My Ketamine Story: Explaining My Experiences With Ketamine For Those Considering Ketamine Therapy

mdma depression treatment

My Ketamine Story: Explaining My Experiences With Ketamine For Those Considering Ketamine Therapy

Hello again.  This is Susan from  Welcome to my Ketamine blog for the Boise Ketamine Clinic website.  I am excited to have another platform on which to share my experience with Ketamine treatments, in hopes of educating others on the potential this drug has for helping those, like me, with Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD).

As many of you know, I suffer with TRD, anxiety disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  I am a huge advocate of Ketamine therapy for depression.  I write about my experiences with Ketamine treatments on my website,   I want to introduce myself to you because educating others on this new method of treating depression is so very important to me.  I am 100% convinced that had I not been told about Ketamine, I would not be sitting in front of my computer writing this opening.  I wanted out of the center of my hell.  I wanted to find a path to take me away from the bleak existence I lived in. I felt so trapped inside a demonic labyrinth.  I was flat-out depressed and dying.  Ketamine offered me a key and a map.  I am on a journey.

I am always amazed at the number of emails I receive asking me what Ketamine Infusions feel like.  I have written about this a few times in the past.  I will reference a few blogs I have written on the subject.  Writing on the subject of Ketamine is a major theme in the Gayhart household.

In an interview my son, Matthew, conducted with me for his freshman research paper at VCU, Ketamine, a Brighter Future for Those in Darkness, he tackled the tough questions that I still find myself being asked by fellow sufferers and professionals alike.  The following are a couple excerpts from Matthew’s research paper describing my initial reactions to Ketamine Infusion Therapy and comparing Ketamine treatments to traditional methods of antidepressants.

One of the major ways in which Ketamine is far better than the alternatives is the speed with which it takes effect. Normally, an antidepressant takes over a month to show any signs of working, and then takes the same or longer to get off of it before the next month process can begin; Ketamine, on the other hand, shows results within the first 24 hours after the infusion (Sewell). In the interview I conducted with a woman who recently underwent the Ketamine treatment, also mentioned this fact when discussing how Ketamine compared to the range of other treatments she has been through over the years. She was most impressed with the rapid rate of effect of the drug, and Susan told me, “The anxiety was lowered within an hour for the first time in my life, i was alert and calm for the first time in my life.” (Gayhart) She also highlighted the fact that she was mentally alert and coherent, the same can not be said for many of the other treatments. Susan tied both the comparison and the results together very nicely, for she has experienced many treatments, including every antidepressant in the book, Electric Shock Therapy, and talk therapy, and she puts Ketamine above and beyond all of them, but more moving than her personal feelings on the drug are her results. She told me that on entering the room to get the first treatment that she was actively suicidal, planning and preparing, and rated her depression at a 10 on a 1-10 scale. When I interviewed her 4 days later, she was no longer suicidal and rated her depression at a 4-5 (Gayhart).

Another aspect of Ketamine being used as a depression treatment is the fact that there are no known negative side effects. When looking at many of the drugs on the market today, a majority of them have a long list of possible side effects. Gayhart (2015) said in an interview that there were absolutely no lasting side effects of the Ketamine treatment. The only effects that she mentioned were those that took place during the treatment itself, all of which were more introspective and spiritual. 

I feel pretty strongly that any effects I feel during my Ketamine sessions are so worth the relief I get.  I have no desire to change my treatment plan and in fact want to educate others on my success and the possibility of a hopeful existences surrounded with sunshine and very few stormy clouds.  I have learned that everyone has bad days, but they are temporary.  A very new concept for me.

I will summarize a few of the interview questions Matthew Gayhart asked me for his research paper with the ultimate goal of answering the number one question I am asked time and time again and in doing so reduce anxiety and pacify the inner dialogue insisting this is yet another fruitless therapy.  I hope by the end of my blog today you will have the answers you need to determine whether you want to investigate further.  So here goes…..

The number one topic I find in my inbox is, how will Ketamine make me feel and how can I prepare for treatments?

