It’s August. It was a little over six months ago when I received my first electroconvulsive-therapy treatment. Now that I’m approaching my nineteenth treatment, or the fourth maintenance one, I thought I’d jot down something of a six-month assessment/reflection.
So, how are things? I do wish things were better, but where I am now is far better than where I was before ECT. I looked back at some old journal entries, and those pages are filled with some sort of anger or constant, active thoughts of death. Most of my waking moment was spent hoping for it all to end or thinking nothing at all. As I read my scribbles, I wondered how I managed to stay alive at all. It’s quite terrifying. I still have my ups and downs, but looking at myself now, I know I’m better. Emotionally, I am carrying a lesser load, and I’m also lighter physically. My weight hasn’t fluctuated so much since I started ECT.
And how do I feel about having ECT now? After I wrote the last post about those greeting-card ideas, it made me realize a few things. It’s probably not that I take this procedure to be any less seriously, but I think I no longer view this as some catastrophic event in my life. Rather, I’m starting to get used to idea that it’s just something I do in order to live. I’m not saying I’m comfortable just talking about it openly at all times, but at the same time it’s a topic I’ll be happy to discuss at appropriate moments. I think this change in thinking came more recently. Maintenance ECT is perhaps what is making me embrace ECT in a different manner. Now, it’s not confined to those five weeks; it’s now a regular occurrence. Before I started back on these, I thought this new ECT “adventure” would weigh heavily in planning my daily life, but I now almost look forward to having the treatment because I feel so much better right after the little spark. Yes, the potential side effects are still on my mind, but I’ve been very fortunate to have avoided most of those. I now know that ECT, for me, is part of a process, rather than ‘the’ process that will help me achieve some sort of normalcy. There is still hesitation on my part when I’m told I’ll have the procedure at a more frequent rate, but wouldn’t anyone be a bit nervous when s/he is tied up on a gurney?
Where do I go from here? For a long time, what I wanted for the future was to, well, not have one. I can’t say I don’t think about death still, but it’s not an obsession or a goal. I’ve not reached a point where I’m blindly optimistic about the future (and I don’t ever want to become that), but at least I am taking steps to have a future, like going to grad school in the fall. So, I think I’m generally where I need to be. Rebuilding my life will take time, and right now, I’m taking my time moment by moment.