Today was an infusion day and returning from that long, strange trip comes with a bit of turbulence upon landing. The ketamine come-down is something of a rude awakening–like being yanked from the midst of a pleasant dream before you’re ready. You come to, blinking into the harsh light of reality, and it dawns on you, “Oh yeah–this shit.” As I teeter out to the car, the landscape swimming disconcertingly before me, melancholia sets in (and the demonic trees that populate the parking lot of my ketamine clinic, covered in a profusion of five inch spines and looking like they’ve grown straight up from the depths of hell, certainly don’t help matters). I find that I’m weary and vulnerable, lacking in the armor and fortitude necessary to withstand the inexorable barbs and stings of existence. There’s nothing to take the edge off–the whole damn world is edges–and I feel like a newborn foal, stumbling unwittingly into the jaws of life. I like to refer to this cluster-fuck of feelings as jet-lag. If you think the effects of intercontinental travel are a bitch, try disembarking from a trip that spans time, space, and any number of astral planes.
Because of this jet-lag, the post-trip period is a critical time to practice mindfulness and self-care, to strive for compassion and positivity. It’s important to take it easy, indulge in a little rest and relaxation, veg out on the couch for a few hours watching a light-hearted TV show and–oh shit, this is the real world, time for work! Ketamine treatment is expensive enough and taking time off work isn’t always feasible, so if you must return from your stroll through the enchanting world of psychedelics only to plant your feet squarely in the pile of dog shit that is low-wage, unskilled labor, make sure to treat yourself with kid gloves (or at least plastic-bag hands if we’re going with the dog shit metaphor.)
When, ten minutes into my shift at the flower shop I find myself succumbing to exhaustion and dizziness, leaning further and further over the utility sink at dire risk of collapsing into a pile of half-washed buckets, I try to be understanding of my inability to handle the most basic of tasks. I offer myself gentle words of encouragement and support. It’s okay that you can’t stand of your own volition–standing can be tricky! Today let’s settle for inconspicuous leaning, make it look like you haven’t surrendered the will to remain upright. Really sell it with the eyes–mimicking the wide-eyed, maniacal stare of a Tarsier is a great way to feign liveliness while expending minimal energy. You look totally sane, I promise!
In this state of rawness and fragility, it’s especially imperative that I be mindful of my interactions with others. When my boss sees fit to correct the method by which I’ve chosen to stack and carry cardboard boxes, I remind myself not to take this as a personal affront to my intelligence. And though her way is, in fact, wrong and would result in an inability to carry more than one stack of boxes at a time (compared to the six I’m managing, which, even with the two boxes I’ve fumbled, is still far more efficient, thank you very much), I don’t point this out to her. Instead, I commend myself for the abundance of maturity it takes to refrain from rubbing her flawed logic in that smug face of hers. (I now forfeit my gold star for maturity as a result of the previous sentence.)
And when my shift finally ends, though I fear I must be losing brain cells at a rate inverse to the number of cardboard boxes I’ve made (so, nearing a thousand, then), I remind myself that the mere ability to show up to work each day, and furthermore to engage in these menial tasks with a pride and positivity of spirit previously unthinkable, is not something to take for granted because before ketamine, managing a steady job (let alone with a smile on my face) wasn’t exactly in my repertoire. This reminder to be grateful ought to be tattooed across my body Memento-style for how easy it is to forget and how essential it is to one’s course of living.
As I make my way home from work, the side effects of the infusion continue to recede and the antidepressant effect begins to take hold. I notice color creeping back into the world like the first blush of spring after the cadaverousness of winter. Instead of rushing back to my apartment, I stop to browse in a used book store (one of the aforementioned jobs I couldn’t manage to hold down in the midst of the depressive episode known as my pre-ketamine life.) I decide to take the long way home along the lakefront and for this I’m rewarded with a dramatic sweep of nimbostratus clouds framing a small window of amber light on the lake’s horizon at the heart of which glows a rainbow. (I could form some grand metaphor from this fateful trick of the weather, but that would be a little too on the nose, wouldn’t it?) By the time I make it home and step beneath the warm spray of the shower, I find that I’m grinning like a fool for no apparent reason, other than a dawning weightlessness that wasn’t there this morning. The hard knot of dread and dispassion has been cleaved from my gut leaving a tender spaciousness in which the first inklings of joy and wonder take root. The ketamine has worked its magic and now it’s my turn to tend to this budding potential, to make use of this miraculous feat of chemistry–at least for another six weeks until the ketamine wears off and I finally achieve that perfect cocktail of apathy and heedlessness required to tell my boss that I could sweep faster, as she so helpfully suggests, but the resultant dust storm would be counterproductive to actually cleaning the floor, so, you know what? That’s fine–she can just choke on it.
(All kidding aside, I’m actually quite fond of both my job and my boss and have a great deal of admiration for her–we just occasionally differ on what constitutes constructive advice and what I feel are certain tenets of human decency and respect that might prevent others from unnecessarily micromanaging their hardworking, perfectly capable employees in tasks that a trained, or even untrained, monkey could do.)