Ketamine and you are beacons of hope for someone you love
The holiday season is upon us…once again. The anticipation of gifts and family gatherings, great food and fun times runs rampant among the younger set, and is deeply appreciated by the older generation, as well.
But if your family includes one or more members who suffer from mood or anxiety disorders… or eating disorders or substance misuse, the holidays at your house may be somewhat unpredictable.
You may have the awkward disjoint of some family members who just want to have fun, and others who are mowed down by unexpected “land mines” that cut them off at the knees, and instead of fun, they grieve, brood, or become explosive.
This time last year we talked about some of the things that can happen in such a family during the holiday season, along with thoughts about how to help each other cope.
But today, let’s go a little deeper. Let’s think about more than the inconvenience of your loved one’s suffering, and explore some dynamics that help a family member and his or her family interact, support each other, and learn together how to create a reassuring and loving, informed and prepared, unit.
Step 1. If you or another family member are repelled by the thought of a psychiatric disorder in your family…
Maybe you should challenge yourself. Face the reality there’s a serious need in someone you love…
…and choose love – as in compassion – rather than flaunting that you don’t have the same struggles. It’s tempting…to compare yourself that way. But that comparison is apples to oranges.
You may not have a disorder, but he or she does. And he/she needs some help from you in living with it.
Consider, maybe, choosing empathy over your fear of “family shame.” Rather than embracing prejudices about symptoms you don’t understand, accept the responsibility you bear as a family to educate yourself and your family members about the science behind the disorder.
Sure…it’s not fair…not to you, nor your family…but especially not to the one whose life has been pervaded by this illness.
And yes, outbursts and other behaviors that may happen when he’s stressed can be embarrassing. But… who cares?
Family first, right?
Neuroscience has come too far for family and friends to find comfort in – or hide behind – stigma. The most powerful way to fight stigma is with information.
I know…I know…! A couple decades ago we thought these disorders were about a “chemical imbalance.” It was our best information at the time. And stigma surrounded anyone who suffered with symptoms of a psychiatric disorder.
In fact, it still does.
So…No, he’s not lazy. It’s the depression that saps his strength.
Let go of old superstitions…viewpoints passed down through generations from a time when the brain was a complete mystery. Old wives told tales about a man acting like a man, or a woman performing “as she should” that were geared towards driving improved behaviors using shame.
Leave your judgment at the door, and exchange it for love. And acceptance.
Live. And let live.
Take the risk to love and support your family member.
It’s ok to admit you don’t understand their behavior, but loving them and accepting them as they are, and daring yourself to learn the science behind their behaviors can give them a place to heal… and even save their lives.
Too many suicides result from too many wounds inflicted by judgmental family members.
There’s no place for judgment in a family. The family works best when it’s a refuge for its members, a place of safety. Be a force for safety in your loved one’s life.
Step 2. Learn the science about your loved one’s illness…
If you’ve gotten past Step 1, roll up your sleeves and start googling all the information you can find to deepen your appreciation and grasp of your family member’s distress and anguish.
Learn what happens in the lateral habenula that intensifies depression. And what happens to BDNF and signaling structures that carry signals around the brain and help you think, create, hope, and initiate.
When BDNF and signaling structures are reduced, your loved one has a much harder time thinking, creating, hoping, or initiating anything. Motivation and initiative die… and a sense of worthlessness overwhelms her.
So when you see her lying on the couch for days, you can remind yourself that she’s not lazy…she’s in pain. She may not be able to identify it herself, but her thoughts are sluggish, it’s hard to express herself, and she may ache all the time like you do when you have the flu.
Just between you and me… that one who annoys you during the holidays doesn’t struggle with poor character, so quell the temptation to show disapproval. These are symptoms of an illness you can be sure she wishes would lift…and go away.
So learn why she seems so listless and so shut down.
Consider, just for a moment, the possibility that she’s doing the very best she can.
And gear your response to fit someone who’s making their best effort. You may not like what you see … but be assured that the struggle you can’t see is gargantuan.
Step 3. Once you’ve learned enough science so you can lend some understanding… take some time.
Help yourself “see” that your sister, or mother, or brother, or son is suffering from a disorder that makes his emotions and his body feel really terrible.
Or he’s suffering with a disorder that drives his behavior to show his pain in ways that make you uncomfortable… take a breath. Then take the time to sit with him often. And listen.
Show him you want to learn.
Ask him what it’s like for him, ask him if he can think of what you might do to help. Show him, (in spite of the awkwardness you may feel in acknowledging this condition is real), that you have his back.
Show her you want to know what she feels. Ask if it’s sometimes better and sometimes worse or the same all the time.
Show her you’re interested and want to know what she goes through.
And if she doesn’t want to talk about it, respect that and just sit quietly for awhile because you accept that this is something you really don’t know much about.
Don’t preach. Just don’t do it. Not about what you believe she needs to do. She’s heard it a thousand times before. She would do ANYTHING that would truly help, but she’s also an expert at following the advice of others then discovering it didn’t help at all. Don’t lecture. Just don’t.
Your family member is an expert on her condition. This is an excellent time for humility from you. And a commitment to pitch in wherever you can.
Because Real Love Means Helping
These are ways you can give a priceless gift to your loved one. The gifts of validation… and understanding.
Think about this: You’d do this in a heartbeat for a family member with cancer. Or kidney disease. Or an amputated leg.
Your loved one’s illness may cause more suffering, and could be more deadly, than any of these other diseases.
