Ketamine, Days 3-7

It hasn’t even been a week yet and so many things have changed. I’ve developed a routine for the days I have to take the ketamine. I tune my internet radio to an electronic, chill out station, turn off my phone, inhale my three puffs and ride out the ketamine cloud for half an hour, hazy and floaty, like a ballon lingering above a children’s party. After half an hour, I can engage my mind, but wait another half an hour before trying to actually move. Within two hours I am fully recovered, both mentally and physically, and am able to drive, teach, grade papers, or do whatever I have to do or want to do.

I have already noticed a significant improvement in my short-term memory and intellectual abilities. I beat my record of solving a moderate Sudoku by a minute, down from 4 and 1/2 minutes to 3 and 1/2 minutes. A new semester started this week and during my first-day introduction to the course, I did not lose track of my thoughts once during the hour and a half lecture. I was even able to go on several lengthy tangents without forgetting what my original point was and then seamlessly tie the tangents back to the original point. I even remember the title, author, and the names of the characters of the book I am currently reading — Dancer, by Colum McCann.

Before I started taking ketamine, my memory had been so ravaged by depression that I could not remember anything. Even while in the middle of reading a really interesting novel, I could not remember the title, author, or the names of any of the characters. Anything that I had to do, I had to write it down or I would completely forget, and I had to keep the things I needed every day, like my keys, wallet and sunglasses, right by the front door or I would leave the house without them. It became a running joke with those who know me because if they ever referenced a prior conversation, I would have no memory of that conversation and they would have to tell me the original story all over again. Even at the end of a semester, I could not remember a single one of my students’ names.

I am also now able to handle last-minute changes in plans without having a complete meltdown. I was so fragile before I started the ketamine, like an egg shell riddled with hairline fractures, the slightest jostle breaking it apart into dozens of tiny fragments. Any event that required me to leave the house or deviated from my daily routine had to be planned days in advance, so I could mentally prepare for it. If the event was rescheduled or cancelled, I went into a panic because I was unable to handle the disruption to my schedule.

On day four of my ketamine journey, I receive a phone call from my mother just after I have started a walk around my neighborhood. She is stuck at the airport and needs me to come pick her up immediately.

“No problem,” I say. “I’m on my way.”

It isn’t until I am in the car on the way to the airport that I realize it really isn’t a problem. My mind had easily switched gears and transitioned from my original plan to the new emergency plan without the slightest emotional distress. After battling rush-hour traffic for 45 minutes, my father calls me to say he is at the airport to pick up my mother and I don’t have to come. By that point, I am already at the airport, but again, I smoothly adapt, turn around, and drive home.

When I get home, I resume my previously-aborted walk, and it is as if I am seeing my neighborhood for the first time. Although I’ve walked through my neighborhood hundreds of times before (two dogs equals lots of walks), it’s as if this is the first time I.ve ever taken this walk. The brilliant, south Florida pastel colors of the houses jump out at me with their joyful beauty. Each different species of tropical foliage grabs my attention and makes me gasp in wonder and exclaim, “Oh, I’d love that in my garden.” The birds sing out to the late-afternoon sky, cats laze on porches and lawns, and dogs strain against the fences enclosing them. Within seven minutes, I have reached Biscayne Bay. Even though I have lived in this neighborhood for two and a half years, I had never realized how close to the bay I am. Boats bob lazily in the water, docked in front of a mixture of traditional Spanish-style houses and modern, glass and steel homes. The air smells of a combination of sea water and freshly cut grass, and I suddenly feel the excitement of a child at the beginning of summer vacation. “I love my neighborhood,” I gasp. “It’s so beautiful!”

And suddenly it hits me. I have spent my entire life living at the bottom of a murky, scum-covered lake, everything appearing muted and dull through all that darkness, every step forward taking tremendous effort as the muddy bottom sucked my feet into its mire, and now, suddenly, I am out of the lake, standing in the sunshine, walking effortlessly across the soft, grassy bank, and staring in awe at how bright all the colors are and sunny the sky is.

I wish I had somebody to share this moment with. I’ve spent so many years in self-imposed isolation, and now all I want to do is socialize. Before I started taking ketamine, I cringed at the thought of human interaction;  it took so much energy to pretend I was not depressed and fake my way through social situations that it would take me days to recover. Now, I actually crave the presence of other human beings, and not just superficial, temporary social interactions, but real friendships. I feel like I am discovering myself for the first time, meeting and learning about the real me, not the husk of me who learned how to pretend so well, learned to mimic the facial expressions and movements of others so that I appeared as vibrant as them, like a foreigner fumbling her way through a conversation in a language she did not really understand.

My life is now a blank notebook waiting to be filled with experiences, feelings and words. And I’m so excited!

