No, not the supposed waist-slimming breakfast cereal. I’m talkin’ Ketamine. Kit Kat. K-hole.
In 2012, I volunteered to participate in an inpatient drug trial at NIMH in which they were testing the effects of Ketamine on patients who suffer chronic depression. NPR aired a segment about the hopeful, ground-breaking research. It was an enticing proposition at the time: I had 8+ years of psychotropic pill-popping under my belt, without any positive results. No, I’m not psychotic, I have Complex PTSD.
My time there was spent with ten other marvelous albeit tormented patients, all looking to end the suffering. Here’s what I know: only one person within our group received a positive effect from the drug. Supposedly. As for the rest of us, we weren’t so lucky. The closest comparison to taking Ketamine I can offer is rolling on Ecstacy. Unfortunately, there was no music playing, no half naked people, and I wasn’t dancing my ass off.
If you’re lucky enough to not know what a bad trip feels like, think: thought prison. I spent hours unable to speak, trapped inside my head. My mouth was the size of a house and the only form of communication I could muster were uncontrollable tears. And what kind of bad trip would this be without some shit-icing on this layer cake: my mind-fuck occurred with four people hovering over my hospital bed, staring at me, and taking notes.
There are rules when one participates in a double-blind drug protocol at one of the world’s leading medical research centers. Patients are instructed to not mum a word of our experience with anyone (nod, nod, wink, wink). This is particularly difficult when one is wheeled back up to the 7th floor still partially tripping, mute, and looks as if she has just escaped from a Guantanamo Bay prison cell.
When it finally dawned on someone of my obvious fractured mental state, a nurse quietly rushed me away to a back room, now capable of garbled audible noises to accompany my tears. The Chief Doctor in charge asked if I wanted to “quit” and explained it was “okay” to not finish the trial (as if finishing was somehow a viable option in someone’s sadistic world).
I managed to drool out a pitiful, “YES”.
One shot of Haloperidol later I was enveloped in a two day relief coma. I left my room only once during those two hazy days for a coveted smoke. The doctor kept my husband apprised of my fragile mental state, informed him of their injecting me with the stop gap “emergency drug”. That’s when it was revealed the doctor was in possession of Haldol the entire time, hidden in his front coat pocket. The same doctor who stood at the foot of my cold hospital bed while I experienced the worst trip of my life. Taking Notes.
Hope is something of a commodity.
I walked out of NIH a couple of months later, as I took full advantage of the perks one receives for participating in a research trial. I was taught the art of decoupage and made life-long friendships no amount of doctors, pills, or surgical anesthetics ever accomplished. I walked into NIH alone but walked out part of a community. The weeks that followed my crawling out of a k-hole consisted of companionship and understanding from a group of people who society typically deem weak. They are the true reason I stuck around. I walked out of NIH happier than when I walked in due to them.
And I can’t help but wonder if the Top Doc took note of that.