a-ok: the ketamine diaries #5 - sinking in the ocean of suck

This is very much a "please learn from my stories and don't do the same stupid shit I do" sort of post. Meds can serve as both miracles and nightmares. This is the latter.

a woman walking along the bottom of a dark ocean

Picking right back up! A trip to The Void brought to you by... SNRI withdrawals.

It's electric.

It took a couple days for Pristiq withdrawals to kick in, but when they did, holy shit, I was leveled. Let's hit the highlights, shall we?

The most prominent symptom of Pristiq withdrawals (for me) was brain zaps, which are electric shock-like impulses known to be caused by certain medications. A zap feels like your entire brain is recalibrating, as if someone hit a reset switch you didn't know existed. They're not painful, but they're certainly not fun, and they're extremely disruptive.

The zaps last mere seconds, but after a few days of being off Pristiq, I experienced roughly a week of them happening as often as every minute while I was conscious. Mine also had a sound component. If you've ever put your driver side window down while driving on a two-lane road where vehicles were going the opposite direction, you've heard the sound. A kind of whooshing. Each zap felt as if it was something passing through my brain from front to back, and on both sides, I heard three separate whooshes, like sound waves radiating outward.

It was nearly impossible to have a conversation, because whatever words I was saying when one happened immediately evaporated. The chances of getting them back? The slimmest. It felt extremely isolating.

The other symptoms were pretty standard fare: dizziness, confusion, tingling sensation (specifically in my face), and headaches.

Ron Swanson sitting in a chair saying "please don't make this worse"

Poorly timed decisions.

During this time, I inadvertently made a boneheaded move. I scheduled a ketamine treatment, because that normally includes an additive that can help with withdrawals as it flushes your system. Except, there was a national shortage and I didn't receive the additive during that treatment. The fun part was that I didn't know that before I decided to skip Wellbutrin that morning.

I'm not sure I can provide much defense for that choice, but once I missed a dose, I wasn't going back on. Which means shortly I was still withdrawing from Pristiq, and compounding it with Wellbutrin withdrawals to boot.

The best addition Wellbutrin had to contribute was a shock to me: joint pain. After a few days, I woke up with pain in places I didn't even know existed. It was deep and achy and throbbing and it... sucked. Especially when my brain was on overdrive.

For weeks, I existed in this strange state between here and not here. I had so much energy, I swear if someone could've squeegeed it off me and harnessed it, it would've powered a small city. It was all nervous energy though, a buzzing across my body. I couldn't utilize it to do anything because I couldn't think clearly, so I kept myself busy with physical crafts. So many paintings and resin tumblers!

I wasn't always able to sleep between the hours of midnight and 5 am, but those were certainly the ONLY hours I was able to sleep for 3-4 weeks. Maybe that's normal for some folks, but it was a very bad sign for me, as I'm more of a 9 pm bedtime kind of gal. For years, sleep has been the most important indication of how my bipolar will react, so I didn't anticipate good things were coming.

Spoiler alert: they weren't. Things were about to get much worse.

Down the rabbit hole.

I ended up in The Void, where for perhaps the first time ever (after weeks of suffering of course), I finally made a conscious effort to try to write anyway. That'll most likely be my next post, as it turns out it may hold more value than I anticipated.

I realized this weekend something I've never articulated so blatantly, that depression automatically takes from someone what many of us so desperately need to keep going: the ability to create. To wrote or paint or make art. It naturally saps our will to the point these things seem foreign, like insurmountable obstacles meant to punish rather than inspire.

I think that's the most impactful thing it robs us of, on top of making even the simplest daily tasks feel like climbing a mountain with improper tools. Getting out of bed is hard. Attempting to create can be torture.

This time I learned that it's worth the fight to create anyway. To push and push until something exists that didn't before. Please, anyone feel free to reach out to me if you ever need a push in that area. I'm trying to partner up with folks who can speak directly to the dumb voices that try to keep us from making things.