Posts tagged ‘electroconvulsive therapy’

May 13, 2011

ECT #38 (my 23rd maintenance treatment)

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 22, 2011

digging ditches

My mom brought over some cake from Japan to be taken to my psychiatrist, Dr. A., so yesterday morning, I figured I’d just head on over to her office to drop it off, even though I didn’t have a scheduled appointment with her. I was planning to hand it to her receptionist to give to Dr. A. later, but I happened to catch her in between appointments. She quickly ushered me to her office just to check in with me, telling me that she was planning to call me to see if I was doing okay. After all, I hadn’t seen her since November. I smiled, told her I was fine, and that I’ll come see for an appointment in two weeks.

It’s true that I do have an appointment lined up with her, but I’m not sure if it’s really true that I feel fine. It’s not like things are falling apart, but I just feel like something is off kilter. I’ve been feeling this way before the ECT, and not much has changed even after the ECT. Today, I met with my therapist, to whom I briefly mentioned that I’m not feeling right. I passed it off as probably stemming from my inconsistent med schedule as of late, but honestly, I don’t know what’s causing this rut.  Maybe it’s from the stress of having Mom around. Maybe I’m just having a bad week and it shouldn’t concern me this much. But having depression/bipolar disorder scares you into thinking that maybe you’re once again stuck in a hole that you might not be able to dig out of easily. Regardless of what’s causing this dip, I really just need to get to feeling better. I’m already behind on turning in a midterm exam for my stats class; I can’t get far behind on other tasks at hand……..and I also need to get back to writing something of substance for this journal.

January 20, 2011

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…

October 19, 2010

ECT #34 (my 19th maintenance treatment)

The last two days have been the designated fall break from school, so what do I get to do? Have ECT.

Before going up to the treatment area, I had to stop by the business office. It so turns out that my insurance is going to expire at the end of this month, which I’m certainly glad that the insurance company even bothered to tell me about earlier.

Today must have not been a popular day to have ECT because there wasn’t that many people in the treatment room today. My usual anesthesiologist was on vacation, so another anesthesiologist introduced himself to me as I waited for my psychiatrist to get to the treatment room. I found him to be really cute, and I was so tempted to tell him—but I contained myself from making those comments.

My psychiatrist soon came to my bedside, and we talked about how it’s been going the last few weeks. I was supposed to have ECT two weeks ago, so as that date passed, I’ve started to feel increasingly tired. We agreed to have the next ECT in five weeks.

I’d like to write a little more, but I’m still nauseous from today’s treatment. I’m not sure if it’s because of the lortab or just from the ECT itself, but I guess I’ll save my other comments til later.

October 3, 2010

Let’s just give everyone ECT

Okay…that’s not what they said, but several sources that are covering this particular topic is addressing it as though we’re going to give away ECT like free ipods at a baseball game.

For the first time in a decade, the American Psychiatric Association released a new set of guidelines for how to treat depression. This is the first time the medical organization has ever updated its guidelines on the assessment and treatment of depression since 2000; the current guidelines are based on research conducted from 1999 through 2006.

The major changes in the guidelines have occurred  in rating scales, new strategies for treatment-resistance depression, exercise and other healthy behaviors and strengthened maintenance treatment recommendation. In addition to electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation and monoamine oxidase inhibitors have also been added as potential treatments for patients with severe major depression or treatment-resistant depression.

The guidelines also recognize that regular aerobic exercise or resistance training may modestly improve mood symptoms. This is such a great addition to the guideline, because we somehow need to get our butts off the couch or whatever seating element and get moving. And the thing is, this is the cheapest form of treatment for depression! And who wouldn’t want to save a little money these days?

But, as expected, this move to see ECT as a more acceptable form of treatment has angered a lot of people writing in comments. As the subject of electroconvulsive therapy becomes more ‘popular’ to talk about, does it become my responsibility to say something? Or will I immediately  be labeled as some ‘shock treatment advocate,’ which I don’t think I am.You don’t hear of other people who’ve had open heart surgery cheering for others to have it. Just like that, making a choice to have ECT is an intensely personal choice—and all I have to offer is my own experience, and no one else’s. As talk of ECT gets bigger, I also do not want to be labeled as some victim, having had the procedure. If I were such a victim of those evil brain-sucking psychiatrist just wanting to experiment on me, I would have shut up and have never written such detailed account of what goes on.

Cancer survivors can proudly proclaim that they’ve survived! And there’s public celebrations for surviving through cancer. For those of us that went through ECT, who do we become but random targets of opinionated people that claim that these ECT patients were coersed and tricked into ‘getting their brains fried.’ I’m frankly tired of this conception that I didn’t know what I was doing when I had ECT.

