Erin, the PA, tells me I have gorgeous veins. It’s just one of my many redeeming qualities. Prone to perfectionism and crippling indecision? Yes. But hey – at least I have great veins. Starting the IV for my ketamine infusions is always an easy process, which is nice. This time, we once again did a pretty robust dose of ketamine with some propofol to make it less intense. Erin got me set up while we chatted, and then Dr. G popped into the doorway, explained just how many anti-nausea drugs I got (technically four(?), if I remember correctly), and then stopped. “What are we NOT going to do a lot of this time?” He asked.
“[brief silence] Looking around!”
I got a figurative gold star for my answer. I promised Dr. G I’d keep my eyes closed, popped in my earbuds, and settled in.
The familiar floating sensation reminded me strongly of water, as usual. Behind my eyelids, the blackness rippled and flowed, hinting at some unseen current. Soon, minuscule red specks glittered against the dark, moving with the gentle waves and forming dynamic shapes. It seemed as if there were something beyond the darkness that I could nearly see, like I needed to travel through the black, quiet water to reach something.
I began to imagine that I was lying on a beach, submerged in shallow water, looking up at the sky through the water that lapped at the shore. The sand beneath me was gritty, but the water was clear and the sky was blue. It was peaceful. Soon, though, the movement of the water reminded me of my recent road trip vertigo and the anxiety it created, and the peacefulness was ruined. I wondered if it would even be possible to have a panic attack while mildly sedated, but decided that I should put effort into preventing one, regardless. After all, it would be rather counter-productive. Bobbing and rolling in the imaginary water did make me anxious, although part of it was at the thought that freaking out would be pretty embarrassing. In trying to resist the anxiety, I realized that I was only making myself more aware of the movement. I needed to not fight it – to just accept that I was not going to feel completely still.
Once I let myself float away, the infusion seemed to speed up, and large chunks of time just disappeared. I don’t remember anything except standing in a room in a family member’s house, recalling the details of my surroundings with what seemed to be incredible accuracy. I actually worried momentarily that I might be flouting Dr. Grindle’s orders by having my eyes open. He might confiscate my gold star. Except wait- my eyes were closed. And yet, the windows let bright sunlight in through the blinds. The ones on the right were broken three slats up. The wicker chair with the yellow cushions was angled just right in the corner. The dresser with a sand dollar and a starfish on top sat just how I remember it. That rug that years ago was closer to shag but is worn and aging now, laid on the floor. I took in the scene quietly. There was nothing happening; I was just absorbing the room’s contents.
It seems like the more I think about it now, the less I remember of how I got home. The infusion finished and Erin took the I.V. out. Then, Dr. G handed a bottle of apple juice to Erin, who offered it to me. I reached out and took it with my wacky inflatable car dealership arms and then decided to wait for my facial features to materialize before trying to drink it. Somehow, I got my shoes on and made it to the car with my mom, who politely stopped after every three or four steps down the parking garage stairs and turned slightly to make sure I was still on my feet.
I may have fed the dog twice that night. My memory of post-infusion actions is incomplete, and I don’t doubt for a second that Stella would take advantage of that. Maybe that’s why she begs for food in the evening after I’ve already fed her– because sometimes it works! This is why it’s important to not make any important decisions following a ketamine infusion. You might end up with a new boat or no house or, you know, a spoiled dog.