Ketamine, once used frequently as a battlefield anesthetic during wartime and more recently as a club drug, has found new acclaim in its use to treat depression. Scientists and medical professionals have documented Ketamine’s ability to alleviate depressive symptoms in just hours, but didn’t really understand how it worked. Now new research hints at revealing the secret mechanism of action. In the most recent study, mice were injected with a stress hormone and then recorded exhibiting depressive symptoms such as refusing to eat in addition to recording the loss of synaptic connections in their brain. The mice were then given a dose of ketamine as investigators recorded surprising brain changes. The synaptic connections previously recorded, started to repair themselves after only twelve hours. In addition to repaired neuronal connections, the depressive symptoms that the mice had shown disappeared almost instantly. Ketamine therapy holds great promise in being able to quickly treat suicidal thoughts and depression, and this research helps uncover its secrets.
This post is about a tremendous AHA moment I experienced on Friday. It is so powerful that I needed to share it with all my fellow seekers out there. You see, like many others I am aware of way too many moments in my daily life where stress, anxiety, depression, and a sense of despair threaten to undermine if not destroy my happiness. With all the daily practices I have in place to increase my conscious awareness, I still am a work in progress and prone to ruminating about the tragedies in my past and fretting over my future.
I begin each morning with a silent gratitude session, before my feet even touch the floor. This small ritual is a fabulous way to set the tone for the day. After I drink my deliciously flavored coffee, finish with my personal hygiene, and dress – I then have my morning meditation session. There are days when I am not as religiously adherent to this schedule as I would like myself , but on the whole it is a steady routine of mine. Later on, typically about 6 PM, I have an evening meditation session and finally about thirty minutes before I go to sleep…..or attempt to go to sleep at least…..I put on one of my self-help relaxation CD’s and drift off. Sounds good, right? So what is the problem…..you might ask? Well, even though these steps have positively impacted my physical, mental,emotional, and spiritual health…..I still find myself in states of extreme anxiety throughout the day with a feeling that there is a giant boot poised right above my neck about to stomp down and crush the life out of me.
So, I muddle through day by day, seeking solutions and tools that will help me increase my life satisfaction. I am a firm believer in the concept of Go Give. I find that by giving back and helping others…..even in small ways such as offering a smile to a stranger…..I gain just as much satisfaction as the person I am helping if not more. One activity I do in that vein is volunteering as a legal advocate in the local courthouse for people who want to file for PFA’s…..or protection from abuse orders. This is where, on Friday this week, I met her.
She was a well dressed middle-aged woman with piercing green eyes wearing what looked like elasticized bandaged sleeves on both her arms. She was glad she had made it here….. in the tiny coat closet sized room given to the woman’s advocacy center I volunteer for in the basement of the courthouse. As is my custom, I offered her a seat and a box of tissues and asked her how could I help her and what brought her to here this day. As she began to tell me her story, I found myself so captivated that time just seemed to stop. Over the next hour, she shared with me story and why she was seeking a protection order that day. But it was not so much her story that hit me like a bolt of lightning hurdled from the sky…..it was her attitude, the peace and love that radiated from her, and the sense of unflappability that she displayed. The universe was speaking to me, through the form of this brave woman…..and I was listening this time.
She is a survivor of childhood incest and adolescent rape. By 24 she had given birth to four children and escaped from a tortured and abusive marriage. At 37, a devastating car accident landed her in a coma for 17 days and more metal in her body holding her together than I can imagine. Then at 45 she started the journey of dealing with the big C…..stage 2b metastatic breast cancer. This lead to lymphedema which is why she was wearing support sleeves on her arms. She had psychiatric hospitalizations for earlier suicide attempts and takes medication daily for bipolar depression. During that time of mental health crisis, she found herself in the wrong place with the wrong people and is now facing two separate legal battles that could potentially send her to prison for decades. Oh, and they found tumors in her uterus so she is undergoing a hysterectomy at the end of this month. She found herself on this occasion filing for a PFA for her 3-year-old grandson against his biological mother’s new boyfriend. Wow…..and that is the short story.
As I was struggling to comprehend the enormity and pain of her journey through life and offer her support and compassion, I realized that I was more shook by her account than she was. Is it my imagination or is she just exuding this amazing steadiness and calm? And it wasn’t an act…..she truly gave off a vibe of peace and serenity that I have only witnessed before in yogis and advanced meditators. I politely asked if she would be willing to tell me her secret for seeming so happy and at peace while facing what seemed like overwhelming circumstances. She paused for a moment, taking a deep breath, and said she would be happy to share it with me.
