On my father’s 100th birthday, snow was coming. It was a good day to make soup. My father had passed from this place into the way better, most wonderful place 25 years earlier, so the date was one of remembrance.
I was out of town enjoying a rented condo along the coast for my own birthday of significance, and thought Maryland Crab Soup would be fitting. The recipe called for lima beans. I looked for another recipe. Also needed lima beans. And another. Same. I am flexible with my soup making, but it was clear the lima bean is a staple of this dish.
My father did not allow lima beans in our house – a very strong stance for someone who didn’t say much and wasn’t into complaining. But the lima bean ban was not new to our home, it had travelled with him since he was maybe ten years old and a child of The Depression. His large family of two parents and seven kids relied on the same option during those years of many other families – food rationing stamps. One month, the rations ran low and all that was available was chocolate milk and lima beans. This was his meal for two weeks until rations re-stocked. He would never taste either again.
I only know this fact because my mother told me. In true Davis fashion, my father was a locked vault where his past was concerned, choosing instead to live in the current chapter of his life. The evidence crept up when he winced if we were at a picnic and someone passed a bowl of simple succotash – the dreamy 1970s dish of corn and lima beans. He did not drink milk, either plain or chocolate, and I never saw a bowl of cereal in front of him. By default, I also never ate lima beans and was inherently revolted by them for the first half century of my life.
Then, on my father’s 100th birthday, in anticipation of authentic Maryland Crab Soup, I went to the store when the first snowflakes were falling. It was time. I bought lima beans.
What goes on in our brains? How do they record a belief that might mean nothing to us at all and let it become our belief anyway? Why do we carry not only our own life experiences, but also the experiences that those closest to us demonstrated in word or action?
Vegetables don’t matter at all. Fears, anxieties, worldviews, and deeply felt beliefs that turn into weighted chains – these do matter. If you are carrying an idea or an ideal that was planted when you were too young to see the seeds hit the soil, can your brain hear the message that you are moving on and allow you to willingly let go? Or does your brain keep returning to the ideas it knows best, most frequently, deeply stored?
Today, my father would be 103! I made the soup again, lima beans and all.
When I moved through my research on journaling coupled with clinical ketamine therapy, three data points stood out and stayed with me. (Most of the information I found floored and fascinated me, but I leaned into a top three facts.)
1. The stats surrounding ketamine therapy vs. traditional pharmaceuticals as follows: Standard depression medications have a 30% effective response rate for patients, while patients suffering from depression who undergo ketamine therapy show a 70% effective response rate. This is no small gap. It is no wonder then, with the lower results from SSRIs, that so many patients move into the category of “treatment-resistant” when it comes to depression. The label exists as one of the early qualifiers for many ketamine clinics to accept a patient who has moved through at least two prescriptions without relief. (Note, the stats differ from study to study; however, many seem to land within these numbers.)
2. How well recognized the singular act of journaling is among those who have practiced or used it within a wellness routine. One source indicated that journaling could be moved into a function of primary medical care. Who would think to tell a patient to grab a notebook and pen, carve out time each day, and find a safe, comfortable spot to empty the thoughts from their mind as a step toward good mental and physical health instead of grabbing a pill bottle once day?
3. The reaction to the FDA approval of esketamine to treat depression in March of 2019, moving one element of ketamine (esketamine/Spravato) from an off-label clinical use and into its own category of legal use for depression treatment. I found source after source stating this approval was the first major step for depression in years, since Prozac (in 1988), and one that went for specifics with a five-decade count. Can a fact stun you and leave you totally unsurprised at the same time? Because that is how I felt when I read article after article – stunned that our system had not advanced past SSRIs in half a century while fully aware that treatment options for depression and other mental health problems had stalled at mediocre when most household televisions were still black and white.
There are more, but those three guided my passion for this project.
I have a favorite one-liner of advice for potential ketamine therapy patients and families: “Do your homework.” You, too, may find information that will give you optimism and help direct your next steps. I’d love to hear what you learn. And I will keep doing my homework.
Some sources and great information:
Pribish, A., Wood, N., & Kalava, A. (2020, April 1). A review of nonanesthetic uses of ketamine. Anesthesiology research and practice.
Wolfson, P., & Hartelius, G. (Eds.). (2016). Ketamine papers: Science, therapy, and transformation. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
Mugerwa, S., & Holden, J. D. (2012). Writing therapy: A new tool for general practice?. The British journal of general practice: the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 62(605), 661–663. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp12X659457
Just about one year ago, I published CONNECTED: a Personal Journal for Ketamine Therapy.
Briefly, the project was the result of an intense study I completed for my graduate school thesis. When my thesis was complete, I did not need to take the results and create a published product. I just wanted to.
This project was personally important to me and I decided to push myself into the final step of publishing. As a lifelong writer and serial project-launcher with a few other almost-done books hanging out in my laptop, I saw this as a chance to finally take at least one project to the next level.
I thought I would pop this up onto the Amazon publishing platform, call it a victory, (which it was and still is for me,) and walk away satisfied. I did not think that a year later, I would be in a bit of shock when I see the number of sales each month to individuals as well as the group sales confirmed for clinics offering ketamine assisted psychotherapy. I have seen and heard feedback from patients and providers that tells me CONNECTED matters to them. It was never an intent to actively pursue sales or continue to promote the journal. Now, I just want to.
January has come around again. It has always been my favorite moment of the year – somehow a time that offers a clean slate, an opening for new goals and ideas, and chance to look optimistically forward to the expansive gift of time.
This year, I hope to embrace the space I carved for myself as the slightest contributor to a huge moment in history for mental health and wellness. As ketamine therapy moves further into mainstream conversations, the topics related to this novel and exciting option continue to unfold.
If this is your year to pursue a new, serious option for depression, PTSD, chronic pain, and the host of symptoms that go along with these, I encourage you to do your homework and find the treatment plan (ketamine assisted psychotherapy or otherwise) that will change your course.
That small window of hope is out there, just waiting to open for you.