It seemed that I was surrounded by darkness; dragged deeper into the hole of depression every passing day, losing hope by every flickering minute, and feeling myself fade away every ticking second. Depression had been a constant in my life, but it had never gotten this bad. My father had passed away unexpectedly at the start of the year, and I had been in the denial phase for about a month until it finally hit me: he was no longer there. At that moment, I felt so weak, so vulnerable, so tired of fighting against the monster named depression inside of me. My depression was something that I had struggled with often, so once again, I prepared myself to go through the same process. I knew that this would be harder than anything else I had faced, but I was in no way prepared for what hit me.
I was getting help: I was on my 6th antidepressant, regularly visiting my psychiatrist, and taking my prescribed trazodone. Yet it all felt hopeless, my depression had taken over my life. From the minute I woke up, to the second my body gave in to sleep, I felt like I was carrying this huge weight on my shoulders; that was the weight of my depression. Not only had it taken over my mental health, but also my physical health. I was always on the lighter side of the spectrum, but due to this overpowering depression, I could not eat or sleep well most days, which made me lose weight, drastically. It is as if I did not like anything anymore, and I knew that at that moment if I did not act, nothing would change, and I would be digging deeper into the hole of depression.
The problem was, I did not know what to do. I could not bear to tell my psychiatrist that, yet another antidepressant had failed me, nor could I continue the path I was on right now. At that moment, I decided to rely on the ideology of a fresh start. I started to google different clinics and treatments around my area when I came across the most bizarre thing! Ketamine Infusion Therapy.
I felt an instant wave of confusion wash over me, I had many questions surrounding this topic: isn’t ketamine an illicit substance, is that even safe? Being a goody-two-shoes, I had always associated ketamine with illegal drug activities and never imagined it could be used as a therapeutic medicine. I decided to look at other options and didn’t think of ketamine therapy much. That is, until, I realized, there were no other options. After seeing my drastic weight loss, I felt myself getting weaker by the day, mentally and physically. As I investigated more affordable options, I noticed that most treatments took a lot of time to show results, and I needed something that could help me right now. As a last-minute, desperate attempt, I signed up for an appointment to discuss Ketamine Therapy with my physician.
The IV treatment was just barely affordable, but I knew that this was my only hope of getting out of my grave depression. Knowing the financial commitment of this treatment, I decided to take some things into my own hands in hopes of making my treatment more effective; I started meditating, trying to find inner peace with the battles going on in my head, I began talk therapy again, probably the 6th or 7th time in my life, and I also tried to come in terms with my trauma by reading books to help me acknowledge the circumstances I had been in before. Accidentally I had also come across a subreddit post, in which I met many other individuals who were also going through ketamine therapy. Through this online community, I was able to learn a lot about the therapy, from the overall experiences to success stories. This community did give me the support and hope I needed.
When my Ketamine Therapy first started, I didn’t have any magical, out-of-the-world experience. Fortunately, I did see an immediate change in my mood, I felt happier, more positive, and hopeful than I had been in the past year. The ketamine therapy was scheduled throughout six weeks, with a total of six infusions, and I was done with four of them already. The night before my 5th ketamine infusion, I laid in my bed and focused on my breathing, trying to meditate and relax my body before drifting slowly to sleep. Suddenly a feeling of coldness washed over me, I looked down to see my hands trembling. In the flash of a second, I felt the shaking take over my body. This could not be happening, No No No! After all my progress, a panic attack! I tried to calm myself down, tried to breathe deeply, but nothing was working. I felt constricted to the bed as the shakes got worse, my breath seemed jammed in my lungs, as my heart rate accelerated through the roof. I did not know what to do, I felt so scared; I had had panic attacks before, but nothing like this. I knew that I had only one option: to take my clonazepam. I opened the bottle with my shaky hands and swallowed the pill, the storm inside of me started subsiding. I laid in bed thinking about the consequences of this panic attack. I was scared that taking the clonazepam would affect my treatment, I finally had hope of getting better and the panic attack made me feel like I was at stage one all over again. I stared at the ceiling, twiddling my thumbs, as I waited in anticipation for tomorrow.
The next morning, I anxiously got into the car as my husband drove me to the clinic. I felt overwhelmed with concern, I kept repeating the memory of the last night in my head, thinking of what else I could have done. Once I got to the clinic, I felt a little more relaxed, I considered it my safe space. As my provider brought me to the infusion room, I told her about my panic attack, and how I had to take clonazepam. Despite what happened last night, we decided to go with the planned dosage. I prepared myself for the 40-minute session, slowly laying down and relaxing as the ketamine took over my body. I felt something that had never happened before. I was pulled into another world. From the day my father had passed away, I was carrying this weight, of depression and anxiety, and unexpectedly it had been lifted. I felt so free, so loved, so safe, as if a voice were telling, me, it was all going to be okay. The emotions I felt were indefinable, but I just knew that I felt so complete, I felt like myself again, I felt that all the pieces of myself that were broken due to my depression were put back together. It was this magical feeling I had had, and I could not have been more grateful for it.
When I opened my eyes after that session, I knew that ketamine had saved my life.
I was in such a turmoil of depression when I first started this treatment and looking back, I am so glad I made this decision. I knew that at first, I had my doubts, but I have never felt better. I write this experience with much satisfaction, happiness, and relief. I write because I no longer feel as if I am surrounded by darkness, but rather I feel optimistic by every passing day, hopeful by every flickering minute, stronger by every ticking second.
Fictional writing by Yana Flowers