July 7, 2011
Today was another day for electroconvulsive therapy treatment. I haven’t felt very good lately, so I really did not feel like telling my ECT psychiatrist what’s been going on—but I knew I kind of had to. When Dr. F came to my stretcher/bed in the treatment room, I told him about how I experienced a sort of hypomania last two weeks and then reached a low this week. I guess he took my comments to mean that I can’t quite stop having ECT just yet (though I don’t think it was going to end today by any means). We’ve been spreading the treatments out to every eight weeks, but we compromised for the next ECT to be seven weeks from now. Until this week, Dr. F had been talking about how I’m coming close to the end of all this ECT, but I guess I ruined that chance now.
I usually have more to write on my treatment days, but I don’t really have much to say today. I came home and mostly slept for hours. I don’t usually feel that much better til tomorrow, so I guess I have to wait until then.
See the other ECT days here.
May 13, 2011
My maintenance ECT treatment was yesterday, and since my parents are in town, they took me to the psychiatric hospital where I have ECT. I always feel awkward when they are the ones having to take me there, probably because it’s like giving them clear evidence that something is wrong with me—-at least wrong enough to have to take their daughter to a psych hospital. A part of me feels embarrassed, even though I’ve been through this nearly forty times. I just feel bad for my parents that they are having to do this for me. I acted like nothing was the matter, and when we got to the reception desk, I asked them if they wanted free breakfast from the hospital cafeteria. Then, I was whisked away to the inside.
One good news: because of the new parity laws, I get insurance coverage again for mental health stuff! I do wish someone told me about it since i’ve been doing this sans insurance for a while now, but better late than never…
Otherwise, it’s mostly the usual. I get to the waiting room, use the bathroom, put on the gown and get my vitals checked. They weighed me, and I realized that I’ve gained over 30 lbs. since a little while ago. Then they usher me to the treatment area where they lead me to my bed/stretcher. The usual anesthesiologist wasn’t there, but Dr. F., my ECT psychiatrist came up to me to chat for a little bit. He said that I’ll be having the procedure a few more times but that it is coming to an end. I’m happy to hear that, but at the same time, I’m very anxious. What if this is what’s been keeping me alive for the last two years. I remember the hiatus we took after the first set of ECT, and it was really horrible. I don’t want to experience that again. I said ok to Dr. F. and they almost immediately put me out, but I’m left with a feeling that I can’t quit this treatment.
March 17, 2011
This morning was another day for ECT. Since my mother is in town, she took me to the hospital. I really can’t recall much of what went on today except that the staff all came up to ask me if my family was okay from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. When Dr. F, my ECT psychiatrist, came by, I think he did mention something about the eventual end to having ECT. Of course, it’s not quite over that soon, but at least he said something about it. He did kind of get on me about my not having seen my regular psychiatrist in months, because I had told him that I hadn’t been feeling all that up in the last week or so. He was reluctant to schedule the next one for eight weeks later instead of six weeks, but I told him I really didn’t want it any earlier. Otherwise, the anesthesiologist injected me with some anesthesia, and then I was awake and done. Not too much to recount today.
January 20, 2011
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…
September 3, 2010
Yes, it’s time for another ECT. Before I get into stuff about today though, I thought I should note that I was finally able to refill my Ambien prescription yesterday. Hopefully, I can get my sleep schedule under control and then start to wean off of it gradually. Anyway…
Six years ago this week was the first time I was hospitalized at the same psych hospital where I have my ECT. As I was situated to my bed in the treatment room, I could only think about how interesting it is that I find myself in the same hospital six years later. By the time Dr. F, my ECT psychiatrist, came to talk to me at my bedside, I had become so nervous that I couldn’t contain the feeling. So, I babbled on about this coincidence. I also had to tell him about my issue I’ve been having with sleep and my mood change. He gave me a warning about using Ambien, though I don’t remember what he actually said. Thank goodness he didn’t related my low mood to not having ECT before today. The next ‘little spark’ won’t be for another six weeks.
I came home with a pretty bad headache, but it seems that Lortab’s doing its job. Now, I just hope I don’t start feeling nauseous, because tomorrow morning, I have to leave town to go see a college football game. But now all my memory about my life seems to be coming clear, because for the rest of the day, I need to read up on classical sociological theory.
