Read Sober Psychonaut disclaimer for people in sobriety exploring psychedelic medicine
It all started last summer when I responded to an ad for ketamine for depression with clinical therapists, all guided and overseen but from the comfort of home.
Better yet, it was reasonably affordable. The cost of a six-session ketamine therapy program through Mindbloom is $386 x 3 – charged to my card over the course of several months. Like I said, reasonable.
Why was I interested in ketamine for depression? I’ve been curiously following the whole psychedelic medicine movement, noticing it gaining traction in more mainstream circles and hearing about its myriad applications for mental health issues from anxiety and depression to PTSD and other types of trauma, to addiction to alcohol and drugs.
I’m sober 30+ years, so my interest isn’t so much in dealing with alcohol addiction. Fortunately, that craving was lifted from me in early sobriety. What has lingered heavily, however, over the last five years, is residual depression triggered by a car accident and exacerbated by perimenopause.
For some reason, I feel like I have to defend my decision to choose ketamine therapy and psychedelic medicine as a “last resort” when in fact⏤the more I read and understand about psychedelic medicine⏤if I could have chosen it first, I might well have done so.
Although I have eschewed the associated stigma of psychedelics, I’m still rationalizing it in my brain, like:
“You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t have issues with existential depression. You wouldn’t have any ‘excuse,’ otherwise.”
As if⏤my other viewpoint says (the one I actually believe)⏤one needs an excuse to have a mind-expansive experience that elevates mood, triggers new neuronal firings, and enhances the brain’s neuroplasticity (ability to make new connections).
If you’re wondering if I really tried hard enough to deal with depression in other ways, here’s more about my journey to ketamine therapy as a sober psychonaut.
So what have I actually gotten from trying psychedelic medicine?
Ketamine, while not exactly psychedelic in the sense that LSD and mushrooms are psychedelic and produce elaborate visual and auditory experiences, is usually spoken of as a psychedelic drug.
It has been used as a legal anesthesia medication in hospitals since the early 1970s and only in recent years was discovered to be effective in lower doses as a treatment for anxiety and depression, among other maladies.
Unlike some LSD or psilocybin (mushroom) journeys, taking ketamine involves about 20 to 30 minutes of mental and physical preparation (think, nice shower, lighting candles, writing in your journal) and only about an hour-long period during which you’re under the influence, if you will, of the medication.
I had my first ketamine for depression treatment in December and I have just completed my fifth out of six total treatments. I have also explored other types of psychedelic medicine, including psilocybin, in search of similar benefits.
Here are the best things I’ve gotten from trying psychedelic medicine:
- Feeling hopeful⏤Whether this is psychosomatic or it’s genuine, the fact that I’m focused on the possibility of lifting up out of a lifetime ahead spent living with depression, is different.
- Connectedness⏤I wouldn’t say it’s there every moment of the day, but feeling disconnected from Self and Source was a big part of my malaise when I decided to try psychedelic medicine for depression. I’ve had moments during ketamine treatment of total integration, way beyond one-ness with All That Is (just yesterday morning, for my fifth ketamine therapy session, I was pure vibration, inseparable from vibration itself, with no sense of Self or my physical body at all) as well as in between sessions, when with people, noticing the sheer joy and appreciation of being with people I love to be with.
- Big love⏤It’s bound to come up in the psychedelic experience at some point: Everything comes back to Love. Everything is Love. All you need is Love. I am Love. I am Loved. We are Love. Love, love, love. Maybe some people don’t need to be reminded, but apparently I did.
- Creative expansion⏤This means multiple things to me. As a writer, my urge to express, inform and persuade, to put something out in the world, is scratching at the door constantly. My interests in a variety of new things, including psychedelic medicine, are expanding exponentially, and I’m hungry for learning and growing while also writing in order to help others catch a similar wave.
- Moments of not wanting to miss out on life⏤I’d say this is the closest I’ve come to joie d’vivre⏤the ultimate measuring stick for my happiness. I chose joie d’vivre because I used to have it so I know what it feels like and if it were ever to return I would know I have triumphed over existential depression. To have savored a few magical moments these last few months, especially in the company of old friends and family, and felt my heart swell with love for people and the moments of life I was getting to live, that was indeed something akin to “loving living.
Oh right⏤and I’m completely OFF of all antidepressants!
A multi-years’ long cocktail of Prozac and Wellbutrin, and later Gabapentin for neuropathy/pain issues.
I won’t denigrate the moments in between (it’s true: I’ve still struggled with chronic pain, stress, a gloomy mindset) but prefer to allow for the fact that I have had some benefit from my experiences with psychedelic medicine these past few months.
And on it goes. The ride ain’t over.