Your Therapist on Psychedelics: An Opinion Piece
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
By Anna Whisler, LCSW
I want to provide a couple disclaimers and apologize right up front. First, none of this may make sense to you. I already realize that and apologize for any frustration this may present. Second, I am limited in my ability to share what it is like to experience a ketamine treatment as all I have is language, written language at that, to put into words only completely abstract concepts of consciousness. Have I already lost you? I am simply saying I am limited to thinking thoughts, connecting related words and placing them in space to be interpreted and perceived by you, the reader, to describe a ketamine treatment. Much clearer now, right? Sarcasm.
I consider myself an increasingly open-minded and forward-thinking individual in many aspects. I love out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and exploration of humanness. In this capacity, I have the sense that in learning more about myself, I can impart wisdom on those around me suffering from the pain that can be part of the human experience. It should also be stated I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Utah. That is not relevant, but I wanted it stated so we can get that out of the way. What I want you to focus on now is that I am human.
I do not endorse the use of ketamine in the treatment of your anxiety, depression, PTSD (collectively, human suffering) nor any other psychedelic. I am sharing my own experience and you may interpret what you will.
There is plenty of backstory here, but for now I will summarize that I own a mental health treatment agency and am always looking to partner with those that can serve our clientele in their recovery of suffering. When I saw an ad on Facebook (of all places) for Cache Ketamine, owned by Colby Martin, I was elated to see a type of intervention I had been curious about for years show up in our small town. I immediately reached out and connected with the owner and PA, Colby Martin. We quickly realized we had many things in common but most importantly, our desire to alleviate human suffering within ourselves and others.
Luckily (sarcasm again) I too have experienced episodes of depression in my life and a good, solid case of anxiety. I fit the bill for qualifying for the ketamine treatments myself. This was important because how could I advise others of the experience and become a psychedelic supportive psychotherapist if not having any semblance of a clue of what a psychedelic trip may be like. So with a desire to personally heal, and a duty to be well-informed, I signed on.
Days later, relaxed on a recliner in an office in a small medical suite, I donned noise-cancelling headphones and was administered via intramuscular injection a small, therapeutic dose of ketamine.
Time frames are unclear but quickly my consciousness disappeared from what we believe to be our reality and I began to float through an expanse of time and space. It is not linear and therefore there is no before, beginning or after, it is just ever expanding. Like space! The truest things I “knew,” were questionable: Existence? What does that mean? Family? Other forms of consciousness with whom I connect. Reality? What reality. Everything I knew was nothing. I believed this to be the new reality but wondered (without emotional pain) if I would ever reconnect with the world and life, I had been so sure was “life.” I take a deep breath and it is refreshing but now I realize my oxygen needs limit me. But is it my lungs I feel? Or the oxygen itself? Why are these words, I am wondering? Not what, but why? They are meaningless. Consciousness is all. I wonder if I will return to the limitations of my body. Of buildings? Of experiences I have placed myself in or been exposed to on the planet we know as earth. I can picture my house; this is not a hallucination it is just an awareness of what “my house” is and the people in it that my humanness craves connection with.
This process of wondering, curiosity and exploration went on for some time and looking back I realize I was quite caught up in following cognition (thoughts) rather than noticing being. My consciousness is trapped unceremoniously in my rigid, clunky skull and encased in soft, pliable matter, and was finally, momentarily free. Yet I tried to hold on to what I “knew.” At some point this new truth faded and I was left with a sense of relaxation, peace and love for self and all those around me that suffer needlessly. A second dose was administered in the opposite arm and though it was a slight increase in dosing, I stayed relatively connected to the present but with relaxation, peace and carefreeness.
My second visit to Colby was much different. I came into it with the idea that I wanted to stay more grounded to the present. This was counterintuitive to the process, but I did not realize that until later. Also, because of over-scheduling myself in the “real world” I rushed through by intentionally bringing my awareness when my consciousness slipped back into the here and now. In fact, I was not in an alternate consciousness state for long when I felt time must have passed to the point, I needed to come out of it. I got motion sickness and my vision was woozy. I couldn't do a second dose on that day for that reason.
My third visit to Colby’s office was more like that of my first visit. The main differences between this and the first time were that as I was coming out of the “high” of it for this third time, I settled into a deeply relaxed state and in fact, eventually fell asleep. Colby sensed my need for this disconnection and allowed me to be for a while. I had a second dose then and again felt deeply relaxed and at peace even as the ego slipped away into the recesses of my mind. My consciousness once again floated and explored the unfolding or unraveling of “understandings” of mortality, morality and existence. The other difference on this visit was throughout the remainder of the day, I had epiphany after epiphany. I felt liberated emotionally and psychologically, at least temporarily.
Some of the epiphanies I had will seem “floofy” as I like to call it. Yet, in doing more studying and understanding of psychedelic experiences others have had, it seems there are similarities in these types of epiphanies even if there are differences in the manifestations of them. For example, I recognized that our propensity to define our reality in fact shapes our reality. We see red because we say red. We therefore limit our brains ability to see the spectrum of red. By seeking “truth” through definition, we limit our learning and knowledge. We tend to seek knowledge to survive. In essence, we seek purpose and understanding of our existence to prolong it in a fruitless attempt to save our own souls. Yet our souls need saving only from us, from our egos, from our learned human experience, our cognitions and our language. Unfortunately, we seem nearly addicted to defining instead of exploring with openness. We even limit emotion by naming it, defining. Language is disabling us. Language loses all meaning while under the influence of ketamine. We are aware of it and aware of the absurdity of it.
Finally, connection. Though we are encased in separate bodies, barred by separated brains we are one consciousness. The energies and vibrations feed off each other’s consciousness and collectively we are helped or harmed by what is put into space. The same is said of our planet and the universe. We are one, fooled into belief we are separated and experiencing existential loneliness ever after because of buying into that falsity.
How does this relate to my anxiety? Aside from the awareness that seems to be more or less universally experienced by people under the influence of psychedelics, and despite the “truths” that may therefore be exposed, we perceive much of our life to be HERE. That is, here on the planet, in our country, living in our towns, having a place we call home, interacting with others and meeting or failing to meet the expectations of ourselves and others around us. Our consciousness yearns to be free of the bodies desire to be controlled, understood, explained, and will to survive. Our consciousness seeks to just be.
My plan going forward with managing my anxiety in this realm is to just notice, to just be, to relax the words in my mind and let float them away. My goal is to recognize the constrictions and expectations on ourselves and others are bullshit. Our consciousness is prepared to love. Love is universal. Love for self, love for others, love for earth, love for life. Humanness holds us back, but we can continue to recall our souls or consciousness are with us and practice breaking free from that humanness. We can practice this daily and be happier more often for it.
For more about my insights, experiences, and “floofiness,” check back for future blog posts related to this topic.