Truth

truth

The truth is dawning on me like a giant fire-filled orb complete with miniature explosions. I see just the bright sliver of it peeking above the horizon. I can’t force it down any longer. My body is weak from concealing it. I don’t want this truth. And yet it is here, and rising.

It leaks out of me in small quiet spaces like here with you or with my closest friends. I can’t bear the weight of it alone any longer. I want to vomit it out but something prevents me. I don’t even want to tell you what it is.

The only thing I know to do with the truth is to acknowledge its presence and breathe in and out. Now that I have been sick for so long, and contemplating the possibility of my own death, I have little patience for even the smallest of untruths. There just isn’t time. Or at least, the amount of time is ever so clearly unclear.

For now all I can do is circle around this truth, neither approaching nor fleeing from it. Did I mention that this is neither the truth I expected, or wished for? My priority is staying alive for my son. In service of my priority, all things that separate me from that which is most important must be eliminated. At least, my mind is telling me this. Or perhaps my soul is telling me this.

doebayRecently I was in Washington State at one of the most spiritual of places, Doe Bay on Orcas Island. The resort has been there for years and has a great hippie commune vibe. I was a frequent visitor there in my early thirties when I first began to “find myself”. They have a natural hot springs and a hot rocks sauna. Clothing is optional. I peeled all of mine off unabashedly, in spite of the cold turning my breath to a cloud of mist. For the first time in my life, I didn’t mind who saw my body or what they thought of it. I was older than most of the people there by a significant amount. I imagined they looked at me as an old wrinkly and sagging elderly person. We chatted back and forth with the sweat pouring off our bodies.

Something happens when people take their clothes off in the presence of one another in a non-sexual way. Suddenly it is so much easier to see the humanity and divinity in each soul. Respect and kindness are given freely. I was so cleansed from the experience. No clothes, no defenses, no useless mind chatter, no LED screens glaring. Just humanity. I was surprised to feel as if I had never left. My thirty-ish self was still there, right where I had left her.

The path to the hot springs and sauna is through a small patch of old growth forest. There were statues of Buddha and Ganesh and a waterfall rushing in contrast with the serene quiet that seemed to say, be still and listen. A sign on the sauna door read The path lies between two opposites. It is this sign that comes to me now, as I contemplate the truth that at that moment had not yet revealed itself.

I’ve sat with the truth for seven days now. It hasn’t changed. If anything, my vision of it has become increasingly clear.

I know what I must do.

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What I’ve learned so far

© Justine Rae

© Justine Rae

After I received my test results indicating that I have Lyme disease I experienced a shift in consciousness that lasted a few days. Finally, an answer for the multitude of health problems I’ve experienced over the last four years, and something to call my illness other than “No, I’m still feeling really sick”. My announcement to the world that I have Lyme disease resounded with the thud of a single pine needle landing in a dense forest. Did you hear it?

Here’s the deal. Most people don’t know what Lyme disease is or even how to pronounce it. Some folks have heard of it and nod sympathetically. Some respond with silence like the person who does not yet know grief when you tell them your loved one died. There are questions, including, What is the treatment? What are you taking right now? Is there a treatment? One well intending relative sent me a web link warning that antibiotics don’t help with Lyme. No, How are you,? I’m sorry to hear…

Welcome to Lyme purgatory. It’s the period right after you’re diagnosed. Most likely you’ve been sick for a long time. You may have lost your ability to perform your livelihood. Your Lyme diagnosis is a doorway into a parallel universe where things will never look the same again. First you learn that Lyme has a group of diehard codependents who are invading your body and doing as much damage as the Lyme. Keep drilling down and you may find that you have systemic candida and a host of other problems associated with the fact that you have been ill for an extended period of time. The body is a web, just like life, and each twitch on the silky string affects the entire web.

As you go along, the Lyme plot thickens. My adrenals are like a couple of goat nuts that have been dredged in flour and left in the deep fryer for too long. I’ve learned some things about adrenals that will fundamentally change how I live my life forever. There are treatments for crisply fried adrenals. But the most important treatment is learning how to live in a way that doesn’t make your adrenals rapidly fire over and over. Now I understand just how many things I can no longer afford. For instance, mainlining sugar instead of eating meals. While I was still working I remained upright by living on Vicodin, Starbucks drinks, sugar and 16 oz bottles of coca cola.

