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.
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…
November 22, 2010
Today was my 35th electroconvulsive therapy. When I got to the treatment prep room, there was another person that was closer to my age waiting for her turn, too. We sat next to each other as we got our vitals checked, and usually, the patients don’t really communicate with each other while waiting, but she and I ended up chatting for a little bit. We talked some about each other’s experiences with ECT, and she asked me questions about how I’ve been doing since starting ECT. I think she was relieved to hear that my personal ECT adventure hasn’t been quick, easy or miraculous as one might have been led to believe it will be. It was also nice for me to get to talk to her since it’s not very often that I get to talk to someone who’s shared this similar path.
I’m now back home, and even though I remembered the above conversation, I can’t remember anything else that’s going on in my life right now. I should be glad that I’m not really having problems with memory about past events, but wow, is it really weird to not even remember what classes I’m taking this semester. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I need to do this week, or what day of the month it is. Good thing I wrote down stuff in my planner because I would have forgot about doing an assignment or even going to class tomorrow. And usually, the stuff I forget after usually comes back after several hours, so I’m counting on that.
I’d like to lounge around the rest of the day, but just realized I have an assignment due for tomorrow. I guess I’ll get started on resuming my life.
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 29, 2010
How many is too many, I ask myself.
While I’ve visited the hospital 32 times, I’ve technically had 33 treatments.Once they gave me two little sparks during one appointment, because the duration of the first one was too short. Anyway. ..
I can’t really tell if I’m that depressed right now or not. My home is horrifically messy, and that usually means that I’ve fallen into depression. But I kind of think this is just my being lazy. Also, my psychotherapist, who sees me every week, thinks that I’ve been doing much better in the last five months that she’s known me. I’ve been having ECT every four weeks, but I persuaded Dr. F today that I don’t need to have one for another six weeks. Was this a good decision on my (and his) part? I will know if I start to slip back into the darkness after the next four weeks pass.
I tend to forget why this treatment is called “maintenance ECT.” It’s all about maintaining. Really, I shouldn’t be falling into a depressed state since the procedure is supposed to maintain me from doing so. As for the number of treatments, according to books like Dr. Max Fink’s ‘Electroconvulsive Therapy‘ or from the info gathered by journalist Larry Tye, who co-wrote “Shock” with Kitty Dukakis, there seems to be no negative effects from long-term maintenance ECT. And it doesn’t specify any limit. So, I guess it’s okay that there seems to be no end-date for my having ECT.
As my horoscope tells me today, “Work with the flow instead of pushing against it.”
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.
June 3, 2010
Have I really done this 30 times? Even I admit that’s a lot of ECT, and the numbers are only going to get higher. But it’s not a painful or an uncomfortable procedure, and the only real discomfort after the process is the headache. I do wish this cost a little less, though.
There was funny moment right before the anesthesiologist put me to sleep. As I was getting hooked up with wires and stuff, a nurse asked me about my dating life, which I’ve never done in my life. She then told Dr. F about it, so Dr. F, the nurse and I ended up having a funny conversation about what I could do to meet people. I wish I could remember the conversation because it was really entertaining. It really did include a lot of laughs.
April 9, 2010
in the bathroom, getting ready for the little spark
“How’s your memory?,” asked one of the nurses as I was getting prepped for ECT. “Oh, I’m doing okay,” I said, “only that I forget what month it is right after the treatment.”
So much for “doing okay.”
Immediately after the procedure, I forgot that I go to school on a regular basis. It’s now been two hours since, but I’m still trying to recall exactly what my paper/presentation topics are for my classes….and I have to present them in two weeks. I guess I’ll figure these out once I start looking over my notes, etc., I suppose it’s better than when I forgot how to speak Japanese (the first time around), but I sure hope that I don’t have to review everything about my projects in order to get them done.
A random note: I know my ECT psychiatrist is in his 70s, but he still looked pretty good in his sweater today.
February 12, 2010
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.
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 16, 2009
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.
August 25, 2009
Prior to coming to the treatment, there’s a ‘ECT caregiver report’ that someone has to fill out regarding how I’ve been doing. It asks questions like “Does the patient seem depressed?” among other 16 similar questions. I personally didn’t feel that the last two weeks went over too well, but to those questions, my sister answered no to all of them, as usual. So, when Dr. F looked at those answers on the questionnaire then heard me speak about how horrible I felt this past week, he gave me a confused look and asked me why there’s such a discrepancy between what my sister observed and what I was telling him. All I could tell him was how no one, not even family members, can really tell from my exterior when I’m sad and that I tend to come across as constantly in a good mood. I don’t know if my answer made any sense to Dr. F, but as he walked to the ECT machine, Dr. H injected me with Brevital. I’m out within seconds.
