Long exposure blue lights in the shape of sound waves against darkness

Sound Sensitivity: The Ketamine Chronicles (Part 36)

I have found that my most vivid experiences with ketamine treatments for depression happen when I’m listening to classical music. At my appointment this week, I popped both earbuds into my ears and started listening to a classical playlist while the infusion pump started to whir. The piano in the first song was soothing, and I settled back, holding my phone in my left hand and a worry stone in my right.

Music During Ketamine Infusions for Depression

The next song was heavy on the cello, and while I love cello music, this song gave me a decidedly creepy feeling. It brought to mind lots of puffy, white items in creamy white rooms that made me feel suffocated. It reminded me of a funeral home. I thought about changing the song, but that would have required control over more muscles than just my fingers, so I just waited it out, circling my thumb around the stone in my right hand.

The Worry Stone and a Mild K-Hole

The worry stone has proven to be a useful addition to my IV ketamine treatments. Even though it’s just my thumb that I can feel, that one little point of contact helps anchor me to the real world when I start to dissolve into nothingness.

During my previous ketamine infusion, in which I did not have my stone, I had found myself unable to move. I was probably experiencing what people call a “K-hole.” At times, I was aware enough to know that I only had one earbud in and wanted to grab the other one from my lap. I just could not force my arm and hand to move toward it. I’d try for some undetermined amount of time before giving up and being whisked away from my body once again, only to repeat the whole thing a little while later.

It wasn’t scary so much as it was frustrating. There was something I wanted, and not only could I not do it myself, but I was incapable of communicating my request in any way. We lowered the dose a little for this infusion, and I think that combined with the itty bitty scrap of control I maintained through the worry stone made for a much more comfortable ketamine infusion.

Controlling My Thoughts During a Ketamine Infusion

When the next song came on, I decided that I did not like all of the white imagery I was seeing, so I changed it to a more tan color and was immediately more comfortable. I don’t think that I’ve ever been able to just decide to change something about my experience of IV ketamine, so this was an interesting development.

I’ve contemplated the connection that happens between my recent experiences and IV ketamine that occurs in the form of bizarre, distorted versions of real-life items or events. I often start to see things during a ketamine infusion that I remember having a passing thought about a couple hours earlier. For instance, the oceans of corn I witnessed after briefly thinking about movie theater popcorn before one of my early ketamine infusions.

I’ve been mostly unsuccessful in doing this on purpose by seeding my mind with ideas. I had thought that my brain simply has its own agenda, but if I can change details like color while the infusion is happening, maybe I could learn to guide myself more reliably over time.

Machinery Noises

The infusion pump next to me whirred and chugged away, and although sometimes it faded into the background, at other times, it was extremely loud and menacing. It started to sound like a deep growl, and I felt as though I were trapped in a small space with a sinister beast and a red glow all around me. This occurred for only a few seconds, as I quickly tried to ground myself using the worry stone in my right hand. I remember thinking to myself, “This isn’t real. You’re sitting upright. You can feel the stone in your hand. This isn’t real.”

Abstract red painting with black shadows and gold splatters
Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Forcing myself back to the room felt like dragging myself up, up, up through a dark corridor to the surface. I turned up my music to drown out the sound of the pump and found myself floating into another feeling entirely.

What Am I?

At times during this ketamine infusion, I felt like I was a thin layer of ice spreading across a pane of glass. I watched the methodical movement of tiny ice crystals marching across the pane, like an army moving to claim new territory.

Closeup of ice crystals covering one half of a pane of glass with a view of trees outside
Photo by Sydney Rae on Unsplash

I watched it and I felt like I was it. It’s difficult to explain how disconnected I feel from my own body during a ketamine infusion. In fact, it’s difficult for me to fully comprehend after the fact, despite having experienced it many times. I still feel like myself, I’m just lacking a physical body. I’m free to move around as what feels like my pure essence, observing and sometimes participating in events that sound nonsensical to my rational mind. Although I seem not to have much control over what I see or become, it’s a somewhat pleasant experience to not feel constrained by my human identity.