I’m one of the original Achievers . I learned how to be teachers pet in first grade. After that achievement became my life’s guiding force. After high school I became a nurse after graduating with a 4.0 + GPA. I thrived on crisis and deadlines. To add to the mix I cultivated heartbreak and emotional drama by engaging in toxic relationships. Love and heartbreak are deviantly thrilling roller coaster rides. After being a nurse I became a graphic designer and worked in television. More deadlines, working all night, and unrelenting pressure. After 13 years of that I went back to school and earned an undergraduate in Psychology (GPA 4.12) and then a masters in Social Work (magna cum laude). Along the way I birthed a baby in a birthing center in the desert in Taos, New Mexico, without any pain medication.

push, push, push

And then my father died. And I cleaned out his house while wailing in grief wondering how it was possible that I could continue living without him. And then I started moving across the country. New Mexico to Washington. Washington to Oregon. Back to New Mexico, and finally to California where I accepted my first job as a therapist in an assembly line masquerading as a health care organization. Initially I thrived (their favorite buzzword) on the constant pressure to see more patients, to squeeze as much as possible out of yourself on a day-to-day basis, to work 10 to 12 hours a day whether paid or not. Go, go go, push push push. I tried to be more efficient even as I began to lose the ability to be so. The pain began. I switched work clinic locations to get away from a manager who had begun targeting me for my outspokenness about the system and its treatment of patients. I ended up in a clinic that was truly the underbelly of the organization, even though I had thought things couldn’t get any worse. My body was failing me. I sat with patients while in severe pain and with brain on fire migraines while trying to be attentive and compassionate. That’s when the Vicodin, Starbucks, sugar, Coca-cola cycle started. Push, push, push. I rushed around everywhere, and was always late. Usually I was late because even if I started out on time I would try to squeeze one more task into the space I had. It was only this last year I realized that this behavior was producing an adrenaline rush similar to what I received from the other stimulants I put in my body. I started feeling all the time that something really bad was going to happen at any moment, and it would be due to my burgeoning incompetence.

I tried to force my body to heal. My shoulder was the first thing to go and I would twist it in all different contortions trying to get it to go back into its former position. I was pissed at my body and I threw it around like a helpless abused dog. My scapula eventually slid down my back and became fixated, leaving the task of holding up my neck to whatever functioning muscles remained. Those muscles began to give out too, leaving me with no way to alleviate pain unless I was lying flat on my back.

I spent exhaustive hours on the internet trying to find out what was wrong with me. The HMO doctors were either dismissive or abusive, so I started seeking help from other well-respected medical institutions. There were MRIs, CAT scans, the whole nine yards. I wanted them to fix me. I was willing to do anything, just to have somebody cut my pain out and make me whole again. I had two surgeries that did not help and created another host of symptoms. I came close to suicide three times and would possibly have gone through with them if I didn’t have medical marijuana to provide relief from pain and from the mental anguish of battling daily pain. Before I was diagnosed with Lyme disease I blamed myself for my symptoms, sure that I had caused them by living in such a stressful adrenal draining kind of way.

On the first visit my Lyme Doctor said, Let’s get rid of the cure word, now. That’s a lie the medical profession has been selling for a long time now. I was not dismayed by her words. After four years of chasing a cure, I was ready for something different.

But just a couple of weeks after my diagnosis I was having a series of really bad days. Days when I would be surprised to see my reflection in the mirror because of how dead I felt inside. The weakness, the tired/ wired, the lack of ability to get anything done without having to take frequent rests, and the lack of ability to do some things at all. The lack of being able to string a cohesive thought together or accomplish a simple task like laundry. The buzzing in my brain and the sensitivity to noise that made the canned laughter on my son’s TV shows sound like jagged raw razor blades tearing through my skull. The feeling that my muscles are being torn from the bone. The unpredictable irritability and the sensation that I am breathing fire. The kind of things that cause my pre-pubescent son to say, You’re always sick, when I am begging him for some compassion.

I began developing these bright red blotchy lines on different parts of my body. I had my partner take pictures of them. I looked them up on the internet. Just one more symptom of one of Lyme’s evil step sisters, Bartonella. Even though I was already diagnosed with Lyme, I found myself surprised that I had these marks. My mind had gone back to thinking, What the hell is wrong with me?

