Pursuing Well-Being with the Help of Esketamine 

Eric is pictured above standing outside WellPower’s Recovery Center.
Photography by Evan Semón.

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Eric spent most of his life living out the story he felt was expected of him. He had a relationship with a partner, worked in the tech industry and stayed within the confines of his perceived role in society. He also lived with depression.

“Most of my adult life, I existed in a state of depression,” he said. “I struggled with relating to others, whether that was through work, romantic partnerships, friends or family. I felt disconnected from the world, almost on the outside looking in.

He continued, “I struggled with fear of abandonment, neediness and connecting with people.”

In addition to grappling with relationships and depression, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened his feelings of isolation. When he began to have thoughts of suicide, he reached out to his physician and asked for help.

The First Step is the Hardest

In June 2020, Eric sought out services with WellPower at his physician’s suggestion and began seeing a therapist and psychiatrist via telehealth.

While working with his care team, Eric agreed to try different medications to treat his depression. At first, it wasn’t pleasant.

“My psychiatrist and I agreed to have me try different anti-depressants to see which one might work,” Eric said. “He was very clear with me about the trial-and-error process, and unfortunately for me, none of them worked. I dealt with some pretty bad side effects, from not being able to sleep to worsening depression.”

Despite his struggles with the medications, Eric chose to continue with his care team and keep trying different treatment options.

“I felt like my psychiatrist really cared about me and my journey through this,” he said. “He was very clear that this would be an experiment and we wouldn’t know the right answers right away. My therapist also did a lot of work with me to help me understand how I got to this place with depression. With his support, I became more aware of the puzzle pieces of life.”

After realizing that none of the anti-depressant medications Eric had tried were working for him, his psychiatrist recommended he begin esketamine treatment at the WellPower’s Adult Recovery Center.

Esketamine is a type of ketamine derivative, approved by the FDA and used in clinical settings as a treatment for individuals with treatment resistant depression. Administered as a nasal spray, the person receiving treatment is monitored by clinic staff until the short-term side effects have passed, usually a couple hours.

Continuing on the Path

For many individuals, their experience with esketamine feels like entering a different state of consciousness, or even another world. Without proper information and guidance, it can be scary.

“I didn’t know anything about esketamine, and quite frankly, I was scared,” said Eric. “My mom dealt with a substance use disorder, which made me very avoidant of drugs and alcohol. Even though the esketamine treatment frightened me, I was willing to try it. My psychiatric nurse practitioner talked me through what to expect, asked me about my fears and goals and gave me a rundown of what the average person experiences with this medication.”

He continued, “I was seated in a private room in a comfortable chair, took the esketamine nasal spray and then quickly slipped into a state of disconnection from the physical world around me, which I knew could happen. I felt like I was just floating in black space with no body. Then, something clicked in my head. I’d worked with a meditation teacher before, and she had told me, ‘Going into the void will be the most healing experience you’ll ever have.’ I was like, ‘Oh I’m here. I’m here! I could be scared, or I could explore.’ I decided to explore.” 

The Journey Isn’t Over

Eric has continued with esketamine treatment for a little over a year and is reaping the rewards of his efforts.

“Through both esketamine and EMDR therapy, I’ve learned how to explore myself in a compassionate way,” says Eric. “I have all these ideas and experiences during my sessions, and then I’m able to debrief with my therapist right after. My therapy sessions bring me back into my daily life and interactions with others post-treatment. The combination of esketamine and EMDR therapy has helped me to understand myself and connect with people. I don’t feel like an outsider anymore, and that’s huge for me.”

Eric’s journey hasn’t concluded. He continues finding new paths to forge while receiving services with WellPower.

Nowadays, he’s pursuing his master’s degree in counseling, so he can supply the kind of guidance that has helped him so much.

“I feel like I’ve completed some kind of cycle,” Eric said. “I started in the tech industry, burning myself out and needing help. Now, after receiving the care, support and incredible treatment from WellPower, I’m completely changing my life to do the same for others. This work feels so important to me, and I’m excited for my new path.”