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Ink Blots and No Propofol : The Ketamine Chronicles (Part 24)

Yesterday, I had another IV ketamine treatment for my treatment-resistant depression. We tried getting rid of the propofol for this infusion, which sounded interesting because it had the potential to help me remember more about the experience as well as make the after effects easier. I can’t say that I remember everything, but the infusion feels more real in my memory than it has in recent weeks.

Is It Working Yet?

Despite having done this numerous times, it’s still hard for me to discern when the ketamine takes effect. I kept checking in with myself, thinking, “Is it working yet? Are those blob shapes my usual closed-eye blobs, or something different?” But eventually, it became suddenly obvious that it was working. I started to feel like my nose had melted, leaving just the bare nasal bones exposed. This somehow reminded me of a seal closing its nostrils before diving underwater. I wondered if what I was feeling was close to what it feels like to be a seal. In hindsight, this makes no sense. Just having no nose is nothing at all like being a seal, but it seemed logical in the moment.

Colors, Ink Blots, and Numbers

The beginning of the ketamine infusion is the part that I remember the most completely. At first, the darkness behind my eyelids felt very normal and familiar. But soon, pale colors moved gently against the black, like lava lamp goop merging and bubbling off.

The colors eventually faded and were replaced by intricate black and white designs that reminded me of kaleidoscopes. They were incredibly detailed, and I don’t think I could ever recreate it. As they morphed, their intricacy faded and I was reminded of Rorschach ink blot tests. Somewhere in my brain, it occurred to me that that association was especially funny, given the context. What does it mean if you see shapes within shapes that you created yourself?

Black and white ink blot swirl.
Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

At some point, there were pages and pages of numbers that didn’t mean anything to me. They were mostly organized into columns and lists, and I tried to focus on interpreting them, but was unsuccessful. This is something that seems to happen repeatedly when I have an IV ketamine treatment for depression – I see overwhelming quantities of numbers or letters that I can never quite decipher.

That’s about the extent of what I remember. The rest of the ketamine infusion seemed to consist of fairly mundane experiences and scenes, although they escape my memory.

What IV Ketamine Therapy for Depression Feels Like

I’m glad that we tried it without propofol. I was a little worried that it would be too intense, but it turned out just fine. As usual, I felt far removed from the room around me. My body was in the chair but my mind was somewhere else. It’s sort of like there’s a tiny me inside my own brain, viewing images that create a highly convincing sensation of having my eyes open. To then test it by opening my real eyes is a bizarre feeling.

The rest of my day was dramatically different compared to days when we’d used propofol in conjunction with ketamine. With propofol, I often sleep for the rest of the day, broken with occasional small tasks like walking the dog or doing some laundry. I must metabolize it slowly, because when I wake up the next day, I have a lot of trouble piecing together the order of events or even what I did at all. It becomes clear that I was lot less sharp than I thought I was.

Without propofol, the disorientation and grogginess wear off more quickly. I’ll sleep for several hours, but then can function fairly well, if a little physically unbalanced. I vastly prefer to be as alert as possible. The sensation of not actually having made decisions with my full wits about me is unsettling.

I’m hoping that my old pattern of improvement two days after a ketamine infusion is consistent. The short series of treatments we did recently helped combat my depression symptoms, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

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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