Posts Tagged ‘ketamine’

I’ve tried to write this post about a dozen times and I end up feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I want to say. So I’m going to try to strip it down bare, stick with the nitty gritty, and write more later if I think what I wanted to say (but didn’t) needs to be said.

I have lived most of my life wondering how people get out of bed in the morning and function. I’ve been hospitalized three times. I’ve taken enough antidepressants that when a doctor sees my list their eyebrows go up. I’ve even done a round of ECT (never. again.). There is nothing quite so difficult as to live life in a way that isn’t really living. It’s existing. It’s torture. It’s hell on earth. There aren’t enough Hallmark cards and fluffy cat videos to make it okay. I can read my Bible for hours and I still want to die because the emotional pain is unbearable. It’s exhausting, soul-sucking, and demoralizing.

My depression has kept my therapist on his toes. The result is that he and my psychiatrist have kept their ears to the ground in terms of treatment options.

Over the last few years, I’ve been hearing murmurs of a drug, ketamine, being used in lower doses to help treatment resistant depression. The trials have been extremely promising, and while a few boutique clinics have opened up across the country, access has been limited. Furthermore, since it’s being used off-label in these clinics, insurance companies aren’t wont to cough up for it, leaving the hefty price tag for the patient to pick up.

A couple of months ago, however, it came to my mental health team’s attention that there was a psychiatrist at a nearby hospital offering ketamine infusions and having luck pushing it through insurance. With little else to try, I was referred over and after meeting with this psychiatrist, I was set up to do six infusions over three weeks. The psychiatrist had participated in a small clinical trial dealing only with patients diagnosed with depression and they had seen a 90% success rate with moods remaining stable a month after treatment ended. In his own experience, he told me he’d seen a third with similar success, a third with no respond, and a third with some response and that some people opted for maintenance treatments.

Given where my depression was, my expectations were low. I was desperate.

I don’t want to paint this treatment as a miracle treatment. However, after living most of my life with this nightmare in my own brain, battling suicidal ideation, and trying to do more than merely survive, this treatment was… well, let me just say that I hope it becomes more widespread to give other people out there like me a shot at sanity.

The first treatment was like a breath of fresh air. My most distinct memory was that it felt like the five elephants sitting on my chest all got up. I took a physical, deep breath and I was flabbergasted at my ability to breathe. After, the most noticeable change was how quiet my mind was. The suicidal thoughts that had plagued me since I was a kid were gone. Gone. I was still depressed but I didn’t want to die.

Gradually, over the course of the treatments, there continued to be improvement. By the time I got to the last one, I was ready to be done. I went from scoring a 27+ on the PHQ-9 to scoring somewhere between a 5-10. I really can’t express the magnitude of that change.

I feel like my head is still spinning from such a drastic change over a short period of time.

It’s now been a week since my last infusion and I meet with the psychiatrist again next week. I’m still holding my breath somewhat because while I’ve seen a significant improvement, it’s only been a week. My depression could reassert itself and my therapist does think it’s likely I’ll need some kind of maintenance, but really we don’t know. Using ketamine for depression is still experimental (the drug isn’t, the treatment is). There’s a lot they simply don’t know.

So right now it’s wait and see.

That being said, I’m enjoying where I’m at for the moment. To be able to experience the full range emotions with nothing buzzing around in the background threatening to drown me is unusual. I finally understand how people get out of bed. I finally understand how people pursue interests. I understand what it is to cry and not have the sorrow turn into a deluge. To experience stress and not have it crumble me into pieces.

Part of that is the work of my pretty fantastic therapist and the dialectical behavioral therapy team at the clinic I go to. Despite the fact that they didn’t really touch my depression, I practiced the skills and internalized them. And now, now I can use them and they do something.

I’ll end my post here. With a toddler, I don’t have much time for editing so forgive my mistakes. I’m happy to answer questions about it and I’ll try to write more in the future, maybe focusing on the experience, and updating as to how I’m feeling.

Until then, peace out.

 

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