The Ketamine Sea
by M. Haas
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
—Lewis Carroll, The Walrus and The Carpenter,
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
On December 31, 2016, I underwent my first experience with and my first therapeutic infusion of the dissociative drug ketamine at (currently) the only ketamine clinic for major depressives in the state of Pennsylvania. Ketamine is currently pending FDA approval as a new resource for treating major depressive disorder (MDD), those resistant to other treatments who are at high risk of suicide.
The following is my articulation of the experience I had during and after the infusion, up to the point in time (1/1/2017) when I wrote this.
I was accompanied by Andrew (Special) K., a long-ago co-worker, long-time acquaintance, and recent-years blossoming friend, who obliged my request to be my k-hole supportive aide, DJ, and ride home.
Dosage and other medications:
In the past 13 years, I have been on 20+ psychiatric medications. During the experience, I was wearing 1/2 of a 12mg EMSAM patch (transdermal MAOI). The ketamine dose was 35mg intravenously.
Herbs/supplements most likely present in my system at the time: Vit. C, Syrian Rue, Cannabis, Olive Leaf extract.
(Approx. 5 pm)
While Dr. M hooked me up to the IV, blood pressure cuff and heart monitor, Andrew prepared his I-pod to start playing a track from his album “Pores.” Once Dr. M started the IV drip, I nudged the earbuds in my ears, nestled back in the medical chair, and coalesced with the ketamine.
In a matter of minutes, I felt a subtle tingliness in my entire body. Next my lips felt numb. I experienced a feeling of butterflies in my throat and chest. I expressed this to Dr. M and he said my heart rhythm was normal, like a teenager’s.
Shortly after, I began feeling floaty and dream-like, as I was ever so subtly washed away into the Ketamine Sea. I felt completely submerged in the endless depths of existential oceans of awareness.
The ketamine experience was quite Jungian in nature for me, as I experienced a total projection into the collective unconscious where all parts of my self/psyche exist as a mere dot, a speck mixed in the sea of existence with a bunch of other specks. Yet, it is my little speck of life that is filled with condensed energy and meaning that belongs only to me and my articulation and use of such energy and meaning.
Memory is the film of my life and the film that links me with others; memory is an inspiration for creativity and present moment experience. A K-hole is mind floating in a dissociative ocean of symbolism and subjective awareness of self experiencing being part of a fractal in 3D space-time and of self being a series of inner fractals all merged together making up self’s existence as part of and in relation to the vast Sea of Existence.
I traversed the emotions, passions, desires, and submerged love of symbolic self. I morphed into a phoenix/bird-of-prey, which I could only feel as being a phoenix/bird-of-prey, reborn, flying within my imagination. I interrupted the IV, which started beeping, from bending both of my arms as I perched on my tree of life. Dr. M came in to check on me and stopped the beeping.
As I traversed back inward after the beep interruption, I slowly submerged deeper and began crying silent tears of relief. I felt a combination of sadness, happiness, and relief on a different level of awareness. The combination revealed to me that trauma is not a part of me at all, but trauma is what makes it challenging for me to comfortably be me and express myself. I aligned with awareness that trauma is a subjective interpretation of an event/circumstance that ego is unprepared to existentially maneuver and accept and which ego expresses and experiences as pain and suffering. An event of trauma projected between persons is in itself an existentially ill-maneuvered moment of space-time in which one ego’s sabotage of lightheartedness harms another person’s ego, whom may or may not be predisposed to trauma resiliency or trauma sensitivity.
In this sea, I connected with an interconnectedness of transferences of inner messages and a submerged feeling of love.
I recollected many memories and felt how they were all meaningful to lead me up to the point I am at now. For the first time in a long time, I felt unified as a person, connected with peace of mind, and aligned with the notion that I don’t have to worry about life or myself.
I periodically zoned in and out of expressing memories and feelings to Andrew, who managed the I-pod playlist for me. After “Pores,” Andrew began the album Dive by Tycho. I couldn’t have submerged to a more melodic harmony and array of synchronizing tones than that of Pores and Dive. It was comforting and helpfully clarifying for me to share, as best I could articulate at the time, what the experience was like for me to Andrew. A metaphorical salvia divinorum flashback of when my brain turned into a movie camera watching its film spiral off the reel into the blackness of existence acquainted me with recognition that a common theme for me is that there always ends up being someone whom I feel comfortable enough with to share the pain and fear I experienced when my film began spiraling out into that seemingly unending blackness of existence.
