When was the last time you sat in the dark and stared at multi-colored lights while streaming some shamanic drumming?
If someone told me I’d spend this summer tripping on ketamine, I would not have believed them.
But, at the suggestion of my new-ish therapist and with my 40th year on the horizon, I figured why not.
To be clear, I am not talking about the kind of special K that you might get in a downtown alley.
Ketamine is the only kind of psychedelic legal in Idaho when administered in microdoses by licensed health care providers. The benefits have been the subject of a lot of research, particularly for folks with PTSD (me), anxiety (me), depression (sometimes me), and other mental issues that I thankfully don’t struggle with.
Working on self-worth stuff has been a major theme in my life for more than 20 years now, but I’ve found the process to be like an onion. You do a lot of therapy, meditate daily, and think you’ve gotta be done by now, but then you just peel back another layer and find there is more work to do.
Ketamine is like a chemical peel for the brain that is the metaphorical onion. It speeds up the un-layering and helps you connect on a soul level with what self-help books or therapists mean when they discuss reparenting your inner child or outing your shadow.
I am not a person who talks about connecting on a soul level much. Birthing and raising my six-year-old is pretty much the only thing that keeps me from being agnostic instead of an atheist. I wasn’t raised in a faith tradition, and minus a brief stint as a born-again in junior high in order to date someone, the traditional idea of God and the new-age view of God have both left me rolling my eyes a bit.
I’ve always felt left out when people discuss their faith or listen to their ancestors or divine guides or the practices they have to feel at one with the universe or source energy. I do yoga daily because it makes my body feel better, and I use meditation at night to help me get to sleep. I’ve found others’ experiences compelling but never felt like that type of spirituality was meant for me.
Then I took an IV full of ketamine. The first time, I saw what felt like hundreds of hands lifting me up. I briefly saw my late father’s face, then my son’s face, and my late grandmother’s face. At one point, I was bathed in neon green hundred-dollar bills. I giggled a lot, but also felt deeply content and safe.
Ketamine induces a sense of euphoria that gives me that sense of connection or wholeness I have never felt before. The feeling continues after the sessions end. For someone like me who makes a living talking, thinking and writing, it’s a beautiful thing that on ketamine I can’t do either. It kicks me out of my brain and into my body.
So, after four sessions (today is my fifth but don’t worry, I’m writing this in advance!), I’m ready to introduce you to the wise teachings of my alter-ego, whom I lovingly call “Ketamina.” I’m learning a lot from her, in her language, which hits differently than hearing these lessons on a podcast or from a therapist or coach.
- I am worthy of setting and holding boundaries.
- I am worthy of caring for myself.
- I am worthy of creating a sustainable, successful business without burning myself out.
- I am worthy, regardless of how helpful I am to others or how impressive my resume is.
These lessons may feel like pop culture clichés to you like they did to me until I felt them in my bones. Whichever way you choose to replace limiting beliefs with something like these lessons, I hope you do it. Because they apply to anyone leading a fast-growing small business, particularly those of us who identify as women. Women are conditioned to put others’ comfort and needs ahead of their own. When work feels hard, home feels hard, and parenting feels impossible. When partnership feels hard, then work can feel impossible. Being grounded in self-worth is the foundation needed to show up at work and at home.
Ketamina’s lessons are especially helpful if you are someone who, like me, has tied their identity being the youngest person in the room doing some incredible thing like running for city council or scaling a business to over $1M in under four years. If I’m going through something hard, I’m most likely to achieve my way out of it, and probably cut and dye my hair in the process.
Next month I turn 40, so I can’t really play the youngest person card anymore. Being an achiever looks great to the outside world, but like everything, there is a shadow side. Yes, part of me is intrinsically motivated to do big things that make the world a better place because I truly feel called to do that.
But I also know I tend to rack up accomplishments because I have lacked any sense of “divine connection” to the universe (and yes, part of me still rolls my eyes as I type that) and I sure as hell don’t have a secure attachment style. Maybe those two terms are rooted in the same feeling.
Anyway, I’m writing all this because I believe in Brené Brown, who says the wisest leaders are able to be vulnerable.
I also want more employers to join me in normalizing talking about mental health.
I want more women – my peers, my friends, my team, my clients – to stop pretending they have it all figured out and under control. Ketamine is a tool to see myself more accurately.
My contribution this summer to showing up better as a leader is a deep inward journey fueled by ketamine.