Ketamine: Is it just a drug experience or does the drug provide the experience needed?
I was curious about this question, posed in Michael Pollan's How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.
When you take ketamine or psilocybin or ecstasy or LSD or whatever it is in a therapeutic setting or under clinical guidance, and then you emerge with some new form of consciousness or a message from the Universe, is it just a drug experience or does the drug provide the experience you needed to move into a new frame of mind? To alter your consciousness as it were.
Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels
Someone on the outside looking in might well say, "Well of course that happened, you were on drugs!"
But one of the practitioners that was mentioned in the book reminded Pollan such a point is irrelevant. You're getting what the Universe is delivering no matter what and the drug is facilitating that particular possibility.
In which case, there is really no case to be made for, "Yeah, but you could get a message from the Universe without the drug."
You're getting what the Universe is delivering no matter what and the drug is facilitating that particular possibility.
Some may argue that we get messages, inclinations, intuition, judgment all the time without taking psychedelic medicine. Shouldn't that be sufficient?
I say it's sufficient if you find it so.
For me, all the dis-ease and mal-aise that guided me to this path has indicated to me there must be something more or that I must find something more. I am not an easily satisfied human being. I always seek improvement, greater clarity and connection with self and others and beyond. When that went missing, I went looking. So I consider whatever comes up from psychedelic journeying as crucial to my all-around self-exploration and well-being.
Have you tried psychedelic medicine?
What are your thoughts on having a "drug experience" vs. the drug facilitating an experience that allows for something else to open up?
The mindset video for session 3 of my Mindbloom ketamine therapy reminded me of the importance of set and setting. Here are a few tips for set and setting for ketamine sessions:
Intention: Loving myself and being present
I’m also committing to being present and engaged on this journey as I haven’t remembered much of what transpired in my mind during the first two sessions. I am creating the intention of:
…and continuing to go wherever the medicine takes me.
I am a bit tired of mind this morning so I am aware that I could get lazy about staying present (or is it focused?). I’ll check Mindbloom for pointers.
I take the pill that prevents nausea.
It's called Ondansetron (also called Zofran or ODT), a 4mg tablet.
Dissolve 1 tablet under the tongue 60 minutes prior to each ketamine treatment.
Here's what happened during my third ketamine session.
Read Sober Psychonaut disclaimer for people in sobriety exploring psychedelic medicin
I felt a surprising burst of energy and joy after ketamine session number four.
Saturday afternoon after my morning ketamine session, I spent hours in bed writing and working on my website and wasn't tired or lethargic but relaxed and at ease.
At 5 pm we came together from all corners of the house to go for a family car ride and maybe a hot chocolate. There was still snow everywhere, including my car top so when I went to adjust the sun/moonroof to see the nearly half-moon for our ride, snow came crashing in on us, which I found hilarious and chalked it up to the best part of the outing.
We rode in the dark on Lancaster Avenue and listened to music, grabbed drive-thru hot chocolates at Starbucks and kept meandering. When we got home, I proposed watching the new Get Back Beatles documentary, which was thankfully met with zero resistance so I did a quick subscribe to Apple TV and we all settled in to watch together.
On Sunday, I awoke with a surprising amount of energy which lasted all through the day (an unusual thing since I'm often longing for a nap in the afternoon). I hustled with writing and then proceeded to take down the Christmas tree. This was after driving to Conshohocken in the morning to meet up with my sister and niece, visiting from out of town. We had breakfast together and gabbed a couple of hours, then I strolled around IKEA (lots of steps). I was still going strong by 5:30 pm when I gradually tapered off and made some dinner.
HEALTH. One of my intentions from fourth ketamine therapy session! Being in motion is good for hip pain.
FREEDOM. Of mind, being present, enjoying even the mundane. I cranked the stereo loud for several hours as I did the undecorating. Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, The Beatles Revolver album. I went through all of them, album by album. Music reminded me of how much music matters in my life.
JOYOUSNESS. Obviously, joy showed up, too.