Real-World Distortions

I rebelliously opened my eyes once to see the room coated in a gently moving, gauzy film. The walls seemed to shift as the film moved, creating odd, geometric patterns over everything. The photo on the wall suddenly had an ornate frame that stood out to me as being different than the understated one that had existed before.

My mom sat in the corner, typing quietly on her laptop. I tried to focus my eyes on her, but ketamine messes with my depth perception and I couldn’t even manage to keep my gaze on her face without my eyes jumping around the room and then back again. Finding the effort of this to be tiring, I closed my eyes again.

As usual, I was underwater for a time, but I don’t remember any specifics. I don’t know if it was the ocean, a lake, a river, or a stream. All I remember is that it felt somewhat healing.

Going Home After IV Ketamine for Depression

I have vague memories of getting home from my ketamine appointment and walking Stella through the park. I must have hung up my laundry at some point. I definitely remember lamenting my poor timing before leaving them to sit in the washing machine during my ketamine infusion, but now they’re on the drying rack. I may also have filled up the dishwasher, but again – it’s a blur. Maybe I should save some truly unpleasant task for post-ketamine productivity time. That way, I wouldn’t have to remember actually doing it!

I napped from 5:30 to 7:00 PM, then ate dinner and promptly went back to bed. I woke up later on at 11:00 PM and had a snack before getting back into bed. My face felt strange – like there was something weighty resting on my cheekbone and the right side of my scalp.

My tremor was bad the next day, and I struggled for minutes on end just trying to clasp a necklace around my neck. I felt spacey for two days following my infusion, and time had an odd quality to it. I tend to sleep poorly for a few days after a ketamine treatment, but mostly because I have a burst of energy that leaves me wanting to accomplish things instead of going to bed. Forcing myself to get in bed before I’m really ready results in extreme restlessness – it’s difficult to stop moving and I have to constantly remind myself that there is no reason whatsoever why I should be tensing every muscle in my body. Besides, I spend so much time sleeping when I’m depressed that finding myself actually wanting to do things is a refreshing change.

The side effects of ketamine typically go away very quickly after an infusion, but I have the added factors of multiple anti-nausea medicines and the MAOI antidepressant I take, Emsam. In my experience, the combination of all this makes for a more intense experience of IV ketamine and slower recovery from its acute effects.

My previous ketamine infusion felt more effective than recent ones felt. I didn’t start napping again until a few days before this infusion, I’ve been fairly motivated, and my general level of hopelessness hasn’t been too bad. Hopefully, this one will have the same effect on my depression.

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.

A metallic green hummingbird perched on a red plastic flower ring being worn by a hand held in the air with fingers bent.

Enjoying Good Days with Treatment-Resistant Depression

When I have good days with depression, it feels like coming out of a long, dark winter to find that the Earth is still spinning. In all of its complexities, the rhythms of life kept going on around me. Maybe I feel lighter, I laugh more, or I once again find enjoyment in my interests. Then, because I tend towards perfectionism and outrageous expectations, I throw myself into working on various tasks that have gotten out of hand in my mental absence.

Frantic Feelings of “Wasted” Time

Take, for instance, laundry. I tend to do absolutely none of it when I’m struggling with depression, which leaves me wearing dirty clothes or reaching into the recesses of my closet for that neglected, ill-fitting shirt I should just get rid of. Then, a good day comes along. And I have to do ALL of the laundry. In ONE day. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy the sense of satisfaction when this happens. It’s nice to finally have the motivation to do something and be rewarded with the feeling of a job well done. But I can’t help but notice the faintly frantic sensation I find in the background.

From experience, I know that my depression is very stubborn. If it lets up for a day or two or even a few weeks, it could be back soon. I’m like a squirrel hiding nuts for winter, except I’m vacuuming my floor and doing all my laundry because my treatment-resistant depression could come back at any moment. It’s best to be prepared for whatever is ahead.

A backlit mountain with dark pine trees in the foreground.

Being Mindful of the Good – Despite Depression

I’m always working on noticing when things don’t suck. When a good day with depression comes along, it’s nice to get things done, yes. But it’s also nice to just appreciate the little gems of each day. Dappled light on November’s yellow leaves, watching Stella roll over for belly rubs from the kids down the street, the aroma of coffee brewing in the early hours of the morning – these small moments that slip by me when I’m depressed are important because they demonstrate that there is good in the world to be appreciated.

