Originally posted on my newsletter, The Standard Rainbow Hour, which you should subscribe to (free)
Today my body buzzes with medium anxiety, which feels like the caffeine high of a quad shot espresso. Depression is nearly sub-perceptual, like the thrumming of a particularly adroit bass player.
Wilbur fusses next to me so I ask him to lie down, which he does without joy. Then fixes me with the saddest sorrowful look:
Wilbur now listens to wellbeing podcasts when he is in his crate. He was really struck by this conversation on loneliness with Vivek Murthy & Brene Brown.
My gut feels blah, as it has since I have been able to accumulate memories. Blah feels like a stomach ache, like incipient bowel upset. I was at one time diagnosed with IBS, which is Doctor for “We don’t know what’s wrong with you” (also known as a functional disorder).
There’s a line of inquiry in trauma circles that posits functional disorders are body-based responses to trauma. Gut disorders fit very nicely into this line of thinking, as the gut has its very own nervous system, is connected intimately to fight or flight responses, and contains 90% of your serotonin. DISCUSS.
FIRST, SOME FUN NEWS
In our last episode, I mentioned that I have started posting videos to TikTok. At the time I was excited that a video had received about 18,000 views. Over the past two weeks, Squirrel Dialogues has received another 190,000 views or so. Squirrel now has 10,000 followers.
I also noted that social media stats are a dangerous drug, and I feel the dopamine twitch each time a video takes off.
FUN FACT: Did you know that notification icons are dopaminergic?*
*I just wanted to use my new favorite word in a sentence.
This is key to how the internet is addictive. Let’s bookmark that for a future letter.
But back to Squirrel. The comments are dopaminergic too. And something else. I sometimes tear up. I am moved. A fan even made a delightful remix of one of my videos (an interesting feature of TikTok).
I’ve received hundreds of comments and they breakdown into the following categories:
I loved this. Thank you.
I needed this message. Thank you.
Are you Christopher Walken? (or Mister Rogers)
I’m so lonely.
And deep in the comments I find little conversations. The viewers are supporting each other in something that looks uncannily like peer counseling.
I sometimes click on the profiles of my viewers and generally find a 20-year-old who looks like they know a thing or two about loneliness and mental health challenge.
It looks excruciating to be a member of Gen Z, perhaps worse than being an elder Millennial. But I’m astounded by their self-awareness and savvy around mental health.
I recall how scornful my peers and I were about mental health when we were in our teens. We called the school counselor Mrs. Feelings. Vulnerability had not yet been invented (not until a sass-talking researcher from Texas discovered it in 2008).
I recently completed a mental health first aid training, and the curriculum leans heavily on the concept of peer support. Chiefly: Listening, validation, reassurance, and education. I see now that TikTok could be a powerful medium for this.
The need is obvious. I trust in Squirrel. Onward.
I’m currently seeking grants to fund Squirrel’s good work. I’ll be turning on various other funding mechanisms in September. I’m aiming for three videos per week.
OTHER THINGS I’VE MADE RECENTLY
Eight new videos, among them:
Why are you here? Squirrel Dialogues
Forgive me? Squirrel Dialogues
EVAN PLEASE KEEP TALKING ABOUT KETAMINE THERAPY
My mood has been flagging so I last week I intervened with a low-dose, self-guided ketamine therapy session. At-home ketamine therapy is a thing that feels like it should not exist. A doctor prescribes me ketamine, which comes in the mail(!) I check in periodically with the doctor but I’m largely left to my own devices to design my own protocol and administer at my discretion.
Folks in the psychedelic healing space talk about the healer within, and this is feels like a rare acknowledgement of that. By a doctor who takes my insurance. Maybe there’s hope.
There are lots of caveats here. I was prescribed ketamine lozenges based on my existing relationship with my ketamine clinic. Most people are probably not ready to do this work on their own. Unlike other psychedelics, ketamine can be harmful, and psychologically, if not physically addictive (lets bookmark that for a future letter).
