Ketamine…Again?

Before I sat down to write this today I was planning on doing another Vlog. (Note: I actually wrote this and intended to post it yesterday before I found out that Facebook and Instagram had both crashed!). I thought I needed to maybe hear my own voice again today but I’m just too vulnerable right now and so I wrote my words out instead. 

My Psychiatrist increased my new medication again late last week with the intent to get it to a therapeutic dose soon. It’s an anti-anxiety medication which I mentioned I would be starting a few weeks ago. As of yet I can’t say that it’s really been helping me. So for now I will just add it to the long list of failures.

Yesterday was a pretty bad day all around for me. My anxiety was very high which then turned to panic, crying, rumination and an increased amount of thoughts of death and dying.

As I also mentioned recently my Psychiatrist had put a plan together for me when we spoke a few weeks ago. It included this new anti-anxiety medication and it also included treatment for Ketamine…AGAIN which has been scheduled to start early next week. 

So for those of you who don’t know what Ketamine is I will give you a quick explanation here. For starters, it’s actually a very potent and sometimes deadly street drug known as “Special K”. It is also apparently used as a horse tranquilizer but most commonly it is found in anesthetic.

I’m not gonna bore you or put you through a science class today but people living with Depression are known to have “abnormal brain plasticity”. Continued studies and research have shown that using Ketamine can help to remove the “negative receptors” in our brain and then it like “plants a seed” in your brain which allows for new “neuropathways” and positive neuroactivity to grow and flourish.

Studies have shown that by using Ketamine to treat Depression there has been a 60% success rate so far and unlike anti-depressants it is supposed to work faster and more effectively.

Now let me go back for a second here and explain (for those who may not already know) what I meant before when I said I am scheduled to begin Ketamine treatment…AGAIN.

Several years ago during an inpatient stay at Sunnybrook Hospital I was asked to take part in a Clinical Trial for Ketamine. I had never heard of it before but I was the perfect candidate though because it is used mostly on patients who suffer with Treatment Resistant Depression like I do. I happily and very naively agreed to try it. I figured I had nothing else to do seeing as I was in the hospital anyways.

I filled out a ton of paperwork, spoke in depth and several times with the Psychiatrist in charge of the study. I filled out many questionnaires with his Associates. After I was given approval to begin the study I was scheduled to start the 1st of 6 treatments the very next day.

They told me during the initial consult that the Ketamine would be administered through an IV and that I would have to lay there in the OR attached to an IV drip for 45 minutes and then kept for observation for another 30 minutes following. Before we began the process I asked the Anesthesiologist if I would feel anything. He said you may feel a bit woozy. 

Well woozy was an understatement because for the next 45 minutes I lay on the cold table hallucinating, feeling disassociation and seeing psychedelic images flash before my eyes. It felt like a complete out of body experience with flashbacks as far back as my childhood. 

I hated every bloody second of it and couldn’t wait for it to be over. The next day I met with the Psychiatrist to discuss how it went and we both agreed it was probably best that I don’t continue with the study. Another epic fail.

Now let’s fast forward to March of 2020. My current Psychiatrist happens to be the Medical Director of 2 Ketamine clinics in the GTA and has studied it’s effectiveness on Treatment Resistant Depression for several years now.

Back in February or March of 2020 (everything is kinda a blur now) we began another discussion surrounding Ketamine and he asked me if I would be willing to try it again as with more scientific research and studies conducted it was now available in a nose spray form. And less invasive.

He told me he would administer the 1st dose in his downtown office at the hospital he works out of to ensure I tolerate it and that the following 5 doses could be picked up at a local compounding pharmacy and be administered under the supervision of my husband in the comfort of my own home.

I agreed to try it AGAIN cause well, I try almost everything at least once when it’s come to my treatment or in this case twice.

We were scheduled to begin the 1st treatment on March 15th 2020 at 6:00 p.m. It never happened. And if you have been following my journey very recently I kinda just let things slide from there once the pandemic hit.