In the early part of 2015, when I was first introduced to Ketamine and the information about Ketamine use for depression was extremely limited, I stayed away from the internet and focused solely on my recovery.  The reason I mention this is because most of the information I provide in my blogs has not changed drastically for me over the last couple years.  However, if I discover insights about my treatment I do try to add updated information whenever possible.  I am combining many sources, journals, and writings from the past couple years in order to help interested sufferers and families understand Ketamine through my history and experiences with depression and Ketamine therapy.

My dream is to offer hope to those still in darkness.

I have continued to get Ketamine treatments with success.  It is not for everyone.  I understand that.  It is the right drug for me.  It could be the answer you, a family member or friend.   If I can help ease your mind with my insights I would feel blessed.  I am living in the light and do not see that changing now that I am receiving Ketamine therapy regularly.

I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, which is also called Major Depressive Disorder, at the age of 18.  However, I feel that I have suffered all of my life, being aware of it at the early age of 6 or 8. I was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at that time.  I have also been diagnosed years later with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

I found myself fighting demons I didn’t understand.  I could no longer deny how this inner turmoil was affecting my life.  I first started doing talk therapy at the age of 18.  I knew something wasn’t right with me.  My depression has led me to having to go into hospitals for psychiatric care; both inpatient and outpatient care, more than a dozen times, over the course of 20 years.  Doctors have tried a combination of 3 or 4 psychiatric medications mixtures to lift or alter my depressed state and lower anxiety levels.  It was probably in excess of 2 dozen or more combinations, or “Cocktails”  as it is often referred to.  I also received 12 ECT treatments over a one month period during a three month hospital stay, about 15 years ago.  I can regretfully conclude that none of those treatments worked.

I laugh when I am asked to compare my treatment plan with Ketamine to my past medications and regimens. The first thing I will point out is the most obvious and that is, the Ketamine doesn’t take 4-6 weeks to figure out if it will work.  That can not be said about traditional antidepressants.  I was told I would probably know right away if the Ketamine was going to work or not, and I did, within an hour.  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 very obvious.  Clearly I couldn’t hide the fact that I felt better. You could hear it in my voice.

I can state after 2.7 years of Ketamine use, I have had no reports of any side effects.  In fact, on many occasions, I only feel the relief the drug gives me and rarely experience the dissociative effects often mentioned in articles about Ketamine.  I do have sessions that feel intense, but the majority of my experiences now are mild.

In the beginning, for me, during the treatment I experienced the effects of Ketamine, but once I had the treatment and it is over you no longer have to worry as you did in the past about traditional lingering issues such as weight gain, liver issues, diabetes. mood swings, suicidal thinking, anxiety, urine retention, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other internal discomforts, insomnia, and the list goes on and on.  With Ketamine therapy I have had nothing negative to report. When you leave your doctor’s office those “usual”  or “unusual” sensations brought on by the Ketamine are gone.  They have found no evidence that you will have any medical side effects.  I can agree and say that I have not experienced any of the negative effects I did with other treatments.

I will note that after over 2.5 years, I have yet to discover any negative or adverse reactions. My only complaint is that I have been known on occasion to vomit during my intramuscular Ketamine treatments, but a small price for 8-10 days being symptom free.  It is unpredictable and doesn’t occur during every session.  I can’t remember the last time I vomited during my Ketamine treatment.  As a side note, you can take an anti-nausea medication to combat this but I tend to be a purist and strive to minimize the medications that I put in my body.

I know that Ketamine is known to be a psychedelic drug, and my experiences with this side of the drug vary.

When I met Dr. Levine, my first Ketamine provider, he shared with me that he likes to answer this inquiry about the psychedelic aspects of Ketamine with his patients by 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 say it was a very introspective time, spiritually awakening, with out of body sensations; like you literally feel like you come out of your body which allowed me to feel the difference between being depressed and symptom free.  I feel this separation between mind and body makes it possible to truly heal with confidence.  I feel after years of having nothing successfully manage my depression, I began to doubt myself.  I started to believe I was the problem.  I thought, if all the proven medications and treatments for depression don’t help me, it must be me. It wasn’t until I experienced Ketamine infusions that I was blessed with the knowledge that in fact I did have clinical depression.  I discovered years ago that my type of depression has been classified as Treatment Resistant Depression disorder but I still had doubts.  It was these sorts of destructive thoughts that continuously fed the suicidal beast living within me.  I wanted out; permanently.

