I was on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional from DC to Baltimore when I got the alert that Kate Spade had ended her life. I couldn’t believe it and I desperately searched the internet for posts that proved the news a hoax.
But it wasn’t a hoax and the horrible news was confirmed immediately by credible sources.
I texted my sister-in-law.
“Kate Spade killed herself.”
Knowing she would be pressed for the best way to respond, I added “I can’t un-know that.”
Kakki, the sister I had always wanted, texted back.
“oh no,” she said.
We would have been shaken by the news of anyone’s suicide. My own nearly -constant suicidal ideation was an unfortunate reality for our family, and it made us all highly sensitive to the pain of others who dealt with the same demons.
To hear about a suicide so familiar, though, was even worse. In the recent past, there had been so many suicides of rockers and musicians. Those were awful, but none of us really knew any rockers or famous musicians.
In this case, we were long time fans of Kate Spade’s work. We followed her personal style and used her name like she was a friend. And she was a tremendous inspiration to me in my own artistic journey; I had long used her fresh, funky look as guidance in driving my own art licensing business. I hoped to meet her someday and talk about fabrics, color blocking and the ability of dynamic women to motivate others.
And now I was on a train to Baltimore for my fifth Ketamine treatment. I had finally become able to start Ketamine, hopefully the answer to my treatment resistant major recurring depression. And all I could think about was the fact that Kate Spade had done what my brain kept urging me to do.
Kakki texted me reminders to think of funny things instead of sad things since it’s important to be as stress free as possible for the ketamine treatment. She reminded me to play upbeat music. She asked if I was okay and tried to distract me with writing questions and editing tasks.
Ketamine works differently than the prescription drugs commonly used to treat depression. This is good news for someone like me who has tried everything possible with the drugs already out there. While I take a curated cocktail of drugs unique to my own bad chemistry, the drugs only take the edge off of my depression. But they enable me to function normally and work successfully when the drugs are balanced with a smart lifestyle. Diet, exercise, sleep, meditation, yoga and many other healthful habits are useful in helping the drugs act effectively.
And yet, the bad brain is still bad.
In order to fully abolish the deranged thinking of my messed up brain, I would need to take drugs or dosages that result in side effects that would disable me. And that’s not acceptable for me.
That is exactly where I’ve drawn the line in my life year after year.
In every recovery from every crisis, I have had to make this decision. And in every case, I have decided that I do not want to be disabled. I would rather live with depression that is not fully treated and be able to continue working full-time. It is a compromised life, but it is a compromise I make.
It’s been a real battle in my brain and a real battle for my family. Everyone in my inner circle knows that I walk a fine line. In order to maintain a highly functional life, I accept a precarious balance that is constantly in question. I am able to manage my depression the majority of the time and do quite well. But when stress is high or when a particular trigger sends me crashing, until now I have had very little to fight with besides my family’s love and my own ability to wait out bad times.
Unfortunately, the older I have gotten and the worse the bad times have become, the lower my threshold has been for what I believe I can handle. Each crisis is worse than the previous and my stubborn depression tells me I cannot survive another downturn.
My reality is that my plans to end it all have become far more realistic, far easier to carry out, and far more likely to happen. It’s not the reality of my healthy brain, but it is the reality of my depressed brain, which is stronger each time it has the opportunity to take over.
I believe Kate Spade’s bad brain took over. Anthony Bourdain’s too. When the bad part of the brain takes over, it only takes an instant for it to do a bad deed. And mine has been allowed to become quite strong because I have had no better options for fighting against it.
Now I am an ideal patient for ketamine hydrochloride, an FDA-approved anesthetic that, through regular IV infusions, can cause rapid antidepressant effects in many people with stubborn depression. The thinking is that ketamine rebuilds connections in the brain. Ketamine changes the brain.
My first ketamine treatment was May 21, 2018. The infusion protocol is 40-minutes followed by a saline flush. The protocol indicates five infusions within two weeks and then a closely followed sixth infusion. After that, maintenance begins.
The infusion makes you high, I suppose. I’ve never been high, only drunk. I have a feeling the ketamine experience feels like being high feels. You can look up ketamine or Special K on the internet and read about the street drug version of ketamine too. I’ll post links to articles below this essay for you.
As someone who has never been high, the experience was not particularly enjoyable for me, but having family with me helped to make it better. The first and third were kind of dark and scary, but by the fourth infusion, the experience was pleasant and a bit of fun since it really just felt like getting drunk fast. The fifth infusion would have been mostly fun had I not been obsessed with the news of Kate Spade.
My sixth infusion is this week and I’m looking forward to it. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had a depression treatment that did not have negative side effects.
I should also say that the actual experience at the treatment center was lovely. The staff and doctors were wonderful and caring and devoted. I’ll include information about them below also.
As many readers will understand, I’ve gotten used to depression drugs that require you to get worse before you get better. I’m used to accepting that life will be worse for a few weeks or months after changing to a new medication or a new dosage. I’m used to life sucking and then sucking more and then still sucking. I’m used to agreeing that life will definitely suck more in the interim, all so it might suck less in the long term.
If that is too negative for you, remember that I have treatment resistant depression. Yours may have been situational or far more responsive to treatment. And I hope it is. Or was. Remember that everyone has a different experience.
But I am really writing this for those whose experience feels hopeless.
Mine felt hopeless because it really was hopeless.
And that’s the problem with depression.
There are lots of problems with depression.
But the worst problem for me is that I worked and worked and worked to make the depression better and then it still sucked.
But on May 21st I began a new treatment and each day since then has been better.
It’s like magic.
If being better turns out to be long-term, which is entirely possible, I will devote my life to getting this treatment to anyone who wants it or needs it. Nobody should have to live through hell on top of hell. Depression is very hard to manage and seems impossible to beat. But everyone should have an equal chance to make it better.
I’ll keep updating here as I go through treatment. For now, though, two thumbs up and more if I had more thumbs.
If you’re hurting, please talk about it. Ask for help.
And if you’re tired of asking for help, demand it.
Make your family, friends and doctors listen to you.
I was really tired too.
But I’m glad I asked for help one more time because that was the time that made a difference.
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