As most of you know though I reconnected with my Psychiatrist a few weeks ago at which time he told me that patients were no longer allowed to administer the nose spray at home. The whole idea had been kiboshed over the past year as research had shown that it was a liability and quite dangerous to do so. But I guess it’s OK because since March of 2020 Ketamine is now available in an even less invasive form, a pill which is dissolvable under the tongue but still can only be administered under the watchful eye of a doctor/nurse. 

So I guess as they say, three times a charm as I have agreed to try it…AGAIN. The six sessions are to be completed at a clinic in Toronto (there is also a clinic in Mississauga too). Each session will take between 2 to 3 hours from start to finish to complete and I am not allowed to drive home afterwards. They actually recommend you don’t drive for 24 hours following. The sessions will take place twice a week for two weeks and once a week after that.

Although I’ve agreed to try it again given I feel like I’m running out of both viable options and steam, but I have been told by my doctor that I am very likely to still feel those same hallucinations and disassociative feelings that I don’t like. I’ve done many other treatments and have tried many hallucinogens over the last several years. I don’t like feeling as though I’m tripping out on LSD.

I’ve been consumed with very negative thoughts for several days now (surprise, surprise) since booking my treatment. I’m experiencing extreme anxiety and feelings of overwhelming guilt and lets not forget those feelings of being a burden that weigh me down too. I’m questioning my decision to do this again for many, like OH MY GOSH, too many reasons.

For one, it’s still very new and likely not to be a forever cure from what the current research shows. I will very likely need to continue on some type of maintenance program after the six sessions are done. But like how long term? And does anyone even know what the long term effects of it could be, especially cognitively. As it is, I did ECT (Electroconvulsive Treatment) several years back. Probably the most invasive and scariest treatment I’ve done. The eight treatments I did fucked me up royally. It fried my short term memory, my ability to recall many things and I find myself often forgetting what I was talking about mid…sentence.

But at the same time Psychedelics seem to be the wave of the future for treating mental illnesses and especially for people like myself who are treatment resistant. I’ve even tried “shrooms” in a pill form, but couldn’t tolerate the hallucinations it caused, although my Psychiatrist is also currently working on many new studies and its amazing effects on Treatment Resistant Depression as we speak.

I’ve tried so many different treatments over the past seven years and how I see it, I have failed them all, many of which have cost a shitload of money because they were not covered by either Ohip or insurance, Ketamine now included. I wish I could understand why if there is such a need for these treatments and Ketamine for one has one of the highest success rates among all treatments including anti-depressants then why has it not yet become part of the mainstream health care system so that more people can have access to it? I know, dumb question.

It’s an expensive treatment, especially if it becomes ongoing. It’s an expense we really can’t afford at the moment and just adds to the extraordinary guilt I already live with on a daily basis.¬†The “what if” I’m not part of that 60% success rate, the “what if” yet another attempt fails and we throw away even more money that we don’t have. How can I live with that on my conscience?

The answer is, I can’t.

I’ve carried on and on AND on the last few days with all the other reasons as to why I also shouldn’t do it as well and feel like a burden yet again to my family by having to take me and sit with me for 2 to 3 hours (plus the 30 plus minute drive there and back) while I have my treatments.  

These are very real struggles for me which of course my Psychiatrist tried to remind me the other day as I rambled on about all my reservations that I’m having that it’s my Depression talking and that my Anxiety is happily cheering him on. I can’t let them win.

But it’s so fucking hard though and the noises in my head are loud as hell. It’s literally killing me.

They keep telling me I don’t deserve to live a life free of chronic Depression, debilitating Anxiety and daily thoughts of Suicide. They keep telling me I’m just gonna fail at this attempt too. They keep telling me to give it up already and that I’ve already used up my many chances at recovery over and over AGAIN. Like why would this time be any different?

Thanks for listening to me today. I so appreciate the extra set of ears. Somedays the best medicine is just knowing that someone is there listening to my very real and terrifying emotions with only the purest of intent.

#ketamine #empathy #education #treatmentresiatantdepression #mentalillness #mentalhealth #depression #anxiety #itsoktonotbeok #youareenough #maskoff #psychiatrist #psychiatry #acceptinghelp #threetimesacharm #selfcare #youmatter #youareenough #yourmentalhealthmatters #mentalillnessawarenessweek

And That’s A Wrap ūüė•

Last night I watched the series finale of “Mom”.¬†

I, like millions of its viewers was not ready for it to end. 

