still not guilt-free

“What are you writing your thesis on?” asks Jamie, as four sociology grad students drink beer and eat some dinner at a local restaurant. “I’m writing mine on electroconvulsive therapy,” I answer with a slight bit of hesitation. “Oh,” says Jamie. “I didn’t know they still did that.” Oh, yes, they do, I thought to myself as I try to gather my thoughts to answer her. But I couldn’t. She goes on to put ECT in the same sentence as lobotomies, but I leave the conversation there.

At this point in my life, I could almost recite the details of electroconvulsive therapy. I could go on about how it’s not like what you imagine from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or practically anything that depicts ECT—not even the Broadway show “Next to Normal” gives a fair portrayal. I could tell Jamie about how I’ve had over 30 treatments of ECT and have helped me survive. I could say all of this but I didn’t.

It sometimes reminds me how a part of me is still, well, ashamed of having this procedure. And it’s not just the ECT that I’m afraid to tell people; it’s the fact that the reason I’m having ECT is obviously going to be connected to my depression, my bipolar disorder. What will people think?, I still wonder, even as I display myself on this journal as some kind of vocal advocate for mental health issues. I don’t think I need everyone in the world to know about this, because it’s not necessary information for people to know about me.  But when asked directly about it–and with whom I consider as ‘safe’ company, I shouldn’t feel so hesitant to say something about it.

I guess I still feel guilty about all of this.

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3 Comments to “still not guilt-free”

  1. I know exactly what you mean! I had my 5th ECT this morning and am feeling a lot better than I did 2 weeks ago. It really really works for me, but the attitude to ECT in non psychiatric circles is quite bad. Sometimes I think I should just keep the fact that I have ECT and it works completely hush hush because of the societal attitudes to it. Then I think that I should be a positive proponent of it and educate the people around me, but that is hard work, and I often don’t have the strength or wherewithal to do it.

  2. Bluejay, I’m so glad you’re feeling better! I’m sure talking about your own ECT among medical circles would be kind of odd. I agree that it takes a lot of strength within to be that person who educates others, and sometimes it is easier to not say anything at all.

    By the way, do you have internet access while you’re in the hospital?

  3. Hi Yumers,
    yes I had internet access whilst in the hospital, although I am not sure if that is such a good thing- I sent some emails that I now regret!
    I am now post ECT and dealing with the brain fog and memory loss. It is hard resuming life after such a treatment. I am also a single mum with 2 kids and have forgotten some basic things, like bedtime, favourite food and the list goes on…

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