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Fall 2022 - Innovation

Depression: A Patient’s Perspective

After battling depression for more than four decades, Debbie Dykes has found relief with an alternative therapy.

After battling depression for more than four decades, Debbie Dykes has found relief with an alternative therapy that was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment-resistant depression.

BSTQ: When were your earliest symptoms of depression?

Debbie: I first noticed symptoms when I was 10 years old. I was already a studious kid, but depression kicked it into high gear. I studied, read and had little contact with other kids my age. I got good grades and never caused any trouble, so no adult ever questioned my withdrawal. But in high school, I had developed an eating disorder. Eating or not eating was the only thing I could control. My pediatrician diagnosed the anorexia but didn’t recommend therapy.

BSTQ: Are there any details of your life that may have been triggering?

Debbie: The first five years of my life were idyllic. We had the perfect family. My parents were both gentle, soft-spoken and funny. When I was 6 years old, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma, which was a death sentence in the 60s. He was gone in six months. When I was 8 years old, my mother married a charismatic Southern Baptist preacher with a big laugh, and life was a little brighter for about two years. It turned out he was just on his best behavior to win over the neighbors and our extended family. Then he began to beat us savagely; my brother Duane and I got beaten the worst because we protested or tried to protect each other. We were also molested over a 10-year period. I was always terrified and used to spend hours hiding in my closet with a book or a stuffed animal.

BSTQ: When were you diagnosed?

Debbie: When I was 25 years old, I was lying on my friend’s bed waiting for her to change clothes so we could go to the lake. She pulled her belt out of her belt loops, and I had a full-blown panic attack. I started therapy shortly after that and was eventually diagnosed with depression.
BSTQ: What types of medications have you tried, and how did you respond?
Debbie: I refused to even consider taking medication until I was 40 years old. My wife, Sue, gave me an ultimatum to begin taking medication or she was going to leave. That started the never-ending search for the right prescription. I tried Effexor, Latuda, Lamictal, Pristiq, Trintellix, Wellbutrin, Abilify and various combinations from that list. Effexor worked the best, and the depression was bearable for almost 10 years, but it never fully went away.

BSTQ: Tell us about your experience with Ketamine.*

Debbie: Ketamine literally saved my life. In January 2020, I lost 25 pounds in six weeks. I was catatonic, playing word games for nine hours a day. Sue worked with my psychiatrist to find a doctor who provided me with ketamine as a last resort. I had six 40-minute intravenous infusions starting in February of that year. Sue said she could see a difference right away. After a few more treatments, I began to feel motivated again. I wrote a little, painted and resumed training for the Los Angeles Marathon. I felt more like my old self, a terminally positive introvert who just happens to have to take six pills a day. Ketamine is highly controlled and must be administered by a doctor who remains present and monitors vitals the entire session. It’s expensive, but in the two years since my first treatment, my insurance company has agreed to pay for half.

BSTQ: What do you wish others understood about depression?

Debbie: I want people to know that depression is a disorder that can’t be cured with positive affirmations, prayer, self-help books or thousands of dollars in therapy. Depression is a disease, like diabetes. You would never tell diabetics to just put a smile on their face or work on their attitude. You’d encourage them to take their meds and any available steps to minimize the risks associated with their disease.

BSTQ: Does depression run in your family?

Debbie: Yes. My great-grandmother and brother took their own lives. And my mother stayed in bed for 10 years.

BSTQ: How has this disease impacted your quality of life?

Debbie: Living with depression has instilled in me an urgent need to help as many people as I can. I also feel sorrow that I missed out on the life that I dreamed about as a child. I was supposed to be an accomplished writer, painter or sculptor. And after a successful career, I wanted to share my passion and knowledge with college kids like my father and my godfather did. All I ever wanted was to be extraordinary at one thing. Depression made me more practical, measured and ordinary.


*Ketamine is a medication primarily used for induction and maintenance of anesthesia. It induces dissociative anesthesia, a trance-like state providing pain relief, sedation and amnesia.

At lower, sub-anesthetic doses, ketamine is a promising agent for pain and treatment-resistant depression. In 2019, the FDA approved nonpsychedelic ketamine for use in clinical trials.1

Trudie Mitschang
Trudie Mitschang is a contributing writer for BioSupply Trends Quarterly magazine.