“Bipolar robs you of that which is you. It can take from you the very core of your being and replace it with something that is completely opposite of who you truly are.”– Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother
So, I go in for my second ketamine treatment on Monday, and boy, am I relieved!
I did my first round a few months ago and I could tell an immediate difference. But the farther apart each treatment is the less effective it will be. In fact, it’s recommended to do six rounds in three to six weeks. At $450 a pop, however, that was just not realistic at the time.
WHAT IS KETAMINE?
Ketamine got its start in Belgium in the 1960s as an anesthetic for animals. Ketamine has since been FDA-approved as a safer form of anesthesia for people, as it doesn’t slow down breathing or heart rate.
But most notably, ketamine is getting a lot of attention as a more serious, long-term treatment for depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. It causes what doctors call a “dissociative experience”.
John Krystal, MD, chief of psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital and Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, described what this dissociation may feel like.
“Ketamine can produce feelings of unreality; visual and sensory distortions; a distorted feeling about one’s body; temporary unusual thoughts and beliefs; and a euphoria or a buzz.”
However, the drug’s potential as a treatment for depression and antidote to suicidal ideations has piqued the interest of many researchers. It has been studied and administered to people for decades with mostly positive results.
“We’re reaching out in a new way to patients who have not responded to other kinds of treatments and providing, for some of them, the first time that they’ve gotten better from their depression,” Krystal says.
BRINGING IT BACK HOME
After my first ketamine infusion, I felt an immediate sense of relief and release. It was so nice to not even be able to remember what being depressed felt like. But if you don’t get the full recommended treatment plan up front, the effects of the ketamine ultimately wears off. And you’ll know it when it does.
It’s also recommended that talk therapy should commence as soon as the patient “comes to” after the infusion. Ken Stewart, MD, expressed this same sentiment.
“It’s my sense that this is important,” Stewart says. “When people come out of this really profound experience, they have a lot to say, and these are people who have a lot of baggage and a lot of experiential pain. A lot of times, ketamine leads to an unpacking of that baggage.”
My upcoming ketamine appointment couldn’t have been scheduled at a better time. When in the throes of mania or in a bout of depression, reality can be fragmented and frightening.
Bouncing around between mania and depression isn’t easy, and if the ketamine infusions are proven to help then I’m going to do what I need to do to achieve some semblance of normalcy and relief.
Hey, whatever works, right?