Three years ago, I felt like I was just keeping my head above water. I’d tried dozens of medications and years of therapy for my depressive bipolar episodes, but nothing was providing real relief. I struggled to leave the house; I couldn’t work. Little things would set off my anxiety. I constantly questioned why I was so sad. But after so many failed treatment plans, I thought this was my life.
Then I read an article about the use of ketamine for depression. I was intrigued, and immediately did more research, calling clinics that offered the drug. Even though ketamine wasn’t approved by the FDA at the time, I was completely willing to take a leap and try it.
“Being treated with ketamine has completely changed my life. For me, it’s been a miracle.”
I started by visiting Actify Neurotherapies for IV ketamine treatments every other day; now I go just once every 11 weeks. The treatments take about two hours total. You sit in a chair and make yourself comfortable as nurses check your vitals. I like to wear an eye mask, pajama socks, bring a warm blanket, and listen to relaxing, uplifting music. My mom also comes with me. The whole process is very peaceful. A nurse puts an IV in, and you start to receive the ketamine.
I usually feel it within three to four minutes. It’s not a crazy trip where I see things or feel totally out of control. It feels like your body rises up, like you’re on a very peaceful roller coaster, and you’re riding a wave into a different dimension. If I start to feel like I’m going really deep, I’ll bring myself back into my body by scratching on the arm of the chair.
During treatments, I feel like I learn about myself. Because I feel safe and positive, I’m able to confront things that I typically fear or that give me anxiety, like death. Because I’m able to face negative things during treatment, I’m better able to face them and cope with them outside treatment. You’re left with that warm, tranquil, happy feeling afterward too. I have someone drive me home after, as recommended, and I only feel a little groggy for a few hours.
After the first treatment, I felt a weight lift off me within hours. After three to four treatments, I could hear birds chirping and see vibrant colors again; I could walk out of the house without making a million excuses for why I couldn’t. I had hope again. It was the first time in 20 years that I’d felt relief. And the results just kept getting better and better with each treatment.
I’ve had about 35 treatments over the last three years, and I don’t plan to stop. I’ve been able to stop taking most of my other depression, anxiety and sleep medications. It’s improved my marriage, I’m able to be there for my daughter like never before, and I’m highly motivated and own my own business now. Things that would have made me crumble in the past, like my dad’s bypass surgery, don’t—I’m able to handle them. I was even able to go to Disney World with my family, something my sensory overload would never have allowed before. Being treated with ketamine has completely changed my life. For me, it’s been a miracle.
Q&A with Dr. Steve Levine, psychiatrist, ketamine expert and founder of Actify Neurotherapies
Q: How does ketamine work to positively impact depression and anxiety?
A: Depression and anxiety result in the loss of the number, function, and quality of important brain connections. Ketamine is able to quickly produce proteins that repair those connections.
Q: How does Esketamine treatment differ from ketamine IV infusions?
A: Like ketamine IV infusions, nasal Esketamine will only be allowed to be administered in a specially certified medical setting. Patients will remain in the office for two hours after administration, and then not be able to drive until the next day. Most patients do recover quickly, and may be able to return to work or other activities the same day.
Q: What patients typically respond best to ketamine?
A: Ketamine and Esketamine are appropriate for those with depression who have not responded to other treatments. It seems to work particularly well for those who also have anxiety or suicidal thoughts. For now, Esketamine is indicated for those who have tried at least two other treatments. Consult your doctor about whether Esketamine and ketamine IV infusion treatment is right for you.
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