Oh Well, At Least I’m On Ketamine

I’m on a lot of ketamine right now.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
6 min readSep 21, 2023

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A line of coke (well, several lines) shaped into the word “life” with a credit card next to it. It has nothing to do with this article, I just thought you ought to see.
This is what comes up when you search for “drugs” on the stock photo service. It’s not ketamine. Photo by Colin Davis on Unsplash

2024 will be a critical election for trans people. Republicans are still campaigning on anti-trans bills despite disappointing results in the midterms. The leading contenders for the Republican nomination are Donald Trump — whose shortcomings are, uh, well known — and Ron DeSantis, whose animus toward trans and queer people could easily lead to something like a nationwide ban on gender-affirming care. Add to this that Joe Biden is not a strong campaigner; keeping him in office is far from a best-case scenario for most trans people, but it’s the best outcome we can hope for from this specific election, and it’s not assured.

Yep: It’s a pretty stressful situation, all right. That’s why I can’t write about any of it right now, because I’m on ketamine.

It’s an exaggeration to say that I’m “on” ketamine. I didn’t just put the tablet in my mouth and start typing. (Maybe I should???) I subscribed to one of those mail-order ketamine therapy things, and I finished my sixth and final treatment on Sunday night.

Those mail-order ketamine things are, notoriously, not the optimal way to receive treatment — if you have an in-person therapist, it’s safer and better to go to a clinic and receive treatment with your therapist in the room. Still, I have a good trauma therapist, who works with me remotely, and I have a long-standing meditation practice, so I’m pretty good at managing difficult emotions in the moment, and I’m in a rural area, so driving a few hours to the nearest ketamine clinic every week was impractical. This was not the best option, but it was my best option, and I went into it with my eyes open.

Why did I need ketamine? Well — leaving aside the question of whether anyone needs a reason to dissociate on their couch rather than face reality — I have PTSD, and one of my particular problems is looping, repetitive, intrusive thoughts. These thoughts are typically about past conflicts, and they’re a natural response to stress. Your brain is wired to focus disproportionately on threats to your safety; by replaying every argument I’ve ever had on a loop, my brain was trying to figure out a strategy that would allow me to escape those situations.

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Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.