Every December I like to write a little reflection looking back on the year that was. I don’t want this to be a big downer, and I don’t think it is, but Oh boy, this year was challenging. I haven’t really talked about this online but my Mom died in May from an unusual untreated condition in her abdomen (not Covid, thankfully). I’m just grateful that I was able to drive to Denver and spend the last few hours of her life with her in the hospice center and then stay on a couple more weeks taking care of things with my brother. Then I drove back to L.A.
The summer was especially tough but I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s the human condition that we all deal with, our friends and family getting old and dying on us, as will we in our turn. In the early stages of the grief I felt like I would never get over the loss, but then with time, as usually happens, it does become easier to carry though it never completely goes away (and why would I want it to since it’s about someone I love so much?)
My friend Jeanne and I had planned a trip earlier to Yosemite to hike up Half Dome in late June. I thought about canceling, worried that I would be a downer to be around, but decided to go through with our plans. I’m so glad I did. We had a great time and the physical and mental challenge of that very difficult hike was probably just what I needed.
Another positive, the website is still humming along and I’ve shot some nice scenes that I’ve really enjoyed this last year. Star Nine and Delilah both really put me through the wringer and I’m planning to see Star again in about a month and a half.
Not surprisingly though I have felt a lot of stress this year – and not just from the loss of my Mom, but also just life in general. In the fall I had more and more days when I felt like I was just dragging. I’ve mentioned dysthymia before, or persistent low-level depression (what the therapist I talk to calls “walking depression”). I felt like I wasn’t doing that well the last few months – not that I was in any danger of harming myself – but many nights I was happy to just collapse into bed and pray that I could forget things for a while.
Ketamine for Weight Loss – I’d been aware of Ketamine-assisted therapy for a few years, and about the research on psychedelics in treating persistent depression and PTSD. Ketamine is a “dissociative” drug rather than a true psychedelic but it’s trippy AF. The treatment isn’t cheap and I’m certainly not rich but I splurged a little and did three treatments in mid-November, and it turned out to be fascinating and even profound.
I don’t really enjoy tripping that strongly and I often get a little anxiety from substances. A glass of wine or two with friends is nice. Wine is one of those drugs for which there are no surprises. You know exactly what you’re going to get unless you really overindulge. Occasionally I enjoy some edible weed and that can be a little more dicey. At low doses it can be fun and relaxing though I find edibles almost always have a hint of paranoia, which I don’t mind too much since I also find them to be a huge aphrodisiac, especially when wearing a gas mask or being tape gagged! But in higher doses weed can start to become challenging. I do like it but it comes with a price and I know it’s best as an occasional thing.
Ketamine though is deeply strange and intense. I dressed androgynously and went to a nice clinic in L.A. where a doctor who’s done a lot of research into psychedelics and mental health administered the injection into my shoulder. Then I would lie down with eye shades and drone-like music playing on headphones and a psychologist would hang out with me while I tripped balls. After about 30 minutes you come down and can talk about the experience. It was deeply weird! At times I felt like I was in a Transformer’s movie, which makes no sense at all. At one point I was aware of an engine block with a sleek cylinder head cover that was full of power and energy and seemed somewhat menacing, and I feared that I was perhaps going to fuse with the engine block and become one with it.
I didn’t fully hallucinate and actually see things but it was more like I sensed them being present, and I was aware of being in a different dimension, and of colors and patterns, and of waves of energy. I always felt like I was in an enclosed space and at times it felt death-like and deeply spiritual, which doesn’t surprise me considering my Mom’s death earlier in the year. At times the experience could be scary but not super scary, although during the last trip I did think at one point, “Oh man, I wish this was over.”
One surprising thing about Ketamine is that it has strong antidepressant properties and that it often brings up emotional issues or self-defeating patterns that one might be stuck in. I certainly had that experience. Some of the insights felt profound and I think they likely will continue, such as the need to emotionally give myself a break. My “inner critic” means well but can be just brutal. The drug also dramatically makes people less suicidal and it tends to make depressed people hate themselves less – a fascinating article here.
I got a lot out of the experience and I’ll admit that first week I felt about as good as I’ve felt in decades. I knew that likely wouldn’t last, since the antidepressant effects tend to taper off in a few weeks, but it was sweet at the time and a really nice gift for Thanksgiving. The insights often do stick though and I’m hoping I’ll be lucky and use it as a window of opportunity to make some positive changes.
One thing I’ve also tried to do for fifteen years is meditation, as I’ve always sensed there are benefits to it. But I’ve always struggled with it and some days I can’t even sit for five minutes. Strangely enough after doing “Special K” my meditation is much improved and it’s much easier to follow the breath. Weird that a few injections could make such a dramatic change. There is research to indicate that the drug may be stimulating the growth of new connections in the brain that get withered by the stress of depression. It’s really fascinating if that’s the case, as it’s a completely new approach to antidepressants which like Prozac tend to operate on one neurotransmitter (such as serotonin) and need to be in your system to keep working. Ketamine on the other hand gets flushed out within a day or two but apparently can still have positive effects that may persist.
I don’t know if I’ll do more Ketamine treatments again or not. I don’t really enjoy the weird tripping but the benefits were totally worth any discomfort. The treatments did wipe me out for a day or two afterwards and one nice side effect was that my appetite was so suppressed during the two weeks that I visited the clinic that I lost six pounds! Some people with the means to do so go in once a month and trip their ass off since the mood boost that it gives is so worth it. If I had the dough, maybe.
In any case it was a fascinating experience and I’m especially intrigued by other research into psychedelics and mental health, particularly psilocybin (magic mushrooms), which also seems to help in treating depression and PTSD and may even have longer lasting effects than Ketamine. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about these substances in the years ahead as this kind of treatment gets more traction and they become more widely decriminalized, which is the direction things are going.
To wrap up, as always, I hope everyone has a nice time over the holidays and can spend time with friends and family. And again, I want to thank all the supporters of the website. I always say it but I truly could not do it without you. I’m hoping to continue on at least through 2022 and shoot a bunch of new sexy material (and hopefully continue way beyond that!) Next March it will be nineteen years of T’s in Trouble so, hey, I gotta keep going!
All the best. Peace and love from groovy Sandra