ECT #36: (my 21th maintenance treatment)

I had my 36th electroconvulsive therapy treatment today. I usually have the procedure every six weeks or so, but with being of town and other scheduling issues, it’s been at least two months since I had my last one.  I was the first ECT patient to arrive when I got to the hospital, so the staff set me up in the treatment room without realizing that my doctor, Dr. F, couldn’t actually come over for a while. So, with the cannula already in my arm, I laid in the bed for a good hour before he came.

Before giving me that ‘little spark,’ Dr. F checked in with me to see if I’m doing okay. I didn’t necessarily feel depressed, but I felt tired (perhaps still from my trip), so all I could tell him was I was doing okay. He made me rate my mood on a scale from 1-10 and asked me couple other things. Then, he asked me, “Do you think this is helping?”

I said yes at the time, but to be really honest, I can’t really tell anymore. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a life without having ECT, so I don’t really know what would happen if I decided to stop having them. I used to slip back into depression as it got around to the next ECT–maybe this little spark is sustaining my mood a little longer.

Usually I feel good immediately after the treatment, but today, even Nurse J told me that I looked really tired. And she was right. I ended up taking a long nap when I got home. Did it have more to do with the fact that I didn’t sleep well last night? I just don’t know.

My next ECT is in six weeks. Will I keep my appointment? Stay tuned…

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5 Comments to “ECT #36: (my 21th maintenance treatment)”

  1. I know it’s new/experimental, but have you and your doctors looked into trans-cranial stimulation or an implanted device? I really do believe that near future developments in Deep Brain Stimulation if they pursue this have the potential to help people with a situation like yours more than what they can do in the present day. (There has been a very good book about Deep Brain Stimulation by Jamie Talen a couple of years ago that is well worth reading, for Drs. and laypeople alike.) Kudos to you for being open and honest about your experiences with the mental health system and ECT.

  2. Back in the day, when it wasn’t standard to give gen. anaesthesia with ECT, some doctors didn’t like the idea of doing so because they thought it was the trauma associated with the experience, rather than the electricity to the brain itself, that could bring about change in peoples’ mental status.

  3. Laura, I’ve never really thought much about DBS or implanted devices, but I know that they do those things at a hospital nearby. Thanks for letting me know about the book; I’ll have to get a hold of it sometime. A sociology PhD student at Vanderbilt is doing his research on experiences of the patients who are getting DBS. I’m interested in reading what he finds out. (He actually might be done with the research…)

    Thanks again, and thank you for reading.

  4. I am currently in the hospital having a course of ECT. It has been 3 years since my last course and my psychiatrist is keen on me doing maintenance ECT. I am a doctor and am a single mum to 2 children. ECT has certainly saved my life on a number of occasions but I still feel quite confronted by the idea of maintenance ECT. I like to pretend, when I am well, that I am well, and that ECT is a last ditch effort to save me. I am having to change my thinking about this. Like you, I have supportive friends but there is such a stigma associated with ECT that not all my friends know about this episode, and certainly not all my family. It is such an emotionally ridden subject for me, but finding your website certainly has been very helpful. Thank you!

  5. Dear Bluejay, thank you for your comment, and thank you for finding this site (and for subscribing). How is it going this time around? Are you having a series of 6-12 treatments right now? I really would love to ask you some questions about what it’s like to know the procedure from a medical standpoint and go through it yourself. I’m amazed when mothers go through this treatment since they, like you, still have to take care of others while having ECT.

    I hope you find peace as a result of these treatments, though we both know that life just keeps on going.

    All the best.

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