I had a series of traumas, starting in childhood, that has led to bouts of depression, beginning in my early teen years. These events include sexual assault, the early death of my Father that soon led to the abandonment of my Mother, at the age of 15. The early death of my first husband, a nasty divorce with the second, and dealing with the rejection and self-doubt that occurred after extramarital affairs, by both husbands. My Mother and Sister both attempted suicide at various times, and later both died on February 13th, from separate, natural causes. Soon after, my daughter almost died after a rare, and still, unexplained disease attacked her colon, and make her so septic that her lungs failed, and she was on a ventilator, hours away from dying. There have been many other traumas throughout the years, in addition to many successes and happy times too. I always managed to pull myself up by my bootstraps and carry on. I got through these days by pushing the emotions deep into my psyche, compartmentalizing them, where they only festered, waiting to return with a vengeance.
I have been in therapy on and off for 30 years, and occasionally using antidepressants for short term management of situational depressions that usually followed a traumatic event. However, in 2010, I went on many different combinations of antidepressants, prescribed by psychiatrists, and just never got off – I assumed that I would take them forever. I was a single mother, and my career was not conducive to bouts of depression.
I was locked in a way of thinking, and seeing the world with a finite set of prospects for my future, with the main focus of trying to survive in this world. My brain starts telling me that there was no way out of the pain that I was feeling.
The antidepressants stopped working after about 8 years, and I attempted to withdrawal from them, with the advice of my psychiatrist. I was unaware of how incredibly horrific this process was going to be. I because extremely depressed, and had physical withdrawal systems every day. Extreme nausea, brain zaps, and insomnia that led to complete exhaustion and an inability to take care of my obligations. This went on for months, even after attempting to slowly wean off the medications. I went on juice cleanses, colonics, and meditation retreats. I entered into a 16-week outpatient program for PTSD and finally got back on the medications, just to make the withdrawal stop. I am not sure if I will ever be able to get off them – it’s been over 10 years. I wish Ketamine therapy had been available then.
The event that led me spiraling down, was after my niece attempted suicide, and all the trauma that I had been pushing down caught up with me, and I had a nervous breakdown. I started researching Ketamine treatment as an alternative for depression, when I got an email that my doctor’s office was offering the treatment to their patients. It felt like a godsend. I immediately made an appointment with Melissa that lasted 2 hours. We talked about everything, to determine if this was the right treatment for me. She reiterated that it was not going to be a cure, but part of a complete strategy to get well and that I would need to make positive changes to my life. She made me feel very comfortable, and at ease knowing that she would be by my side the entire time the procedure was taking place. I met her staff, we discussed in detail what would happen, and I scheduled the treatments.
The atmosphere that Victory Medical, and Melissa created for the sessions was calming and comfortable. My vitals were checked constantly, and the team talked me through the entire first session, using positive imagery, language, and music, that made me feel supported and safe. They checked up on me later that day, at home, as I drank plenty of water and slept.
After the very first session, I felt emotions that I had not felt since I was a child – Hope and the experience of connectedness to the world. I began to believe that my life could get better, and that I may even thrive again. The experience of this new way of thinking I felt physically. The only way I can explain it, is that I imagined that the neuro-pathways in my brain had been shriveled up like the roots of a water-starved house plant. During my very first session, it felt as though my brain was being bathed in nourishing water, that these neuro-pathways began to absorb, and become alive again.
My brain began to work, I could get out of bed, and take a bath. My memory got better, almost immediately, and improved as I continued the treatments. I saw new possibilities for my life, colors were more vibrant, I began to enjoy the things I used to enjoy, and I regained the desire to engage with the people in my life. My immediate family could also tell the vast difference in my demeanor.
I continued to go to the sessions, per the protocol, and I began to come into each session with a mental/emotional goals to reframe some of the sad memories that would creep into my awareness. Melissa and her staff were always at my side, and I have never felt more supported by any other mental health providers.
I have required a few additional sessions, that I am needing less and less. I have been moving forward with my life, getting my university degree, starting a new job that I love, and having a grandchild that brings me so much happiness.
The best way to describe what Ketamine Therapy actually does to the brain, in my experience, is to provide a reset. You know when your computer is full of spam, and viruses that are clogging up the Memory/Ram in your system, and nothing works right, or is so slow that it becomes ineffective.
Ketamine therapy clears out the old processes and well-worn neuro-pathways that were slowing down my ability to think clearly. I can now use the cognitive skills that I have learned in therapy, and I now have the will to take care of my physical body with good food, and exercise. I have the courage to re-create myself, and to move forward in my life. I can now look away from the past traumas, the guilt, and shame when they begin to whisper into the ear of my psyche. I can choose to see the beauty that is all around me. I have a new perspective that has helped me let go of my past, forgive myself and others, and the ability to see all the possibilities that exist for me to be happy in this world.
Our society has been very misinformed about depression. The same word is used for feeling sad after a sad event – which is appropriate and normal. Clinical depression is a very different beast. Even the sadness is different – more akin to apathy, and a catatonic inability to find a solution that ultimately makes you hate yourself. There have been times when it took every ounce of mental and physical energy just to turn on the light in my room. I was in extreme mental pain, and without an all-encompassing plan to get well, and empathetic support group, and the right medical treatment, this disease will kill you. Your brain, believing that there is no hope, will convince you that dying is the answer. This therapy has saved my life, given me hope, and with the help of my mental health support team, the will to take care of myself.