Lately I’ve been noticing that my ability to retain small amounts of information is becoming more and more troublesome. If I don’t jot things down right away then I am sure to forget many significant or even trivial details that may be of importance to me. I also find myself losing my train of thought while in the midst of a conversation or even forgetting what I am talking about all together. Although I have been struggling more recently with my short term memory loss it has actually been of concern ever since I made the decision to do ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) 4 years ago.
I have mentioned ECT several times in my blogs but I have never really gone into much detail about my actual experience. But before I go any further I want you to know that this is by no means a public service announcement or in any way a deterrent from changing someone’s thoughts or feelings on this method of treatment or any other for that matter.
This, like everything else I write about is my own truth, my own story and my own reality. My intention is never to discourage someone from trying anything that may be beneficial to their own treatment of depression or other mental illnesses because if there is one thing I have learned throughout my journey it’s that no two truths are the same, no two stories are the same and certainly no two realities are either.
I share my own truth, my own story and my own reality in order to help give others some insight into this dreadful disease by bringing about more awareness, more change and more understanding. It’s not so black and white like many want to believe, there is often a lot of grey in between too. And it’s that grey area that led me to try ECT.
ECT has been around since the 1930’s which has thankfully been updated over time since the days of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, but still carries with it many of the same stigmas. ECT works by using electricity to induce seizures as a way of relieving the symptoms of many mental illnesses.
When I entered the hospital in October 2014 ECT was quickly presented to me as an option for treatment. I declined right away, but 2 months into my stay I was left feeling so defeated from the many medications that were failing me, that I decided to revisit the option, mostly because I just wanted to go home. I had observed many other patients regularly being scheduled for the treatment and I thoroughly trusted my team of doctors in my care. That was until I began my own treatment and almost immediately regretted my decision.
To have the best possible outcome, ECT is done a few times per week at a minimum of 8 to 12 sessions. Every morning that I was scheduled for a session a nurse would come into my room around 5:30 am, turn on all the lights, wake me up and start taking my temperature and blood pressure. Then the real fun began when she started pricking me with a needle in order to put the IV pic in my hand. I then could choose to go back to sleep or what I did instead was anxiously await my turn to be called down to the OR which could sometimes be many hours later. Once I was wheeled downstairs into what felt like a dungeon, I lay down on a cold hard table and the next thing I would feel was a sharp coldness burn through my veins as they injected me with the anesthetic before I drifted off to sleep.
Once the procedure was done and I was awake they would monitor me for about an hour until I was stable enough to go back upstairs. The days that I had treatment were extra hard for me as the immediate side effects were usually exhaustion, headaches and muscle pain. But I also began to experience terrible panic attacks from the whole treatment in general. My doctor tried to ease some of my panic and fears by making sure that I was first on the list of patients every time treatment day rolled around but after my seventh session and of course no sign of relief in sight I decided I couldn’t do another day.
If there was any sign that some of my symptoms were lifting I may have fought through the agony it was causing me but if after seven sessions of torturing myself to get through just one more, left me thinking there’s no way one more is gonna make a difference (but never doubt that my feeling like a failure again doesn’t cross my mind daily). And I was also beginning to understand the severity of how much memory loss I was having. Much of December 2014 and well into that new year have been pretty much erased from my mind and maybe that’s for the best, but it never seemed to have fully restored to the capacity I functioned at before I began the treatment.
I know ECT has saved many lives, but it just couldn’t save this one. I saw it save lives right before my eyes. I’ve seen brightness again in someone’s eyes and hope in another’s heart. They are the brightness and hope I’ve been longing for and the memories that never leave my mind.