June 11, 2018

Written by “Jane” (pseudonym), a patient at Kadima Neuropsychiatry Institute.

I woke up at 3:00 a.m.–happy.  It’s 7:25 a.m.–I’m still happy.  See Coronado Bridge from my office and for the first time in forever I KNOW I’m not going to leap from it today.  Un-flipping-believable.  Bless you.”  This is the message I sent to my psychiatrist, Dr. David Feifel, two weeks into my ketamine treatment.  As I typed the message, tears streamed down my cheeks.   Those were tears of joy.  Tears of relief and hope.  For the first time in months, I had a break in my depression and suicidal thoughts.

 Shortly after receiving the tragic news of the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, came an unsettling realization that, “That could be me.”  In fact, I feel like I have “survived” suicide for over 20 years.  Suffering from major depression, many days are a negotiation with myself.  I have to convince myself to get out of bed, go to work, and spend time with friends and family.  With each new day, I have to bargain with myself not to end my own life.  At least not today.  It is a constant and exhausting battle that is literally a battle between life and death.

 I have lost a few fights along the way.  My history includes a suicide attempt, hospitalizations, years of therapy, and dozens of medications, none of which were very effective.  However, if you met me, you would never know.  By certain metrics, my life is one worth living.  I have had many successes from high school valedictorian to graduating from college and law school in 5.5 years.  Together with my law partners we built a business to be proud of.  I have loyal, fun, amazing friends and a close and loving family.  In other words, I look just like anyone, like everyone.

 Through the years my friends and family have watched helplessly as I would dip into bouts of darkness and disappear from their world for weeks on end.  They did what they could to love away the pain, but it just doesn’t work like that.  Even with all of the blessings in my life, there still exist powerful and pervasive suicidal thoughts.  I am a very logical person, but depression doesn’t play by the rules of logic.

 News of suicide doesn’t just come from the headlines.  I have been profoundly affected by suicide among friends and within my family.  I miss  them and love them, but I regrettably understand.  Each time I heard the news I thought, “That could be me.”  I get it.  I totally know how easy it is to lose the war with depression. 

I am still in midst of my battle with depression, but I have new weapons this time.  A few months ago, my psychiatrist, out of good options, referred me to a special clinic in La Jolla, where I met Dr. Feifel.  His clinic (Kadima) specializes in treating patients whose psychiatric illnesses have not been helped by conventional treatments.  He uses cutting edge treatments that are revolutionizing psychiatry like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and ketamine.  Yes, the psychedelic drug ketamine.  Whoa!

 In over 20 years of treatment, nothing has ever worked for me like ketamine.  I know with ketamine that I may wake up the next day and feel “happy”.  The pall of depression will have been lifted.  Everything feels different.  Colors are brighter.  Sounds are louder.  My car even drives faster!  It gives me a chance to sort things out and see things differently.  More than anything, it gives me hope.  It gives me a chance to fight another day.  

 The people I have known and lost to suicide did not have the chance to fight another day.  For them, ketamine was not offered as an option.  To me that is a second tragedy.  It crushes me to think that maybe they could have been saved by ketamine.  So this message goes out to my fellow depressed patients—don’t give up.  Ask one doctor and then another.  Have your friends and family do the research to see if ketamine or TMS or another treatment is an option for you.

 I’m still in the fight thanks to ketamine and my progressive new psychiatrist.  From week one, Dr. Feifel told me that he’d roll up his sleeves and fight with me.  And he has.  It seems to me that we have depression on the ropes.  I am hopeful that the next time sad news of a suicide scrolls across the television screen, I won’t be left thinking, “That could be me.”