My First Time Using Ketamine Infusions for Depression
What to Expect During a Ketamine Infusion
I had my first ketamine experience on April 22, 2020. The following content was verbally dictated, by me, following my very first infusion.
My appointment was at 9 am, and the actual infusion happened around 9:10 am. Before that, there was a little bit of prep work to be done. The medical worker inserted the needle that the ketamine would feed through first and then added a blood pressure cuff on my arm and an oxygen sensor on my fingertip. The nurse practitioner connected the etamine to the needle.
I Was Able to Watch a Relaxing Video
The nurse practitioner put a DVD on the television. I chose a DVD of the beach, as I wanted to look at the ocean scenery. She talked to me a bit about the process and said that I can listen to music as long as it's not something really intense that would be confusing or disorienting.
I was nervous, and I think I was expecting some kind of extreme or radical event to occur in my head. I was expecting to have some kind of out-of-body experience or something really crazy. It actually was not like that. You can say that I was a bit disappointed, but I really wasn't. I'll explain why.
First, it's important to note that I am 5'4" and 260 pounds. I was given 60mg of ketamine. From what I read, this is a lower dose. A little after 9:10 am, I felt normal still and a bit disappointed that perhaps I spent $450 for no reason.
Someone Monitored Me the Whole Time
There was a man in the room with me, during the entire infusion, and he was the medical assistant from earlier who assisted me with the blood pressure cuff. He had a laptop with him. His job was to monitor me during the whole 40-60 minutes. I will say that having the medical assistant man in the room was a bit disconcerting because I was aware of him the whole time. He had his cell phone with him. The lights were down. He would periodically look at his cell phone and again, I was aware of this. Sometimes he would laugh while looking at his cell phone.
I was self-conscious about my stomach. I was hungry. My stomach was making sounds the whole time. I had not eaten because I read that you should not eat before our infusions for at least six hours, due to possible nausea. I did have a little bit of hibiscus tea, however, maybe three hours before the infusion.
The nurse practitioner did give me an anti-nausea medication that melts under the tongue prior to beginning the ketamine drip. I was very appreciative of this, as I am very prone to nausea.
My Thoughts During the Infusion
While the ketamine flowed in my veins, I put on the Abide app to listen to the scripture study for the day. I watched the ocean-themed DVD. The first thing that seemed strange was that a rock on the DVD seemed to be 3D. I was aware I was looking at a TV screen, but the rock seemed to have a soft texture, kind of like velvet. The strange thing is that the dark, fecal-shaped rock seemed to have a feeling of 'foreboding' attached to it. I was a little confused as to how a rock could bring so many strange feelings to me. It contrasted, completely, with the beautiful, sparkling sea. The ocean video changed scenes every 3-5 minutes or so, therefore, I was relieved when the fecal rocks were no longer in view.
The water in the video looked extra sparkly as if someone painted them and added more of a reflective effect. Sometimes the water moved very fast, and then sometimes it would move unnaturally slow. There was a scene where the water was lapping serenely over some rocks, but the water foam seemed to freeze and not move back as it naturally would at a beach.
The foam and the wave seemed frozen, and I could not figure out if this was reality or my mind of ketamine. It was interesting but not scary. The wave and foam over the rock seemed brushed back as if someone were making a painting and then swiped backward. It was strange.
The best way to describe it would be as if you saw a movie wearing 3D glasses. I noticed that if I tried looking up, to the left, to look at the clock, it was very difficult to do so. It seemed that the clock hands weren't moving, and my vision was blurry. Peripheral vision was certainly blurry.
The Abide scripture app that I was listening to beautifully blended in with the peaceful ocean images on the screen. On the app, the man talking mentioned having a fire in your heart, and at that moment, a fiery sunset appeared on the television screen. Also, there were moments when the app asked you to breathe, and I felt that my breathing was in tune with the waves of the ocean on the television.
Again, what took away from my experience was the man sitting in the room, especially when he was laughing. I wasn't sure if he was laughing at a joke on his phone or if he was laughing at me.
I Didn't Have Anxiety
Aside from that, I felt zero anxiety. I had control of my thoughts, but my thoughts seemed emotionally detached. My thoughts were mostly trying to understand when the ketamine would kick in and feeling strange at how realistic the ocean seemed on the screen. I did not feel the need or even care to check my phone. I didn't care if my husband texted me or not.
I was completely worry-free; that was the beautiful part. I just felt deep into a relaxed state of mind, aside from being self-conscious and aware of the medical assistant laughing.
How I Felt Afterwards
The ketamine machine beeped at ten minutes. I slowly looked over at the medical assistant guy and tried to ask, in as normal a voice as I could, "Was that me?" He pointed to the machine and said something, but he was a blur, and I could not hear him at all. I forgot I had my headphones in, and I looked forward to the television and blurred him out of existence.
The machine stopped pumping ketamine when the young man separated the tube feeding it from the needle in my vein. When the nurse practitioner came in, I felt it was a bit difficult to talk, but I felt I needed to urinate. I walked over the restroom but tried hard not to stumble. I felt like I had a few shots of American Honey Wild Turkey whiskey! I felt very disorientated and almost drunk, but without the sick effects of drunk. I awkwardly called an Uber after I realized everything was over and waited for my ride outside, trying my best to not look like a drunk at 10 am.
What I've Noticed Since My Infusion
- I was tired for the rest of the day and tried to nap, but I couldn't. Also, I could not sleep that night.
- I had a headache for the next two days.
- I, however, did not feel depressed. I did not have the idealization of not existing.
- Things that my husband would say or do did not have the deep, sad, profound, and anxiety-inducing effect that it had in the past. I felt more chill—more in control of my feelings.
I feel it has helped. What I liked the least was the headache for two days. It's hard to say if the antidepressant effect was from the ketamine or a placebo effect. I have not spiraled into a deep depression as I usually would over things others would consider minor.
My next infusion is on April 27, 2020. I am excited to see what happened. The nurse practitioner mentioned that next time, they will increase the dose. I am guessing they are going to try 80 or 85 mg of ketamine.
I hope to gain a new experience or feel something different, aside from just 3D vision and images of slightly sinister fecal matter-shaped rocks on the beach.
I plan to watch another ocean DVD and listen to the Abide app again. The scripture was so comforting to listen to.
Insurance and Additional Resources
I have Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance, and ketamine infusions were not covered since these ketamine clinics are using them for off-label use. I may still submit the Superbill to the insurance to see if I can get at least a partial amount returned, but I doubt that will happen.
Ketamine gives you a light, map and key to your depression. Therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy, will guide you through that new world. It is a tool, not a cure.
If you are using ketamine infusions for anxiety or depression, consider a counselor or of behavior therapist. I found a spiritual cognitive behavior therapist on a website called BetterHelp. I am also going to start on 25mg of sertraline that I was able to obtain from a doctor on a website called Get Cerebral.
I can't go to a primary care provider right now due to the coronavirus. I also can't have these covered by the insurance at this time, so the process has been expensive. I am desperate for help. I am excited about the next rounds. Fingers crossed!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Charlotte Doyle