Ketamine Can Eradicate Severe Depression
Do you know anyone who’s severely depressed?
I want you to meet Marti. If you’ve never experienced severe depression yourself, learning about Marti’s journey may give you a glimpse into what it’s like. And if you have…well…I hope Marti’s story helps you feel less alone…and helps you find hope for your future, too.
Marti was a sparkling preschooler, obviously intelligent, and full of charm and spunk. But the spark disappeared when she was about six years old. She was also diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes that same year…which only increased the stress in her young life.
In spite of the depression, she pushed through the best she could and performed well in school…receiving all sorts of academic awards. School was her refuge and solace. Even so, her immunity to infection was reduced by the diabetes and she seemed to get sick with every bug that floated through. That made things worse…and pushed her stress higher.
Family Crises Can Trigger Greater Severity in Symptoms
Then, when she was in 8th grade, her dad collapsed and had to go to the hospital by ambulance. Long QT syndrome they called it… basically a heart attack but he survived. However, he was in the hospital for 2 weeks…and because she was sick she couldn’t visit him. The helplessness of the diabetes, the constant double workload at school, her brothers’ illnesses, and her dad’s near death event, became the final straw.
A darkness began to build inside her beyond anything she’d known before. Her mind seemed to become numb…vacant… she seemed unable to think. Things like motivation, initiative…or even the energy to do anything… had disappeared. She felt lost, but that wasn’t all.
There were new fears. Fears of people, places, leaving the house, answering the telephone. School became an insurmountable mountain to climb. She began to hide under her bed for the school day so no one would know she didn’t go. She couldn’t go.
That was on the worst days. On the days she could muster the courage to get on the bus, she sat silently in class…looking at her desk. Holding onto her chair with all her might to keep herself from running out.
Classmates would watch her behavior and assume she was using drugs. They’d ask her…and she’d tell them no, horrified that she gave that impression.
Academics Suffer When Medications Fail
Her parents took her to regular visits with an acclaimed psychiatrist. After 18 months he was amazed she wasn’t doing any better. Concerned their intelligent and awarded student would not graduate from high school without close support, her parents took her out of school and homeschooled her during her senior year. She was able to make up the credits she’d lost and graduate, mostly due to the decreased stress of the public school atmosphere.
But…her condition worsened. She registered in a university hoping the new routine would help her improve. But it wasn’t that simple.
She had intermittent periods of working at school and making top grades, then falling back into the abyss of darkness that had become her constant prison. A good semester then a terrible semester. Finally, she was placed on academic suspension for a semester… and eventually dropped out.
Her doctor continued to increase her dosage, and change her medicines. But nothing really worked. She slogged along in the proverbial mud, losing her hope, her self respect, and adopting a new outlook that was angry, bitter, and critical… an outlook she called “realistic.”
These changes in her view of herself and others resulted in friendships with others who were also angry and despondent. The motivated and emotionally-healthy friends she’d had during her childhood and early teens all but disappeared.
Treatment-Resistant Depression Spreads DOOM
Marti wore “toughness” like an overcoat, and functioned well enough to be sullen and angry with her friends. Her social circle was a tough lot, but she tried her best to fit in with them.
Then she met “him.” He was handsome, weathered, and wore chains and black leather. Her epic bad boy.
Within 2 weeks, they’d had their first big fight.
Shattered by his dirty and cruel tactics, Marti realized she was in over her head. But she was determined to live up to the challenge. The verbal abuse and horrific scenes deteriorated to physical abuse, but just reminded her that she knew what it was to suffer. And he’d been alone without support, so she was determined to be that support and “help him heal.”
This pattern continued, with periodic breakups, apologies, and a patched-up relationship for two or three years. Marti’s depressed condition deprived her of the energy, the judgment, or the initiative to improve her situation. And she told herself magical stories about how her love and loyalty – no matter what he did – could heal his wounds…and they’d enjoy a happy life together forever.
So she trudged.
A Disordered Brain Obsesses on Death
And there were suicidal attempts. And interventions that saved her life. But if you know anything about depression, you know that suicidal thinking or attempting doesn’t stop because you want it to. Your disordered brain creates images of death and darkness…and compulsions… It’s the very opposite of a healthy, imaginative brain that creates beauty and joy.
Marti’s nightmares became a constant torment. Waking up in a cold sweat over and over in the same night, with visions of cruel and terrifying demons destroying her… and as soon as she fell asleep again they were back.
