What happened during my first ketamine for depression therapy session (part 2 of 2)
After prepping my Mindbloom box contents and following instructions for preparation for ketamine therapy, i was ready to connect with Billie, my guide, who'd been texting me during the week to see if I had questions or concerns she could support me with. (Read part 1 of what happened during my first ketamine for depression therapy session)
Introduction to my ketamine therapy guide
When Tuey left the room, Billie had me sit on a chair with my feet on the floor so we could check my blood pressure. I removed the wrist cuff from its little white box in the Mindbloom kit (I’d previously charged it up at home) and wrapped it around my left forearm.
With Billie watching, I pushed the start button and the cuff began to squeeze and measure: 117/70 with pulse of 60.
A computerized voice read the numbers out loud and I also held it up so she could see it on- screen.
“117/70,” I repeated after the device, “I’m usually pretty low.”
Setting an intention for my first ketamine therapy session
I nestled back into bed for instructions on how to take the medicine: 400 mg of ketamine, a conservative dose for my first time, prescribed by Katherine, the psychiatric nurse.
“Now if you’re willing to share with me, please share your intention for the journey," Billie continued.
You place a dissolvable tablet under your tongue or inside one of your cheeks and lean forward slightly so you don’t swallow your saliva, which you have to hold in your mouth for seven minutes. Once the seven minutes is up, you spit that out into a cup you already have prepared nearby.
“Well I was writing in my journal this morning and I got to: 'Loving living.'"
Billie asked me to expand on the idea of loving living so I could get more present to my intention for this ketamine therapy session. Soon afterwards she signed off and I took my medicine. I put on my headphones and played the first seven-minute Mindbloom soundtrack on Soundcloud, "The Meaning of Life," by a guy named Sam Harris, talking about the trivial things people tend to focus on in life⏤but all there ever is, is now.
I could feel my mouth growing numb and tingly and after seven minutes I spit in the cup, swished with Gatorade, spit again, laid back against the pillows and adjusted my eye mask for the journey as the playlist rolled into a reiki healing track. Billie had advised me I could switch to the next track if I preferred but I resisted the temptation to control any aspect of the experience, starting right then.
I took the ketamine and here's what happened
Right after spitting out the ketamine and saliva mix and falling back on the pillows, I felt a rush of sadness. The tears leaked out around the eye pads of the Mindbloom mask they sent me.
“I just don’t want to be left alone," was the feeling behind it.
Maybe it was the release of grief and sadness I had just shared with Billie before we got started. The duality of life, how.I had created the intention of love living and all that it entails, including death.
I also made a point of not getting attached to “don’t leave me all alone” or to any of the other randomness that crossed the movie screen of my mind during the next hour, from what I would write about to whether anything was actually happening to friends I hadn’t seen in awhile whom I really loved and who make me laugh to mild boredom to thinking about who else might benefit from ketamine therapy.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and knew my hour was up. I couldn’t remember the last 1/2 hour, it seemed. I stirred, then sat up. Swigged some Gatorade. Felt fine, lucid, normal. Reached for my journal and realized it was already time to Zoom back in with Billie first.
We had a 20- to 30- minute follow-up session with questions about any physical sensations and anything I wished to share. Took my blood pressure. Did I feel nauseated? No.
Billie advised me to be sure to hydrate, take it easy, set aside time to journal today.
Also consider neuroplasticity, she reminded, and the brain's heightened ability to make new connections in the days following after taking ketamine. Keep writing and going inward, caring for self.
That's me at the Grand Canyon for the first time, a magnificent moment and special time with friends.
Having fun with friends is part of the ketamine for depression prescription.
I had my first ketamine consult and I am approved for ketamine therapy for depression!
Katherine, a psych nurse located in Pennsylvania, shared a bit about herself as we got started. She works with the Lenape Indians in Pennsylvania and has also worked with the indigenous tribes of South Dakota. I make the assumption she's had some pretty authentic experiences with shamanistic medicine and psychedelic journeying. After asking a series of health and medical questions, she determined I was a good candidate. I didn't have some of the disqualifiers such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, diabetes and so forth.
On a quest bigger than myself
Some of the most profound parts of our first consultation happened in the last seven minutes or so, when Katherine helped me identify the larger significance of what I'd shared with her from my personal journey. The stuff about rolling over in my relationship with my husband, becoming codependent and suppressing my voice, and losing alignment with my true self in my marriage.
"That's exactly what’s happened in the world, and that is where the positive masculine and positive feminine need to re-emerge on the planet," said Katherine.
Where was the positive masculine and positive feminine all these years on this planet? she posed. With the "I"-ness of patriarchy and everything being about taking and so little about giving, compassion and empathy.
