During my third ketamine session at home, I went all kinds of places but this time⏤compared to my first ketamine session and my second⏤I stayed engaged and aware almost the entire hour-long session.
I also put the medicine (ketamine) in my cheek this time to see if it had any alternate effect vs. under the tongue. (Maybe just my imagination, but yes! seemed more potent, somehow.)
After listening to the first soliloquy on Soundcloud about always living for the future that never gets fulfilled because now we’re living in the future we were worried about previously—I spit in the cup, swished with my juice, and laid back on my pillows with headphones and eye mask.
Native American flute music = LOVE (this, I was convinced of)
Love, love, love: Playbacks of reels in my mind
The first message I got from my third ketamine session. Open my heart with love. I recall the little rhodonite stone my friend Astaarte just gave me, for opening the heart.
I watched this whole intense reel play out, a recap of the story my friend Liz told me about my godson and his basketball career and journey to senior year in high school. The challenges, pitfalls along the way, and I saw myself getting the whole story from him some time, just sitting across the table from one another. I felt such love in my heart for this kid and what he’d been through, then I saw him as a baby and holding him for his baptism (he was a chunky monkey!). I could feel tears welling from my eyes under the eye mask.
I saw my own mother and Daddy in a made-up scene, early life, maybe in some kitchen they shared, somewhere at some point. In this vision, Daddy picked me up as a baby, threw me over his shoulder, pinched my naked butt cheeks. I shrieked, giggled, I was adorable and funny and loving. The observing me just wanted to hug this child.
I got to feel what it must’ve been like to be my parents and to be enthralled with me, to love me.
That's the intention I created just before my third ketamine session.
Then I switched gears to love for my boys and knew there were more hugs needed for them. Heart-to-heart connections and making time for hugs more often. My youngest, home from school for the day, I made a point to give him a hug when I finished my ketamine session.
I kept telling myself “stay here, stay here, be engaged” and vowed to make it through the entire ketamine session “consciously” vs. checked out. So several times during this journey I was aware of having that conversation with myself.
Earlier in this third ketamine session, I started off seeing a cave wall with a beam of light guiding the way along the wall. Native American flute music plucked at my heart and brain the entire time.
The Beatles’ “Love is All You Need” surfaced with the message about nothing you can see that isn’t shown.
Maybe I’ll find myself making hearts—my expression of love in the world—like painting rocks in Costa Rica.
I really wanted to hug my kids today.
Spread love. Love, love, love.
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.
What happened during my first ketamine for depression therapy session (part 1 of 2)
The day is finally here! To prepare my mind and body for my first ketamine treatment, I took it easy yesterday, physically as well as dietarily.
As instructed in my Mindbloom kit, enjoyed a leisurely a.m. wake-up this morning and took a nice shower, all important to "set and setting" in preparation for psychedelic experiences. I got in my comfies, poured a small cup of decaf (no caffeine, no food), took the anti-nausea medication that was sent to me by Mindbloom, and eased into my ketamine experience.
What's in the Mindbloom box? Journal, pen, blood pressure cuff, guidebook, eye mask
Billie, my guide, has been greet, texting me this past week to see how to support me. My main challenge: managing my expectations vs. setting intention. There’s so much I want out of the experience. What if I’m sitting there and just don’t get it? Probably common to feel this way, so I realize it's important to let that go and just let the medicine do what it does and let things go the way they go.
I want to experience:
Is that too much to ask?
When I think about living I get happy and sad all at once. I used to just get sad…overwhelmed with grief…so it’s better than it was.
Thus my intention for my first ketamine for depression therapy session: LOVE LIVING (not the same as love my life)
Over the next couple of days, I'll keep journaling and checking in with myself. I'm not going to get attached to loving living being a "thing," necessarily.
Meeting my ketamine therapy guide
I prepped my Mindbloom box.
☑️Blood pressure cuff, check.
☑️Journal, pen and eye mask. Check.
Fruit juice for medicine after-taste I would pick up on the way over to my mom's place where I decided I'd feel more comfortable for the first go-round⏤guaranteed to have no kids, cats or other disturbances.
After lighting the candles and arranging my things, I went for one last pee before setting myself up on my mom’s bed and calling in on the Zoom link to connect with Billie, my guide.
She was younger than I thought she would be, cute, with long, curly dark hair, but mature, grounded, confident—and I had specifically chosen her based on her Mindbloom bio.
Billie asked me how my morning had gone and walked through how the process would go. Parts of it were a little scripted, as though she was reading from a guidebook, but I figured the guides all have to do that to some extent, in order to cover the bases.
My friend Tuey whom I'd chosen as my Peer Treatment Monitor (a requirement for all ketamine therapy sessions) was included for part of it so he would know when to check in on me.
Round-trip: About two hours for the whole appointment.
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.
Now I’m wondering if I will qualify for ketamine sessions. What if I’m too “well” already?
I had to take a questionnaire first and answer a bunch of questions ranging from mental health history to dependence on opioids, suicidal ideation, and what my expectations were for ketamine sessions. In the part where they asked about coordinating with my current provider, I chose no.
Photo: Hnapel, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
The reason being, my current line of treatment is traditional medicine and I’m not confident of how the conversation would go with my psych nurse, the person who prescribes me Wellbutrin and Prozac. I wrote in the questionnaire that I’d like to get off of those drugs permanently and I’m not interested in having psychedelic medicine conversations with people who aren’t open to it.
Admittedly, I don’t know if she’s open to it or not. I just don’t want my groove disturbed if she isn’t.
I also trust the pscyh nurse I’ll be consulting with before ketamine therapy to take into consideration any medications I’m currently taking.
Peer monitor for ketamine session
Did I mention I asked my friend Tuey to be my Peer Treatment Monitor? As part of the ketamine therapy agreement, I have to have a partner, family member, close friend or trusted adult who can create a safe, comfortable and distraction-free environment while I am in my session. The person can be a passive observer or just remain in a nearby room to check in occasionally.
Tuey is my best friend from New York, someone well-versed in ketamine therapy of the dance floor variety.
“What do I have to do?” he asked.
“I have no idea, but the guide will walk us through it when the time comes.”
I’ve scheduled my first ketamine session—presuming I qualify for the therapy—the first weekend of December.
I chose Tuey for obvious reasons:
He’s also seen me in despair.
God I miss him right now like the earth needs the sun.
I hope they see me as a good candidate.
Navigating the psychedelic medicine universe as a sober person