It was only when I was treated using Ketamine that I experienced a shift in my mood.  It made it so obvious to me that my symptoms were real and not a horror show on repeat in my mind. I remember saying to my husband, who was in the room for support during my infusions,  ‘I don’t know where my body is’.  I couldn’t see my entire body.  I could see and say,  ‘Here are my shoulders, but I don’t know where the rest of my body is.’  It was the strangest thing, but I was not upset or afraid.  I was more curious. Calm.  Warm.  While I was investigating this feeling, I remember my whole face lit up when I saw my feet.  You feel, or I felt, disconnected from my body. It is as though you come out of your body and you are able to wander around the room without moving an inch physically.

It is like lucid dreaming.  It is like dreaming, but you are awake.  It is like you are in a dream and all of this bizarre shit is happening while you are consciously aware 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.

You are experiencing the world in the third person.  It is like you are 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.  It is like you are a different person and you are watching your thoughts and reactions.  It is very profound.

You have, or at least I did, this insight into yourself from a third party point of view. These thoughts are much deeper thoughts than the common superficial levels we communicate. The thoughts are so fast and it is fleeting.  It is like a water cascading over you and you have to flow with it, but you just keep going with the thoughts.  Easy.  No judgments.  What a relief.

I could also look at the wood on the 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 personally find the Ketamine treatments enjoyable.  Yes, most of the time I love getting my Ketamine injections, because it takes me far from my depression and self loathing, making my chances of recovering and being a fully functioning whole and happy individual much more realistic.  Ketamine, it can bring out things inside of you, deep childhood issues and spiritual epiphanies, too.  I feel that I wasn’t always ready for the new information and feelings; maybe.  It is almost three years since my first infusion and I am constantly discovering new elements and depths to my personality and these insights can feel profound.  I cried at points during two of the infusion treatments,   It was bizarre, because I almost felt like I was Buddha on a mountain with my insights.  I laugh.  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 that it brings you to tears.

I think, looking back and even some of my recent appointments I found that the Ketamine felt like I took a couple shots of Tequila. I got all warm inside, giddy, and relaxed.  On more than a few occasions I would then feel many of the dissociative effects I have already mentioned.  I did get that “trippy” feeling during several of my treatments, but not every single one.  The sessions were all different.  I can only figure that once the IV needle was in place and the Ketamine entered my system, I was calm.  It was shortly after that intoxicated feeling began that I was able to see the textures in the walls and doors; 14 minutes or so.  The colors and paints appeared puffed up; like I was viewing the world like a 3D movie.  It was not like the hallucinations or color trails associated with LSD and mushrooms.  I feel that these drugs change the world outside of you; like the walls are moving and you are seeing things melting.  I feel most psychedelic drugs could cause you to believe you are seeing the devil or any objects that are not present or reality.  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 very dream-like.  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 think that the major drawback with Ketamine therapy, 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 been very different each time.  They definitely follow a well defined path, but they have been so completely different.  The only similarity is when things start and when they will end.  There may be times when you will not be able to talk, due to the mind activity.

When I 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 was 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 thoughts 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 my 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 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.  I feel like there are no adverse effects from my treatments; just the helpful benefits Ketamine provides for me.

I am hoping these accounts of my journey with Ketamine help you understand Ketamine a bit better.  I do have a few tips and tricks for coping with Ketamine treatments that I want to share. I was told the number one thing to remember is to close your eyes if it feels overwhelming.  I agree completely.  I have actually closed my eyes without realizing I closed them and have shockingly said to my doctor that it is all black I see nothing.  I was puzzled.  It occurred to me that maybe my eyes were closed.  So I asked.  Yes.  They were in fact closed and nothing I could do would open them.  The strangest thing about that incident is, and I kid you not, my eyes felt entirely wide open!  It was odd.  Yes, odd.  It is a correct word to describe Ketamine for sure.  It is right up there predominantly displayed on Dr. Levine’s Family Feud board.