I’ve been watching “Mom” every Thursday night (and in reruns) since its first episode aired 8 years ago.¬†

The show centered around a group of ladies from all walks of life who develop the most unlikeliest yet deepest of friendships and the most unbreakable bonds brought together by one common goal; sobriety. 

The writers of “Mom” spent time building this strong and very relatable group of characters and brought us along on their unique journeys, cheering on their many triumphs and saddened by their many setbacks with new storylines each week depicting the real-life struggles of people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction; something so many of their fans could relate to and a very relevant and critical mental health discussion today.¬†

This has rarely been seen before in a half hour sitcom but “Mom” managed to do so by sensitively tackling very difficult topics and using humour to keep the audience coming back for more.¬†

It gave us an inside look at what recovery looks like.

It showed us that recovery is never a straight line.

It showed us that recovery is a lifetime journey.

It taught us to persevere.

It taught us that we all make mistakes and that it’s okay to fail sometimes.

It taught us to keep getting back up again after we fall down.

And it taught us that there is always a “solution”.

I often found myself relating to so many of the storylines and felt such a strong connection to my own mental health journey. 

These ladies taught me the importance of sharing my story and to keep on sharing it again and again.

They taught me about forgiveness. 

They taught me about hope. 

They taught me that life is filled with endless possibilities. 

They taught me that recovery is possible. 

And they taught me that with the right people in your corner you will never be alone.  

I’m sad it’s over and I had a good cry during the closing scene. I’m really gonna miss seeing these ladies each week at their AA meetings and coffee dates afterwards where they shared more than just a piece of pie. It’s where they celebrated “love, friendship¬†and laughter” and it’s where I always felt like I had a seat at the booth right there alongside them.

#momfinale #alcoholicsanonymous #addiction #friendship #triumphs #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #youareenough #youarenotalone #endthestigmatogether #itsoktonotbeok #theresalwaysasolution

Stay Blessed, Stay Breezy

Today I had planned in advance to write a blog about the colonoscopy I had this afternoon which has been triggering my lifelong battle with an eating disorder all week but all that changed in an instant yesterday afternoon when I received a frantic and hysterical phone call from Jacob while he was at work, crying and gasping for breath, he uttered the words that no parent ever wants to hear and words that can never be undone. He shouted into the phone “Jesse just died”; his lifelong friend and our family’s friend had just suddenly passed away at the age of 22.

So today instead I want to pay tribute to our dear friend Jesse Benudiz who was taken from all of us way too soon. Jesse was the most loyal and generous friend to everyone who knew him. I can recall countless times he proved that to me and my family, including when he so generously hired Hannah for her very first lifeguarding job at the Fitness Club he managed, or when we smuggled Jesse into camp one Visitor’s Day after he had stopped working there and when approached by head staff as to what he was doing there he told them he came to visit his “cousin Rachel Fluxgold” and another special memory I can recall of Jesse was the time when he so selflessly spent many hours talking Jacob through some very personal life altering decisions of his own while he was struggling to find his path in life during his first semester of University.¬†

Jesse was also by far the most amazing and loving son and big brother to his twin brothers. I was lucky enough to witness this myself many times over with his mom KC, whom I am honored to call my friend and his incredible brothers Justin and Jamie. He was an inspiration and shining light to anyone who he met and he had the most empathetic and genuine heart of anyone I know

Last spring when the world was trying to cope with the onset of Covid-19, Jesse learned that he had a brain tumor and for the next six  months or so he began the fight of his life on an entirely different level. He spent countless weeks in hospital all alone due to Covid and underwent aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed by brain surgery; always smiling through his pain, but a few short months ago Jesse got the best news of all; he was now in remission. 

Throughout the past year, Jesse continued to inspire us all, managing to finish his Degree, raising 20k for Princess Margaret Hospital (a world renowned Cancer Institute right here in Toronto and the same place that had saved his life just months ago), but he didn’t stop there. 