A few days later I was talking with my partner on the phone and venting about how I was feeling and a million other things. I told her about how I’d gotten up that morning with so much pain in my right scapula that I felt like a one-sided Hunchback of Notre Dame. I took a bath and as soon as I got into it the pain switched to the left side. This is classic Lyme, by the way, the pain migrating around your body. My left hip is severely affected now too, extending all the way down to my left foot. I told her I was once again feeling like, What’s wrong with me???

She said, Do you want me to tell you what’s wrong with you?

Yes!, I said

You have Lyme’s disease, she said.

I didn’t correct her pronunciation.

Lymecraft

It started the same as every other Monday. It is Monday, isn’t it? I was in bed watching some idiotic morning show. That’s who I hang with these days. The morning show people. My mind registers that Sharon Osborne’s hair is fifty shades of fuchsia. And there was [what’s her name’s wife], you know, that rocker chick. There was someone else too but I can’t for the life of me remember who it was. I could hear the clickety-click of my son’s fingers on the keyboard as he played Minecraft in the next room. This is what we do, he and I. He chases after creepers and I chase after my thoughts.

hush

11:00 phone consult with clinic. Breath. Held.

I already saw the results, I say to myself. I needed to hear her say it. I asked her to say it. Everyone I’ve spoken to today, including myself, said the same thing. “Well, at least now you know”. Like I said, I think that is a valid statement. It’s been a hard-won victory, and now I know.

why does it feel hollow?

I just remembered who it was. It was Queen Latifah. I’m really concerned that when little lesbians grow up they will think their career options are limited to being comedians and talk show hosts. The Queen had Scarlett Johansen on and I can’t even tell you what Scarlett said or did. That’s pretty abnormal. Why does Scarlett keep doing those weird movies? She is freaking me out. The last one I saw, “Under the Skin,” reminded me of my Lyme life. Always sinking into thick black goo and then being immobilized. And ironically, so close to the title of “Under our Skin,” the documentary about Lyme Disease. The Blockbuster sequel is coming out in August. Bring popcorn and wear long sleeves!!!

if its funny it can’t kill me

jack-nicholson-classical_160255-1920x1200I called my Ex of 7 years give or take, my son’s other mother. “I have Lyme Disease” I said plainly, out loud, for the second or third time. She said, “Are you sure it’s not just menopause?” I wanted to laugh out loud crazy at that one. That’s the same reaction I had when I learned that the CDC’s Lyme doctors said Lyme Sufferers are looking for some way to explain the aches and pains of daily living. I wanted to laugh out loud psychotic crazy to that one.

Back beat in my head to the song by Florida “Now that you’ve found Love….” with words, “Now that you’ve got Lyme, what are you gonna do-oo-oo with it? Over and over… OCD is a cruel lover. I spent my life frantically washing my hands to avoid some unknown invader from entering my body. And now this.

I totally get it that people are totally not gonna get it. I mean, they are not gonna get it when it comes to what I’ve got. Until a short time ago I would have had the same reaction. Oh that Lyme thing. Damn. That sounds bad. Didn’t that chick on Housewives of Beverly Hills have that? I’m probably the only one who would think that. I watch the Housewives too. Even when I am thoroughly annoyed I still look at it.

Speaking of Housewives, a few months ago my partner, son and I were visiting Hollywood where her dad lives. My partner was born in Hollywood so that makes her a celebrity to me. She finds my fascination with all things Hollywood so boujwa. Ha! But she, her dad and my son and I all went and had dinner at Sur. I mean THE Sur from Vanderpump Rules. And when we walked in our table was right by the bar and I got to talk to Rob and Tom and I saw that wispy chick that was Tom’s girlfriend. I didn’t say “Hi” to her because I was afraid she would start crying and then I would probably try to counsel her or something. When I walked up to the bar and saw Tom, I blurted out, “You would make a really hot lesbian!” Damn. I just can’t seem to stop myself from saying things when I really shouldn’t. Because then I had to go up to him later and try to apologize and I was worried about what I’d said because I worry so much about what everyone is thinking about me all the time.

funny how you can never imagine where you end up

Suddenly I’m a member of a club I never wanted to belong to (no offense to our members). We’re kinda like the Leftovers in that TV show. We are here, but you don’t see us that much. We are peripheral. We aren’t smoking but we are wearing our pajamas or sweatpants. We spend a lot of time in bed. I’m discovering that we are here in alarmingly unhealthy numbers. We all have different stories but so many of our experiences are eerily similar.

