Ketamine (part 1)

After two or so weeks tapering off the last of my debilitating medications, I was finally scheduled for my first Ketamine infusion. For those following, you already know the backstory. For those new here, it was an extremely painful, long fucking time coming.

In the weeks leading up to the infusion, I’d seen patients being wheeled, on their beds, out of and back to their rooms for EKT/ECT (electroshock) or Ketamine treatments. Including my-then roommate, a young twentysomething German woman who went for regular EKT treatments. So, I was prepared for that part. Or so I thought.

I was told the night before my first treatment not to have breakfast or anything to drink the following morning. I abided, of course. What I didn’t know was that I had to wait for a series of my co-patients before me the next morning. Ketamine infusions were given in the same place as EKT – thus, several patients were scheduled before me.

By the time I was finally called in, it was late morning. Without anything to drink or eat, I was hungry and cranky when the nurse arrived. With low-blood sugar, as my family and close friends know, I turn into an asshole. Alas, the nurse arrived and I was headed toward something I very much held hope in.

I was completely ready. Except, I wondered, should I wear socks? My feet are always cold. Would that bother me, would I be uncomfortable? I left them on as the nurse wheeled me away on my bed. I felt weird. Why did I have to be wheeled away on the bed to the procedure when I could have easily walked? Even just alongside the bed.

We took the elevator. I was pushed on my bed, along a long corridor. We went into the EKT/Ketamine room. I was wheeled into a small room and waited for a bit on my bed. Of course, just the notion of not knowing how I’d feel or be in the coming hour(s), I had to pee, just in case. I asked and was told to go down the hall. I went into a bathroom reminiscent of my elementary school and relieved myself. Just in case.

I returned to my bed in the waiting room. The head doctor of EKT and Ketamine came to me and introduced himself. He was very kind and gentle straight away. Though I already knew and felt no fear, he reiterated the possible things I might experience during the infusion.

“You might feel separated from your body, you may have out of the ordinary visual or aural experiences. If, at any time, you feel uncomfortable, please let us know. We will be with you throughout the treatment and, also, monitor you, physically.”

I was wheeled into a room with various electronic health equipment. Nothing out of the ordinary. But what do I know.

Laying on my bed, I was introduced to the woman who’d oversee my infusion. Electrodes were placed on my chest and a heart rate monitor on my index finger. An IV was placed next to me, my vein opened and we began.

One, two, three… a few more minutes and I began feeling comfortable and warm. I looked down at my body on the bed. Indeed, it felt separate from me. Didn’t bother me at all. It felt good to separate from it (I had fantasized about killing myself for a long time, after all.) I drifted off a bit. Maybe I was awake. Probably. It didn’t matter one way or another.

I looked around me, at my body, and the room. Then I closed my eyes. All I could feel was a massive rush of movement in my head, my brain. It was as if I could feel every neuron moving around for the first time, ever. It was a burst of energy in my brain, full of activity, motion. That was all I could feel. Energy.

It sounds (and looks) psychedelic but it wasn’t that at all. I used recreational, psychedelic, drugs years ago. It wasn’t like that. Not at all.

I was floored from this motion in my head. The drawing here is something I did a few days after. It is not of what I saw. Let me repeat, as it appears ‘psychedelic’ to some this is not what I saw. This rendition of the initial experience is of how it felt.

The color and motion you see in this drawing is an expression of the movement in my head. For the first time in months, if not years. An explosion of energy at the neurological-cellular level. I could feel it.

Forty minutes on and the infusion was over. As the doctors knew, I was still experiencing remnants. I was brought, on my bed, to my room and told to rest. Ten-fifteen minutes later, a nurse came in to take my blood pressure. At their request, I continued to rest for another 30 or so minutes.

This was the first of six Ketamine infusions of the coming two-three weeks. After I rested, I left my room and headed to the dining room to chill. I came across a nurse and some friends, just nodded and did my own thing.

Apart from the actual time during the first infusion, the sensation of being here and now was immediate. It was like a veil was lifted and I could see things, as they are, for the first time. Like a child, experiencing and taking in everything visually. The wonder. As a person who’s been entrenched in art, design and all things visual nearly my whole life, it was absolutely immersive, striking.

This ability to focus and comprehend beauty, at least visually, lasted several weeks. Intensely so.

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