The silhouette of a hummingbird in flight near a green tree and a red hummingbird feeder

About a month ago, I started sitting outside in the mornings with a hummingbird ring feeder. I’d just sit very still, sipping my coffee and listening to the hummingbirds zip around in the neighborhood. One day, a brave little bird came by to check out the nectar in my fake flower ring. It hovered nearby for a second before moving in and landing its tiny feet on the edge of the flower. I could feel the gusts of wind from its wings on the back of my hand. It stayed for about 30 seconds, drinking the nectar and alternately taking off and landing again before moving off into the early-morning air. It was legitimately one of the coolest things that’s ever happened in my vicinity.

The hummingbirds have migrated south by now, but that experience has stayed with me and reminded me of the value of being still. Depressed or not, taking time to observe the world around me almost always gives me a positive feeling. It’s good to stop and smell the roses, as they say. Or maybe they should say, “It’s good to stop and let a tiny bird drink sugar water out of a gaudy piece of jewelry on your finger.”

Depression Recovery isn’t Perfect

Instead of preparing every item of clothing I own for the possible approaching depression, I’d like to store away moments of gratitude. I’m trying to let go of the fear that my good days with depression will inevitably end. I’ll have to loosen my grip on perfectionism – do a little of what needs to be done, but save space for noticing the delightful morsels of a good day. I know that I rarely remember them in the same light when I’m depressed, but perhaps having an entire hollow tree filled to the brim with pleasant moments will convince me that if past me thought they were worth storing away for winter, future me will, too.

yellow-flowers-in-field-on-sunny-day-with-blue-sky

A Ghost Town: The Ketamine Chronicles (Part 22)

I woke up a couple of hours after going to bed following my most recent IV ketamine treatment for depression. It was around 1 o’clock when I began my slumber, so when Stella woke me up, looking like she needed something, I automatically fed her dinner because it felt like I had been asleep for a long time. Then I wandered into the living room, where it dawned on me that bright sunlight was streaming in through the windows.

What day is it? Is it still daytime?

Temporary Disorientation After IV Ketamine Treatment for Depression

Perhaps I entered a different dimension where time passes more slowly. Or maybe I’m taller than the moon and my head is therefore circling the sun at a different rate. I went back to sleep, but apparently woke up periodically to accomplish my nightly routine. Wednesday’s cubby in my pill organizer is empty, and I vaguely remember flossing my teeth. Half of what I wrote here was already done, which surprised me when I opened my laptop this morning to write. My phone informs me that today is Thursday, although it feels like several days have passed since yesterday’s ketamine infusion treatment.

An IV Ketamine Therapy Reset

I usually go about three weeks between appointments, but my depression has made a comeback. Similar to how I first began getting ketamine infusions, we decided to do a short series of infusions in quick succession to try to reset things and boost my mood. In addition to the short series, we’re also trying another medicine that can enhance the effects of ketamine therapy.

Scopolamine is an anti-nausea drug that comes in the form of a patch that you place behind your ear. I can tell that it did something; the infusion itself felt more enveloping than usual, and for hours afterward, I had this weird sense that I could feel my blood traveling through my blood vessels. It almost felt like being squeezed – like the boundaries of my body were working harder to keep everything contained within my skin.

I talked to Dr. Grindle (whose name frequently autocorrects to Dr. Griddle, which I think is hilarious) about our plan of action at the beginning of the appointment. My previous infusion was my first experience with ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP). The goal of it was to help me bypass the frustrating barriers to talking that I run into in therapy by having a ketamine infusion and a therapy session at the same time. It was a fascinating experience, but also a little overwhelming, so I decided to just do a normal ketamine infusion yesterday. I’ll revisit KAP another time.

