Dr. Scott Allen talked with a patient about her experience with Ketamine treatments. The patient, Christine Stenquist is an editor at the Utah Bee.
Dr.Scott Allen: Christine, you’ve recently been vocal about your struggles with depression. It’s a level of vulnerability and openness that’s brave, and I imagine a little scary. What prompted you to speak publicly about your experience?
Christine Stenquist: The simple answer is pain and depression. The lengthy response to the story… I’m a brain tumor patient suffering from chronic pain conditions, migraines, and fibromyalgia. I was bedridden and housebound for 16 years. As you can imagine, I struggled with depression and anxiety associated with living with these struggles.
After discovering cannabis and advocating for its use in our state, the battle in the political world zapped me emotionally. Bouts of crying and solitude were eating me alive. It took me nearly 18 months to realize I was in a severe depression. I stayed hyper-focused on everything but me, and it took its toll.
After visiting with my physician to see if there were any new treatments to help my pain management, I was informed there were no other therapies aside from new drugs on the market, to which I was hesitant. He mentioned Ketamine for the treatment of one of my migraine types. But I quickly said no, only knowing the substance association as a party drug.
I left the office, sat in my car, and cried. Could I really be slipping back into failing health again? The thought of that unrelenting pain of years past coming back was utterly terrifying.
I had no answers, and the depression engulfed me.
A week later, I found myself on a suicide hotline. I’d been in a 72 hour Trigeminal Neuralgia attack, and I was just so tired of the physical, mental, and emotional anguish. A failed suicide attempt in my past had landed me in the hospital for two weeks for recovery. So my ability to follow through on a successful plan was of genuine concern. I needed help, desperately.
After being placed on hold for a long wait, I was 14th in the queue; I decided to hang up. It was 2:30 a.m., and now I felt like I was on the edge of the abyss. All I had to do was let go.
At that moment, I received a text message from a friend. I shared with them a screenshot of my wait time for the hotline. They called immediately. They sat with me as I cried and bathed in my self-loathing. I abruptly announced after hours on the phone, enough, I had to do something.
Recalling my physician’s suggestion of Ketamine, I started looking at clinics while on the phone with my friend. They luckily had a cancelation that morning, and I was able to get in.
Dr. Allen: Ketamine and psilocybin therapy have played a large part in treating your depression. What has your experience been like?
Christine Stenquist: The ketamine treatments helped with my acute suicidal ideation and pain. My first dosing experience was a profound lift in mood. My concern was that it wouldn’t last long, so I turned to micro-dosing psilocybin to catalyze my healing process.
Ketamine started me down the path of healing emotional trauma Allowing for a dissociative effect to analyze my situation from a safe psychological distance. At the same time, psilocybin helped me connect to my emotions and appreciate those aspects of my humanity.
Dr.Allen: Why did you recently choose to undergo ketamine therapy again?
Christine Stenquist: It’s been a year and a half since I’d gone in for ketamine treatment. I found a lot of success with my regime of cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms during that time. I recently started to feel my mood dip because I had hit a problematic pain cycle that lasted five weeks. My long history with pain management taught me this could get dangerous.
As fall and winter approach, I grow concerned as I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
This tends to be the more challenging season for my pain attacks because of the nerve damage sensitivity to cold weather and wind.
Dr. Allen: I’d consider both ketamine and psilocybin as psychedelics. What role do you think psychotherapy plays in augmenting psychedelic therapy?
Christine Stenquist: I would counsel most individuals who are using psychedelics for healing to enter into psychotherapy. The combination of the two would prove very useful.
I’m fortunate to have some quite wise friends that helped me during my time. Not everybody can afford to pay for therapy so seek out good mentors to confide in.
Dr. Allen: Christine thank you so much for your bravery in exploring this topic with me! It’s sure to revolutionize the way we approach mental healthcare. I think your experience is similar to many patients. Ketamine helps you dissociate from the ruminations that predominate anxiety, depression, and PTSD. And, like you said, psilocybin seems to create a very connecting experience that can be extraordinarily healing.
I like how you were able to integrate the experience with close friends. That’s an often-overlooked component to ketamine therapy. If you use ketamine as a standalone medicine, you’ll usually require many more treatments. The real healing comes from that integration work.
If patients are interested in learning more, I’d encourage them to reach out to a ketamine clinic that places a special focus on the psychedelic experience, so they can maximize their healing