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Asian Experiences / Mental Health

Ketamine Therapy Helped Me Accept Myself (For The Trash That I Am)

"Be your truest self. Your trash self. Be a disappointment!"

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Written by Eunji Kim.
Photo by Phillip Tang.

Ketamine has traditionally been used as a horse tranquilizer. Ketamine has even more traditionally been used for cool ass good times while listening to shitty electronic music and making out with strangers. In modernity (post 9/11) ketamine has been studied to treat depression and PTSD. Until very recently, it was considered a radical alternative treatment for major depressive episodes and severe PTSD. But then the pandemic happened and now I guess we’re all considered depressed and traumatized enough.

Simply put, ketamine is an anesthetic drug that blocks pain. Which, according to articles I read on the internet, makes users feel like they’re detached from their own body. And which according to cool people I’ve met, makes you trip balls, feel wiggly and is fucking awesome. The sensation is sometimes described as “God.” Unfortunately, I have built a life where I have things to lose and am too old to do ketamine in a fun way so I did it as an 8 week treatment plan under the supervision of a medical professional that was not covered by insurance. Not only am I sad, but I’m also bad with money.

When this treatment was first suggested to me, people were concerned, they asked “why?” But as a person who exhibits drug seeking behavior, who has been hospitalized multiple times for major depressive episodes and was an early adopter of psychotropic drugs – I said “right on”. 

For the statistically probable 25% of you that have depression and/or anxiety – and if we’re being honest, among the people who would read this – 67% of you suffer from depression and/or anxiety – I will walk through the experience in brief. The treatment room looks like the dorm room of a kid with the sickest shrooms on campus. Tapestry, salt lamp, twinkle lights, large comfortable recliner and a HUGE monitor with videos of aquariums or the ocean. (One of my ketamine writing sessions was entirely about how the best drug dealers have good aquariums – coke dealers have empty aquariums or children.) And then you just chill, listen to music and ponder. The #1 side effect to ketamine treatment? Euphoria. Unbridled Joy. 

Also, that’s what I was on when I came up with my solo show, In Bad Taste. 

I realized that my fear of creating work has always been rooted in a deep fear of it being bad. Mostly because I have bad taste & poor judgment. And as a creative person – taste is morality. Is it GOOD or BAD? Am I a good comedian or a bad comedian? Am I a good artist or a bad artist? Am I god or a demon? And who’s being allowed to make this judgment? 

The treatment room looks like the dorm room of a kid with the sickest shrooms on campus. Tapestry, salt lamp, twinkle lights, large comfortable recliner and a HUGE monitor with videos of aquariums or the ocean.

I ruminated on the idea of taste: When you subscribe to the idea of “good taste” the burden is that you don’t get to be yourself  – you have to be a better version of who you really are. But I’m proposing to you- that we lower the bar. I figure, get rid of taste! Ultimately the bar, the lens of taste, creates a worldview in which you are not allowed to be your authentic self -where rules and prescribed bullshit prevent you from being your most authentic self. I do not subscribe to these rules – I enjoy and revel in being what most would consider trash.

I’ve also learned that not giving a fuck is one of the most beautiful parts of getting old. It’s nature’s gift and evidence of God’s sense of humor that she strips us of external beauty to cram it into our brains. And there is no shortcut to this wisdom, you can’t tell anyone not to worry about it until they simply don’t.

The goal is to simply cycle between joy and hope and at the center find your truest self – to simply be YOU – naked and unafraid. If you’re thinking how lame it is to have completed 8 weeks of intense ketamine therapy to emerge to do an entire solo show about simply being YOURSELF – then you’ve clearly never done ketamine. It’s incredible I even got here and didn’t just start listening to a lot of Phish.

Being an immigrant kid is traumatic, but it also gave me freedom to be weird. As an immigrant, my experience has been that I’m not tethered to any American version of who my family and status should be – I can decide, and become the version of myself that I created – a la Gatsby shit. That’s a privilege immigrants have.

If you’re thinking how lame it is to have completed 8 weeks of intense ketamine therapy to emerge to do an entire solo show about simply being YOURSELF – then you’ve clearly never done ketamine.

Sometimes, when I do shows for older white people and they don’t laugh, but tell me that they had the best time. It baffles me. When Korean ajummas are having a lot of fun and laughing hard they say “I can’t live.” That somehow they are having so much fun – they can’t LIVE- they must DIE. I guess for us, for me: joy, laughter, enjoyment is a matter of LIFE OR DEATH. Not good or bad.  

Everything winds up in a landfill anyway. Be your truest self. Your trash self. Be a disappointment. Be an inspiration to disappointments everywhere! 


About the Author:
Eunji Kim is a comedian and writer based in Chicago. She was a Senior Writer for Cards Against Humanity and can be seen performing stand-up at The Lincoln Lodge, Laugh Factory and all sorts of bar. She recently performed a solo show entitled, IN BAD TASTE, as a part of the 2022 Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series. She was a 2017 Bob Curry Fellow at Second City and a featured performer in the 2017 NBCUniversal Break Out Festival. Her TV credits include: Chicago Fire (NBC), Chicago Med (NBC) and Work In Progress (Showtime).


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