Next, I flashbacked to a moment in time when the reflection of the sun shining in the corner of my eye, while I was wearing sunglasses, reflected an orb into my peripheral vision which I meticulously focused on to see it was filled with TV static particles and messages of light. Somewhere while I was voicing this to Andrew and commenting on his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame t-shirt reminding me of Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore, and Jesse, I felt a sudden urge to urinate. An hour and a half had passed, so my timing to pee was in flow with time of IV-disconnection. Dr. M’s receptionist, Jean wheelchaired me to the bathroom. Upon relieving myself, I was able to walk back to the medical room on my own, albeit quite wobbly.
On the way out, Jean offered me to take a piece of Dove chocolate from the candy dish. I picked mint dark chocolate. I noticed the wrapper had a message on the inside. It said:
“Be more loquacious starting with learning the word loquacious.”
I wasn’t familiar with the word. Jean said it means “talkative.” It hit me that this wrinkly reflective aluminum wrapper is a signifying message about one of the most challenged social issues I struggle with: communication. Later that evening, once I was home, I mused about this curious mint dark chocolate wrapper in my composition book, which I express in my notes that soon follow, “Writings before Sleep.”
Upon leaving Dr. M’s office, I noticed a doormat outside the physical therapy office a little down the hall. For some reason, it stood out to me, but I did not grasp why. I took a picture of it before Andrew and I got the elevator down. Reflecting back to it, the hands on the mat are uncanny in similarity to the hands on the M.A.P.S. emblem!
On the ride home, I felt beautiful and filled with a serenity I’ve seldom experienced. Andrew and I spent New Year’s Eve. together with his fiance Liz and the ever intermittent VonRebel at Liz & Andrew’s apartment. For once, I feel like I actually have a better year ahead of me than the past decade.
(Ride home – 1:00 a.m.
Wrote thoughts 1:30-2:00 am.
Fell asleep about 2:30 a.m.)
Writings before Sleep:
I realize I tend to not mention or realize specific details or occurrences and/or ask the best questions (and vice-versa: mentioning too many details and/or asking unhelpful/too many questions). This is why I’m not getting the most I can out of social communications with others, especially during interactions where time is limited and it’s crucial to communicate and ask the right criteria for it to be beneficial. Obstructions to my communication ability are from how I feel- due to depression, suppression, uncertainty, fear, lack of confidence, inability to phrase or explain something, and/or failure to recognize when something should or should not be spoken. This stems from and ties into fear I have felt in life from expressing my feelings with others, primarily my mother. As a youth, I even invented my own code for the Roman alphabet, which I can still write in, to conceal my thoughts and feelings in my diary from my mother. Repeated invasions of privacy, alongside condescension and discouragement shaped me to be who I am as an adult. I remember I always just wanted to not feel scared or apprehensive about expressing myself to her, or anyone, no matter what.
My mom is gone, now, but I feel like these experiences are beginning my understanding of loquaciousness to improve communication.
Writings the Day After:
( Woke up about 12:00 Noon.)
Life in all its forms, varieties, and experiences is a profoundly complex system of inner and outer design that is composed of multiple core elements which synchronize together –all the time– that gives rise to physical and perceptual existences.
I’m in a different awareness of the intricacies and complexities of my perceptual and physical existences and of my inner interpretations and external communications of such. There are basic areas and levels of my functioning that meet with stagnating and sabotaging obstacles which imbue existential paralysis in my executive undertakings. Tendencies and ways I gravitate toward interpreting things, situations, others, and my self and how I combine interpretations together (which lead to actions and decisions) overall have come from an incomplete view of self and life. I have been hiking up a rock sliding journey to the top of a mountain to get a better view, only to realize I never even had to climb the mountain in the first place. Now, I am stuck on narrow ledges crumbling from various cliffs of life I’ve not the dexterity to escape from without help from other climbers.
Regardless of where you are in life,
Living/being in a body is about
a constant momentary ‘goal of always’
to live life as peacefully, calmly,
contentedly, and balanced as possible
through self’s (oneness with existence):
communication, behaviour, perspectives,
interpretations of, and actions & decisions about self
& all the little & big things that make up self’s life.
The core of my struggle is becoming stuck in childlike and modeled behaviours/tendencies due to childhood & adult traumas, alongside lack of certain basic developmental needs.
This is why ‘Living/being in a body’ is so painful for me –regardless of where I am in life, because my foundation as an adult has not developed sound & stable communication, behaviour, perspectives, interpretations of, and actions & decisions about self & all the little & big things that make up self’s life because self periodically and depressively disconnects from the awareness of ‘a constant momentary goal of always’ because peace, calmness, contentedness, and balance in self (my oneness with existence) have been coming from a rock-sliding internal foundation of self going on 29 years.