The night before after everyone cleared the room from the Beatles documentary, I sang Beatles karaoke by myself.
Note to self: MORE SINGING
My energy continued when I retired last night, putting away all my clean clothes, unpacking my suitcase from Christmas in Maryland, tidying up. I was physically tired and ready to be done but I did it and I was motivated to do it.
That's how I would sum up the last two days of activity. I had a natural compulsion to get things done rather than the feeling of dread and "I have to..." that often comes up for the simplest of things in my life whether it's Christmas decorating, putting clothes away, or organizing a drawer.
I just realized how nice that feels⏤to have a natural compulsion to get things done. A relief.
During the guided meditation for intention-setting, the girl narrating said to hold your intention for how you want to be and experience life these next few months. To create an intention in the positive: "I allow myself to feel joy and happiness" vs. "I don't want to be sad."
Truth is, I almost didn't do this today.
But here's what happened during my fourth ketamine for depression therapy session.
I woke up, felt every aching bone in my body from slipping on black ice yesterday, let alone these last weeks to going on several months really, the hip pain has gotten so bad I can barely cross the room sometimes. The hips, it seems, affects the knees and even ankles.
Fucking car accident.
My mood has been a bit low and who knows whether the horse came before the cart on that one. Not feeling good physically is always a recipe for low mood and the pain cycle continues: pain - depression - pain - depression
So I'm a little weepy and feeling sorry for my sorryass self this morning.
But I did get up and take a shower which had a purifying effect. I asked for help, got my husband to make the bed, kids fed the cats.
And I've committed to hanging in bed today.
Am I just a spoiled rotten human? Demanding to be more happy about living?
Work, too, has been gnarly.
I always love what I do⏤health and medical content writer⏤but I don't do well when I'm buried with work.
It ceases to be fun and fulfilling.
And so there's that.
So my intention for this fourthe ketamine therapy session is:
...is encompassing of all of that. Freedom of mind, especially freedom to do, say, be, go⏤all of it. Health, all-encompassing but especially this pain thing. And joyousness, levity, in the moment. Levity for my life, levity about my life.
I was reading somewhere about the sensitive sort (can ya tell that I am?) left too long to wander aimlessly about the mind will always find something to brood about.
Am I just a spoiled rotten human? Demanding to be more happy about living?
Blood pressure 117/74
In I go...
And she was gone (hopped the K-train)
I swished the sour ketamine around in my mouth (three tablets to the cheek, I prefer to sublingual; not sure it matters but man-oh-man sessions 3 and 4 have been intense). The leading soundtrack fed to me in my Mindbloom program talked about if you had lost it all⏤death, that is, no return, what sweetness there'd be in the ordinary of this moment, if you could just come back here and savor it all again. Using the example of a disgruntled family around the dinner table, everyone bickering, what we wouldn't give to have those moments if they were taken away.
I swished and swished and could feel the intensity of the medicine coming over me as the sound segued into an ominous rhythm. All was dark, dark, dark. My timer indicated seven minutes so I spit in the cup, rinsed with juice, spit again and fell back into my pillows with eye mask and new over-ear headphones.
And I was TRANS-PORTED.
I was one with the bed.
No separation between me and it. The sound was all there was. Rolling and thundering through darkness. I held on and rode with it the entire time, looking in all the corners and crevices of my mind.
One room filled with dark, I could see a ceiling high above there were white squares neatly arranged. Then just inhaling and becoming darkness again.
Thoughts were minimal. Blessed relief!
But I did pause as a few popped up.
I missed my father. And then real tears flooded over the rims of my lower eyelids.
But I finally fixed on my intention: FREEDOM, HEALTH and JOYOUSNESS.
They couldn't have been further from where I was⏤but I stuck with it.
Eventually the soundscape shifted⏤akin to Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine"⏤leaving the heavy industrial drumming, demanding drone. A synthesized chime came in, piercing the auditory experience, poking and plucking at my brain.
These things came up for me.
Soon I was noticing my surroundings again. I bent one leg to the side. I wiped the tears under my eye mask. I suddenly doubted my husband had actually set the time for one hour and would he remember to check on me?