Is there a group/organization out there that brings together ECT patients, current and past?  Maybe I should start something like that…..any suggestions?h

September 3, 2010

ECT #33 (my 18th maintenance treatment)

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.

August 29, 2010

ECT at-a-glance

in Louisville Courier-Journal 8.29.10

The above info box was published along with the article “Controversial Shock Therapy Back for Severe Depression,” written by Laura Unger and  published in Louisville Courier-Journal today. There’s not necessarily anything new in the article, but it does quote Dr. Peter Breggin, a physician noted for his opposition to ECT, saying that ECT is a “closed-head lobotomy.”

I guess an article about ECT can’t escape from talking about the opposition viewpoint. It’s just that we don’t ever seem to question the potential complications that might arise from other surgeries, such as organ transplants—where we’re literally opening the person up and taking out someone’s organ from his/her body and then putting someone else’s organ back in. Doesn’t that sound a bit dangerous, too?

August 1, 2010

ECT in the news

Here are some recent news articles that looked at electroconvulsive therapy:

Daily Record –
“A Kinder, gentler ‘electroshock’ therapy: is ECT a game changer in combating severe depression?”

The Vancouver Sun-
“electric shock therapy remains controversial”
‘Electroshock therapy praised by believers, reviled by detractors’

Nanaimo Daily News-
“Stigmatized treatment helpful for older people with depression

Daily Mail-
“How short shocks could transform depression”

July 8, 2010

self disclosure

Sometimes, you just have to disclose stuff you weren’t planning on disclosing.

Last night was another session of the class, Mental Health and Aging. Yesterday’s lecture was about assessments and treatments. One of the topics that came up during class was about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and how it’s picked up in use lately, especially among older people. I wasn’t planning on saying anything, but someone happened to ask the professor just how often a person has ECT. When the professor didn’t know the answer, I figured I’d just raise my hand and contribute the answer (three times a week for 2-4 weeks, or 5 weeks, in my case). I at first did not hint as to why I would know an answer to such a question, but when other people asked questions about ECT, I eventually just said out loud, “The reason why I know something about ECT is because I have them.” And I then proceeded to answer random questions, like how people are tied down during the treatment, etc (we’re not really tied down; we have a ‘vest’ on).

The interesting part about this disclosure was that one of the students didn’t really understand at first that I had been a patient and thought instead that I had been a part of “pulling the switch” or giving ECT to others. He seemed a bit startled when I finally got through to him that I have had ECT more than 30 times. He asked me why I’ve had ECT, so I told him about the suicidal depression. He then proceeded to tell me how he’s been suicidal as well. I realized that I was being rather matter-of-fact when I was talking to this person. In fact, I really wasn’t all that nervous when I made my initial disclosure. A sense of embarrassment or shame didn’t really come over me. Maybe I’m becoming a little more comfortable about talking about this part of my life.

July 1, 2010

ECT #31 (my 16th maintenance treatment)

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.

February 12, 2010

ECT #26 (my 11th maintenance treatment)

Wow. Have I really had 26 ECT treatments? It’s an odd feeling to realize that it’s been over an year ago since I first started having electroconvulsive therapy. I usually only sit around with one other person in the waiting area, but today, there were about five of us sitting around. It’s always interesting how I seem to be the youngest kid. I wonder exactly what the median age is of the ECT patients.

It’s also interesting to realize what I end up forgetting after the treatment. Today, I thought today was sometime in October and then I realized that it was only February after I looked at my calendar. I also always seem to forget what time I usually have class. I know these things come back in time, but it’s a good thing that I write a lot of stuff down. Otherwise, it’ll certainly take me a while to recall these things.

Despite the headache (which seems to be going away after taking some lortab), I’m just glad to be feeling better after the little spark. Dr. F asked me today if I have trouble keeping my mood up during the winter, but I think it really has more to do with the month of February than anything else. I told him about the February suicide attempt that happened seven years ago. Anyway, the next ECT is scheduled for one month later. Let’s hope this spark keeps me upbeat for the next four weeks.

