The last couple of weeks have been hard for me. I recently wrote about how ketamine can make me feel like I’ve been launched out of a metaphorical cannon. The last time, it was like a little pbthpbpthh – an underwhelming puff that was more like being propelled by air coming out of an untied balloon than like being launched out of a cannon. I don’t remember much at all of the previous infusion, so I didn’t push myself to write about it. I thought it would likely be boring, anyway.
I can’t say for sure why that ketamine infusion was less effective than others. It could be hormones. It could be the changing seasons. It could be that I haven’t been exercising much. Maybe it’s all three. Whatever the reason(s), I’ve been front seat on the struggle bus – sleeping in my clothes multiple nights in a row and then wearing them the next day, getting my work done late or barely on time, napping by mid-morning. I find myself paring down my daily activities. Prioritizing one thing means getting rid of another thing, as the energy needed to do both is more than I have. In some ways, I’ve been getting along ok – my mood has been dipping here and there. But overall, that hasn’t been terrible. The hardest part is honestly the lack of energy.
So, I’m hoping that this week’s ketamine infusion can knock me back into better functioning. One change this time around is that I decided to stop using scopolamine for my infusions. I used it the last time and it resulted in a very…buried experience. I’m not sure how else to describe it. It was sort of smothering – as though I had sunk far, far below the surface of the Earth, and there was nothing I could do to get back to the room. Every once in a while, from leagues above me, I’d hear someone tell me to take a deep breath – the pulse oximeter on my finger had alerted them to the fact that I had stopped breathing. And I found that often, I just did not care. I felt like my body was just a suit I was wearing, and maintaining it was proving to be a lot of work. I could feel that my heart rate was slowing and my lungs were waiting for me to inhale, but it didn’t feel like it was innately me, and so I was content to just watch it happen. In fact, when I was told to breathe in, my recollection is that I felt a little annoyed at having to exert the effort. A couple of times, I tried to ignore it, but the voice was persistent, so I relented.
My experience with scopolamine is not entirely strange, I don’t think. Apparently, it can add to the dissociation that ketamine produces, which explains my sense that my body was not really a part of me. My description of that infusion is a little unsettling in hindsight, but in the moment, I don’t remember being afraid or anxious at all. Actually, the whole infusion was very relaxing, minus the slight annoyance of having to breathe. You know, those fragile humans, needing oxygen. Geez.
The most notable aspect of this infusion in my memory is that at some point, my music stopped. I’ve never had an infusion in which there was no music, so when I noticed its absence, I was mildly worried about what it would be like without it. Not worried enough to move or to say something, of course. That would be too much work. So I just waited, accepting that it wasn’t what I had planned for, but that was okay.
The sounds of the room, which are often prominent at the beginning of my infusions but fade away as time goes on, were extremely loud. I was most aware of the infusion pump next to me, which emitted constant mechanical noise. My mother was typing in the corner, and every once in a while, I noticed the sounds of papers shuffling or a door closing. I remember thinking that I felt like a pillar in a sandstorm, tiny particles being whipped into motion around me. The sand was the noise, and as it bounced off me and flew around the room, it started to sound a little like music. Rhythmic whirring from the machine combined with staccato typing somehow resulted in organic, landscape-based images in my mind. There were lots of shades of brown, but that’s pretty much all I can remember.
Another first for me this time was that I seem to have experienced synesthesia. To some degree, I think I always come close to it during ketamine infusions – the way I associate music with colors and images is not something I’m able to do when lucid. This time, though, I could taste sound. I can’t quite conjure it up enough in my memory to understand what it was like, but I do remember it dawning on me that tasting sounds is not something people usually do. When the noise in the room morphed into strange music, I became distinctly aware of the inside of my mouth. My tongue felt oddly small in the cavernous space behind my teeth, and the general feeling was of something… earthy. There is absolutely no way I can accurately compare the experience to anything, especially because I don’t remember it clearly enough. As I wrote in my hasty, post-infusion notes, “I can taste music. Indescribable.”
The rest of the infusion is jumbled in my memory, but I’m pretty sure the other images I can remember were from the beginning, when the music was still playing. I remember watching dogs eating something, and then their faces stretched and stretched until they turned into alligators. Eventually, an alligator head kept on stretching until it turned into the tendons of a human hand, which stretched until they were the layers of a landscape. Somehow, my brain went from dogs to alligators to tendons to landscape. I could explain the associations from my recent thoughts and experiences, but it would be convoluted. Suffice it to say, all of the elements of that bizarre sequence somehow make sense to me. Brains are fascinating.
Given my general lack of response to the previous infusion, we tried adding magnesium to this most recent one. It’s been two days now since my infusion, and I am definitely feeling a bit better. I woke up this morning, put on clean clothes, washed my face, and did three laps at the dog park instead of one. Improvement is improvement, no matter how small!