Posts tagged ‘electroshock 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 17, 2011

ECT #37 (my 22nd maintenance treatment)

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.

March 10, 2009

found memory: the other side effect

As part of my ‘driving lesson,’ I, accompanied by Mom, drove to the nearest PetSmart so that I can buy some dry kitty food and my mother can look for a new dog collar. It’s been nearly five years since I adopted my cat, Simon. I suppose for every year you live with just a cat, you become less and less tolerant of dogs barking in stores, and more and more sympathetic toward the cats up for adoption in the same stores.

In the same shopping area as PetSmart resides a Michaels, the Arts & Crafts Store. I dragged Mom to go into the shop because she’s never seen the new assorted goods made by Martha Stewart Crafts, made exclusively for Michaels (The stuff is so “Martha Stewart.”). As I browsed through the other aisles, I sensed this whiff of something, so unexpected yet so strikingly familiar. Then, I looked at the merchandise around me. Oh, the smell of art supplies, of color – of my old love of creating art.

Canvases of various sizes were stacked against the shelving in the aisle, all waiting to serve its purpose, for that splash of paint or a stroke of brush to touch them. Though I’ve never worked with large canvas, I took a second and gently felt that stretched fabric against my fingertips. And in that moment, I felt a sense of…contentment within myself.

It’s not that my mind is now bubbling with grand ideas or plans for some art piece or project. There’s absolutely none of those things going on at all. But what seemed to be simmering within me instead was a sense of comfort to just be. Standing in that art section did not make me feel compelled to make anything, but I felt joy to simply be around those supplies. No feeling of pressure to have to start producing art now. Just looking at those paint tubes, bottles of ink and brushes made me calm, to actually even want to hold a brush, to pick a color.

I think many of us who go through or are considering ECT are so worried about the memory loss, and rightly so, but I definitely had forgotten that ECT may be able to retrieve for you what you thought was lost.

March 5, 2009

an ect premonition?

I’ve been sorting through a few boxes of “stuff” in the last few days. Much of it turned out to be trash, but yesterday I came across my discharge papers from August 2004, when I first spent time at Parthenon Pavilion and also met Dr. J., who later became my ECT doc. Seeing those papers brought back memories of the circumstances that led me to check into that hospital and the moment I was told that I had bipolar II disorder. I knew I had these papers somewhere, but I found something else today that even surprised me. Among the pile of old bills and stuff I don’t really need, there they were: pages of my thoughts from that hospital stay, all written in some purple pen. I knew I had scribbled things down during that time, but I did not remember what all I had written in there. Take, for example, this thought:

Great. Bipolar II. Sounds fun, like being put in a hospital.

It’s probably not that surprising that I had written that in those days. After all, I thought I was being confined there because I needed a cool-down period after an overdose, not get a new diagnosis. But I had also written the following the day before:

I didn’t know hospitals did ECT at this frequency. It’s a lot of people going through that procedure. I wonder how everyone reached the conclusion to go ahead and do the procedure.

Here it was, in my own handwriting, something that proved I had thought about ECT five years ago! It’s so weird that I am now that person who’s getting ECT at the hospital. And I now know, from my own experience, how one might reach the “conclusion to go ahead and do the procedure.”

This is one time it was a good thing I can’t throw anything away.

March 4, 2009

it’s March. Madness in my head: is it over?

As I begin to type this post, it is March 3, which is Girls’ Day in the Japanese holiday calendar. By the time I’m done writing, it probably will be midway through the week (which it indeed has become another day). I’ve noticed that it takes me a lot longer to gather coherent sentences/thoughts together, while both speaking and writing. Sentences find themselves in need of a word or more in order to actually make any sense. I eventually do find a way to either complete that missing part or scrap the idea all together. Writing even the simplest paragraphs is now an incredibly brain-wracking procedure. This process is a bit annoying, but I’ll just assume it will get better as time goes on. When my doctor saw me today, she was actually surprised by the relatively minor amount of cognitive damage I seemed to have been hit with, given the large amount of ECT I had. And I thought memory loss was going to be the big issue before this whole thing took place.

I went back and opened up one of the ECT/depression memoirs that I had read once upon a time called “Undercurrents.” Written in a journal format, author Martha Manning is a psychotherapist who went through ECT herself. In the entries that chronicle her days after the ECT procedure, there is a portion when her psychologist (Kay Redfield Jamison!) warns her that the process of recovery from a depression as severe as hers is not a “smooth ascending slope.” Obviously, that’s not the news she wanted to hear. Manning eventually does encounter a very painful life moment that resembles one that happened during life pre-ECT, but through tackling that moment, she says that as this time and each other “[similar difficult] time they come, they hurt a bit less and [she] gains a bit of distance.” (p.157) That’s how she knew that the ECT had helped her. (Note: this was written in 1991. I don’t know about her health in 2009.)

I have wondered since my last shock session how I will know I have truly benefited from this shocking experience. But, when I read those words again in Manning’s book, I was reminded of that time when the gentlemen at Parthenon told me, “You can’t look for perfect.” Maybe for some people, ECT gives them everything they ever dreamed of immediately, but I don’t think I turned out to be “some people,” speaking specifically on the immediacy part. And, well, I guess that’s okay.

When I asked my doctor today if I seem better, she said that she didn’t know yet because I’m such a good actress that I’m good at not showing how I really feel. That’s a fair answer. After all, it’s not even been two weeks since the last “little spark.” ECT was never meant to change everything about myself, and it’s up to me now to understand and uncover what really has changed, and rebuild my life while I’m at it. Besides, some changes may not come to be revealed until a certain moment presents itself. Let’s see where this goes.

