But now I feel light. I can’t remember the last time I felt so free. It’s like I gained a super power. I ramble because I can’t find the right words to describe it. I don’t know if I can describe it. For the first time in twenty years I feel like myself again.
I’m not going to say “everyone run out and do Ketamine right now”, but if you’re struggling like I was why not talk to your doctor about it? See if it’s the right thing for you. I know at least five people who are curious about the treatment just from seeing how much it helped me. Maybe it’s time for you to do something drastic too. I can’t promise you’ll have the same results, but you got to try, right?
The doctor couldn’t promise me a miracle, but I think I ended up with something even better.