I saw Ellen today too. Not her show but a commercial she was in. I’ve had a bad case of Ellen envy for the last year or so. I mean, I’m a lesbian, why can’t I have a talk show? I’m funny! I want to host the Grammys and take a selfie that goes round the world.

It’s Monday, right?

good night, vietnam

Scraps

In an effort to combat the battle in my mind between the urge to blog and resisting the urge to blog, I have decided to sit down at the computer. There is so much I want to tell the proverbial “you”. I’m not going to stop here although my mind is urging me too. Like I have something better to do right now. I could think of some things. I mean blogging, after all, is self-indulgent. Or so my mind says. “Plus,” it tells me, “You don’t even know what you’re going to say.” True.  And very soon I will have to kick my son off the computer and feed him. In the middle of that my partner will come home tired and pissy after last nights tiff.

We don’t fight often. There was a period about 7 months in or so that we went through a fighting stage.

She just called. I answered. I really don’t want to finish this now. It’s not like she’s being awful or anything. It’s the dinner time conversation. It goes around in circles. I won’t cook. When I became a parent I quit cooking. It started feeling like obligation instead of fun. It’s one of those things I have to do everyday whether I want to or not. Feed my kid dinner. Even if I don’t want to eat or could be just fine with eating his scraps. Now I suppose I sound like an evil bitter mother. You know, like my mother was.

Ever since she passed last June I feel her coming out of me sometimes. The sound of her voice, the things she says, her shriek of laughter. I do things she did and say things she said. I feel sometimes that she is inhabiting my body. She would do that. She loved living that much. Sometimes she feels helpful and other times she reminds me of who I don’t want to be, who I’ve spent my life trying not to be.

Three weeks or so ago I stopped taking narcotic pain killers. I had been on Hydrocodone for about three years on and off, mostly on. I never took more than prescribed. As if that matters. For that three-year period 3 -4 times a day I had something I could take that eased my physical pain. But it did so much more. It rubbed up against those receptors in my brain that made me feel mildly euphoric. A little mild euphoria goes a long way when you are in chronic pain, with various other stressors attached. For a very long time it was the only thing I really had to keep myself upright.

And now, I always feel like I’m missing something that could make me feel better. Better, and better, and better. I even think about how now that I have been off them for awhile the effect would be dramatic. Being on Opioids was like going through life with the power to create an instant cocoon if I needed one. Over time I spent much more time in the cocoon that out of it. It was like being in a trance, a welcome trance.

Shortly before I stopped taking narcotics. I stopped using Facebook too. Because it was also a trance. Facebook was fun once. But my page became littered with estranged family members whose posts annoyed me with their lack of authenticity. I learned things everyday looking at it that sometimes caused me suffering for no real reason. For instance, someone posted about a friend dying that I went to junior high with. There were pictures of him in his hospital bed. I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing that or seeing that. Because in the state of mind I’ve been in, every sadness or wrong I saw just confirmed to me that life is full of pain and suffering and nothing else. I couldn’t unfriend people I didn’t want on there because that creates drama. So I just excused myself. But it’s more than that. I don’t like Facebook following me around, recommending shit to buy because of stuff I’ve posted or looked at on the internet. I had to ask myself if the benefits (because there definitely were some) outweighed the harm I was allowing to occur in my life from participating in Facebook. And to those who think I’m an extremist, I say, “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep my little darling”.

Blogging Mind

I can’t believe I’m here.  I’ve seen this moment many times in my mind, but this is the first time that it has actually happened. I’m sitting in front of my computer, my (Christmas) “new” Rock star iMac. This is the vision I have held in my head. That of me sitting in front of the computer, writing. What I pictured when I thought that I would know that I was better was exactly this thing I am doing right NOW.

The keyboard feels awkward beneath my fingers, and the search for a comfortable spot to hold my body is there, yes. But I’m doing this thing. This blogging thing.

See, I really blog ALL THE FUCKING TIME! IN MY FUCKING MIND!!! But nothing has made it this far, to actual materialization in front of me. Not since sometime around last Christmas. I wrote two posts. The Healing, and the Healing, part 2. (My mind just pointed out that this sitting at the computer thing is still not comfortable. I told it to shut the fuck up).

