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Shay’s Story: How KAP Unblocked Me and Allowed Me to Stop Medication After Nearly 20 Years

"Landing" by Shay

I have dealt with depression and anxiety for most of my life.

When my symptoms hit they can include a lack of pleasure and motivation, but it’s also a kind of psychic and physical pain. There’s a heaviness and tightness in my chest and stomach, or sometimes it feels like a poisonous cloud has taken up residence in my head. I get a feeling like something has happened or is wrong, but it’s hard to pinpoint anything specific that causes or justifies these intense, negative feelings.

About 18 years ago I began taking Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants that increase serotonin, a mood-stabilizing hormone. And they helped—a lot—for quite a while. But gradually, I began to realize they were no longer having the effect they once did. I felt like I was really stuck.

It’s hard to explain why. I believe there is a biological basis for my depression, and of course life events tie together to affect you. Sure I was a little burnt out at work (I am an artist and kindergarten teacher) and COVID threw everything off. But it wasn’t just burnout. Overall, I wasn’t feeling great and I’d been pushing my feelings aside and ignoring them.

I tried a few different things. My doctor augmented my medication and supplemented it with boosters, but nothing really helped. Then, my therapist brought up the idea of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) and Field Trip Health. She had mentioned psychedelic therapy a while ago, but I didn’t think much about it. Now, I began researching it and was immediately struck by the psychotherapy aspects and the overall setting and integration the website describes. I sent the link to my doctor and she gave me a referral. A few days after I filled out the forms and Field Trip called me. and we started what became one of the most important journeys of my life.

Everyone at Field Trip was warm, welcoming and professional, and although there were restrictions about sitting in the lounge because of COVID, the overall setting made me feel comfortable and disarmed. Truthfully I was nervous about taking ketamine, because I wasn’t sure I would feel anything. I had slight experience with psychedelics years and years ago and quite honestly they hadn’t ever done much for me. But that was very different from a guided experience, and I went into my first ketamine exploratory session with a different mindset and intention.

The psychotherapist stays in the room with you the whole time. I was aware of her presence holding that space, even though I wasn’t quite present myself. Just knowing she was there made a difference. When I reintegrated with my environment, it was like there was a release somehow, and all of that anxiety flooded my system. Those feelings remained for a few days following treatment, ultimately helping me to process and work through my feelings and emotions with the psychotherapist.

My mental health is something I have to and will continue to work on, but that experience—coupled with a booster maintenance treatment and my participation in Field Trip’s “And Beyond” program—has been an invaluable part of my management.

I find it helps to be proactive and to have a routine with therapy, breathing exercises, and meditation. I also need to eat properly, and I journal when I can. But most significantly, I am no longer on the SSRIs. I stopped cold turkey before my first treatment, (which isn’t necessarily recommended and can be dangerous), because I wanted to go into the therapy full-throttle, so to speak. I was transparent with my doctors about it, and I do believe that the ketamine-assisted therapies lessened some of the heavier withdrawal symptoms, which hit about a month later.

I cannot emphasize how significant it is that after nearly 20 years I am off the SSRIs. Yes, I still deal with my symptoms of depression and anxiety, but the fact that they are no longer overwhelming says a lot. There’s a good chance that at some point I may return to Field Trip for maintenance treatment, but for now I finally feel unblocked. Unblocked in my art, unblocked in my creativity, and unblocked with my mental health.

Now, I’m much more conscious of doing the work and sitting with my feelings, honouring them instead of brushing them aside. I’m a very private person so speaking out about my experience has been a big decision for me, but I also believe that psychedelic therapy, in a safe environment and done properly, should be an available option to people. As more people are informed and become aware that this is a valid treatment, I hope that some of the stigma goes away. The only way to do that is to put my voice out there and to tell my story.

As told to Amber Dowling for Field Trip Health

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The testimonials are the individual experiences of those who have attended Field Trip and taken part in our treatment, however they are individual results and results will vary. The testimonials are not necessarily representative of all of those who have used our treatment.

Field Trip may have edited the testimonials to account for correction of grammar or typing errors where necessary. In other cases, the testimonials may have been shortened for brevity. Field Trip has not edited the testimonial in a way that would create a misleading impression of the individual's views.

Ketamine is also not for everyone and may result in serious side effects. Certain medical conditions and other factors may reduce the effectiveness of ketamine as a treatment or disqualify you from receiving ketamine. Please consult a physician or other medical professional before commencing treatment.

For more information about what Field Trip offers including an overview, risks of treatment, and cost, please review Our Therapy.

"Untitled" by Shay

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Are you disappointed with the results from other therapies or medications? Is something blocking progress, but you’re not sure what? Find out if psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is right for you.

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