Now that he had beat Cancer’s ass he wanted to continue making his mark on the world and started a Podcast called “The Blessed and Breezy” where he talked about his own personal journey and struggles and discussed many of the challenges among youth and mental health today. And there were so many other endeavors on the horizon for him as well.

My entire family is truly heartbroken today and there are no words to describe our pain. He has left a void in our hearts.  We had a very special bond and even through his own struggles he would reach out to me regularly to talk, he would comment on many of my blogs with encouraging words, he would send me information on different podcasts or YouTube videos that he thought would be of interest to me and just last week we spoke about collaborating together on one of his upcoming Podcasts. 

No parent should ever have to go through this kind of loss, EVER and my heart breaks for KC and Max and the rest of Jesse’s family and his many, many, many friends. He was and will always be remembered as the shining light he has left behind for everyone who ever had the honour to know him.

RIP Jesse. You will be missed greatly.ūüė•

#stayblessed #staybreezy #ripjesse #weloveyoutothemoonandback #fuckcancer #youareenough #youarenotalone 

Keeping Up With Kanye

 

I’m sure most of you reading this have probably seen or read the news lately and whenever there is any kind of distraction from the Global Pandemic or finding out what the President of the United States (a term I use loosely) has said or done now, we welcome this much needed distraction with open arms. I of course particularly love the distractions that come from Hollywood or Reality TV because (I’ll be honest), those are two of my biggest obsessions in life, but what has been playing out in Hollywood/Reality TV over the past week or so in regards to the Kardashian and West family is truly heartbreaking.

Yes the Kardashians in particular have undoubtedly chosen to be in the public eye and have allowed us into their homes for over ten years now but when the cameras are turned off, the world still watches them in judgment, waiting for the next piece of Tabloid News to hit the stands. At the end of the day they are human which means that they make mistakes, they bleed, they hurt and they are not immune to disease or death either. This also means that no matter what or how they choose to live their lives, it can’t be easy always having the world watching your every move.

It’s been no secret for several years now that Kanye suffers with Bipolar Disorder which is a very complex Mental Disorder. Bipolar Disorder “causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration and the ability to carry out day to day tasks.” A person with a Bipolar Disorder will go through periods of extremely “up, elated, irritable or energized behavior to very down, sad, indifferent or hopeless.”

Bipolar Disorder is a treatable illness and although it can be managed with medication, therapy and other treatments it is also a lifelong illness that normally needs a lifetime of monitoring in order for someone suffering to have a good quality of life.¬†The last thing anyone, famous or not, needs while experiencing a manic or depressive episode of Bipolar is to be met with criticism or abandonment and when it’s being played out so publicly the way it has been with Kanye is sadly being met exactly this way.

My only hope is that Kanye gets the help he so desperately needs right now and that he can begin to use his platform for good (even though he’s got my vote for President. Oh right, I can’t vote!) and let his many fans around the world understand that sickness does not translate into weakness and that sometimes in life we fall down but that it’s okay to ask for help when you need help getting back up again. 

We need to learn how to lift each other up with kindness and empathy because no one is immune to Mental Illness.

#youareenough #endthestigmatogether #bekind #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #checkonyourlovedones #keepingupwiththekardashians #kanyewest #bipolardisorder #manicdepression #mentalhealth #mentalillness #kindnessmatters 

What Is HS?

WHAT IS HS?

A year ago today (it came up on my memory wall) I told you about a chronic recurrent skin condition that I have been battling with for about 3 years now (see blog; Antibiotics: To Take Or Not To Take). Its name is as painful to pronounce as the condition itself and when a flair up occurs it is beyond debilitating. 

Last summer I went to see a specialist who happens to be the only one of her kind in the city who specializes in Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS for short). Months prior to seeing the specialist I had been put on an antibiotic indefinitely which I was not comfortable with but it seemed like the only solution until my appointment with the specialist.

Once I finally met with the specialist she then prescribed me yet another medication that she said would be more tolerable as a long term option. 
We discussed future treatments in case the medication didn’t work, treatments which could include surgery or a very well known drug which treats many autoimmune diseases that would need to be injected into my body weekly for the rest of my life.