Suicide is a recognition life as it has been cannot continue, but is an idea attached to death as means of discontinuance, not living differently as means of discontinuance.
I identified I’ve felt suicidal from awareness of how chaotic and harsh of an extent I have been deprived of important experiences, never socially & behaviorally learning or inwardly harnessing the appropriate basic elements of living. Yet, no one else knows this about me unless they know me… and no one cares about this unless they have a heart and can empathize. As I attempt self-organization of my inner & outer self & life, it has daily appeared to me how turbulently I struggle with balancing all of life’s areas due to the shaping of flaws in my interpretations, communication, & behaviours from simply never being told, never being given the opportunity, never recognizing the opportunity, the opportunity being traumatized, or being deprived of the opportunity to learn. To see this is a gift, but it is a gift that has been seldom recognized and nourished by the external world to aide me in prospering my wellbeing and/or challenging for me to harness in control to prosper my wellbeing.
It makes sense an adult coming from a background of sensory deprivation, trauma, and undeveloped skills & understanding ought to feel like dying because the person never developed the inner foundation of what it means & what it takes to be one with living. That’s pain validating itself.
A core element of a stabilized self foundation is a healthy interpretation and understanding of and identification with sexuality and intimacy. Trauma to intimate and sexual development and learning experiences obstruct a healthy and stable interpretation, understanding and identification with self’s sexuality and ability to maintain or even harness a healthy and stable sexual relationship as an adult.
This is why sexual fear is a very real thing. When a woman is aware she is susceptible to attracting sexual trauma from a traumatized sexual foundation within her, she becomes fearful of expressing affection, intimacy, and attraction. Repression comes from not understanding how to appropriately express affection, intimacy, and attraction toward a man for it to be received well and reciprocated healthily.
Suicidal ideation is a fear of and escape from living. Fear of living comes from being taught to fear life and/or from a threat to living which one feels one cannot surmount to ever live free (like how some holocaust victims threw their selves against electric fences to end their lives because they felt as if they would never be liberated from the pain of their situation). As much as I’ve been shaped by abusive scenarios, family members, religion, and society to fear life, I have felt fear of my own depression because depression is a threat to my living.
I am an oyster, surfaced out of the Ketamine Sea.
I have made many pearls to comfort me
through pains and irritations of life
which shaped my extraordinary strife.
Some of my pearls are macabre and grotesque,
while others are of impeccable finesse.
Yet, all my pearls possess an iridescent shine
from all the agony that is mine.
Expressions of suicidal ideation are dark, grotesque pearls, but they are only dark and grotesque to those who see the quality and variety of my brilliance, strength, and goodness; they feel such brilliance, strength, and goodness could make a beautiful difference in the world if I can figure out how to remain brilliant, strong, and good…
Again, I am reminded that it makes sense to feel sad about certain things. When a person has a lot of those ‘certain things,’ it’s natural to feel sad a lot. Adjustment disorder is when a person has a difficult time coping with stress and traumas, and acclimating self with social and behavioural changes and circumstances.
I’ve experienced objectively sad experiences. I’ve experienced encounters that subjectively aroused sadness in me. The majority of my background is quite simply just sad. This is why I’ve identified with sadness & it’s extensions more than any other feeling my entire life. It’s a lot of work for me to appropriately identify with feelings of happiness and love because there’s been quite a lack of it throughout my formative and adult development. I have a limited loving/happiness frame of reference.
All the life milestones that are supposed to be happy, loving, bonding, successful, and life-establishing only turned out to be living Hell for me: graduating college, getting married, having children, (trying to) raise a family, owning a home (by default of parental deaths) have turned into excruciating lessons of at least partially my own doing, often unconsciously, from shortcomings & too much imagination to make all those things real. Meanwhile, my own internal foundation has yet to become real. For many years, I have felt embarrassed and ashamed about this, all while reminding my self it is not completely my fault. Still, what is mine is my responsibility to repair. It’s quite the conflict for me to be the mechanic I need to be to repair the existential mess that has become my life when the mechanic I need to teach me how to be my own life-repairing mechanic passed away three years ago. And this is why time and time again I wish for the archetype I truly need to be able to make it in life.
All of this is the processing I gathered from traversing the Ketamine Sea.
I’m crossing the sea again, very soon. I’m on a mission to permanently alter my neurological, psychological, and conscientious functions into stability to actually live a life I want to live and be a self whom I love.