There are four types of ketamine administration that I’ve heard of: high-dose intramuscular injection, low-dose sublingual lozenge, intravenous drip, and nasal spray. Each method has different effects, advantages, and disadvantages. I’ll do a roundup of ketamine resources soon, for folks who want to know more.
K journal, Apollo 16
Low dose ketamine session, 225mg sublingual x 15 minutes
There is an uncanny moment in the medicine, when I view myself from some other vantage point, from the outside looking in. And I see a conscious human being in an apartment on an island near a landmass on a planet hurtling through space. And I feel this deep sense of the precarity of my life on earth. I feel awe, I feel Oh Shit, I feel some fear… is my body safe on earth in this moment? When I am Somewhere Else?
Because, I am. I slide into the medicine and the volume on my ego turns to zero. And without ego I am just Presence. Me-ness. It-ness. No-proper-words-for-it-ness.
When I am here it feels like I am surfacing from a deep underwater dream. And I can remember the last time I surfaced, and the time before that. Waking life seems like a blip between these moments of awareness. I remember, deep to the core of my being, that waking life is not everything. In a few minutes I’ll forget the sensation, no matter how uncanny and huge it is in the moment.
Suffering and depression fall away, they are no longer mine, because there’s no me to pin them to. A dark undulating pattern, like an infinite fabric, fills my perception.
If you were to watch me in this phase, I am a male bodied human being in my apartment, lying quietly in my bed, breathing deeply, wearing eyeshades and big headphones. My room is dark, the windows and doors closed, a box fan hums for audio privacy. A womb room.
I have a fear sometimes, in this phase: What if I were to be found like this? My body is helpless, if roused I would appear groggy, listless. It is an extreme type of vulnerability. In the medicine, though, I say: It’s ok. Trust, trust, trust.
Because really, I realize, it is always this way. Safety, separateness, independence, are all myths. We are always this vulnerable. Our soft bodies. The chaos of the material world. The presence of violence, random chance, and accident.
I suspect these fears are echoes of the ego, screaming, as into a pillow. Muted, distant.
But I can fall into trust, in a way I cannot in waking life. I can hurtle into the swirling cloud of it, with no sense of a bottom. As I fall through trust, I sense I am nearing something mammoth, loving, beautiful, truthful.
And then Clocks by Coldplay starts, the third song on my psychedelic playlist, and I tilt.
My whole being weeps. It is a purging, an orgasm, of grief. My face crumples, snot and tears run out of me, my hands turn into little fists, my feet curl, my body folds into the fetal position. My teeth chatter as I cry and moan.
In a way it feels good, it feels releasing, it feels right and necessary. I scream into a pillow, I cough on snot, I let it outtttttt.
I see a slender dog, like a greyhound. A scared puppy, curled up, eyes looking up, fearful. I see a fire eyed-wolf looming over him, glaring, growling, barking.
This is what it was like, I think.
A questions bubbles up: WHEN WILL YOU LOVE ME?
I scream rage and grief and sadness into my pillow. My teeth chatter. My body clenches tight, curled up.
And then, as the gorgeous album Riceboy Sleeps begins, I imagine myself on a stage, doing a ketamine session in front of a concert hall, as Jonsi Birgisson conducts the orchestra. An interesting thought. And then I think, oh, hi ego, you’re back.
Ego establishes that I am in my bed, wearing eyeshades and headphones, and coming out of a ketamine session. I grab my notebook from my bedside and scrawl some notes. I relax in the music and quietly weep.
There’s grogginess here, and the faintest nausea. Among other things, I am disconnected from my gut. I won’t be able to eat for a few more hours.
Sunlight is nearly intolerable. I lay low. It’s important not to do, or watch, or listen to anything exciting or stressful. I play the piano with great clumsiness. I read a book about a wolf. I sleep for ten hours.
The next day, I feel pretty alright. The next few days, my life feels more spacious. I do exciting things like go for swims and hike with friends.
You’ve reached the end. Thanks.