Building a Metaphorical Mental Health Bridge

I don’t remember much from this infusion. The addition of all these other anti-nausea and sedating medications makes it hard to remember what I thought about and saw during the infusion. They also make me crash when I get home, which lets whatever memories I do have fade away before I have a chance to write them down. One part that I can vaguely recall came from a suggestion made by my therapist. After our KAP session last week, we marveled at how much I resisted talking about particular topics, even while zonked out on ketamine. This week, she suggested that I imagine building a bridge across the moat that protects my mental fortress. I have yet to figure out why some parts of my everyday life show up in my IV ketamine treatments and some don’t. The image of a bridge over a moat certainly stuck, although probably not in the way that my therapist hoped it would.

Mixing Memory and Imagination

Thinking about castles and fortresses created an odd merging of memories and imagination in my mind. At first, I found myself thinking about the ruins of castles on the Danube River in Germany and in the rolling hills in Wales. I imagined the people who lived in those castles milling about and going about their daily lives. Then, I seemed to combine that train of thought with memories I have of going to Caribou, an old silver-mining ghost town from the 1870s. It’s situated not far from where I grew up.

We used to go up there and explore the crumbling stone structures and look for currants and wild raspberry bushes. In my distorted ketamine haze, I saw people working in the half-built structures. All of the trappings of normal life were there; a large pot in the fireplace, a sturdy wooden table on the dirt floor, women in long, pioneer dresses and aprons bustling around in the four walls under the open sky.

Mental Barriers

At some point, the ruins were surrounded by a moat, and a figure stood on the opposite side. Remembering that I was trying to let the person cross the moat, I conjured up a drawbridge. Interestingly, simply creating the bridge was not enough. I couldn’t seem to keep the drawbridge down; it kept raising over the water, leaving the moat impassable again. It was somewhat frustrating – like those dreams where everything keeps going wrong, no matter how much you try to find a way around it. I suppose next time, I should build any bridge but a drawbridge.

A Middle Ground with Major Depression

I feel a little bit better. When I’m awake, I feel more motivated to get things done, and my immediate reaction to being faced with an opportunity or an obligation is not automatically “Ugh. No.” This is one of the more frustrating phases of depression for me. I feel capable of doing things, I sometimes even want to do things, but I’m so unbelievably tired that I waste hour after hour asleep. I’m starting to wonder if that’s a normal depression symptom plus side effects of the medicines I take, or something else entirely. All I know is that it makes me feel enormously lazy when I wake up at 5:30am and am struggling to keep my eyes open only three hours later. It hasn’t always been that way; when I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder, I didn’t feel the need to take a nap until mid-afternoon, and I could limit it to something more reasonable. I’m not sure what happened besides a worsening of my illness and the meds I take, or if those factors explain it all. Something to ponder.

silhouette of wolf standing on ridge with tall grass at sunset

The Wolf and the Goat: The Ketamine Chronicles (Part 18)

At this point, I’ve lost track of how many IV ketamine treatments for depression I’ve had (they don’t line up exactly with the number of blog posts). My treatment-resistant depression has dug its heels in once again, and I’m wrestling for the millionth time with whether or not there is any chance of improvement for me (despite having experienced significant improvement that fell apart when the pandemic began. Clearly, it is possible).

In a conversation with my therapist in which I explained my growing sense of hopelessness and how it makes me reluctant to keep going with ketamine infusions, she pointed out that I have said that ketamine makes a difference in my mental health. It’s true. It’s tough to remember that the hopelessness is the depression talking. I can’t trust my assessment of the world when I’m getting all my info through the warped view of depression. At least, I think. Sometimes it’s all so confusing.

The Wolf and the Mountain Goat

The wolf had its mouth open, partway through devouring some kind of amorphous, green animal. Perhaps a giant frog? An algae-covered sloth? Try as I might, I couldn’t interpret the image correctly. But there, below the wolf’s fearsome jaws, was a pure white mountain goat kid. It stood perfectly still, watching the wolf eat its catch.

That mountain goat should move, I thought. Directly below a hungry wolf definitely seemed like a risky place for a baby mountain goat. But nothing moved at all. The image was static. And then I remembered that I was not supposed to have my eyes open during my ketamine infusion, and I definitely was not supposed to be staring at the photo on the wall across from me. There is no wolf in that photo- nor is there a mountain goat. It’s a picture of a river flowing through rock formations with greenery on the shore. It was quite a trip.

