Read Sober Psychonaut disclaimer for people in sobriety exploring psychedelic medicine.
Over my birthday I was in the car with my mom, driving four hours from Maryland to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. I told her I wanted to share something with her and I wanted her to listen with an open mind so she could know to leave her AA listening aside momentarily. My mother is more than 35 years sober and still very active in Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I’ve been really intrigued by ketamine therapy for depression,” I ventured. “And I’ve been reading a lot about it.”
My mother has seen me slog through the last couple of years, from the chronic pain of car accidents to perimenopausal malaise to complete midlife meltdown. At one point, she even had to sit by and watch and wait in fear that I was going to off myself because I just didn’t want to live anymore.
Through online research in psychological circles, I found the words to articulate my particular mental state: existential depression.
What is existential depression?
Existential depression is untouched by the usual therapies, all the combined cocktails of antidepressants and therapy and reframing and retraining the brain not to mention the courses and coaching and meditating and praying. All that you can think of to sort yourself out in life doesn’t get to the source of existential depression.
Existential depression is more reminiscent of reading Rosenkrantz and Gildenstern are Dead in 10th-grade English. My best friend and I walked around for weeks afterward gloomily wondering why we should bother doing life at all.
My cynical mind clings.
Sure, I get it. You grow up, you learn some lessons, have some kids, go through some tough times, accomplish some things, fail in life, succeed, contribute, find your purpose, yada…fucking…yada.
I can’t bear the thought of having to keep doing that for another three or four decades. And if that level of resignation has so taken hold of me, how on earth will I get through life day to day for however long it takes to die?
- Taken courses
- Gotten one-on-one coaching
- Meditated daily
- Seen a therapist on a regular basis
- Had a spiritual medium session with deceased ancestors
- Talked to others with similar situations
- Upped/downed/all around antidepressants and combos of medications
- Walked more, walked less outside
- Prayed, stopped praying, prayed some more
- Thrown myself into personal projects, removed myself from personal projects
- Given selflessly to things I care about
Has any of this made a difference?
I will be on a continuous quest for personal and spiritual development for the rest of my life – and everything always makes a difference.
But the one thing nothing has touched—I explained to my mother in the car—is the taint—of resignation and cynicism through which I now experience the world. This is in spite of the fact I have a bright personality and positive attitude that may not show this is how I am experiencing the world.
“I have lost my joie d’vivre.” I said.
”And why should that matter? I guess it’s because I know it’s this lingering lack of lust for life that colors my view. And I want to see if psychedelic medicine, or in any case, ketamine therapy—a close cousin—can help me shake it.”