Mary’s voice was trembling on the other end of the phone.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m just calling because I saw a guy on the news earlier who was talking about your clinic.”
“That’s great!” I answered, “What can I do for you?”
“I need some help.”
“Alright, tell me more about your story. What are your symptoms?”
“Depression,” Mary said in a hushed tone. I could hear her crying.
“I’m sorry to hear that. What else is going on? Have you struggled with suicidal thoughts?”
“Are you having those thoughts now?”
I kept Mary on the phone, asking her what she was doing at the moment, where she lived, who could bring her to the clinic, if she had a ride home, and how soon she could be here. I then passed the phone off to Dr. Reding, who completed her intake consultation and told her about ketamine infusion therapy.
A Lifetime of Struggle
Mary is one of the 300 million people worldwide who struggle with chronic depression. Each year, about 800,000 of those people choose to end that struggle through suicide (statistics taken from the World Health Organization). Mary’s story gives us insight on how a person can arrive at this place.
For most of her life, Mary recalls dealing with severe depression. She has lived on disability for 10 years due to its crippling effects. She has explored an array of paths for healing, including psychotherapy, antidepressants, and 11 ECT treatments in 2016. None of these treatments were able to bring Mary into full remission.
Mary survived a dangerous car wreck in October of 2017 soon after moving to Little Rock. Isolated and lacking community in a new city, she was overcome by another intense bout of depression and anxiety. She was having trouble recovering from her car wreck physically, mentally, and emotionally. She knew that she needed to find a job, but most days she could not even get out of bed.
So, what happened?
Mary arrived at the clinic about 45 minutes after Dr. Reding completed her intake over the phone. Disheveled and tired, head bowed, she walked timidly to the therapy room and took her seat in the large recliner.
I recently asked Mary about her first infusion experience. What was it like? How did she feel? “My suicidal thoughts were gone immediately,” she responded. “ I woke up laughing the next morning, which has never happened to me before. I felt a huge relief from the first infusion but it just got better with each treatment. ”
Everyone at the clinic noticed a difference in Mary as she returned for each visit. She was smiling, talkative, happy to see us, and she began to wear makeup and pay more attention to her dress. She projected more energy and confidence each time she walked through the door. The transformation was stunning; as if one woman began treatment and another finished it.
We weren’t the only ones who saw something new. “When I went back to see my psychologist after the ketamine infusions, he did not recognize me,” Mary laughed as she told me. “He cut my visits in half because I was doing so much better.”
Ketamine therapy is similar to jumpstarting a dead car battery. It won’t sustain the life-long health of that battery. There are many factors that go into keeping a car running smoothly. Mary continues to meet with her mental health team and they are her primary advocates in her ongoing story. The infusions, however, opened a new chapter in Mary’s life. She is more optimistic about the future and her hope has been restored. Oh, and guess what? Mary got a job!