March 3, 2009

The Sine Wave Issue

I decided to hold on writing anything about the following topic until I had some clearance from “the source,” in which case I actually got one. Therefore, I am now going to proceed with writing about the state of the sine-wave machine, which was used on me in the last three treatments, numbers 13-15.

First, let me explain why there was what I thought could be an issue. In the process of receiving my treatments, I was always made aware of the position of the electrodes prior to every ECT. The initial stimuli were delivered via unilateral electrode placement, where the two flat electrodes are applied to one temple and the back of the head on the same side. As we moved on, the doctors switched to bilateral ECT, where the electrodes were placed to both temples (Fink, Electroshock: Healing Mental Illness, 1999). In the last three treatments when I began to receive the sine-wave stimulus from that Samsonite machine, my curiosity about that “Samsonite machine treatment” took me to google, and the search engine began to turn up numerous position statements and other sources that now recognized the sine-wave treatment as unnecessary and not recommended. In some cases, these critics saw this method as simply too cognitively damaging. One such position paper has been published by the Canadian Psychiatric Association I will post links to other position papers soon. In “The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings” published in Neuropsychopharmacology (2007), Harold A. Sackeim, et. al. also point out the noticeably “more severe and persistent deficits” caused by sine wave and bilateral electrode placements.

I personally felt the need to make sure that it was okay with my doctor before I can vent online about this part of my treatment. To my slight surprise, Dr. J. was more than willing to speak with me about it. In fact, he was happy that I chose to discuss this matter with him first, and that he told me to go ahead and post the contents of our conversation online.

I must be clear that I did not necessarily feel hesitant about receiving this treatment to my head. My reluctance to write about the sine-wave rose later because I detected a potential ethical and legal dilemma, one that could get my doctor in trouble if this journal is utilized as a legitimate document that identified who still used the sine-wave method against the general medical community’s consensus. Dr. J. eased my discomfort by explaining that, had he decided to just “go home” after my twelfth treatment simply because the general guideline made him feel obligated to do so, it would have meant that practically the entire four weeks’ of ECT would have, well, made little difference for me. I imagine that I would have come out a bitter person for it, because though the procedure itself is not that bad, it takes an enormous emotional toll not just on me but especially on those who had to constantly care for me.

Dr. J.’s main point was that, what would be accomplished if I am not given the benefits of being not depressed simply because the scientific community wasn’t comfortable with the potential of a risk by a certain machine? He just didn’t feel that it wouldn’t be fair to me to have to be depressed for a lifetime and never know whether a different stimulus would have made that key, lifesaving difference. Apparently this opinion is prevalent among the ten psychiatrists who are currently administering ECT at the Parthenon Pavilion; they share the machine with each other.

More to come on this matter, but just wanted to get this much out at this point.

February 20, 2009

15th..and..FINAL(hopefully)course of treatment!!

I arrived at Parthenon Pavilion, got dressed for treatment, and entered the treatment area when Dr. J. greeted me with a smile on his face and told me that he talked to my psychiatrist, Dr. A., and that they both thought it was okay for me to stop ECT at this time and that I needed to call her to schedule a new appointment with her. (I exclaimed: this is the last one!?) Let me write the rest out later…

February 17, 2009

oh, i forget. and other innaproriate deeds

The main thing I forget is the Japanese language, in bits and pieces. It’s odd that I really don’t have a problem with English.  The hard thing is that when my mother speaks to me, I get stuck wanting to speak just English and cannot get a single sound out of Japanese. I will look at my sister and speak English. How odd is it that the one language I learned first is the first language to go??

Now that I’ve passed the 13th treatment, I’ve begun to wonder if my doctors are getting tired of caring for me for this amount of time. I hope it’s okay with them. I do wonder if my taking sleep aids cause my seizures to shorten. If that’s the case, I really need to stop taking the sleep aids so that I can finish up the seizures. I also need to figure out how many seconds the seizures lasted with the sine-wave machine. Really, I want someone to take some pictures of me having that seizure. Pictures aren’t the most appropriate pics to be getting, but I don’t plan on getting more ECTs after this time. ..

Today, I went to West Elm, the furniture store, to find some furniture pieces. It’s the first time in a long time that I actually got to go to a furniture store with my sister.  One thing is a fact: I won’t be able to drive for at least another three weeks……

January 8, 2009

Thanks, Heritage Foundation

Countdown to Obama’s inauguration: 12 Days
Countdown to my first ECT treatment: 11 Days

I found yet another reason to dislike the Heritage Foundation.  I can’t believe their blog entry actually compared the Obama/Biden economic stimulus package to ECT, with the comparison being that not only is the practice primitive, it’s been proven harmful.  And that ECT is kind of like Keynesian economics. Oh, and I love the photo of an electric chair they’ve decided to add to their entry.

Perhaps my qualm about Heritage Foundation’s entry seems like another rant by those people who love their political correctness.  But I don’t think that’s it at all. The comparison is simply wrong. If we use the truth about ECT as a basis of this comparison, one could argue that though their stimulus package is controversial and may have been tried in the past, there is an 80% chance that it will succeed.  Really, there was no need for the blogger to try to be so clever for his entry.  Can’t believe ‘electroshock therapy’ is actually one of his metatags.

Then again, I thank the Heritage Foundation  for allowing me to tie our political climate directly in talking about ECT. Finally, I got to talk about ECT without thinking about my mental state.

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