I had given up on getting into the mental health housing I wanted. I think it’s called Hillview? Anyway, it was too much work with too little time, and I found out it was usually a tad cheaper, if you had PA (which I didn’t) but still wasn’t free. Silly me to think that affordable housing for vulnerable people could exist…
My sublet was about to end August 1st, and I didn’t have a place to go. Joey told me I could crash for a bit at the old apartment if need be. I started looking for jobs online and downtown. I was seeing my counselor again and she was really encouraging me. I felt like it was a life sentence. I applied at the Salvation Army and got a call back, but didn’t get out of bed the day of the interview. The same happened with Kohl’s. I never heard back from most places. I even applied at the gas station. I figured it wouldn’t be forever, but I still felt pretty hopeless.
Then I learned that Finger Lakes Reuse Center was hiring a retail assistant. I sent in my resume and letter and heard back the same day. I was offered the job the same day of the interview! I accepted. After a rocky start at the cash register, I ended up in the warehouse sorting, cleaning, and pricing items that came in from donors. My specialty was households, but I also sorted some clothes. My co-workers were quirky but amiable. My heart definitely wasn’t in it, but it was a simple bus commute and I was able to force myself to go without too much pain. I did spend all day counting the minutes til my cigarette breaks and feeling hopelessly depressed and overwhelmed. But I was actually pretty good at my job, and got positive feedback.
Joey took me to Syracuse to get my first ketamine treatment on a work day. I got the afternoon off. The office was small, but very nice and zen. The doctor was very nice. She is an anesthesiologist at her other job. She and Joey had struck up a rapport from his last appointment, but I was super shy as usual.
I signed consents and filled out a questionnaire on my depression levels. She gave me a rundown of what to expect, and then it was time to start. I really struggled with needles, but I got through it. I waited in the arm chair in the room by myself, staring at a beautiful painting of falling leaves and cedars on the wall. It took about 10 minutes for the medicine to kick in. The painting got blurry, and started moving. It was even more beautiful.
I don’t remember much of my first journey. I remember feeling I was something between a lion and a lioness, and that was my place in the pride of my life. I thought of all the people in my life as my pack. I saw dancing foxes, and the great Tiger Mother. There were moving visions of wheels, almost like mandalas, and Aztec art. I felt …primal. And connected to the universe. I really never had spirituality before this, as much as I wanted to. I felt intense waves of euphoria and comfort. Belonging. Unafraid of death and life. And when it ended, it was OK, unlike when other substances have worn off for me and I’ve immediately needed more. I was ready to come back. I cried and cried and let so much out. I was shaking. Joey held my hand. I felt completely changed, forever.
On the car ride home, I noted that I felt no anxiety. I didn’t even realize how much it manifested in my body until then. But my heart was still, my breathing calm, my mind at ease. I was in awe.
Everything felt easier. Work, chores, cooking for myself. I was able to rent my own room in an apartment, also downtown. I started showering regularly and shaving and grooming again. I wore cute outfits again instead of just gym shorts and baggy tee shirts. I got a hair cut. I sometimes put on make-up. I started journaling and drawing and going over plans for self-improvement in the evenings. I was actually living.
Then, things took a dip. I decided I was better, so I could try smoking weed again. This was a huge mistake. I smoked all of my weed pretty much in one night and couldn’t stop. I was doing it at inapropriate, unsafe times and doing risky things to acquire it. And the worst part was, it didn’t feel like it was working. I wasn’t getting high, just sleepy and stupid. I later learned ketamine does that for some people; it’s just never the same. But it is so worth it. Desperate to feel something, I started binge drinking again too. That also just left me feeling tired, stupid, and hungover.
I started getting paranoid at night, and felt some psychosis creeping back in. Even worse, I was getting incredibly depressed again. I was needy and pushing Joey away, even though we had established a solid friendship.
In September, Joey went on a trip with his dad to the Grand Canyon and the west in our motorhome. I house-sat while he was away. All I did was lie in bed endlessly scrolling through memes, not even laughing or smiling, and taking breaks to smoke cigarettes. I did stop smoking weed because it’s adverse effects were pretty clear, and I started going for drug treatment again in the outpatient program. I dropped my counselor again that summer because I told myself I was “better.” The truth was I wanted to smoke weed again without it showing in my urine.
Luckily, I got back on track. I made the resolution to quit drugs and alcohol for good. They just didn’t do anything for me anymore except cause problems. I raised my antidepressant dose. I had a few more ketamine treatments. And one day I woke in November at Joey’s apartment and realized I just felt fine. Not amazing. But good. Content to go to work. It was so foreign to me that I could hardly believe or trust it.
I started excelling at work. My boss was so impressed, and I basically became the head of my department. I was incredibly fast and skilled at valuing items. I worked harder than anyone. I started to really really enjoy it. I felt okay.
One day in Novemeber, Joey and I were on a walk in the woods and it hit me. I was standing on a wooden bridge over a creek, surrounded by forest. It was sunny and beautiful. I was actually taking it in. I was actually HAPPY. Happier than I could literally ever remember feeling, even as a child, and certainly since I became depressed at around age 11. And definitely since my major depressions in my twenties and my intense crash after my first hospitalization. I had happy memories from me and Joey’s relationship, especially on the road in the RV. But still, there was always a black cloud over my head. And it was finally gone.
I started going to yoga. I joined a clay class. I was feeling passionate again. And that Thanksgiving weekend, I was finally able to quit cigarettes for good!
Part 3 coming soon. I didn’t expect this to be so long! I’m actually really enjoying writing for the first time in a while and it’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing in the experience. ❤