On one of my first calls, Dominic, one of the therapists immediately put me at ease, answering all of my initial questions.
Coming from a scientific background, I had done a lot of reading of academic papers on Ketamine-Assisted Therapy and I did have a lot of questions which, I felt, were answered fully by the professionals I met and spoke to. When there wasn't data to support an outcome, the clinic was transparent and I appreciated this.
Once my queries were answered I attended the clinic in person where I was greeted by several, very friendly and warm nurses who were reassuring, and provided tea and small talk which put me at ease. I then had a two-hour meeting with the onsite psychiatrist who I found warm, credible and authentic. I was allocated a therapist, Dominic, who I worked with for the following 12 sessions.
Although nervous about the ketamine experience, I felt reassured that I was in a safe environment, being looked after by medical professionals.
I had a marked change in mood immediately following my sessions and this was sustained by the skillful use of Compassion Focused Therapy. I felt very comfortable exploring challenging thoughts and early life experiences and couldn't have hoped for a better therapist.
Four weeks on, I still feel better, partly because my mood seems lighter but primarily, I think, because I feel I have learnt a set of tools that allow me to cope with uncomfortable and unpleasant thoughts and what, I now recognise as my firmly embedded inner-critic. This doesn't mean that I haven't had difficult thoughts, I have, but perhaps less so and now I feel better equipped to deal with these; I hold onto them more lightly and don't get quite so attached to what would have previously been cyclical ruminations.
This isn't a 'take a pill' miracle cure but, instead, a shift in the way that I see the world, in how I think about myself and in how I cope with and defuse some of the frightening thoughts that had before felt both overwhelming and an inescapable part of being me.
I now realise that they are just thoughts and I have learnt methods for letting them be, as opposed to trying to get rid of them, and just not getting so involved in them. My children and partner have noticed a change in me - apparently, I am less 'shouty', warmer and more engaged and present.
I have my fingers crossed that, if I turn to this toolkit during tough times but also keep up the practices when things are good, I will continue to build my resilience. I found the team at Awakn to be flexible and person-focused, for example, I have decided to have some further therapy sessions with Dominic so that I can be held to account for my practices and have the safety net of someone to talk through any bumps I encounter on the road over the next few months. Some of this will be face-to-face, some online. I hope to be able to report continued improvement over the next few months but, at this point, I would certainly recommend this treatment for those who have experienced years of mental anguish and have tried several different medications.
Whereas several of the 9 different SSRI's/SNRI's I have tried over the years had moderate success because they numbed me to the bad and the good, the CBT tried to rationalise an irrational mind and the psychoanalysis encouraged me to blame my upbringing, Ketamine-Assisted Therapy seems to be a treatment that fosters growth in the recipient, allowing me to learn new skills in terms of managing my thoughts and emotions.
As such, I very much hope (and suspect) that this type of treatment will become more prevalent and available, particularly in a field where there have been few new drugs or therapies of note since the 1990s.
Awakn is at the forefront of this potential revolution and, if my experience is anything to go by, they are at the top of their game in terms of care, support and outcomes.