If You’re Not Prepared to Love

I administered my second dose of Ketamine, and I did so solo. I’d been instructed to do a self-administered treatment every two to three days, and two days after my first excursion a courier showed up at my door with 20 100mg doses of Ketamine lozenges in little perforated blister packs. Just what was dumbfounding about seeing Ketamine packed like an antihistamine I can’t quite say, but the experience had a surreality that Lewis Carroll would have appreciated.

My second experience took place early in the day; I hadn’t yet had breakfast because once I did I wanted to keep it down. I took a few sips of water, put on Brian Eno’s “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” and settled back on my new bed. I pulled the comforter over me, propped up some pillows, donned an eyeshade and settled back. I set an alarm at 12 minutes from the dosing, so I’d know when to swallow and then another 3.5 hours away, which I figured would give me plenty of time for processing after I was most of the way down.

For reasons I don’t understand, my 12-minute alarm never went off. I know this because I held the melted lozenges in my mouth until the world started to get interesting, which was more like 20 minutes or so. Not long after I swallowed I saw a vision of myself as a kind of clear statue through which tiny hairlike streams of light entered my body from ground level and passed up through me and out of my head. It was love. And it began to lift me off the ground.

I recall waving my hands in the air—for real—to feel the air that was in my vision. I realized that I was glowing and after saying it two or three times in my head, I said it out loud twice more: “I am glowing.” I could feel my cheeks pull tight in a grin. I beamed open, light, not just happy, but nearly ecstatic. Love, I understood, was the answer to everything. I know how that sounds; believe me, I do. But in this frame of mind it’s as if you have access to both science and myth to give it weight.

As I rose in the air, I became aware of something dark nearby. My vision would get these single-frame flashes of that other world. Then they started to flash for longer, maybe four or six frames. Their rapidity continued to increase. I told myself that what I was experiencing was pure love and nothing could disrupt that.

Only, the flashes of that other world continued to increase until my vision strobed equally between the love and the darkness. I realized that I was going to have to take a concerted look at what this thing was to be able to get rid of it. Deal with it to deal with it. But the moment I turned my attention to it, to really look at what it was, the rest of the world went away and I was left only with this hellish world, a place of existential terror. I was captured. My terror was so severe that I lifted my eyeshade and upon seeing my room through the lens of Ketamine, pulled the blind back down because there was no help available to me. I was terrified that I was to occupy this place forever.

I forgot my instructions to move toward, to embrace anything frightening that I encountered. Had it been frightening, I might have remembered. But this place, a vision for which I have no images, was terror itself, the most hellish experience I’ve ever encountered. I thought it would destroy me. Finally, I realized that I couldn’t fight it, that I was overwhelmed and I surrendered because I had no other options. The feeling wasn’t dread; it was the inevitability that comes with realizing you are to be consumed.

I began to sink back to earth and eventually began to settle into a room full of throw pillows and as I was arrested by the pillows I told myself, “I’m fine.” I thought about it for a second and, surprised by my good fortune, I once again said, “I’m fine.” Then I took a moment and thought about that statement, thought about its broadest possible meaning, that at an existential level I really was perfectly okay. What should this experience give me other than a reassurance that I’m not a broken person?

I had an encounter with my father in which I told him that I forgave him and that I loved him. Next there was an encounter with the woman I’d seen until recently, in which I was able to reiterate my feelings for her and tell her I supported her journey, even if I wasn’t part of it. I felt as if I was giving her a portion of my energy, that I had so much that I could afford to gift some.

This was not an experience I’d readily recommend for anyone. Doing this requires a level of commitment that isn’t easy. I was a wreck from 11:00, when I lifted the eye mask until 3:00 when I finally started loading my car for a trip.

When a friend asked about the experience I wrote, “If you’re not prepared to love, don’t go.” I won’t say anything truer about that day.

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