An abstract blue and red painting with wide brush strokes and vertical red lines

What Noise Sounds Like in IV Ketamine Treatment: The Ketamine Chronicles (Part 14)

Yesterday, I had another ketamine infusion for my treatment-resistant depression. It had been almost five weeks since my previous infusion, and while three weeks was our best guess for my interval, it seems like now I can actually go something like four weeks before really noticing it wearing off. I’m hoping that if I keep doing the behavioral things that help my depression (running, volunteering, therapy, etc.), I can at least maintain this amount of time between IV ketamine treatment appointments.

Linguistic Confusion During IV Ketamine Treatment for Depression

Most of my ketamine infusions have been visually focused, and usually what stands out to me are snapshots of images and colors. However, some of my ketamine infusions are much more auditory-heavy. Throughout it, conversations in the hallway and the other room sounded loud and close, and I felt as if I were being crowded around in the room I was in. Strangely, conversations outside the room sounded loud but were completely unintelligible. The boundaries of words and sentences disappeared and I was washed in streams of unending verbal noise. Nothing made sense, but I still strained to understand. The sounds of English words were familiar, but I just couldn’t parse them enough to grasp their meaning.

A messy spread of wooden typography letters in dark and light wood.
Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

This theme of linguistic confusion stretched throughout the infusion. I remember a filing cabinet stuffed with folders that I couldn’t read. The letters were there; I could pick them out, but putting them together and reading them as words eluded me. Later, messy papers with gibberish words filled my internal vision. I felt confused, I was upsidedown, my arm with the IV ached. The room seemed loud, and I saw stampedes of paper animals painted with pastel watercolors. They piled up and tumbled around me, threatening to knock me over and crush me. The fan in the room added noise that pushed it all to an intolerable volume, so I asked Erin to turn it off. I got ready to speak, opened my mouth, and seemed to just think the words out loud.

Did I Say That?

I notice this feeling often during my IV ketamine treatments, and it’s interesting to note how little deliberate control over our mouths’ movements we need in order to make coherent sounds. All I do is form an intention to say something, and it just…happens. It feels a little like I’m inhabiting my body separately from its direct controls.

A distorted glass with yellow and blue fractals approximating the experience of ketamine for depression
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, meaning it creates a state of perceived separation from the self. Altered senses and seemingly “out-of-body” experiences are common when receiving treatments of ketamine for mental health conditions like depression and PTSD. In my experience, I can still talk during a ketamine infusion, but it feels like someone else is doing the talking.

In any case, my request apparently worked, as Erin then got up and switched the fan off. That lowered the ambient volume enough that I could focus again on my music.

I remember there being more visual scenes after that, but I don’t recall them very well. The only one I have much memory of is a scene set in a grocery store with a broken jam jar, shards of glass glinting under the fluorescent lights, and wine-red jam splattered on the linoleum.

IV Ketamine Treatment for Depression in Combination with Other Strategies

The rest of the day is a blur. I slept off and on, interrupted by Stella periodically. It wasn’t until about 6 P.M. that I started to feel more like a person, but I was still glad to crawl into bed at night and sink into sleep. This morning, I’m tired. I’d like nothing more than to go back to bed for the rest of the day, but I know it’s important to get myself up and moving. I do best with routine, so in the interest of helping my brain repair itself through the effects of ketamine therapy, I’ve already had coffee and been to the dog park. So far, so good.

If you’d like to read more about my experience with ketamine for depression, start from the beginning of The Ketamine Chronicles or visit the archives. Click here for mobile-optimized archives of The Ketamine Chronicles.

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