Insomnia kept her awake for 5 or 6 days at a time…she’d feel brittle, reactive, hysterical at the smallest provocation. Screaming and cursing when the dog barked or the doorbell rang. Her coordination was also brittle, so she’d accidentally break a glass or stub her toe and fly into a screaming, cursing rage.
The phobias increased. Marti loved photography and was given an all expense-paid trip to Thailand with a professional photography group who would help her learn more artistic techniques for her craft.
An Opportunity Becomes a Crisis
She’d acquired outstanding equipment for her photography business, but the depression made it nearly impossible for her to follow through on opportunities.
Meeting with clients, doing a shoot or a sitting, became too difficult to manage, as social anxiety, fear of failure, and agoraphobia stripped her of the confidence to follow through.
She boarded the plane to Thailand with her gear, and on a layover in Bangkok she suffered a gargantuan panic attack. She couldn’t think to find her luggage, her gear, or her phone. Finally, she called her family collect and asked them to help her get home. Knowing her fragile state, they readily complied.
Once home she slept for days as she recovered.
Her Own Worst Critic
Then the shame set in. How could she squander such a life-changing opportunity? How irresponsible could she be? She’d always hated herself, but now she LOATHED herself. How could she bear the disgust she felt for her inept failure?
You know, when you’re struggling, you need a best friend… and if no one else…you need to be your own best friend. But sadly, whenever life got hard, Marti would use that moment to beat herself down into a shriveled nub.
And that’s how it goes, isn’t it? When we feel awful, we tend to make it worse. And we usually need an intervention from outside ourselves to turn the disastrous tide.
A final year with “him” was packed with physical abuse and cruel unspeakable torment that resulted in injury for Marti in her spine, her pelvis, and her neck.
From Abuse of Herself to Assault by Someone Else
The stress of her life led to muscle cramping in her neck and shoulders that left her left shoulder 3 inches shorter than her right one. She was unable to move her upper body without extensive treatment.
But those wounds were just physical. It would be years before physical therapists and chiropractors could help her body recover from the damage.
Still, the worst was the emotional damage. The silent scars that held her in a vice of fear.
Chronic hospitalizations plagued her life as the multitude of terrible stressors triggered vomiting spells that lasted for days at a time. Every 5-10 minutes…around the clock.
And those vomiting spells threw her body’s pH out of whack…and triggered diabetic ketoacidosis…a potentially fatal condition that won’t correct itself without emergency medical intervention in an ICU.
Over. And over. And over.
Then, it got worse. The repeated diabetic ketoacidosis and the high blood sugars that accompanied it, caused damage to the nerves in her stomach.
Gastroparesis… a condition where the stomach’s ability to empty itself is paralyzed… led to deteriorating nutritional absorption. Basically, she was starving because her body couldn’t absorb nutrients.
Depression Can Kill and Must Be Stopped
It all began with depression. But depression is just the beginning… and when it’s severe, it can trigger a cascade of circumstances that can suffocate life.
One day late in the summer, on one of many days when “he” tried to kill her, she grabbed her shoes and keys and fled.
And she never went back.
In the aftermath of that day, she spent more and more time in the hospital intensive care unit. A year and a half later, she was transported to the ICU so often, she was in the hospital more than she was home. A lot more. And she knew she was dying…
She also knew she was losing her ability to see. What began as foggy-out-of-focus moments in the early fall, progressed to full blindness by Christmas.
A retina specialist was called in and she went for surgery the day she got out of the hospital. Within two days she was back in ICU…but the surgery had succeeded in repairing the retina in her right eye. Her left eye was not reparable. But it was a start.
Then, her doctors recommended she undergo surgery for a feeding tube placement in her intestine, and formula was pumped into her body through that tube 24/7. After another week in the hospital, she was beginning to improve. The vomiting stopped. And she began to feel a little stronger.
A Mysterious Joy Begins to Bubble Up
But there was something else. She was feeling better. In barely perceptible ways at first. But little by little, joy was growing. In spite of her intestinal feeding tube. In spite of her blindness. She had hope. And she didn’t know why.
She would wake in the morning, remember she was blind…and cry. She grieved the loss of her eyesight. And facing that each day was so difficult.
But then she would launch into the day with a spring in her step. Initiative to move past this disability and build a new life. She had not had initiative since she was in 8th grade. She’d not felt joy since she was in kindergarten. What was causing this?
