Help Cesca Heal Depression

Help Cesca Heal Depression

From Francesca Contreras

I'm fundraising for ketamine infusion treatment for chronic depression. All donations will go towards treatment!

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Dearest fam, friends and loved ones,

I am starting this fundraiser to ask for your support in paying for my upcoming IV ketamine infusions for depression. 

Some of you know more than others about my experience with major depressive disorder and chronic suicidal ideation over the years, but the main thing to know is that it has been absolute hell, and I feel desperate for relief. For those who do wish to know more, a bit of my personal story with depression follows. Following that are sections on ketamine as a treatment for depression (shout out to my people Corey & Jo for bringing it to my attention ❤ ️) as well as info about the clinic I will be going to and the cost. 

My personal journey with depression

I first started experiencing episodes of sadness and hopelessness when I was 18 years old and entering college. There wasn’t a specific triggering event preceding my first episode that I could identify and so I tried to just stuff it down, but it wasn’t long until I started having this sense that with all these random dark moods something was definitely “wrong” with me. It all felt very strange, very scary and very outside of my control.

I was also in a highly emotionally & psychologically abusive and controlling relationship at the time and had just moved out of state for school. The abusive relationship I was in cut me off from new friendships, and I suffered with depression and mood dysregulation in silence for two more years. I was hyper-sensitive to any perceived rejection from family and friends, and generally speaking felt crazy, unloved and toxic. I disassociated constantly and distracted myself with school work, chain smoking, and 24/7 activism around the clock on issues like labor rights and immigrants rights.

When I was 20 years old, with depression catching up to me, I took some time off from school and visited Miami. I was raped during that time, and developed compulsive binge eating disorder and body dysmorphia almost over night. I ate myself into comas for months on end until I attempted to see a therapist at Brown University my junior year. My experience was a very off-putting one, to say the least, and I didn’t return to therapy for years. Without any context for diagnoses or treatment/recovery, she told me I had  PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder, confirming my worst fears that something was fundamentally  “wrong” with me, and sent me on my way. 

I was introduced to yoga at around 21 years old (shout out to Claire ) and started to get my hands on all the books and information about trauma and recovery and the body as I could. At 22 years old I read Awakening the Tiger by Peter Levine, a leading expert in trauma and the body, and attempted healing modalities on myself. A year later I was connected to a 12-week long yoga course for survivors of sexual trauma, which was deeply transformative, too. Yoga, meditation and tapping exercises helped me to re-associate in my body and started providing some emotional relief here and there but the episodes would always come back and take me down under, often triggered by relational dynamics and loneliness, and later, 3 more experiences with sexual assault. The set backs really started to do a number not just on my self-concept, but on my belief in my capacity to heal/get better/recover.

For 14 years since then, I have put in a lot of effort towards getting better. I have been in and out of psychotherapy for years, worked with plenty of psychedelic plant medicines, and have been on 3 antidepressant medications from psychiatrists. I completed four 10-day silent buddhist Vipassana meditation retreats in an attempt to still my mind and interrupt old ways of thinking/being, and always prioritizied a daily meditation practice in between.  I have healed a lot of my disordered eating patterns, prioritized sleep hygiene, and worked especially hard to create a support network and community to stave off the loneliness that crippled me for years, and to turn to in times of need. (A very special shout out to David, Tati, Susy, Domo, dad and mom for being there for me during some of my most vulnerable times ❤ ️). I have utilized the 988 suicide crisis hotline countless of times to be mindful of not overburdening loved ones, and today I work with a remarkable Somatic Experiencing counselor and buddhist teacher certified in the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) for complex trauma 1x/week.

All of these tools, practices and people have helped me tremendously in really important ways -- and yet over the past two years, my depressive episodes have gotten longer and more severe. My episodes in July 2022 and from November 2023 - March 2024  were especially corrosive and I’m in the process of trying to climb out of it right now. The accompanying symptoms of chronic fatigue, weak immunity, and difficulty with attention, memory and focus are no day at the beach, either.

Today, my biggest concern is losing my job because of calling out too much. I am incredibly fortunate to have a job and profession that provides me with such a sense of purpose and structure - not to mention the money to afford things like housing, health insurance, therapy, and nourishing food. It is more than a lot of people suffering have, and that is not lost on me. I prefer not to entertain thoughts about what would happen if I lost my job. It is a very dark place I go to enough already, and it is not a solution.

When I first learned more about ketamine treatment for depression a few weeks ago, I immediately felt a surge of hope and faith again. I’m not one to put all my eggs in any basket, but the research on ketamine is pretty remarkable in terms of its alleviation of major depression & suicidal ideation. It is theorized that ketamine - a disassociative anasthetic and a hallucinogen - acts on NDMA receptors & glutamate neurotransmitters, promoting neuroplasticity and rewiring neural circuits involved in mood and memory. For anyone interested in the neurobiology of ketamine, I suggested listening to Standford University Professor Andrew Huberman’s overview here.

About Ketamine Treatment

The FDA approved ketamine for medical use in 1970. It was first used on American soldiers during the Vietnam War for battlefield surgery & was a highly effective anesthetic but soon began to be used illicitly. Throughout the 70s psychiatric and academic research on the effects of ketamine began.

In the 2000s medical professionals began noticing and studying ketamine's ability to rapidly alleviate depression and suicidal thoughts. Studies were done between 2000-2006, which ultimately showed ketamine was a viable alternative treatment for depression. This led to the rise of doctors going off-label and using ketamine to treat depression and other mental disorders. Ketamine clinics began to open more frequently.

Today, mental health professionals are using ketamine to treat treatment-resistant depression and other mental conditions like PTSD and OCD. The FDA has also fast-tracked two drugs based on ketamine to treat depression. Success rates are around 70% and ketamine does not have any negative ongoing side effects, unlike antidepressant medications, whose efficacy rate is much lower, also. The gold standard for treatment-resistant depression includes six IV infusions over 3 weeks, which unfortunately is not covered by most insurance companies.

The clinic and cost 

I will be starting treatment at the Ketamine & Wellness Clinic of South Florida in Pompano Beach. You can check out their website here. I feel I am in very good hands, as the nurse anesthesiologist who runs the clinic is a friend of a dear friend.

They also have a discounted rate for mental health providers, which is awesome. The 6 session package is $2100, and then monthly maintenance sessions cost $300 a session. My hope is to raise as much as possible towards the 6 initial sessions plus 3 additional maintenance sessions after that, to start. This totals $3,000. There are extra clinic fees for credit card use & Saturday session dates, and this fundraising platform takes a 2.9% cut of the donations hence the $3,244 total.

If I find that after the 6 initial treatments I am not feeling better then I will not pursue the maintenance sessions, and will reimburse any contributions past those accordingly. I will send an email update to all donors after the first 6 sessions.

Of course, any donation amount is greatly appreciated - even $1! And if you can’t donate, I happily receive and appreciate your energetic support, too, or rides for local folks who are able (you can't drive after treatment because you’re all fucked up and disassociated). Thank you so much to all the generous souls who have offered or signed up for transportation support already ❤ ️.

The last way to support is by doing your piece in your corner of the world to destigmatize mental health and depression - share your own story with trusted loved ones and educate yourself on how you can be a safe person in turn for others to share with (hint: asking someone you're worried about if they're having suicidal thoughts does not 'put the idea in the their head' and can signal to someone that you are a safe person to talk to! Talking about suicide can and does reduce deaths ❤ ️).



P.S Please do not share this publicly or on social media. The last thing my similarly clients need is to stumble upon this & start worrying that their therapist is headed for the looney bin. If there is a specific individual you would like to share it with, please ask me.

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