February 5, 2010

There, I said it (part 2)

(follow up to “There, I said it”)

The professor is talking to us, the students, about some important points regarding our major project, but I only see that her mouth is moving. My mind can barely register what she is saying because today, for the first time, we are all talking about our progress on our respective ethnography projects in front of the class. One by one, each student presents his or her general idea for the study as other students give feedback to the idea. I try to look and act interested in everyone’s projects, but in my head, I am rehearsing what I might want to say when it is my turn. What do I need to say? Can I get away with not saying certain things? Perhaps my professor noticed my looking a bit tense, so she points at other students to present their idea, but not yet to me. Pretty soon, there are only two of us left that have yet to talk about their project, and the professor gestures for the other student to start talking. “Oh, I’m going to be the last one….,” I thought to myself as I tried hard to listen to the classroom interaction. Then, the professor signals for me to present my project. By this point, I knew what I had to say to the class:

“I have bipolar disorder, and for the past year, I have been going through electroconvulsive therapy, or shock treatments, as some of you may have heard that term. And I am writing about what it’s like to be an ECT patient.”

I continue talking about some of the details and questions that I had, and some of the classmates ask me questions about the project. At the end of the discussion, my professor directs a smile to me as she says in front of the rest of the class, “You’re very brave in doing this.”

Class soon comes to an end, and one classmate comes up to me and says, “I’m really interested in your project, because I’m bipolar, too.” Another tells me that she was a victim of child abuse. It seemed as if, after what I said, some felt as if they could let their guard down.

Now, I can really say, “There, I said it.”

November 3, 2009

ECT Lessons-I’ve-Learned #7: Be Informed.

Knowledge is power, so we’ve been told. I don’t know if it’s power I was looking for through reading, but I’ve found that in going through ECT, it was helpful to have read quite a bit of information on it before, during and after the treatment. One of the things many of us do to get ready for ECT is to go to the web to look for any info you can find about ECT. We do find information, and some of what we find  are so pro- or anti-ECT that we become unsure what to make of these sites. Sure,web sites and blogs are certainly helpful (and I hope my journal can provide some of that),  but it’s really nice to have a concise guide that you can have in your hand.  I’ve read other books, but for this post I thought I’d mention two works by Dr. Max Fink. Dr. Fink is the founding editor of The Journal of ECT who has more than 50 years of clinical and research experience in ECT.

One to the left in the picture is an earlier work, Electroshock: Healing Mental Illness.  If you want, has a rather extensive Electroshock book preview.

The newest Fink book on market  (and the one I would recommend) is the one to the right in the picture-Electroconvulsive Therapy: A Guide for Professionals & Their Patients. Here’s an extended excerpt. The chapters directly address questions like “What is electroconvulsive therapy?” and “How does ECT work?”

Both of these books are not long (about 100 pages) but more detailed than much of the information I gathered on the web. These books are definitely more clinical in nature, but they are easy to understand and I think these details help you be more calm when you go through treatment. Knowing these details are what made the procedure  feel not so frightening to me. Also, it’s not just the ECT patient that will want some information. There are family and friends around that will want to know about what you are going through, and having a book like these will allow you to give the most accurate information about ECT.

These books serve as a great resource for those who want to know, not just more but accurate info, about ECT.


Collect all previous “lessons”!

October 14, 2009

ECT #22 (my seventh maintenance treatment)

hallwayThis 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 16, 2009

ECT #21 (my sixth maintenance treatment….and the 200th post)

The sky is gray, and rain is pouring down. But my mind and mood feel clear.

Today was my 21st electroconvulsive therapy. It was also a day for some students to get to observe people having ECT. I’ve been clearly the youngest person receiving the treatment every time I’m there, and therefore very close to the age of the students watching me. I wonder what it’s like to be watching someone your own age going through something like this. Anyway, things seem to have gone smoothly, with my seizure lasting 41 seconds. It did take a little while after the ‘little spark’ to recall information like what class I’m taking or when those classes were. But those bits and pieces about my life are slowly coming back (thank goodness).

I am amazed how familiar this procedure has become for me, and it’s odd how I’ve almost fallen into thinking that this is all normal and routine. Then I’m jerked back into the reality that there’s nothing normal and/or routine about ECT. Even if I feel that way, I have to tell myself that that’s not the way it is for people around me, like for my family. They are scared every time I have the procedure. Perhaps my calmness comes because I know firsthand how this all works. But there is much more uncertainty and waiting for them. My mother asked me how much longer I will be going through this maintenance ECT. I wish I could tell them that all of this will be over with soon, but honestly, there is no end in sight at this moment. A nurse did remind me today that as long as I’m getting better, the number doesn’t matter. While as much as I realize I’m doing this for myself, a part of me does wish I could tell them that they could soon stop worrying.

On a separate note, this is my 200th post. (Have I written that much stuff?) This journal has been an outlet for me that I am so glad I have had throughout this time. And I hope this will continue to help me on this road of recovery.

%d bloggers like this: