ECT To The Rescue!

So, I’ve now had 5, yes that’s right, FIVE psychiatric admissions. Not really something I’m proud of, or something to shout from the rooftops but nothing to be ashamed of either. Being admitted means I was strong enough, smart enough, brave enough to know I needed help. Unfortunately, too many people don’t seek help due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Please don’t hesitate, if you are struggling, to get help. It’s out there!!

I had Electroconvulsive Therapy quite a few years ago, like I’ve mentioned in the past. Well, after two admissions in one month, multiple medication changes with no success, and suicidal ideation, it was time to give ECT a try again. If you’ve never heard of ECT or don’t understand what it is, let me clear some things up for you. Electroconvulsive therapy is a procedure in which you are put under anesthesia, a volt of electricity is shot in one (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral) of the brain. The whole point is for the patient to have a seizure under a controlled environment and basically “reset” the brain similar to rebooting a computer. And the crazy thing is I am so stoked for these treatments.

I’ve heard so many times, “Do the treatments hurt?” No. You’re asleep and don’t feel a thing. Your anesthesiologist will give you a strong muscle relaxer to keep you from “flopping” around like a normal seizure. The doctor knows if you’re having a seizure by watching your feet, which will contract, and by monitoring your brain activity. You are hooked up to an EKG and you have to be medically cleared first. So if you aren’t healthy, your electrolytes aren’t up to snuff, etc. you can’t have the procedure performed. I’ve had people ask me, “Does you ur personality change?” Well, do I seem different to you having not known I’ve been through this before? No, it does not change your personality.

The worst side effects include some body aches, possibly a headache, and possible memory loss, although most people do not experience that. I experienced some memory loss the last time I had ECT but I’d rather have that then not be here for my babies and husband!

ECT has caught a bad reputation due to the Classic “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.” Unfortunately, the procedures used to be crude and inhumane in my opinion. Today, the procedure has been refined, lots of research has been done about how many treatments are safe, how unilateral and bilateral ECT work differently and cause different side effects, etc. ECT is not terrible or inhumane but a LIFE SAVER! As I’ve mentioned previously, I had ECT in the past and went into remission with my depression. I was eventually able to go off all my psych meds for years. Just recently I started having problems again.

I have been medically cleared and had my first ECT treatment on Wednesday. No, I didn’t walk around the psych unit like a zombie, like Jack Nicholson. I was drowsy from the anesthesia and had a headache. I got some pain meds and took a nap for 1.5 hours. I woke up and felt great. A little tired as with any time anyone who has anesthesia, but great.

I have a long road ahead of me and that one treatment did not “cure” me of my mental illness. My mental illness will never be cured. It’s never cured; managed would be a better word. Medication is still going to be needed in order to keep me on track and I will have 11 more treatments. One treatment every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next month. It’s a long process and I have a long road ahead of me but Electroconvulsive Therapy has given me hope when I was feeling unlovable, unimportant, helpless, hopeless, and had no will to live.

ECT is a controversial treatment, even in my own family. I’ve had people in my family say it sounds so “barbaric”, “inhumane”, and “cruel.” It is none of those things! It is a life saver and a blessing for many people with major depression. For people who would never be able to live a normal life otherwise. I want nothing more than to live a normal life, go to work, support my family, clean my house, cook dinner, and help my kids with homework. I want to live life like other people who do these things every day without thinking twice. I’m determined to get better and with ECT I will!!


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