By Dr Tasnim Khan, Co-Founder, ShaMynds Healing Center
This blog is a first-person story of a woman who struggled deeply with the isolation of postpartum depression and how she overcame her condition with the help of ketamine assisted psychotherapy.
My name is Sarah. I always dreamt of becoming a mother. When my baby girl, Emily, arrived, I expected to be overwhelmed with joy and happiness. However, something inside me felt different. Within five days of Emily’s birth, I was overcome with strong feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Each day became a struggle. Simple tasks like getting out of bed, changing diapers, or even eating, felt like insurmountable mountains. I found myself constantly on the verge of tears, but I couldn’t explain why. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt, as if I was failing my beautiful daughter and everyone around me.
The sleepless nights only made things worse. As exhaustion took hold, my ability to cope deteriorated. The lack of sleep made it difficult to concentrate, and I started to doubt my parenting abilities. It felt like I was losing myself, like I was slipping away into a dark void.
The loneliness was suffocating. I didn’t want to burden my partner or my family with my inner turmoil, so I put on a brave face, pretending that everything was okay. But inside, I felt isolated and disconnected from the world. The thoughts of “What’s wrong with me?” and “Why can’t I be happy like other new moms?” echoed relentlessly in my mind.
It took time for me to realize that what I was experiencing was more than just the “baby blues.” I mustered up the courage to reach out for help. Speaking to my doctor was one of the most challenging but crucial steps I took. She diagnosed me with postpartum depression, assuring me that I was not alone and that there was help available. This came in the form of months of medication and therapy. I made some progress with the combination, however when Emily was four months old, I realized that I still was struggling despite the immense support around me. I continued to feel a dark, heavy cloud that shadowed by life constantly.
Sarah spoke to June, a close friend, and June mentioned that two years ago she struggled with the same situation and couldn’t find relief in currently available treatment options. June had sought the help of psychedelic assisted therapy using ketamine to help her process her mood and post-partum changes.
Sarah, being a clinical researcher herself, did some investigation and found that ketamine, an anesthetic medication that has also been studied for its potential antidepressant effects, is being investigated as a possible treatment for postpartum depression (PPD).
While research in this area is still ongoing and evolving, there is some evidence to suggest that ketamine may have therapeutic benefits for individuals experiencing PPD. Here are a few ways ketamine may help:
- Rapid onset of action: One of the advantages of ketamine as an antidepressant is its relatively fast onset of action. Unlike traditional antidepressants that can take weeks to show effects, ketamine may produce an almost immediate improvement in mood, often within hours of administration. This rapid response can be particularly beneficial for individuals with severe or treatment-resistant PPD.
- Neural plasticity and neurogenesis: Ketamine appears to work by influencing certain neurochemical pathways in the brain. It acts on the glutamate system and promotes the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a crucial role in neuronal plasticity and neurogenesis. These processes are believed to be disrupted in depression, and ketamine’s effects on them may help restore healthy brain functioning.
- Mood regulation and relief of symptoms: Ketamine has been shown to alleviate depressive symptoms, including low mood, hopelessness, anxiety, and anhedonia (loss of interest or pleasure). By modulating glutamate levels in the brain, ketamine may help rebalance neurotransmitter systems associated with mood regulation, leading to a temporary improvement in depressive symptoms.
Sarah found ShaMynds Healing Center and after a very thorough medical intake with one of the doctors and another session with the therapist, both with specific training in ketamine assisted therapy, she started her sessions over a period of three weeks.
Relief was immediate and most notable after her third session. Sarah began to experience the vibrancy of life, her infant, joy, relationships, and nature, once again. She felt alive every morning and again felt spacious, conscious of the beautiful state within her and the life she was leading. She continued to meet with the therapist for another three weeks and was able to transition back to her own therapist to continue to do work on herself. Sarah also joined the integration groups at ShaMynds to continue to integrate her learnings from the ketamine sessions into her life.
It’s important to note that while ketamine shows promise as a potential treatment for PPD, it is not yet considered a standard or first-line therapy. Research is ongoing to determine optimal dosing, treatment duration, and long-term effects. Additionally, ketamine is usually administered under medical supervision, as it may have side effects and potential risks.
If you or someone you know is experiencing PPD, it is essential to seek professional help from a healthcare provider. The provider can evaluate the person’s specific situation and recommend appropriate treatments, which may include therapy, support groups, traditional antidepressant medications, or, in some cases, ketamine or other emerging treatments.