“It didn’t happen overnight, and it hasn’t been easy,” she replied “but I have finally learned to deeply love the person I am. You see, I have been at rock bottom for most of my life and it got to the point that I only had two options left….end my life or turn things around and go up. Naturally, I tried the former approach first and when that didn’t work I began to research and look for ways to radically transform my life. I spent my whole life trying to give…..it was my job to keep everyone else as happy as possible. I didn’t mind giving to my children. I wanted them to have a happy life. But I didn’t give to myself and I didn’t know how to receive anyone else trying to give me help. ”
Boy, did that hit a nerve with me. How many of us are programmed to give but don’t have a clue about how to receive? I was just mesmerized by her and wanted to hear more. “I learned that if I am constantly putting energy out and not allowing any back in, the message I am sending out into the universe is there is no space for abundance in my life. I also needed to learn to love myself and appreciate the moments, people, and things I did have. I spent so much time and energy worrying about what HAD happened to me and what MIGHT happen to me that I never got to appreciate what really WAS happening. When I finally learned how to be present in the moment…..to live in the now as they say…..I feel like my whole life changed and I became almost reborn.”
I have read about this concept before. I do try to practice being present and enjoying the moment that is. Yet, I heard this from her as though it was a brand new revelation. For whatever reason, this time and in this space with this woman, I got it. If she can take the practice of living in the now and implement it in her life in a true deep way to make it automatic, then I can too. This woman came into my life looking for my assistance and help, but instead gave to me a gift that is truly so precious. Live each moment as if it is the only moment, because it is truly the only moment that ever matters. And practice loving yourself as deeply, truly, and profoundly as you give love to others. Pay attention, bring conscious awareness to your thoughts and emotions. Allow yourself to feel and to think as you may, but stop and witness these thoughts and feelings and consider that you do not have to act on any of them…..only acknowledge them and watch them. Live in the now…..what a concept! Hey universe, I heard you this time.
I have battled the beast otherwise known as major depressive disorder for a decade or so now. During my battles I did extensive research on treatments for this debilitating condition and consulted with many professionals. I met with dietitians and nutritionists. I met with spiritual counselors, I joined a support group…..which turned out to be a triggering and numbing experience for me personally. I had, and still have, many sessions with psychologists. I was treated by psychiatrists. I considered whether I should have ECT therapy….. otherwise known as electric shock…… after several courses of several different anti-depressive medications seemed not to work. At one point, one of my treating doctors had me on a regimen of medications that included an SSRI, a tricyclic antidepressant, an antipsychotic, an anti-anxiolytic, and gabapentin. Within six or seven weeks of this regimen, I developed a pretty severe reaction called serotonin syndrome that put me in the ER.
Finding a treating psychologist that is a good fit for you is a tricky thing in my experience. It has a lot in common with finding a mate. It takes a bit of time to figure out if you are a good fit. Just like dating, some things look pretty and shiny and wonderful on the surface, but as the layers peel back over time, you find some behaviors or thought processes that are deal breakers……you just aren’t the right fit. For some people they find the right fit on the first or second try. With me, it took five. It seemed like it took forever and I was ready to give up hope on the whole thing. But number five was THE ONE. And his advice and guidance has been more precious to me than any diamond ring. While helping me address and process the trauma and issues that are my life in a way that will lead to my maximum return to health, he has passed on to me some real gems. So many of these things in hindsight seem so obvious……the kind of “duh, why didn’t I think of that” obvious. And I am about to share one of them with you.
As a firm advocate of holistic healing, he understood my strong dislike of taking psychotropic medication. But he also knew that I was struggling with strong suicidal ideation and very scared of my own mind. During the course of one of our sessions, he told me that a wise old guru once shared with him that when a person feels down, what they need to do most is go give back. The worse one feels, the more depressed one is, the more urgently they need to go volunteer. They need to help someone else who is struggling. His prescription to me that day…..immediately go do something nice for someone who was suffering and expect nothing else in return. And you know what?…..This RX is one that really works.
During the eight years before getting this prescription, I had not heard or read of this idea once before. But it seems so natural. What a concept! If you are feeling down…..force yourself to get out from under your covers and go give back. Not only will you receive the blessed feeling of doing something good, it will naturally lead you to contemplating gratitude. Practicing gratitude flips a metaphorical switch in your brains thought processes for the positive. You will be amazed the power that a smile to a random person holds. I know I was, and continue to feel this way . I find that something Tony Robbins says quite a bit holds true in my life…..if you look at the ceiling and smile and laugh…..even if you are forcing it…..it is practically impossible to feel bad in that moment. While it is virtually impossible to look up and smile every minute of every day…..doing something to help someone else on a daily basis is much more attainable and gives you the same results.
So please go share this “secret”treatment…..dare I even say for some a cure……for depression. Give it a try and tell everyone you know. Let’s make this the worst kept secret ever. Keep on going!