Well what would you follow-up a couple of posts about healing with? My Blogging Mind had a lot to say about that. But not a nary post was made. ‘Til right now. (Of course, my mind just reminded me, that this isn’t even posted yet).

So, why am I here? I shouldn’t be. Not unless I have some idea that I’m going to inhabit this pathetic life I’m existing in. Not unless my behavior indicates to me that I am acting like someone who plans on living instead of waiting to die. My mind has a lot to say about that. And truthfully, recently, I’ve been ambivalent. Once you have a child, it seems your “golden ticket” to suicide isn’t really much fun to imagine anymore. (I despised what I just wrote so much just now that I had to erase it).

I remember in my earlier years, I used to wonder about who would care if I killed myself, mostly at that time I wondered if any of my siblings would notice. Then there were many years when I didn’t have that particular thought at all. I still would think of suicide, since it has been one of my seemingly favorite pastimes, but it didn’t involve the wondering about reactions. Now both of my parents are dead and none of my siblings and I are on good terms. Two of them I don’t even speak to and that has been my choice. And yet, the suicidal thoughts are once again tinged with these wonderings. On worse days, I imagine either they would have a party, or worse yet, just remain indifferent.

I’ve been wounded and I can’t seem to recover.

I have two endings to my “healing” menage a trois. On the rarest of good days healing has begun and continues and the curve will have a steady uphill path to me becoming that mythical person I used to be. If I had it my way at some point the path would level out and I would be able to look behind me at it. On the many other of the less hopeful days, the deranged days, there is something much bigger than what we have already found and the nasty truth is about to reveal itself with a vengeance, most decidedly to punish me for the many days I have layed and wished that I had something terminal so it would end.

Today I started a list: How to get out of depression (my mind finds this terribly lame)

Step One

Impress yourself. (Right now that sounds like bullshit to my mind, but it is factual).

Step Two

Do something a little outside your comfort zone. Acknowledge to yourself that you just blew your own mind, and ignore the other asshole (in your own mind) in there that starts yelling about how it wasn’t enough, didn’t count, blah the fuckin’ blah.

When I wrote it, I thought, “This is not the day to impress myself” and went about my business. Which is usually laying in bed thinking about how miserable I feel.

But then I wrote this post.

The Healing, part III

English: Illustration of the pain pathway in R...

English: Illustration of the pain pathway in René Descartes’ Traite de l’homme (Treatise of Man) 1664. The long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head is pulled by the heat and releases a fluid that makes the muscles contract. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the time we arrived at the doctor’s office the next day, the migraine had intensified. I took a Vicodin in the morning but it did nothing. I knew I would be relieved of the pain during the infusion so I held onto the hope that the experience would relax the nerve pathway enough to release the pain.

The setup went much quicker because the IV port was already in place. Dr. T started the medicine and the initial effect was the same. I felt silly and relaxed and made jokes with my partner. We had made some changes to the room that I had suggested. First, my head was placed away from the door so that when it opened and closed it would be less painful to my heightened senses. I also laid on my side propped up on pillows hoping to avoid increased pressure on the nerves that were firing the migraine. Additionally, there was a noise machine in the room that I set to an ocean waves sound. The gently rhythm of the waves moving in and out was soothing to my mind. I also asked that anyone entering the room softly say their name as they entered so that I would not be startled by their presence or afraid of who they were. I also asked my partner to remind me, “It’s just the drugs,” if I indicated that I was afraid or thought I was dying as I had the day before.

The initial silly stage seemed to go much quicker the second day and within moments I was returned to the hypnotic state of the day before. It was interesting to note that the second the Ketamine began to take effect my body instantly recognized where it had left off the day before. My mind started wondering both how I could have forgotten this unimaginable state and why i would say yes to going there again. However, something was profoundly different. Instead of resisting the experience, I allowed it. I kept hearing Dr. T’s voice in my head saying, “Yes, yes, it’s OK.” As I allowed the experience to take effect, I also reassured my mind that I did not need to control the experience in order to make sure that I received some preconceived benefit. I think I recall saying the word “Yes” aloud.

