The Mighty Logo

What Ketamine Revealed to Me About My Suicidal Thoughts

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

This past week, I started having ketamine infusions to manage my depression. While I’ve only finished one week of the 2x/week for three weeks protocol for initiating ketamine before moving on to the maintenance phase, it’s already been an eye-opening experience.

Honestly, when I began the infusions, I had no clue what to expect. I never experimented with drugs or drank alcohol, so I had no clue what it would be like to have a mind-altering experience.

The first infusion felt like a Novocaine shot to the whole body mixed with being in a room of swirling colors.

The second infusion was way different. I felt like I was inside a “Planet Earth” filming with David Attenborough’s voice narrating in an ocean full of whales.

I thought about my aunt in her last days before passing from brain cancer. I imagined her last days felt like I did in the moment influenced by ketamine — relaxed, peaceful, pain-free, and able to hear the soft music playing in the background. While I used to imagine my aunt was uncomfortable, I now have hope that maybe her last days weren’t as painful as I’d imagined.

I thought about my cousin who died by suicide and had a bit of an epiphany about my own suicidal thoughts. Perhaps I’d been told about this concept in the past but unable to appreciate it in its entirety until now. This is when the thought came to me that maybe my constant suicidal ideation isn’t really accurate, but rather a habitual thought that I’ve been conditioned to turn to whenever I get uncomfortable.

So, what do I mean suicidal ideation became a habitual thought and may not be accurate anymore? As I began ketamine, the advanced practice nurse prescriber (APNP) described the treatment as having to forge a new sledding path while the old one seemed to be running smoothly. This is how I think of my suicidal ideation — whenever things get tough, I immediately take the “I need to die” path because that’s what I’ve done for the last 11 years living with my depression.

For so long, I thought “I need to die” was an accurate thought because I heard it over and over in my head to the point I believed it with every fiber of my being. But my experience during ketamine this week pointed out that “I need to die” may really have just turned into a habitual, comfortable thought. And now, I know I need to work on reframing that thought and carving a new path for my thoughts to evolve into.

I know my suicidal thoughts will likely come back and I will believe them to be accurate thoughts. For now, I think “I need to die” is my default thought by habit when life gets tough and I have a lot of thought challenging ahead in my future to try to alter these thoughts to be more accurate, such as “I don’t want to live like this.”

Getty image by IchidaHonoka

Originally published: May 3, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home