I peeked at my laptop and it indicated 10:59 a.m., still 10 minutes to go. I got restless but resumed headphones and eye mask, synthetic ambient music easing me into the coming down (or out?).
I was momentarily bored, ready for it to be over, but remembered everything that comes after is as key to what happens during a ketamine therapy session.
It was BOOM. Wow. I went that time. Really gone. There was no me.
I was the darkness.
Once you start dipping into the psychedelic universe, every door opens unto another and you become hungry for more information. It's overwhelming at times so i try not to subscribe to every single thing out there but rather look for what's really speaking to me and useful for where I am in my inquiry.
That said, here are some psychedelic medicine resources I've found particularly useful.
Psychedelic medicine movies and films
Here's one you can watch with the kids and everybody knows global fungi expert, Paul Stamets, also referenced in Michael Pollan's book:
Psychedelic medicine apps
Again, there are more and more apps out there to support you in your psychedelic medicine journey or facilitate integration in between sessions. But these are the ones I've started with and have enjoyed using:
Psychedelic medicine websites
Lots of good stuff out there and also important to follow reliable sources. Here's what I like:
Psychedelic medicine articles
A few resources that may be of interest as you continue your research:
Have a favorite resource or article? Feel free to share it in the comments.
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.
Since my second ketamine session and days beyond, I've asked myself "Is anything happening?"
As I read more about the dissociative effects of ketamine, I recognize that perhaps that blank blue canvas and having very few thoughts flashing in my mind was an example of that experience—disconnection from the trappings of human existence, including the constant mental reel.
Wow! That’s kind of cool.
I did have that during that last session. Such that I don’t remember much of my thoughts at all.
In the time since, I have microdosed with psilocybin but taken no other mood-altering medications. I’ve wanted to write—a lot. Creative urge has been scratching at the door yet work load at my 9-to-5 has been prohibitive.
I’ve also done some pretty good integration work since my Sunday session, including:
I’ve been thinking about Costa Rica a lot as well. My trip is coming up in February, and I'm pondering the need for resources to take that trip, how I’m going to manage it money-wise and work-wise, and whether I should invite anyone to go with me.
And should I get a second job doing global online teaching so I can make money to pay down credit cards and afford my travel lifestyle?
And how can I get this Ketamine Diaries book out there fast enough to keep up with what’s going on in the market?
I felt prompted to get in touch with a book marketing friend to help me get clear about how to best bring my ketamine stories to the marketplace, so I have an appointment with him this week.
I've also gotten so tired of being in physical pain from my car accident a few years back and resulting arthritic stiffness and pain in knees and hips⏤so I made an appointment with my chiropractor. I haven’t seen a chiropractor in probably five years.
AND⏤I discussed with my regular therapist about taking someone to Costa Rica. By the time that conversation ended I was convinced this next trip needs to be just me doing the leg-work about eco-living in community⏤so I can get an intuitive sense of whether it’s right for me, and therefore whether I would bring it to others.
Psychedelic support, wherever you are in your 'journey'
So I guess you could say I’ve gotten some answers, but I might have gotten those answers with or without ketamine. Except, if you’ll recall, my intention for my session was: Clarity, Source, Peace.
Clarity: Clear next steps in my life for major projects.
Source: Being sourced, by Higher Power, energy, Universe, whatever you wanna call it.
Peace: At ease with what is and what isn’t, not getting worked up about not having done “enough” quickly enough.
I really liked what I read on one of the pages of Michael Pollan’s book, about the term “recreational use” of psilocybin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and so forth. He stood corrected by one of the people he was interviewing who told him that recreational doesn’t necessarily mean frivolous or without intention.
Which is totally in line with some of these psychedelic support groups I’m seeing listed all over the country, with names like Using with Intention, Psychedelics in Recovery, and Navigating and Integrating Non-Ordinary State Experiences.