July 26, 2010
I work at the mall. I was on break from work today when I passed by the storefront of Restoration Hardware and saw this quote on their window. Apparently, they are doing some sort of remodeling and this is how they chose to notify the customers.
I’ve been fascinated by these words by Picasso on the glass since I encountered it this afternoon. It’s an interesting quote, but what does it mean? How does it apply to me? For some reason, this quote made me think about ECT.
I don’t really know exactly why this quote has anything to do with ECT. I don’t think I see ECT as being ‘an act of destruction,” but I guess the treatment is about redoing the connections in your brain, thus deconstructing the existing neural networks. But if that’s the case, does this mean that ECT is constructing a new me? And is that what I want?
I think that to some extent, I do want something new. I am tired of the mind that seems trapped between the walls of utter desperation. Why wouldn’t I want that to be destroyed and allowed to start over again? As much as there is a longing to be stripped of all that is ugly and painful, I also wish to get to know the real me that must be underneath all of that. I don’t want me to become completely unrecognizable to myself.
But is a complete change what Restoration Hardware had in mind when they picked such a quote to announce their renovation? Well, though they are creating something new, neither their name nor the general concept of the store going to change as a result of this renovation. They are simply hoping to become a better store. So, perhaps that’s the way to view this quote, and my reason for having ECT. I’m simply trying to become a better me, and despite going through this procedure, my name will still be the same, and what makes me the person that I am will still stand as is.
And like Restoration Hardware, I’ll still be in my process of renovation, with the next ECT coming up on Thursday.
July 1, 2010
So, am I getting depressed because I stopped taking Abilify or is this just grief? According to Dr. L, my psychologist, she thinks it’s grief. But according to Dr. F, my ECT psychiatrist, he think it’s because of my lapse from Abilify.Which expert opinion should I trust more? I don’t really know.
Today was the day for my monthly electroconvulsive therapy. There was nothing all that interesting about the experience except that Dr. F was pretty certain that I needed to go back on Abilify. And that a bunch of students from somewhere got to watch me have ECT. I always wonder what it’s like to watch people have this treatment. How does it feel to be watching a procedure happen that has such stigma attached to it? I personally would like to watch it happen one day….
My mind feels clear now that it’s over, albeit a little nauseous. It did take me two hours to realize that I was currently enrolled in school. I guess I should call Dr. A, my usual psychiatrist, to write me a prescription for Abilify.
January 29, 2010
“I’m having shock therapy,” I said to her, after I hesitated for a moment to think just what other story I could make up. “And I’m writing about my experience of going through it.”
It was an odd moment, since we were in class, and other people were around us when she asked me the question, “What are you writing your research on?”
I’ve never said to anyone what I have been going through unless I had a need and/or wanted to tell them about ECT. So, in a way, it was a moment of nervousness, and then again, a moment of release. I realized that I can tell others about ECT (and by extension, about bipolar disorder/mental illness) without feeling embarrassed about it. And that I also shouldn’t assume that other people will be shocked by it or don’t want to hear about it. I shouldn’t have to apologize for what’s happened in my life, because it’s what it is.
As for the research, my professor recommended that I write an autoethnography for my qualitative methods assignment (I’ll talk about it some more later). What this is going to mean is that I will have to present my project in front of the entire class at the end of the semester. But now I know that I will be fine when I stand up and say, “I have bipolar disorder and I am going through electroconvulsive therapy.”
“There, I said it (part 2)”
October 20, 2009
In Saturday’s The Globe and Mail, there’s an article: In praise of ‘electroshock’. I think it’s a very straightforward article on ECT. Most news pieces aren’t so blunt about actually being so positive about ECT; many usually have that ambivalent tone to them.
October 14, 2009
This morning came another installment of my electroconvulsive therapy, #22 to be exact. I took my cell phone into the psych hospital and was determined to snap a picture while no one was looking. It’s not a good pic, but this is a photo of the hallway right outside the treatment room. All the wheelchairs are there to be used to transport ECT patients after the treatment (we have to be wheeled around since we’ve been under anesthesia).
Once again there were several students who were in the treatment room to observe how ECT is done, so I got to be the lucky subject of their observation. Before Dr. F, my ECT psychiatrist, came, I could hear the clinical director (who’s my anesthesiologist) explaining to the students about ECT. It’s kind of odd to have people my age observing my procedure, but I always find it interesting to hear about the technical aspects of ECT as it is being explained to them.