I can’t unsee it.

Ketamine Depression Treatment and Visions of Water

From the beginning, I could feel the warm air inside my mask. At some point, it started to feel like liquid, like I suddenly possessed the ability to breathe underwater. I’m fairly neutral when it comes to swimming in real life, and I don’t have any particular fascination with water. But ketamine always brings out these intense associations with bodies of liquid water and, occasionally, ice.

Ripples and waves of all sorts, whales, jellyfish, cold rivers flowing downhill, being on a boat, icebergs; these are all images from previous ketamine treatments that stand out enough for me to remember them. Perhaps the physical sensations of unsteadiness trigger my brain’s water-related pathways. Except that I’m always decidedly stationary during ketamine treatments. In any case, I’d be interested to know if other people also see lots of water during their ketamine infusions.

Drowning in Deep Water

This time, it was the ocean, or perhaps a very, very deep lake. My perspective was from beneath the surface, and I could see someone sinking slowly from the glowing blue into the inky blackness below. I was watching the person, but I also was the person. We were sinking through vast expanses of empty ocean, only water and light around us. It was striking but lonely – only the silhouette of a human form, gently falling through deep water.

Slowly, the light receded above and I began to think that I didn’t want to be in darkness. It occurred to me that the person was drowning, and although I felt comfortable enough, that meant that I was also drowning. We were, after all, the same person. I didn’t know what was beneath us, and the unknown was somewhat unsettling. But everything was heavy, and the constant pull of the water was hard to resist.

The silhouette of a person falling through open ocean with light filtering down from above.
Photo by Daoud Abismail on Unsplash

It was confusing; how was it possible that I was breathing the water that filled my mask? I must be drowning, but I felt fine, only incredibly heavy. Then I heard my own voice in my mind say forcefully, “open your eyes,” and suddenly, I was back in the room, looking at the wolf and the mountain goat once again.

Space and My Mental Map on Ketamine

Have you ever looked at a familiar room and felt like you’ve never seen it before? Like you just never really looked at the angles of the walls or the color of the furniture? I’ve noticed that my ketamine infusions often give me the sensation that a room has changed and space is distorted.

When my eyes are closed, I feel as though everything is moving closer to me, but also over me. It’s like the weight of my body is folding space so that my surroundings move up and over me. Things feel much smaller, and I’m always momentarily surprised when I open my eyes, the space instantly expands, and I find myself in a bigger room than I expected. And every time, it’s as though I’m looking at a room that I’ve never really looked at before. By the time I’m semi-lucid and ready to set my legs in motion towards the hallway, the feeling has passed and the room is familiar again.

Some Thoughts on Masks and Privacy During Treatment with Ketamine

I don’t often relax in places that aren’t my own home. Even friends’ and family’s places give me that tense feeling of being a guest; I’m less familiar with my surroundings and therefore need to be alert and polite. It’s uncomfortable to imagine that someone might walk by and catch me making myself at home by taking a nap or, I don’t know, putting my feet up.

I’ve obviously been forced to let that go to a very large degree while treating my depression with ketamine infusions. But it’s gotten me thinking — this might be why I tend to open my eyes so much. My vulnerability alarm goes off when my eyes are closed anywhere that’s not my home. I guess it periodically yanks me out of whatever trip I’m on so that I can look around for a second. Maybe that also explains some of why I remember such vivid scenes. It’s like when you wake up in the middle of a dream and can recall it with perfect clarity, versus sleeping all the way through it, and then all you know in the morning is that Shrek was there.

A hand holding a stack of neatly folded, colorful face masks.
Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash

That said, lots of people wear a sleep mask during their ketamine infusions and find that the darkness helps them immerse themselves in the experience. I have found that wearing a mask that covers my nose and mouth does make me feel oddly secure – like it’s hiding me from any eyes that may look in my direction. I wonder if a sleep mask would have the same effect, or, as I expect it might, just make me feel more vulnerable by preventing me from looking around occasionally. Who knows – I may try it someday.

(Imagining my entire face covered in masks makes me feel like the spider in that viral voice-over video: I cannot see you, you cannot see me…I am hidden.) 