In a few more days, I’ll have a follow-up integration conversation with my guide Billie and perhaps more to share with her. Perhaps she can also extract from my experience even more that she can contribute to me. (Guides are not there to be therapists in any way or even to coach but more as support as you work through each session, quite independently at this point.)
My ketamine experience, of course, is different from the intravenous ketamine treatments I’ve heard others talk about. My friend in New York said that ketamine clinics offer ketamine IV sessions for about $1,000 per treatment, out-of-pocket—a hefty price tag compared to Mindbloom. $386 is charged to my card three times for a total of six dosing sessions plus clinical consults, guide support, online portal resources and more.
I’m starting to feel hopeful, more hopeful I suppose, that there’s something here for me. What will be the determining factor? How will I know that it worked?
Waking up and experiencing joy in living? Joie d’vivre.
Embracing life in every aspect, the dark and light, the inevitable death and decay, because I’m profoundly, solidly, spiritually connected in some way?
Wanting to move my body and get out in nature so I can express gratitude because I’m alive and healthy and feeling good?
Having a dissociative experience (or multiple) that affected me so deeply I’ve been able to completely release whatever was in the way of joyful living?
I think about my regular therapy sessions and how much progress I’ve made in the last few years⏤since my mental meltdown in December 2019 when I kicked my son’s door down one awful, unforgettable, regrettable night.
My therapist is good, really good. She rocks and I love her. She gets me more than I get myself sometimes. She was with me there on the precipice and she’s helped me come back from being in that very dark place.
I feel a tad guilty not telling her about my psychedelic medicine exploration. I know she’d be great about it, not judgey.
I think I’m hesitant to tell her there’s little bit that just keeps hanging on, I don’t even like to call it depression at this point. Just that thing that has me hang back from loving living.
How much more can we pick it apart in therapy?
It’s not a therapy thing. To me, it’s soul sickness or soul disconnection or one of those woo-woo things that only make sense to people who know exactly what I’m talking about.
I may tell her at some point, when I’m further along and have had more experience, more confidence in the whole process. I also haven’t told my mother about my psilocybin experiences although if she’s been reading this, it’s already out.
Psilocybin and sobriety
As a sober person, I have not a pang of guilt or concern about experimenting with mushrooms to enhance my experience of life, to have more fun, to push my consciousness to further limits. I am thinking soon of taking a deeper “heroic” dive, involving a larger dose of psilocybin, which requires having a “sitter." (If you’re going to be responsible about it in this new day and age of psychedelic medicine, there are guidelines and standards for partaking). A sitter is similar to a Peer Treatment Monitor, someone who is there to check in on you and be available to help you process your journey and deal with anything difficult that might come up. And of course assist, on the off-chance of a medical emergency.
Psychedelics is seriously calling my name and there’s something about it, and Costa Rica and my writing, that's all coming together serendipitously.
I think I need to talk to my friend Ed about the eco-village thing in Costa Rica.
I’ve got a whole slew of exceptional humans in my life lined up and interested in living with other like-minded people, each of them contributing their own talent and skill to the whole. And mushrooms, there must be mushrooms!
Nine Perfect Strangers with Nicole Kidman, there are places like that, and no, that’s not what I have in mind. I don’t feel like being accountable for people’s well-being. But I do love the idea of being in a beautiful place with people who want to live beyond the bounds, as it were.
I read something else in Pollan’s book that intrigued me a bit, people experiencing their own birth and sometimes their own death through psychedelic journey and guidance. There’s something about that as well. Perhaps my fear of losing others is tied to fear of losing my own life. Or lack of trust that life goes on, just beyond the mantle of what we think of as reality, all our ancestors are right there with us all the time.
This ancestor thing keeps coming up strong. I believe there must be more work for me to do or more to be revealed to me in this area.
Tomorrow’s intention for my second ketamine session for depression.
I have all of this:
My intention is to have such CLARITY about what to do with:
And to be at perfect peace and ease about where it all is—and isn’t.
I’m feeling anxious because I want to be ahead of something. I want to write. I want to sell books. I want to make money. Influence people’s lives. Change people’s minds, and do it in sync with and ahead of what’s about to happen. The Psychedelic Trend. FOMO.