If I were to give suggestions on managing the possibility that you may start to feel overwhelmed by the sensations and emotions you might experience during your infusion, I would say that the first and most important thing is to reassure yourself that these thoughts and feelings are temporary.  It is very important to remember that all the usual feelings, thoughts, and moments of thinking your world is changing or like in my case I was a fish in an aquarium or in a television sitcom, is temporary.

Once again, it is temporary.  Temporary.

You might find it helpful to remind yourself of this if you start to feel slightly out of control.

It is temporary.  And worth it!!!!

As I stated, Dr. Levine suggested gently closing your eyes.  I find this helpful as well.  It is a beneficial coping strategy to close your eyes if it feels overwhelming.  It will minimize the stimulation the mind is experiencing.  Your mind may seem to be in sensory overload. At least that is how I felt. I felt that by closing my eyes, it eliminated many extra components and I believe this act has made and will make those fleeting times of uncertanity or discomfort feel more manageable and less of a concern for you when and if times of upset present themselves to you.  I have used all these techniques at one time or another.  I find them incredibly calming.

If you combine the two strategies by adding the physical element, closing of the eyes, with the mental aspect, gentle messages to soothe yourself, such as “this is temporary and will pass”, you can enhance and strengthen your inner dialogue with statements like,  “I will feel some worthwhile relief shortly.  I will feel emotionally weightless without my depression engulfing me and threatening to obliterate me.”  I find a few basic reassuring sentences like these help immensely.  It really works amazingly well for me.

Let me see…. Oh I know.  Be curious!

Be curious.  Investigate with wonder and not fear.  Listen and be open.  I feel Ketamine infusions reveal snippets of gold.  Insights and connections.  It is worthy information.  It aids the healing.  Try not to push away thoughts and feelings.  Be curious.  I wonder why I feel this or that…..  I ask myself this question in almost every session.  I am a detective.  A private eye hired to dissect my mind for 45 minutes.  I pay attention to everything with mild amusement.  Try not to judge yourself.  Just be inquisitive.

I find if I investigate the thoughts and feelings instead of believe the old tapes that insist on playing non stop before Ketamine.  I think finding the idea of being a fish in an aquaruim amusing takes the terror factor away.

Go with it.

Try to have fun with the image.  Wow, what if I was an fish in a fish bowl?  What would be in my tank?  What type of fish would I be?   Would a fish see the room I am in as I do?

Run with it.

It is only scary if you resist. I find that during the treatment time I am not necessarily in control of everything and every thought. I cried uncontrollably during two of my treatments, and the doctor calmly assured me that the experience was probably years of pent up emotions that desperately needed to be expressed, and it felt like a massive purging to be honest.

So be curious.  I find it a huge asset.

I am sure I could come up with more coping mechanisms to handle the infusions if time allowed for it,  but I need to wrap this blog up tight.  I know for me, having too many options can get tricky too.  I am sure I will be addressing this topic again in the future.

I remind myself of the changes. I smile.  I giggle and laughed.  I think the idea and the possibility of experiencing a sense of calm and uplift more often in the future definitely drove me forward.  And with every treatment I heal.  It is a long road, but at least now I am moving forward.  I am not stuck in darkness. I understand that pain and suffering happens, but it doesn’t need to consume me.  Ketamine allows me to manage my illness and live.

My last suggestion to my comrades would be to read my blogs.  If you are not in a place were you are capable of reading and absorbing my words, ask a loved one or a dear friend to help.  I try to include helpful information in my writings and personal musings.

If you are interested in educating yourself on Ketamine therapy for Treatment Resistant Depression, or even MDMA therapy, check out the four-part series I wrote answering questions about Ketamine use, based on my experience with Ketamine therapy over the past 2.5 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 versus 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 healthcare professional.

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.  If you or someone you know are considering Ketamine infusion therapy, please visit the Boise Ketamine Clinic website for low cost ketamine infusion and injection options.  If you are not in the Boise, Idaho area I suggest approaching a local professional and start educating them on the benefits of Ketamine.  It doesn’t hurt to ask for what you need.  You can also visit my Ketamine Provider & Location List to find a provider in your area.