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.

A stretch of straight open road with a body of water to the left and blue sky above

The Day 2 Mystery of Depression Treatment: The Ketamine Chronicles (Part 17)

It’s been two days since my most recent ketamine infusion, which I have administered by my doctor to treat my depression. Usually, I write these posts in The Ketamine Chronicles as soon as I’m able so as to not forget too much of the bizarre experience. This time, I found that I didn’t have much to say immediately following my ketamine infusion.

Ketamine for Depression Has Not Been a Straight Line

For transparency’s sake in my attempt to document my experience with ketamine treatment for depression, I’ll just say it. My mental health has been in decline over the last few weeks, to the point of struggling once again with self-harm, something I thought I had kicked over a year ago. The previous ketamine infusion seemed not to do much for me in terms of mood, but gave me more energy and motivation, a mismatch that left me restless and confused. I felt the drive to do something but had no desire to follow through. Perhaps this is what led me back to self-harm. Multiple stressors, not exercising as frequently, and a strange mix of motivation and hopelessness led me back to an old, unhealthy coping mechanism.

A dense forest with thick fog and a path extending down the middle.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

No Memory of Higher Ketamine Doses

I had my most recent ketamine infusion on Friday. Like last time, it was relatively empty of bizarre images, at least that I can remember. At this point, my dose is pretty much at the upper limit of ketamine for my body, so Dr. G has been giving me propofol to make the experience less trippy. In my last ketamine infusion, I stubbornly kept my eyes open for a lot of the infusion and seemed not to care about breathing. This time, I don’t think I could have opened my eyes if I’d tried. I remember chatting with Erin, the PA, while she got the I.V. set up. I know we talked about haircuts, but I’m not sure what else. The propofol hit me way before the ketamine did, and the last thing I remember is Dr. G taking an exaggerated deep breath and wagging his finger at me sternly before leaving me in Erin’s capable hands.

Breaking the Speed Limit

When I closed my eyes, the world disappeared above me as I sank down into peaceful nothingness. At some point, I remember feeling as though I were a passenger in a car on a highway, open road stretching ahead of me. We began to go a little too fast for my liking, but I was stuck– carried along by the seat beneath me. This is the only image I remember with clarity from this infusion. I also remember that, because I couldn’t feel my face, I was occasionally concerned that I may have taken my mask off. Laughable in hindsight that I thought I could have moved with enough coordination to do that.

Ketamine on the Second Day

Yesterday, the day after my ketamine infusion, I felt no different than I have for the past few weeks. Actually, I think I may have felt worse. But today, I awoke with a wonderful sense of relief from my symptoms. Whether this lasts remains to be seen, but it follows an interesting pattern. The day immediately following an infusion is often disappointing for me. I’ve learned to not put too much stock into whether or not a ketamine infusion has helped based on the day after. The second day, however, is usually when I notice the changes that ketamine creates. I don’t know how common this is, but I think it’s interesting.

I have already put on my exercise clothes, anticipating a long run later in the day. I’m looking forward to today’s project of re-painting the grape arbors. I have mental plans to clean the kitchen and change my sheets, and maybe even vacuum. It’s great to feel better, but the previous few weeks have me apprehensive about this infusion; will it last? Will I need to adjust my medication or have more ketamine infusions to stabilize my depression?

We shall see. But for now, it’s nice to feel a bit better.

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.

Thoughts on Perspective and Depression

coin-operated-binoculars-with-raindrops-on-surface-and-red-knob-reading-turn-to-clear-vision
Photo by Chase Murphy on Unsplash

When I’m moving out of severe depression and into something closer to happiness, I’m intensely aware of the fact that I will soon forget what it felt like to be depressed. Not intellectually, of course. Having the experience of depression makes me forever able to empathize with others and remember, in objective terms, what it felt like. But the internal feelings– the heaviness, the soul numbness, the twisting slowness of being utterly squashed by life’s requirements- all of those will trickle away until I can only comprehend them from afar. Just as I can’t quite grasp the truth of happiness when I’m depressed, I can’t quite understand depression when I’m well.