And…clarity around whether my psychedelic journey informs my memoir or if it’s completely separate.
Letting go of all fear and anxiety about the unfolding and how to have the money to do everything I want to do.
How to have time to make it happen.
Whether it will come together at all.
Just letting be and letting me…be.
I want to:
I want to feel love for all that I am.
So here’s my intention my second ketamine session for December 12, 2021:
What my second ketamine therapy session was like
I got an early start at 7:30 am with a shower and by 8 am was arranging my room. Old hat by now. Just told my husband the gist of being a Peer Treatment Monitor (a/k/a "sitter") and off I went with three yellow dissolvable tablets of ketamine under my tongue this time. 525 mg up from initial 400mg.
I sat with the bitter mouthful of ketamine spit for the required seven minutes while leaning forward slightly so I didn’t swallow the medicine. The intro soundtrack on Soundcloud came from Oprah about Supreme Destiny and how we always feel like we get off track or scramble to get on track, but there’s no need to scramble because we have this supreme destiny.
There is no track, as it were.
I took that one in for a moment, considering I’d just written about FOMO and wanting to be on the leading edge of something. Who cares⏤if it’s just my supreme destiny unfolding, right?
I spit out out the medicine in a paper cup, swished with fruit drink, spit again, arranged my eye mask and leaned back into the pillows as the deep shamanic track began to play.
I remembered what Katherine, my psych nurse for ketamine therapy, said about not feeling your legs. I was already noticing a slight disconnect between me and my lower half, but soon thereafter I became aware of my legs and blanket again.
I wondered if three tablets was enough to get this K-train going?
At first I enjoyed a blank dark canvas; in fact, this time there seemed to be a lot of nothingness, although I’m sure there was “something.”
I watched a dark, gray-blue canvas scroll by accompanied by the Native American flute music. Periodically, a note would scoop into my brain and pluck me out into something more visual. I walked a narrow mud path for a few seconds, then that dimmed and left. I remembered my intention:
Why am I even doing this? Tease it out. Get something, I told myself.
I watched a dark, gray-blue canvas scroll by accompanied by the Native American flute music. Periodically, a note would scoop into my brain and pluck me out into something more visual. I walked a narrow mud path for a few seconds, then that dimmed and left.
Neuroplasticity. Remembering that article I wrote about travel and neuroplasticity, how traveling to new places forms new brain patterns and expands the brain. In this moment, I was traveling, for sure.
I thought of a few people. Recent visits with my friend Lori. I thought of my friend Trish and depression shared, wanting to tell her of ketamine therapy. Maybe Costa Rica, too.
She and I were driving in the car together last year when she was on the East Coast. We spoke of someone our age who had died, I can’t remember the conversation, but in unison, we both said, “Good for her!” Then looked at each other like, Holy Shit, you too? Then we talked existential depression and having to endure living.
During my second ketamine session, I did have a longing to leave my body, to in fact escape it to be free of its confines and to experience freedom beyond the aches and pains as well as the neurons incessantly firing, beyond the patterns of behavior and life that entrap me moment by moment. I watched in my mind’s eye what it would be like to see myself “seeing myself” from above or separate—but I wasn’t able to actually go there.
And then, it seemed, my husband was touching my shoulder and my hour was up.
There was no intensity or intensifying as there had been on my first ketamine therapy session, and I didn’t feel all that different from the first session.
Or did I?
Getting the right ketamine dosage for depression
She then asked about my first ketamine journey, which I described as intense at the very beginning, as though I were going to be in that state the whole time, but then it waned and evened out and I was just in a deeply relaxed state lying there on the bed. I let my mind wander without trying to control anything.
“Did you have any body sensations?”
“No, nothing in particular.”
“The reason I ask is I started you with the 400mg dosage. Do you think you need a higher dose?”
“I think I could probably use a higher dose, but I’m not the prescriber,” I laughed.
“Well I mean—could you feel your legs?”