My body, or soul, began to bloom like a flower in slow motion. Everything was a beautiful blue color. I was in the time period of my life when I was a young adult, somewhere around 18 or 19. I was happy and innocent, and had not yet developed all of the critical and damning judgments that now run through my mind on a daily basis. I was safe and loved. I was aware of my breathing, I could hear it move in and out of my lungs. It sounded like it was coming from far away, but was loud enough to sound similar to the sound of someone on life support. I allowed the softness and blue light to infuse me. I made sounds from deep within me that sounded loud but my partner said later were quite soft.

Eventually I had no real sense of my physical body. I was moving toward something golden and felt only immense pleasure and love. I felt as though knowledge was being transmitted to me in  a way that is far more sophisticated than human communication and had none of the difficulties inherent in that. I knew I was in the presence of Source and that others were there with me and that there was a reason I was there. I felt no fear although my mind occasionally reared up to protest that this shouldn’t be happening. My partner sat next to me and I could sense her movements and found this comforting. I looked around, hoping to see the physical bodies of loves ones who have passed, but I saw no one. Still, I knew I was not alone.

The message was clear at the time but I sense that communicating it in words will be challenging. First, it was confirmed that my suspicions over the past several years about my power to help others heal were accurate. There didn’t need to be any discussion about this, it was just factual and we were moving on. Second, the person I was born as, the original T (me) is my genuine self and the truth of who I am . All of the layers of stuff that have piled up over the years are just disguises. I am kind. I do enjoy giving and helping others. I am here to do that. I’m not the broken evil person that I and others have made me out to be. I’ve been severely wounded, yes. But the original T is still alive and well. During the time I was receiving this information I just listened and received. I had an image as my soul being a form made of orange light laying in a fetal position. I had tilted my non-attached head up slightly, like a baby does when it’s lying on its belly and something catches its attention and it strains its neck to see it.

I became slightly more aware of my partner’s presence next to me, and had the knowledge that she was here to assist my healing. I began speaking to her although I don’t remember all of what I said. She put her hand on my shoulder and I could feel universal life energy coming through her and into me. I gently asked her to position her hands on different parts of my body and she did. The Ketamine was slowly beginning to lose effect and I had again become aware of my migraine and its increased intensity. It felt like a cold hard piece of steel lodged in the left occipital side of my brain. I asked her to put her hands on it and she did and it eased somewhat. I remember telling her “You have an incredible amount of power right now, please use it”. I felt her move so she was standing at the head of the table with her hands cradling my head.

I became more and more aware of the increasing pain in my head and neck. At that moment I realized that my thoughts that I had absorbed other people’s pain and trauma in my job as a therapist and that it was residing in my body were true. I knew that not only had I absorbed it but it had activated my own trauma leaving me defenseless against further injury. I had just been given the knowledge that I had the power to heal and I believed it so I didn’t understand why I couldn’t release this pain from my body. I began asking my partner to help me release it. It felt like it was ripping a hole in my flesh right under my left ear. I told my partner I wanted to allow it to flow out of me and through her into the earth but I was so afraid of what the pain would do to her body. What if it became lodged in her somewhere? I would never wish this particular pain on anyone, not even my worse enemy much less my loved one. And I had experienced how painful destructive and insidious it could be. My partner responded, “It’s OK, I can handle it. I’m too strong for it”.

So I allowed some of it to leak out into her, worrying as I did so, commanding it to enter the earth and not her body. I remember saying, “Whose pain is this”? As the Ketamine wore off, the pain became more and more intense. The ice pick that had been lodged in my neck prior to the infusion had become a full-blown axe splitting the left side of my skull open. Each beat of pain felt as if someone had a sledge-hammer above me, letting it fall sharply against my skull with each breath. I could only lay in a fetal position and think over and over again, as I often do in this severe pain I have become so familiar with, “Please, please, please, make it stop.”

To be continued…..

The Healing, part II

Do what you want, what you want with my body – Gaga

English: Sahasrara chakra

English: Sahasrara chakra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at my doctor’s office for my first treatment. I had read the literature she had given me,  but it didn’t give too much information about what the patient experience is like during the infusion. My doctor (Dr. T) had told me that I would most likely feel relaxed, peaceful and hopefully, would simply sleep through the two-hour infusion. I’ve never had any bad experiences with anesthesia, in fact all of them had been quite good. So I wasn’t afraid. I also didn’t have huge hopes about the process being helpful to me. I’ve learned over the last few years that there is never one thing that is going to be the cure-all for a chronic condition. Some things can help, others can harm. Sometimes it feels like a crap shoot.