It’s a problem I contemplate fairly often. Holding two perspectives at once isn’t fully possible, so I find myself slipping between two conclusions with different contexts. When I’m depressed, I vaguely remember feeling better. That memory, however, always pales in comparison to current pain. I eventually end up concluding that dragging myself back to mediocre happiness would not be worth the effort.

Inevitably, when the depression ends or at least improves, I understand how clouded my judgment was. Over time, I forget just how sharp and all-encompassing depression can be. I disregard its immediacy, letting healthy coping skills fall to the wayside. When I move beyond the basics– eating, bathing, stepping outside– to more advanced skills like socializing and nurturing my ambition, the basics are the first to go when stress hits. This is especially true when time has faded the memory of how quickly depression can return.

It scares me that depression so thoroughly warps my thinking, and recalling the cycle of depression and recovery makes me wonder if any number of episodes will teach me to ignore my depressed brain. It’s easier when each day is different; I can tell myself that this will pass– and I might believe it. But when I’m entrenched in depression, it stretches ahead of me until it’s all I can see. Then, the lies my brain tells me seem awfully convincing.

Right now, I’m going day by day. Things aren’t wonderful, but they’re not terrible, either. When I want to crawl back into bed in the middle of the day and not get up until tomorrow, I try to remember that I’ve been here before. I’ve been here before and I’ve done that before, and it never changes anything. Eventually, things will get better, and maybe I can get there faster if I make those hard but healthy choices. So, I’m back to the hardest self-care of all: doing what’s best for you even when it’s the last thing you want.

What to Consider When Switching Therapists

There are lots of reasons you might go from one therapist to another. You might be moving, looking for another perspective, or simply feel ready for a change. Or, it could be that your therapist is leaving; career change, maternity leave, any number of scenarios in which you must decide what to do with your treatment. And, pretty much no matter what, switching therapists is hard.

I’m in this boat right now, and I’m finding it more tricky than I expected. For one thing, I’ve had the same therapist for almost two years. We’ve gotten to know each other (in a heavily one-sided way), and when I’m not completely shut down with depression, I really enjoy her company. It takes me a minute to be comfortable with someone, so the thought of switching therapists and beginning that process again is daunting.

Online Research

When I began my search for a new therapist, I started with Psychology Today’s therapist directory. You can filter it by issue, insurance, gender, and other factors that might help you narrow it down. I also tried googling a combination of “therapist” with “depression” and my area.

Contact Method

Some therapists provide an email address with their contact information. Text, be it emails or SMS, is BY FAR my favorite way to communicate. Making phone calls is an arduous process, what with the scripting and practicing and heavy sweating. But, leaving a message on an answering machine is, in my experience, more likely to get you a speedy reply. [Pro tip: if you approach phone calls the same way I do, keep a list of potential therapists and the status of your contact. I can just imagine leaving the exact same scripted message for the same person twice and being mortified enough to cut contact entirely.]

Make Appointments with Multiple Therapists

I highly, highly, highly recommend that you make appointments or consultations with multiple people. It’s way more time-consuming, and I’m finding it difficult to tell my story again at each new appointment, but it’s the best way to find a therapist that you like. Your current therapist might give you a list of people to call, you can search the web, and if you meet with someone and it doesn’t work out, ask them if they have any colleagues they can recommend.

Therapists Understand that Switching Therapists is Hard

Switching therapists is an interesting process to go through after being in therapy for a while and having done the search a few times before because I feel much more sure of myself. I know what kinds of approaches I’m looking for and I know roughly what to expect at an initial appointment. But, I also have more of a history within the mental health treatment sphere to explain in a coherent manner. The sequence of events is too long to describe in detail at a first meeting, so I have to decide how to summarize in a way that gets everything across. I don’t always succeed, and then we’re left filling in important gaps that I forgot about. Fortunately, therapists understand that the transition can be a difficult process.

It can be hard to leave a therapist who has helped you through really tough times. They’ve supported you and listened to you, and it’s natural to be sad that your time with them is over. But, it’s not meant to be a relationship that lasts forever. I’m going to miss my current therapist, but I’m also looking forward to getting a new perspective. It might be just what I need to put all the pieces of my recovery together.