I did not feel well after the last treatment, but this time around, I felt amazingly clear-headed and okay (just a little headache, but what can you expect after a seizure’s been induced via your brain?). However, I kept thinking about that conversation with Dr. F right before the ECT. Do I present a different self to other people on purpose, or do I just naturally look happy? I think my general demeanor just strikes people as pleasant, and honestly, I’m not trying to fool people on purpose. Perhaps I’ve masked how I feel for so long that I can’t even tell if I’m putting on some sort of an act. The thing is, I used to not even be able to tell a doctor exactly how I felt. It’s not obvious, but I’ve actually come quite far in terms of expressing how I feel to others.
The one place where my true self seems to be on display pretty consistently is through my writing. Somehow I find it much easier to arrange words on the paper rather than having to speak them. This journal is probably a very good example of my inner-thought process. I guess the problem with only revealing myself in writing is that I can decide who sees my writing so these feelings are still contained to just me and the journal (or other written material). But would my life become any better if I chose to reveal more about my insides through my exterior? Must I work to match my outer shell with my inner feelings?
Maybe my real self is what people see on the outside. It’s my inner self that needs to work to get to who I really am.
August 6, 2009
Is it really August already?
This morning was yet another ECT day. When I arrive at the receptionist’s desk, the receptionist knew my name immediately, a sure sign that I’ve been there quite a few times. Though this isn’t a fun experience, I find myself feeling a little less nervous each time I get to the hospital. A large portion of that has to do with just how nice everyone is at Parthenon Pavilion. The entire staff seems to put me at ease. I am truly thankful I am being treated at this hospital. Of course, one of the nurses did tell me today that she thought I looked fine since the day she first met me. I guess I can take that as a compliment, though it makes me wonder if the rest of the staff is skeptical as to why I’m even getting ECT in the first place.
I am also especially grateful that Dr. F is my ECT psychiatrist. When I tell him the news that I was going to graduate school in the fall, he gives me a big smile and then high-fives me. He then listens to me speak for a few minutes. My thoughts are lot less dark than it was but since the faint death thoughts remain, he decides it’s best that I have one more ECT at a two-week interval before we spread out the treatments. I agree. It is what it is, I say to him. And right after speaking with Dr. F, my anesthesiologist, Dr. H, injects me with Brevital. I’m immediately out.
And then I’m awake. I am wheeled back to the waiting room to gather my belongings, and I’m given some paperwork to sign. My sense of time and date always goes out the window right after treatment, so when I hand them over, a nurse looks at me and says, “It’s not June 29 (a date I signed on the paper); it’s August 6.” I also could not remember at all where I will be attending graduate school, even though my mom, sister and I drove down to the school just yesterday. “Where am I going to grad school?,” I ask the nurse after my treatment. She informs me which school I’ll be going come fall.
I should just be glad I really don’t have real memory issues.
July 23, 2009
My mother came into town (well, country) just yesterday, and what does she get to do first thing today? Take her daughter to ECT. Somehow it’s become some sort of a routine for her to take me to the psych hospital whenever she’s here. What a lovely mother-daughter activity.
I’ve been concerned about the decline in my mood since the treatment two weeks ago, and I somehow wanted to express that to my doctor. Thankfully, my ECT psychiatrist Dr. F was back from vacation, so we chatted for a bit before the procedure. Seeing that I’m a little better at just writing stuff out rather than talking, I wrote him a note about how I just wanted to evaporate into the sky while I was overlooking the landscape from the airplane. He told me that because the last ECT did make me feel better for a while, as I have more treatments, my suicidal inclinations should dissipate. “You’re still young,” he assured me. I must say that his calmness and smile actually made me feel somewhat encouraged. I’m grateful that he’s my ECT doctor and that he’s still working even though he’s in his 70s.
Before I was given my shot of Brevital, the anesthesia, for the first time, the nurse put the electrode headband around my head. I had actually never seen how the currents were administered to my head. With the new machines, it’s just two patch-like electrodes, but because they’re using the sine-wave machine on me, they are wrapping an old-fashioned device on me (my headband looks even older than this one).
And next thing I know, I’m awake.
As I was wheeled back to the prep room to get my stuff, the nurse let me know that I had a 50-second seizure. Hooray. It’s all because I’ve halted taking alprazolam (Xanax), she said. I’m hoping that the longer seizures will lead to a better outcome.
It’s a relief when I can say that I feel better after the ECT. The question now is, how will I hold up until my next ECT two weeks from now?