When I arrived they gave me an EKG which I was happy to have done in their office. I feared they would send me to some clinic to be groped by some disconnected technician with cold hands. There’s something distasteful about having your breasts moved around like chicken cutlets about to placed in the oven. The MA and I are quite familiar, she’s seen my ass before when giving me shots so I was comfortable with her. The EKG was normal.

Next, Dr T’s PA came in. I hadn’t met him before but as with most of the people Dr. T works with, I was instantly comfortable with his gentle manner. He placed an IV in my right arm after surveying my veins to find his favorite. It was placed on the inside of my elbow which I disliked and of course it came with the typical IV start pain that I’ve become quite familiar with. He hooked it up to a bag of saline and told me Dr. T would be in soon to start the infusion.

My partner J had come with me (a requirement of the procedure is that you have someone to sit with you and to drive you home afterwards). She pulled up a chair next to the massage table I was lying on. She had her iPad and headphones ready. My head was a few feet away from the door to the room, which slid smoothly open when Dr. T came in. She told us that it was best to try to decrease any outside stimulation during the infusion because sounds can become intensified and perceptions are altered. We had brought earplugs and Dr. T brought me an eye mask. A shadow of a migraine was brewing in the left side of my neck and even the small lamp in the room seemed extra bright.

Dr. T said she was going to start the infusion very slowly, a very low dose, and that if anything was uncomfortable for me she could stop it at anytime and the effects would diminish almost instantly. She told me she would be back in the room to check on us periodically while she saw other patients. She also told me that my perception of time would be severely altered. She injected the Ketamine into the IV and left.

Initially I felt similar to what I had felt with anesthesia before. I felt giddy, silly, relaxed and carefree. I joked with J and made her laugh. I told her I loved her on multiple occasions. This happy relaxed feeling continued for some time. I thought to myself, “This is nothing”.

As I began to go deeper my body became very heavy and I felt as if I was in a box stuffed with packing material. My lips were numb and my feet felt cold as ice. I was aware of my perceptions but not alarmed by them. I reminded myself that I was on drugs to soothe myself. I wanted J’s hand touching my arm constantly so that I knew she was there but I could not tolerate the sensation of her rubbing me or moving her fingers.

To reassure myself, or to remain connected I suppose, I kept reporting my experience to J. At one point I told her, “I think I’m blind, but I’m OK with it”. I felt every perception but was also detached from my experience at the same time. I read in the literate rue that some patients experience a feeling of dissociation (i.e. being disconnected from one’s body). This had frightened me a little but during the infusion, as I became dissociated, I was not alarmed by it. When I spoke I felt as if my voice was coming from somewhere else in the room. I was bit alarmed by my experience but the remnants of my conscious mind suggested that I should be. I remember my mind telling me that a drug should not produce this sort of effect and that I should be alarmed. And yet my body did not experience alarm. I recall saying on several occasions, “Is this safe?” As predicted by Dr. T, sounds became intensified. I felt as if I could hear conversations through walls in other rooms. When the door to our room slid open it sounded like the opening of a metal safe in a bank like you would see in some kind of a bank heist movie.

Suddenly there was an unfamiliar voice above my head. The person was probably speaking in a normal tone but it sounded as if she was yelling.

“Who are you?” I asked from my bubble wrap enclosed body across the room.

She yelled something about being a doctor that worked with Dr. T and she was just here because I was receiving anesthesia. I was instantly suspicious. “This is it.” I thought to myself. This is where it’s going to go wrong. Dr. T would never invite someone to this party without telling me first or introducing me to her. I was more angry than alarmed. Because of the eye mask I was immersed in darkness, so I moved it slightly so that I could see her huge head hovering above me. The light was blinding so I immediately replaced the mask. I thought I might be hallucinating and that her visit was part of it.

“I don’t know you, I don’t trust you.” I informed her angrily. “Do you work for Kaiser?” ( I’ve been harmed by Kaiser and trust no one associated with their system).

She laughed. “Oh, God no”. I work for Memorial. I hate Kaiser. I worked there right out of medical school because I needed the experience and it was dreadful, I don’t like to use the word hate, and I don’t generally hate things. But I hate Kaiser.”

