January 12, 2010
I was looking at the stamps in my passport and noticed that I went to Japan about two months before the first ECT treatment. That must have been nice, though I have no recollection of that trip.
Yes, there is some memory loss with electroconvulsive therapy, but that degree of memory loss varies among people. From my own experience, I only suffered minor memory losses, none of which negatively affected my life……well, except when I lost my ability to speak Japanese for a few weeks (but it came back!). Since starting maintenance ECT, the two major things I had forgotten immediately after treatment were: 1) that my cat was in the hospital and 2) where I went to graduate school (thank goodness the nurse reminded me about both of those before I left for home). But otherwise, it’s only been random, laughable stuff that I couldn’t recall.
I can’t speak for everyone, since everybody’s case is different (apparently, Carrie Fisher lost four-months of memory). But if you’re considering or about to have ECT, don’t panic! This is a part of ECT, but it’s often a small part of the whole process.
Here are some ‘just-in-case’ tips:
- Write down your passwords to important accounts (e.g. e-mail, bank account, voicemail, etc.)
- Keep “what to do today” or “what I did today” list (so you can refer back in case you want to know what you did the previous days)
- Prior to the treatment, tell someone to remind you about certain things after the treatment. You often just need someone to recall things for you once.
Please feel free to ask me any questions or leave any other tips.
read other “lessons”
March 12, 2009
I know how to get there again.
When I first got to start driving again after a seven-week hiatus, I was still trying to picture where my ECT hospital could possibly be. And this morning, I woke up and realized that I knew where Parthenon Pavilion is and on what floor I could find the ECT treatment room (the third floor, then to the left; to the right is the inpatient area).
I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised this particular piece of information I should know came back. According to the ECT Task Force Report No. 14 of the American Psychiatric Association, “A spotty difficulty in remembering some facts….usually disappears over a period of days to weeks following ECT.” Of course, the report goes on to say that “there is possibility that occasionally a mild degree of loss may persist, and that rarely, more pronounced memory deficits may occur.” And, well, I do have an example of something I still can’t recall.
I got a letter from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and enclosed was my own DCCC membership card. What have I done to become an actual “card-carrying” Democrat? Apparently, according to the letter, the DCCC phone bank people had called me around the third week of my treatment, and I made a $30 pledge by giving them my credit card number.
Yes, there were reasons for those guidelines that told me to not drive a car, handle money or make important decisions during the course of the treatment. Let’s hope I don’t find out I’ve made pledges to any other causes.
February 25, 2009
Tomorrow I will have my first Dr. A. appointment since the ECT. I’m kind of excited to speak with her for the first time in at least a month. I don’t really know exactly what is a normal amount of memory loss after someone has 15 (!) courses of ECT treatments. Also, I need someone to assess whether this whole deal was actually successful. I cannot believe just how much information I have forgotten. Let me just admit just how much information I didn’t even realize I had written in my blog this whole time. Had I not kept such a log, I am not sure I would have had a solid, personal record of this part of my life. I also didn’t know I had written certain correspondences, electronic and otherwise, in the last month. I am relearning facts that I didn’t know I had to relearn.
February 24, 2009
I really can’t believe I didn’t remember that I had actually already bought these Christmas stocking hangers from Potterybarn when I went there a few weeks ago. Or how many times I had asked certain questions to my mother and sister in the time around the treatments. I kind of now wonder if the reason why I think I may be happier is because I’ve become quite a bit cognitively dumber…..okay, I’m joking a bit, but then again, I think I might be a bit serious.
It has been several days since my last treatment day, and I can openly say that I am a happier person. But I can also tell you that I don’t remember where the treatments took place nor can I recall the exact location upon looking up the physical address. I still have not regained my entire ability to speak Japanese, my very first language. Though I can understand what my mother is saying, I sometimes cannot respond to her in the language that I would like to respond. Sometime, my response come out garbled, between that of some Europeanized version of the Japanese language. If I performed a certain task within weeks prior to the treatments, it may as well be like never remembering doing those tasks at all. For example, I know I went to see Dr. J at his office, but I have absolutely no clue where that office is located. I seriously asked my sister what happened to Capt. Sullenberger’s airplane that got him so much attention (okay, the geese…..).
My goal for the next week or so is to explore what is going on within me as I try to put myself together post-ECT. I first need to watch President Obama’s address to the Congress. ..There’s more to write out so please bear with this little blog as I hope to look at what it is that I actually accomplished by going through this procedure.
February 17, 2009
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 19, 2009
It was like pulling my car into a gas station, except in this case, car equals me. The room had seven beds, divided by a checkered hospital curtain (the person next to me thought the colors reminded her of a Mexican restaurant). The nurse asked me to wear a “vest” that allowed her to loosely tie my body to the bed in case I try to get out of the bed later and fall off. Then, someone inserted an IV, followed by my ECT psychiatrist, who was wearing some sort of a track suit. I saw him for about 30 seconds, just to tell me happy new year and that I will be receiving unilateral ECT for today (less memory loss, according to some) . Then, the anesthesiologist spoke to me for about 10 seconds. There’s no countdown.
And then, I woke up. It was already over.
My head still hurts, and there’s some hardened gel in my hair from where they placed the electrode.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
January 11, 2009
Countdown to Obama Inauguration: 9 Days
No reason to countdown to the AFC Championship game anymore. Now that the Titans are out, I’m counting on you, Eli Manning, to see a team I care about in the Super Bowl.
I watched some Saturday Night Live and found myself laughing out loud. As I soaked in that welcome emotion, I began to wonder, if I can lose my memory about events, won’t I be losing my memory of the feelings I felt during those events?
One of the goals of ECT is for my recurrent thoughts of suicide to dissipate. That prospect of such amazing evaporation, in a way, is tied to that main side effect of ECT: memory loss. I am well aware of the likelihood that I won’t be able to recall some events that has happened or will happen during the treatment. Even though I may not remember that the Obama Inauguration happened, I will be able to DVR it or read about it once the cloud of confusion lifts. Things that have happened can be retold to me by others. But what about the thoughts that I had about those moments, or those intensely personal thoughts that I never wrote down or told anyone? It’s one thing to forget events; it’s another to forget your own insight. No one archives our deepest feelings in a catalog which could opened after ECT.
I would be okay with losing the memory of watching Obama’s acceptance speech on Election Day. But if the emotions I experienced on that day become unable to be retrieved from my head, that would be such a loss to me.