As you can well imagine, none of her options sounded too appealing to me. We also had a very candid discussion about many of the underlying causes behind this chronic (and basically) non- curable condition. Included in that list of causes are inflammation in the body and mood disorders, both of which have been the bane of my existence for almost 6 years now. It is also very likely to affect people (this condition in general affects more women than men) who are overweight and who smoke. Well lucky me, I was basically 4 for 4. 

I have another follow up appointment in a couple of months but I have not had a single flair up in 2 months since I began my quest to find all natural remedies for my Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis symptoms. I have lost weight and quit smoking in that same 2 month period and I am living pain free as well; all thanks to a couple of scoops of magic each and every day. And the best part is I don’t need to take medication anymore to keep the flair ups at bay.¬†

There may be no cure for HS or many of the other daily issues that consume my life but for now I am grateful to have found these products that are helping me focus on finding my way towards living my best life both mentally and physically. 

https://www.myvalentus.com/kfluxgold 

#myvalentus #valentus #miracle #HidradenitisSuppurativa #magiccocoa #happycoffee #immuneboost #youareenough #noshame #endthestigmatogether #youarenotalone 

Is Relapse Inevitable?

I met a woman several years ago during one of my hospital stays. We became roommates and fast friends during our stay and although we may never have otherwise crossed paths in our lifetime (Fun fact: the home I grew up in from the time I moved to Toronto when I was 8 years old until my late teens was right next door to the home she sold just months before I moved in!) or had much in common at first, it turned out that our friendship ran so much deeper than our illness and we have continued to be a great support for one another ever since. 

Last year my friend began feeling better and living her best life ever. She started traveling for months on end, dancing up a storm (some nights) until dawn and engaging in joyful activities with her precious, young grandchildren. She was finally free from the horrible effects of her depression. It was no longer defining who she was or how she lived her life and the best part was that for the first time in several years she actually wanted to live; not for her children, not for her grandchildren but actually for herself. 

I think I felt a bit envious of her at first wondering when or if I too would ever feel the weight of my depression finally lift or if I would ever break free from it as well. I mean what had she done so differently to make it all just disappear as though it had never even happened? What was I still being punished for since we had tried so many of the same treatments and medications but nothing was helping me? 

I don’t have any of these answers and neither will anyone else to be honest because everyone’s journey is unique to them and everyone responds to treatments and medications differently and everyone finds their own path toward healing in their own time. But here is another question that pains me to ask; can depression truly be cured?

I’m asking this question today because well that same dear friend of mine who just last year was traveling for months on end, dancing up a storm until dawn and engaging in joyful activities with her precious grandchildren is now back in the deep throes of her depression.¬† What could have made her go from living her best life to now wondering if her life was even worth living?

Again I don’t actually have the answer but from the research I have read it seems likely that individuals with chronic depression (defined as episodes lasting two or more years) or with recurrent depressive episodes need to continue with maintenance treatment; not for months, not for years but for a lifetime.¬†

One major problem is that when a person’s depression goes into remission they may feel a state of euphoria, as though they are ready to conquer the world on their own but what many of us may not realize is that like with any other chronic disease that goes into remission, depression needs to be treated with the same ongoing support and care.

Just a few short months ago if you were to have asked my friend if she could ever imagine her depression would rear its ugly head again she would have probably said to you “What? Are you crazy?” (Ok just a little depression humour) but instead she is now left trying to understand why this is happening to her and feeling like she has somehow failed.

I know that I would feel the same way. I mean my illness literally seemed to hit me out of left field when it began close to 6 years ago (I want to throw up just at the thought that it’s been almost 6 years or maybe the nausea I’m feeling is just from the effects of my concussion). But through therapy I have learned that my illness probably didn’t hit me out of left field at all and I have been learning how to manage it ever since knowing now how quickly it can hit you.¬†

I have not yet felt the effects of being in remission but I do have a better understanding that if and when that day finally comes I will know that I can never let my guard down and that proper maintenance and continued love and support from others could help to ensure that whatever obstacles get in my way I will be ready for them and that I also have faith now that my friend will tackle this beast head on just like she had so bravely done before!

#depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #relapse #remission #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough #friendship #isthereacure #treatmentresistant #maintenancetreatment #chronicillness