Ketamine Smashes Treatment-Resistant Depression
She heard about ketamine treatment… and someone suggested she check her surgery record to see what anesthesia she’d been given in surgery… so she did.
When the surgery record arrived in the mail 10 days later, she was astounded to find out she’d been given ketamine as an anesthesia in surgery. Could that be why she was feeling so much better??
Marti danced across the room just to consider that ketamine might be the reason she was coping so much better, and enjoying so much again. She set out to learn all she could.
That first IV ketamine infusion in surgery restored her wellbeing for 7 months. Then she began to feel the old depression returning, the critical thoughts, the anger, the hopelessness…but for the first time since she was a little girl…she didn’t want to die anymore.
6 IV Ketamine Infusions + A Couple Booster Infusions
So she set out to find a way to pay for a series of 6 infusions, as she’d learned that stacking infusions would produce more lasting results.
Within a couple weeks, her parents were able to help her with the money for a treatment of 6 infusions over 2 weeks. She’d heard that ketamine was available IV, IM, or intranasally...but she’d been convinced that IV was the best route for ketamine’s full benefits.
After the first infusion she felt no better…but that night her mother noticed she was folding clothes…for the first time in four years. Initiative.
Then, after the second infusion she thought she had a glimmer of hope. A lifting of pressure…of the weight that had been crushing her. Decreasing anxiety and diminishing sadness…she could tell she felt a bit lighter.
After the third infusion, she laughed a little, and talked a bit more freely… And from there her outlook grew better and brighter day by day through the last 3 infusions and over the next few weeks.
A few months later she’d been hospitalized more times (and with the intense stress of severe illness) she started “sinking” again…and called her doctor for a booster infusion of ketamine. She’d heard that sometimes that’s necessary. And she was glad she got it… it helped.
But four months later she needed yet another. Even so, that infusion of IV ketamine has held her remission steady for a long time.
She’s learning Braille, training to work, and excited about the life that’s ahead. She’s 32, in love with a wonderful guy who stood by her through the illnesses and surgeries, and life is working for her now on an exciting new level.
Marti believes in herself now and in her potential. And she’s eager to contribute to the lives of others. She’s joined the board of a non-profit blindness advocacy group. She has new friends who also have bright outlooks on life. Who are also productive and contribute to the community and to each other.
By the way, remember those terrifying nightmares that plagued her? They’re gone. Her dreams are bright and beautiful now…or at worst a little frustrating. The terrors that beat her up through all her nights for so many years are gone.
It All Began With Depression
And a co-existing illness. But treating the illness didn’t resolve the depression. Ketamine treatment did.
Marti feels transformed. Her family says she’s finally the person she was when she was 3 years old, before the assault of life hit. Her cleverness, wit, spunk, and joy for life has returned.
Marti is one of those people for whom the 6-infusion ketamine protocol wasn’t enough. She had researched extensively to understand how ketamine treatment ought to work and what to watch for. She also understood that to stay better required building a stronger infrastructure that would support her remission from depression.
And she actively worked to put that in place, through friendships, attitudes, and improved health. Active cooperation with her team of doctors, and doing the work in her outlook about her career and her relationships all helped strengthen that infrastructure.
And today, she’s in full remission. She sings every morning, dances a jig of her own design when she thinks no one is looking. Her life is full of promise.
She’s attracted to upbeat, healthy-minded people, and she loves herself. She enjoys life in a way she’s never been able to, and marvels at the frame of mind that held her captive 25 years.
Severe Depression Affects Every Aspect of Life
For those who have never experienced major depressive disorder in its severity, the fallout in Marti’s life may seem outlandish.
But Marti’s story demonstrates how all-encompassing and dangerous depression can be.
And why ketamine treatment is the golden child in psychiatric treatment these days. There’s no other treatment available that is as effective, potent, and all-encompassing for restoring life, hope, motivation, initiative, and a bright outlook to this degree.
At Innovative Psychiatry we’ve watched thousands of patients with treatment-resistant disorders follow the path Marti has in full remission.
(Did I mention ketamine can stop suicidal thinking in 4 hours or less?)
If you suffer from severe depression that other treatments haven’t helped, call us. We can help you rediscover the life you’ve lost, just like Marti did. You, too, can enjoy remission from the crippling throes of mood disorders.
Give yourself the opportunity to live again, or even for the first time, and develop a fulfilling and productive life. Because you can.
To the restoration of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, MD