In this post, I’m sharing my experience going through ketamine treatments for my anxiety and depression. This is not medical advice or any type of advice, just purely my experience.
First, a note. Writing about mental health online helps me process what I’m going through but also feels incredibly vulnerable and scary. However, writing has always helped me get through what I’m going through, and as I was going through this treatment, I was desperately searching for anyone else’s experience who had done this online, and there wasn’t much to choose from. So I’ve decided to share my story. Some details I’m keeping private but I’ve tried to be as transparent as possible. Thank you for being in this space with me and for your respect and care.
A Little Bit of Background
I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Persistent Depression in 2016. I was 26 at the time, living in Philadelphia, and had just left my job and launched my own web design business. I was in an unhealthy relationship and felt like I was sinking. I had been in therapy for a few years and we discussed exploring medication to help me through these dark days. I met with a psychiatrist and he prescribed me a small dose of an SSRI which helped stop the daily panic attacks I was having multiple times a day.
In 2017, I ended my relationship and moved to Colorado. Fast forward a couple of years and I was at the end of my road, tired of suffering, tired of feeling hopeless, and tired of struggling. I decided to talk with my doctor.
Doing My Research
I talked with my primary care doctor at the time and she mentioned a new therapeutic treatment done with ketamine, a psychedelic drug that induces disassociation and has been proven to heal neural pathways. Coincidentally, I had recently come across ketamine for anxiety and depression in my own research and was encouraged to hear there is solid science behind the treatment. After talking it through, I felt comfortable about exploring what going through a ketamine treatment would look like for me. They provided me with a few resources to look into and after doing my own research into each clinic online I called a few to nail down some more details.
Committing To Treatment
Once I found the clinic for me, I decided to set up my first round of treatments. Every clinic does things slightly differently, however, my clinic started treatment with 6 sessions over the course of 3 weeks, so 2 treatments per week. This is called the induction series and after that, you transition into the maintenance phase, where you have one treatment every 3 weeks.
My First Session
I’ve never done hard drugs before, and have never had any drug that was psychedelic, so naturally, I was a little nervous for my first session. The Doctor and nurse were super affirming and answered all of my questions, making me more comfortable.
For the first session, they start you on the lowest dose of ketmaine. The best way I can describe how my first session went was that it felt like I smoked a sh*t tone of we*d and was super high and loopy. I didn’t disassociate, but that’s to be expected with your first session. The goal is to ease you into the treatment so you get comfortable with how it feels.
The Second Session
The dosage is increased each session so I expected to disassociate this time. I did, and unfortunately, it caused a panic attack. I pressed the button for the nurses and one came in and held my hand and talked me through the panic attack. That was naturally a scary experience because being a psychedelic drug and having a panic attack is just NOT A GOOD TIME. Zero out of ten, do not recommend.
The Next Sessions
The next few sessions I had someone sit with me during the experience so I felt safe and comfortable. One time it was my therapist, and the other times my brother sat with me. When I had someone sitting with me they were able to talk to me and help keep the panic at bay. They were able to keep me grounded and not too scared. I’m so thankful for those that have helped me through this process.
Where I’m At Now – Maintenance Sessions
After completing my induction series I am now in the maintenance phase of my ketamine treatment, which means I’m getting infusions once every three weeks.
How It’s Helped Me
Recently I looked back on my journal entries pre-ketamine, and it’s obvious how far I’ve come with anxiety and depression. I first started to see a BIG difference about 3-4 months into the maintenance sessions.
I’m having more good days. I use a mood tracker app to track my moods and activities and I’ve noticed an increase in good days.
My anxiety has decreased. On the anxiety scale, mine went from a 17 to an 8. I’ve never scored below 17 before! This has been a huge improvement.
I’ve decreased my drinking. I really struggled with drinking too much in 2020 and 2021 and one of my hopes with this treatment was that it would help with alcohol cravings. It absolutely has. This treatment, combined with a new medication to help with cravings, I’ve seen a significant decrease in my drinking and cravings. Which is HUGE. And I’m so thankful for it.
Was it hard to find a practitioner that was supportive of you doing the treatments?
In my experience, no. My GP was actually the one to suggest it to me!
Can you feel noticeable results? And if so, what are those?
Yes, definitely. It’s significantly cut down my cravings for alcohol, and when cravings do arise, I’m able to resist them more easily. I’ve also noticed a big decrease in my anxiety day to day.
Was there any additive element (like with a benzodiazepine)?
At the clinic I went to they do offer an anti-anxiety medication with the treatment. I used it during most of me sessions and that prevented panic attacks.
Were there any side effects?
After the treatment, you shouldn’t drive or operate any machinery as you’re pretty out of it. Some people can feel nausea during the treatment, but they also have medication they can give you for that too. I took that every time as a preventative measure. Some people also tend to have vivid dreams the night following treatment. I did have vivid dreams, but they weren’t scary or bad dreams, just very vivid. Als your arm is a little sore from the injections but not too bad!
Is it a long-term solution or will you have to continue treatments?
It’s different for everyone! I started noticing a bigger shift in results about 4 months into consistent treatment. Some people do their initial 6 sessions and are done and some come in for maintenance sessions once a year, once every 3 weeks, once every 6 months, etc. It really just depends on the person.