The concept that party drugs could help fight depression is nothing new, but a recent study has found that ketamine has some potentially remarkable effects. Ketamine is, like glow-sticks, from the grab bag of items used to enhance raves, but it’s no stranger to medicine either: it’s a commonly used in anaesthesiology, and sometimes in pain management.
In fact, using it to treat depression isn’t as unprecedented as UK news outlets would have you think! A few years ago, trials were run here in Australia to test ketamine for the exact same purpose, and more before that in America.
We’ve been very flippant in the comic, because – let’s face it, the concept sounds stupid at face value. But it might be a huge breakthrough. In the comic, we also (flippantly) mention looking at the research directly; but if you’ve only got two minutes to spare, you can even just listen to one of the scientists themselves instead.
I usually take these newsposts as an opportunity to climb onto my proverbial soapbox. In fact, the other day, I got into a conversation with a friend about the philosophy of videogame marketing: after arguing, he pointed out that he legitimately studied these things as a full time occupation, so why was my opinion somehow equally respectable? I explained to him, Apparently because I draw comics on the internet. Since I’m hopping on my soapbox right now, I figure I might as well explain my credentials for this particular arena, as it were.
I’ve mentioned before, tangentially, that I suffer depression. I thought I’d mentioned it more on the site, actually; but I did a quick google and it turns out I’ve been remarkably quiet about it. I suppose that a) I don’t particularly enjoy talking about it and b) I’ve not really had much cause for doing so. But I have suffered from quite severe major depressive disorder for as long as I can remember, and it’s still a significant player in how I live my life.
I can’t really compress a lifetime of experiences into a couple of paragraphs, but I feel it’s worth noting that depression did ruin the entirety my teenage years in a ruthlessly efficient and exceptionally thorough way. In a way, I’m almost impressed at the sleek functionality of how it did so, like a specially trained hitman; except its target was a fat queer kid and its goal was to make him an asshole towards people to cope with it. It also stopped me (for good or for ill) from ever experimenting with drugs in university – and I went to a film school for God’s sake. I was always too worried about triggering latent schizophrenia or whatever to engage in bowl-smoking at parties; also I didn’t get invited to those sort of parties.
I’ve always mocked society for its ridiculous fear of ingesting ‘chemicals’, as if chemicals don’t constitute literally everything. But I’ve also always been secretly afraid of taking medications for depression for almost the same reasons. I don’t tell this to people, so I’m actually extra-terrified to post about it – but I hope that, since it’s a topic that doesn’t get discussed much, tossing it out here publicly may just help someone else who comports this secret terror inside themselves. I’ve always been afraid of taking medications, even ones that I know are generally tried-and-true, because they’re altering my brain chemistry in a very literal sense. I like to imagine myself (ironically) as an unwashed hippie being removed by the police: they’re messing with my brain chemicals, man!
But I can tell you precisely why I’m afraid of that. Our brains are who we are. I think about consciousness a lot, and the mysteries of it. It’s a bit like art and pornography: we all know what it is, but nobody really knows how it is what it is. But, at a simplistic level, the things I think and feel are determined by the chemical processes which go on inside my head (including, of course, depression). And the thought of altering that frightens me. I can’t remain meaningfully objective to that experience of consciousness. I can’t even remain objective to my experience of consciousness now! So, I’m scared of so-called self-termed false moods. Of feeling ‘up’ or happy only because an external agent is making me do so. And I know that even things like eating chocolate does that, but somehow, targeting it directly feels different to me somehow. Like boxing gloves versus drone warfare.
The other thing is a fear of losing the creative drive that allows me to make the comic, and Ephemeris. I started telling jokes as my coping mechanism (hello, being an asshole in high school). And humour is, like any other skill, something you have to practice to become better at. I log a lot of hours practicing how to be funny, because I log a lot of hours having to cope with being depressed.
And, I think, the real core of it is this: I’m scared of having nothing to blame for feeling this way. What if I were to take some sort of medication, and have all the neurochemical malaise leave my system, and still be unable to get up in the morning? There’s a Bene Gesserit saying that says “Fear is the mind-killer,” and truer words have never been written in a sci-fi novel about giant worms. If I couldn’t blame depression for my depression-related failures, then all there’d be left to blame was me simply being the way that I am. It doesn’t matter how many professionals have diagnosed me over the years: this fear has never truly left me.
The desire to not get better is a strange form of stockholm syndrome that we forge with ourselves.
None of this should be taken as a negative attitude towards medication for depression, importantly! Without naming names, I have a disproportionately large number of friends who suffer depression of various kinds, and many of them have had fantastic successes with medication that have allowed them to lead lives they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. (I think depressed people just seem to drift towards each other as more of them converge, like pieces of space debris gradually forming a planet under their own small gravitational pulls. Nobody understands what it’s like to live with depression like a depressive does.) If you think you may suffer depression but aren’t sure, talk to a professional. Whatever happens, you’ll be better informed! If you want some more information, seriously, google that shit. You won’t regret it.