“I love you,” I said. Her admission had garnered my trust. She began apologizing for alarming me and for not arriving prior to the infusion, but I had already moved forward. “It’s OK, I said. I love you now”. She and my partner chuckled.

“I’m hallucinating intensely,” I informed her.

I was surrounded by big city buildings with dim lights glowing from the windows. Picture Gotham city or the inside of an elevator shaft. Everything, including my body felt like it was made from blue-grey shiny metal. The best thing I can think to compare it to is the Transformer 3D movie at Universal Studios. If I moved slightly, I felt as though I heard the same sounds that the Transformers make when they are moving. That strange note of cacophony that is not music nor machine but emulates smooth and powerful grinding gears. The hallucinations were intensifying. My body felt thick and at times as if I was encased in shards of glass. Shards of glass that I was not perceiving as painful. It was just an awareness. I was aware that the experience of hallucinating was familiar to me, that I had experienced it before when I had taken LSD so long ago. My mind kept attempting to tell me that I should be afraid. I asked several times aloud, “Is this safe, is it safe to relax?” The Kaiser-hating doctor replied in a reassuring tone, “Of course, why wouldn’t it be?” and I replied, “That’s my trauma”.

My newest favorite song is Lady Gaga’s “Do What You Want” and it was swirling through my hallucinations in a circular pattern. The song and its hypnotic beat began swirling up through my spinal cord as if it was rewriting my DNA. Everything became dark, as if I was in a decompression chamber. Everything went completely dark. I saw the tunnel people describe in near-death experiences and was looking for the light. Still reporting on my experience from my detached voice across the room, I said to J, “I’m dying”. I made her go out to the hallway and get the anesthesia doctor. I heard her say, “She says she’s dying”.

“I need Dr. T., I said.

Soon Dr. T was in the room and rustling around with my IV. Someone probably told me I wasn’t dying. I can’t recall. Dr. T leaned down and whispered into my ear, “What you are experiencing in your mind has nothing at all to do with your healing. There are things going on with your nerve endings and receptors and that is what’s important.” I took comfort in her words. She told me we were getting very close to being done. J kept telling me the same thing each time I told her I was dying again. I didn’t believe her because the hallucinations were so intense. I was detached from my fear but aware that I had it. I suspected, as my sedation increased and my dissociation deepened, that I was being extinguished.

Apparently they had been telling me the truth, because slowly, I began to come to. An awareness of being slowly coming back into my body began to develop. I could sense that the glimmer of a migraine I had started with had turned into the real deal. I felt it sitting there waiting for me, although I was not yet fully experiencing the pain of it. Laying in the wrong position for even a few seconds can trigger a migraine and I had been compressing one of my trigger points during the entire infusion without being aware of it. As I became more conscious I was aware that I was becoming more under the control of my conscious mind with its inherent stories and unfriendly monkey business. I was groggy and irritable and desperately had to pee. They helped me to the bathroom and my feet felt encased in cement.

Dr. T had asked me to mentally commit to two sessions before we started the process. I hadn’t realized that the second one would be on the subsequent day. Apparently the results are increased the more saturated the nerve’s become. J and I agreed to come back the next day for a second infusion and so the IV port was left in my vein to wear home. I asked and was given permission to take Vicodin for my building migraine. On the 90 minute drive home I slept in the back of our van rolling around on the folded down seats on top of a blanket. I had pain that lessened slightly as the Vicodin took effect. My mind was screaming, “If this was supposed to help than why do you have a migraine???!!!”, and “How can a LSD trip in a doctor’s office ever turn out to be a good thing, you fool!!!”

My nerves felt raw and cut open. We picked up my son and went to get something to eat. We went to a old Hippie market in Berkeley where I internally massacred the woman making my tea for being slow and spaced out. I felt as if people were staring at me and probably for a good reason. I imagined I looked something like Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie The Shining when he says, “Showtime!”; mixed in with a little of Clint Eastwood’s “Go ahead, make my day [Tea Lady]!” Luckily, we made it out of the Berkeley Bowl without incident.

I was concerned as I went to sleep that I might experience something frightening after the day’s experience. I had night terrors for years where I would sit up screaming in the middle of the night scaring the death out of who ever happened to be lying next to me. I felt afraid of being afraid.  But I slept without issue, until I awoke the next morning with the migraine having set up house and starting a smoldering fire right under my left ear.

To be continued…