“Oh yeah, I was aware of my body, the blankets, the feel of everything around me.”
“Okay, when you achieve the right dose you have a dissociative experience from your body. You can’t feel your legs. You’re removed from your physical self.”
(Oh right, I’m thinking to myself, I remember that from my recreational ketamine days. I just wasn’t sure what low doses of ketamine were supposed to feel like.)
“So I’m going to up your dose by 125 mg to 525 and see how you do with that. We’ll get that ordered and it looks like they’re backed up with shipping, possibly until late-January.”
Bummer, I’m thinking. I was hoping for back-to-back experiences all through the holidays and I’d be magically cured in 2022.
'I don't want to be left alone' message from ketamine therapy
Then we talked about my “stuff.”
“Let’s talk about this ‘I don’t want to be left alone in this world’ statement. How young is the person saying that?”
“Pretty young,” I recognized it right away, “like two.”
“Two years old! Yes, a child left alone in the world with all these adults, not wanting to be abandoned. Of course that’s terrifying for a two-year-old. But whenever that happens, you can say to her that you’re right here, you’re a 53-year-old adult woman and everything’s okay and she’s not alone.”
Reading this back to myself I wonder though, what if my 53-year-old self is also terrified of being left alone? I’ll have to run that one by her another time, if it’s still there.
“How about physical activity?”
“Um, yesterday I went for a walk with my work walking buddy, we FaceTime.”
Thank God we walked for the first time in weeks. Otherwise I would’ve had to tell the truth, that I’d been sitting like a slug in my living room chair.
“Otherwise, I haven’t done much.”
“Okay, you’ll definitely want to mother the body just like you’re mothering your spirit and doing these other things for yourself. You’re expanding in these other ways and it’s important to take time to nurture your physical self.”
“Got it,” I nodded, wondering how I was going to break out of my lazy rut.
She also suggested an article [30+ Techniques to Help Integrate Psychedelic Experiences] so I’ll be reading that one.
Ketamine therapy and weaning from antidepressants
“Oh, by the way," I announced. "I am completely off Prozac and Wellbutrin now."
I accidentally weaned myself from antidepressants because I forgot to take them when traveling. But now I’d noticed a real dip in my energy level. My regular therapist has advised me in the past, if my energy level dips, my mood dips, and if my mood dips, it can trigger depression. I wondered what Katherine thought about this, in light of ketamine therapy for depression.
Katharine has short, cropped, salt-n-pepper hair, lovely smooth skin, a no-nonsense forthrightness about her and clearly a strong background in psychology while also being able to point to universal truth and psychic experience. In this conversation, she radiated warmth, much more than our initial consult.
I accidentally weaned myself from antidepressants because I forgot to take them when traveling. But now I’ve noticed a real dip in my energy level. My therapist has advised me in the past, if my energy level dips, my mood dips, and if my mood dips, it can trigger depression. I wondered what Katherine thought about this, in light of ketamine therapy for depression.
She said notice if the low-level mood lingers for one day, two days, or three days.
“Do you know how to recognize a pattern?” Katherine asked. “Happens one time, it’s just an occurrence, happens twice, you notice it could become a pattern and there’s an opportunity to do something about it, happens three times and now it becomes a pattern. The idea is to recognize it before it becomes a pattern and do something to alter it. So keep an eye on that and check in if you need to.”
Her answer was satisfactory enough. I hadn’t felt so low-energy that I couldn't get up and do things, but I had been feeling like I crashed more easily or tapered off more quickly.
“Are you reading any books or giving any books for Christmas?” she asked.
“Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind."
“Oh, do you know they’re making a documentary out of that and our business is just going to explode once that happens."
I made a mental note that I better keep writing, and write faster. I hoped my own ketamine experiences could provide something for others who’ve been in a similar state.
“Keep bringing your exuberance Kennerly, the world needs it,” said Katherine, as we signed off.
Ain’t it funny how the world’s most exuberant are often the world’s most pained.
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.
Navigating the psychedelic medicine universe as a sober person