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Ketamine, Days 3-7

  1. Brenda

    Wonderful. Such a joy to read.
    Brenda

  2. I hate depression, it’s such a difficult thing to live with… I’m really quite glad to hear that ketamine has worked for you.
    emz

    • Thanks squeekkreations. Yes, depression is such a horrible disease.
      I’m hoping that through this blog, more people will come to know about
      ketamine as a potential medication for treatment resistant depression. I’ve only been taking it for two months now, but so far it has absolutely changed my life. Keep hope alive! Neuroscientists are making tremendous breakthroughs in understanding what specific neurotransmitters actually play a role in depression and are using this knowledge to develop new, more effective treatments. :)

  3. Maria

    Dear Xoaquima: I was researching ketamine for my daughter. I came across a “sister” substance called GLYX-13, which supposedly has similar positive results but w/o the “high”. Are you familiar w/ this?

    Also, do you know about the DBSA organization… Depression and Pipolar Support Alliance? I went to there national confernce in June in Miami, to investigate Ketamine…. it didn’t seem to be a hot topic, though. But I did have an otherwise positive experience and learned quite a bit.

    Blessings to you for sharing so much of your personal experience.

    ms

    • Maria,

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, I am aware of GLYX-13, but unfortunately it is still in clinical trial phases and it will be years before it is actually available for prescription. In the mean time, ketamine has completely changed my life. There is a lot of misconception about the ketamine prescribed for depression based on the effects of the illegal ketamine taken recreationally. Most importantly, the ketamine one receives from a pharmacy as a prescription is pure, while the ketamine bought illegally on the streets and taken recreationally is mixed with numerous other substances. Moreover, the dose prescribed for depression (.5mg/kg) is a fraction of the dose taken by recreational users (1mg/kg and higher) and while it does have a mild “high” effect, this only lasts for about half an hour. Furthermore, when taking ketamine for depression, it only needs to be taken once every 3-7 days.

      I am not sure how old your daughter is, but there is a psychiatrist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Demitri Papolos, who has been prescribing ketamine to children suffering from bipolar disorder for many years, with great success. The main obstacles are finding a compounding pharmacy that can make the intranasal ketamine and finding a psychiatrist willing to prescribe an experimental treatment. I live in Miami and easily found a compounding pharmacy. Although my psychiatrist was skeptical at first, once I showed her all the research I had done and the all the published clinical studies that have been conducted, she was happy to give it a try. I have been on it for two months now and she is so amazed by how effective it has been, she is planning to try it on some of her other patients with refractory depression.

      Your daughter is very fortunate to have such a caring parent willing to do the research and advocate for her. If she has tried numerous other antidepressants with no effect and if depression is crippling her life, please give ketamine a try. Depression is a degenerative disease. The longer it goes without effective treatment, the more damage it does to one’s synapses and memory. I cannot begin to imagine what I would have been able to achieve in my life if ketamine had been an option twenty years ago.

      Good luck!

      Xoaquima

  4. Penny

    I may be able to get IV ketamine, but if that doesn’t work out, I’d be interested in the intranasal route. Can you tell me what dose you used, and how frequently you treated yourself?

    • Penny,

      The recommended dosage for intranasal ketamine as a treatment for refractory depression is .5mg per kilogram of body weight. This is then compounded into a nasal spray solution and placed in a bottle that delivers precisely metered doses. In order to get my prescribed dose, I take three squirts of the ketamine solution every three days. IV ketamine was not an option for me because it is extremely expensive since it must be administered by a doctor; however, I only pay $95 for a month’s supply of intranasal ketamine. I would happily forego electricity to pay for my ketamine; it has truly been a miracle for me. Good luck!

      • Penny

        Thanks for your prompt response. Have you been able to reduce the dose at all over time? Do you have any knowledge about safety in long term use?

      • Penny,
        I have only been taking the ketamine for three months, and my psychiatrist wants me to wait at least six months before lessening the frequency of my doses so that my neurons have time to repair themselves and I am completely stabilized. However, according to the research I’ve done, over time one can begin to space the doses out to every five days, then every seven days, and in some cases, every two weeks. However, the strength of the dose remains the same.

        As far as long-term safety, the only research that has been done on long-term ketamine use is on those who use it recreationally. However, this is not an adequate comparison sample because recreational users take much higher doses, take them more frequently, and are not taking pure, pharmaceutical-grade ketamine. According to the results of this research, the biggest issue is with urinary tract infections, painful urination, and bloody urine since ketamine is filtered through the kidneys. As a precaution, I drink lots of water, regularly, especially on the days I take my dose.

        Several pharmaceutical companies have already developed drugs that target the NMDA receptors to eliminate depression the same way ketamine does, without the side effects. One of these drugs, GLYX-13, is currently in the clinical trial phase. Although it will be many years before any of these drugs complete the trial phase and gain FDA approval, eventually these drugs will replace ketamine as the treatment option for refractory depression.

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