"What you are seeking for yourself with the medicine, the ketamine therapy," Katherine pointed out, "this desire for connection with Self, and between Self and Universe and Earth and Everyone on it, is a microcosm and reflection of everything that’s happening on the planet."
I could feel my heart and mind expanding as she was speaking.
What you are seeking for yourself with the medicine, the ketamine therapy," Katherine pointed out, "this desire for connection with Self, and between Self and Universe and Earth and Everyone on it, is a microcosm and reflection of everything that’s happening on the planet."
"This joie d’vivre that you seek to re-establish," she continued, "is an expression of all four matriarchal lineages of your mother and father. So the four female ancestors on your mother’s side and the four female ancestors on your father’s side. You represent them with this persistence in recovering your joie d’vivre⏤your desire to express that in the world⏤it's your gift from them, to go on." (God, how did she know I was so into ancestry and this very conversation on a spiritual as well as epigenetic and genetic level.)
My first consult was a little bit clinical, a little bit metaphysical, and I dug it.
I suddenly felt like there was so much more I was bringing to the table for my ketamine journey⏤and so much more I could potentially get.
Reading Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Pscychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.
Setting my own intention...
I recognize that self-love and self-compassion are a weak area for me. No wonder my regular therapist repeatedly prescribes compassion podcasts as homework between sessions. Although I've gotten pretty good at self-care during the pandemic and post-midlife meltdown (December 2019), I miss feeling great about myself. I miss loving who I am. Self-care does NOT equal self-love.
Self-care does NOT equal self-love."
Back in the day the gay boys in New York called me Special K⏤nicknamed like the hardcore club drug "ketamine" we used to snort on the dance floor at Sound Factory.
Special K was what we did coming down after a night of dancing, sweating, and multiple hits of ecstasy. It was a way of easing out of one altered state and into another. It kept the party going.
“Time for breakfast!” Someone would announce, and out came the inch-tall brown bottle and mini spoon to serve up a bump of white powder to our eager nostrils.
I remember a 7 a.m. pileup at my girlfriend’s house, five of us draped across each other and a sofa, not being able to tell where one person’s body ended and another began.
“I can feel her cables,” said one guy, referring to my friend’s skinny legs beneath the blanket, which cracked us all up.
Somebody got up to go to the bathroom but decided it was better to crawl. It might’ve been me.
“Don’t look in the mirror,” everybody called in unison. “Whatever you do, don’t look in the mirror!”
Looking in the mirror after taking Special K was like looking at a sickly, papery, two-dimensional version of yourself. It just got too weird too fast.
One time I was so completely within the ketamine world⏤down in a K-hole, went the expression⏤that life outside those Manhattan windows ceased to be real. The only thing that existed was life in the apartment, and I was totally alright with it.
A couple of my friends had out-of-body experiences.
“I was on the dance floor and suddenly was up above everybody and could see people dancing,” my friend told me. “Even though I could see myself dancing down there, I was out of my body watching the whole thing.”
That was more than 30 years ago.
I never gave much thought to ketamine again. Never once craved it or wanted to do it or missed it in any way, especially being 31 years sober.
Responding to an ad for ketamine therapy for depression
But then the ad pops up on Facebook: Ketamine Treatment with Psychotherapists for Anxiety & Depression.
“Are you fucking for real?” I actually said out loud, still amazed that psychedelic medicine (although ketamine is not psychedelic necessarily, it often gets categorized that way) was seemingly gaining ground so suddenly.
I had to click and see what it was all about.
Depression? Yep. Got that. It's better than it was. At least I don't want to die all the time. Still, I found the possibility of a few psychedelic sessions, potentially weaning me from multiple antidepressants for good, to be quite seductive.
Aside from that, it just sounded like a fucking good time.
Lifting up out of this realm of reality?
Loosening negative brain patterns and behaviors?
Connecting with self and the Universe and realizing self-compassion...
How much is it? I wondered.
After watching some videos and reading about the protocol—everything very well-monitored and guided with professionals in mental health and substance abuse and a wide range of holistic modalities, I said fuck it, I’m doing it.
I’ve got to know if psychedelic medicine can produce the ultimate healing: get back my joie d’vivre. I haven't felt it since before my first car accident in 2014 and the onset of perimenopause."
I used to embrace life and experience authentic gratitude, in practice and belief, almost daily. In spite of my growth and improvement through intensive outpatient therapy, ongoing cognitive behavioral therapy with my regular therapist, numerous coaching sessions, meditation, energy release and grief work, and a return to doing things I enjoy, including engaging socially with friends and participating in what I consider to be my purpose in life (giving voice to things that matter to me)—a lingering cynicism colors my world, and I resent it.
Not to mention, I used to trust the Universe and I kind of just don’t anymore. Can ketamine therapy help me?
Navigating the psychedelic medicine universe as a sober person