The anesthesia does cause one to forget some things for about 30 minutes after the treatment. I told one of the nurses about my cat before the ECT, and after the ECT, she asked me about him. I had no clue what she was talking about. She tried to refresh my memory that he was at a hospital, but I could not recall any part of what happened to him yesterday. I couldn’t even remember where the hospital was. It took a good hour for my memory to come back, and it now seems to be intact, thank goodness.
I know Lortab is an object of addiction for many people, but when one is in need of it for medical reasons, it is amazingly helpful. My headache isn’t quite gone, but it has been alleviated tremendously.
September 18, 2009
One of the things I need to get better at is to become a better vocal communicator with my doctors (okay, and practically everyone else, but we’ll constrain it to the docs for this post). Because the ECT electrical strength, frequency of treatment, etc. is determined on what I tell them, it is crucial that I am telling the whole truth. I’ve come to realize more and more that even if I feel like a tidbit about me seems unimportant, I might as well tell my ECT psychiatrist because telling him won’t hurt. Because I don’t want to forget about telling Dr. F certain items, on some treatment days, I make sure to hand him a note that lists my thoughts so that I know they will be communicated clearly than had I tried to express them by talking.
This should not be limited to just talking/writing about how you feel. If you experience any physical discomfort after ECT, such as a really bad headache or a sore throat/jaw pain, you should let your doctor know. S/he may be able to adjust your mouth guard or give you something for the pain.
The doctors won’t be able to treat you properly if you don’t tell them exactly what’s going on. I know how it feels to not want to let anyone know exactly what you’re thinking, but this is the one time when saying those things matter.
#5 After ECT, treatment continues
#4 Write’ em down!
#3 Look pretty for the occasion
#2 Wear a short-sleeved t-shirt
#1 Importance of social support
August 28, 2009
There’s a news article about ECT, Shock therapy moves past stigma, in Argus Leader, a newspaper in Sioux Fall, South Dakota. It’s essentially an article that summarizes what ECT is while weaving basic information with an account from a man who is undergoing the procedure at The Avera Center in Sioux Falls. It’s an interesting read, but what always fascinates me about these articles are the types of reader comments that are sent in. It’s pretty amazing just how much, well, hatred, is out there for this treatment. So much for ‘moving past stigma.’
July 20, 2009
It’s been about two weeks since my last ‘little spark.’ And today, right before work, I wished that tomorrow was my date with ECT so that I can go back to feeling like I did two weeks ago. Though it was originally scheduled for tomorrow, I must wait until Thursday since my sister’s not home to take me to and from the hospital.
It’s felt like a slow descent these past 14 days. Was the buoyant mood right after the ECT because of the ECT? Is this dip I’m experiencing only going to be fixed only by a shock to the head? Could this just be my being a bit moody? I don’t really know. What I do know is that today I really wanted to take Xanax, something that I haven’t had the need to take since I started back on maintenance ECT.
Nevertheless, something has caught up with me, and I’m feeling a bit lonely and overwhelmed. Speaking with my mother this evening, she expressed her concern for having to go through this on a constant basis. First, does she understand that she’ll probably have a dead daughter without it? Second, I honestly think that ECT is a quick and somewhat simple procedure. It’s my own fault for not explaining maintenance ECT to my parents, but regardless of how much talking I do, I gather that they will never quite feel comfortable with my choice to have ECT, or my choice to have any sort of psychiatric treatment at all.
Tears are now welling up for first time in weeks. I’m not sure why I’m crying, but I think I just want to let go. My tightly-wound facade that I’ve created for myself has got to come down in order for everything to be built back up again.
It’s a good thing my therapy with Dr. A is in two days.
July 8, 2009
- When I went through ECT the first time around, I wrote down my passwords to the various online accounts that I have on a sheet of paper. This advice came from the book Shock by Kitty Dukakis and Larry Tye. It’s a great safeguard measure, and it was probably good to have my memory refreshed about those passwords anyway.
- Keep a record of what you did each day during your ECT series. I think my main reason why I was able to remember a lot of the events surrounding my ECT treatments is because I wrote stuff down. Even just writing down your mood may be helpful in tracking how you are doing.
- If there’s something you’re supposed to remember (even if you remember at that moment), write it down.