Step 4. Make yourself available as a partner in hope.
After trying steps 1-3 as many times as it takes, you may be ready for Step 4.
Avoid saying things that criticize or judge.
Speak words of hope.
Develop a demeanor of acceptance and appreciation.
Pitch in and help if he or she will trust you enough to do that as an act of support.
This is all about earning trust. And you can do that with humility, acceptance, an eagerness to learn, and a strong desire to help.
For many of those with serious disorders, remembering medication on schedule can be very challenging. REMEMBER: prescribed medication doesn’t necessarily mean your loved one is effectively treated.
If he says the medicine isn’t helping, it isn’t helping. As soon as he feels improvement, he’ll eagerly let you know. But he can’t find out if a medicine works unless he takes it like he’s supposed to.
You can offer to help him remember his medicine on schedule. If four months go by without improvement, it’s time to see his psychiatrist again.
But you know what? Medicines do help about 50-66% of people who take them. Sometimes a second try on a second medicine or combination of medicines can provide the needed help.
Your non-judgmental helpfulness can prove to be just the ticket to give him the chance to see if the medicine will help.
If you had all the things going on in your mind that he has going on in his…you might forget to take your meds too. She could use a helping hand, if she trusts you to care… and not judge.
Another way to help might be to help him remember his therapy appointments, and to help him get to them, if necessary. Again, when he forgets or can’t find a ride, or has a flat tire…or a panic attack… this is not irresponsibility, like it may appear.
The distractions, emotional plunges, panic attacks, or reactions to what goes on all make it easy to forget in the moment about important things like medications and therapist appointments.
But they’re important.
So try to cut him some slack, and do what you can to help him make those appointments.
Ok call it a balanced diet, if you like. But unless you live with him, you may not realize how hit and miss his schedule can be…and if he lives alone he may find it difficult to get his disordered brain to be organized about eating properly.
But by partnering with him for his nutrition, you might be able to help him eat a nutritious meal by helping him plan or by bringing him a meal. High protein, low carbohydrates, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, can do wonders to help him stabilize.
And it’s even more helpful for him to avoid certain preservatives, dyes, and artificial flavorings. Fresh and healthy is the best, but sometimes you have to do the best you can, just so he eats.
A Good Night’s Sleep
In some disorders, like bipolar disorder for example, there’s a triad of components that influence stability.
Those are medication, nutrition, and adequate rest. In bipolar disorder, if any of the three shift out of balance, it can throw your loved one’s mental/emotional balance out of whack, too.
Different people need varied amounts of sleep to be rested…but with a mental health disorder he may need more…and he may only be able to actually sleep a lot less.
Insomnia is a symptom of many disorders. But if he’s not sleeping much, then he needs to seek better prescriptions that help him sleep.
You might offer to accompany him to the doctor to help him describe his insomnia and to add to his credibility with his doctor. Showing that you’ve witnessed the severity of his insomnia can be helpful to the doctor in prescribing the best treatment.
If he’s sleeping too much, say 12-16 hours a day, then that’s a symptom too, so suggest he talk to his doctor for help.
It’s important to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night to be at your best… but some need 10 or 11.
Let’s add to the triad, exercise. It also plays a role in bringing balance in some disorders.
…and offering to take a walk with him can often make it easier for him.
All in all, investing your love and effort in trying to understand and support your family member who seems difficult at this time of year, can make the difference for him in managing his illness. Love and support are priceless to him. Judgment and rejection can make it seem impossible to him to cope at all.
Or to even keep trying.
Remember, it’s probably not that he’s selfish, or lazy, or a brat. He just may be doing the very best that he can.
What If These Steps Don’t Help?
The fact is, that these are guidelines for partnering for hope with your loved one’s wellbeing. But in some cases, medications don’t bring balance or relief, you may see he continues to have no appetite or wants to eat way too much, and he goes days without sleep or sleeps around the clock.
If the treatment is not relieving the symptoms, he may be like a full 1/3 of people with disorders for whom medication just doesn’t help.
If he’s tried two – or more – treatments or medications that fail to help him feel better, sleep better, enjoy better behavior and the freedom to live the life he wants to live, he may need a novel, more advanced, treatment. And you help him with that.
IV Ketamine Treatment
As we’ve talked about, real love means helping, and that could be helping him find the treatment he needs.
Until the last several years, there was no hope beyond those medicines. But neuroscience research has turned a corner. And IV ketamine treatment is available now.
As one of the most effective medical treatments for the highest percentage of depressed patients unhelped by other medicines, IV ketamine treatment can do more than just help.
It can restructure the signaling circuits in your brain as well as other areas like the hippocampus, the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the lateral habenula so that you can feel just as great as you did when you were the very best version of yourself.
And the result can be lots of consistent joy, restored hope, increased motivation, heightened creativity, the ability to enjoy what you used to enjoy, and the energy to invest in yourself and your relationships, as well as the stability to excel at your job.
And there’s more…
For the first time in history, the untreated can get their lives back and be restored for a fulfilling and rewarding life. And that means you.While it’s not effective for everyone, it IS effective and transforming for most… so chances are ketamine treatment is just what you need.
If you feel you fit these criteria, call us. We want to help you enjoy the life you’ve yearned for… if you’ve been un-helped through severe depression, unrelenting bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, addiction, panic disorder, and social anxiety… or if you’ve been thinking about dying… let’s talk about what ketamine treatment can do for you.
To the transformation to your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.