Anonymous
My story has never been completely told.  Most of it I blocked out for many many years.  It was only after falling to pieces a year ago July 2014, and being hospitalized that I started to let the pieces of the story come out.  I was put in hospital for not being able to promise that I could keep myself safe.  I was self harming to the point that permanent damage was a real possibility.  Once hospitalized I was diagnosed bipolar, with major recurring depressive disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I don’t even remember all of the medication I was put on.  Prior to being hospitalized I had been in therapy for well over a year, on medication for equally as long, but had become resistant to everything.  Whilst in the hospital I still managed to continue with self harming behaviors, which was not taken to very well.

As a result treatment ramped up a bit.  A new psychiatrist was brought in to do an evaluation, and it was suggested that I undergo treatment for ECT.  Electric shock therapy.  The way was explained to me was that it was nothing like is seen on tv.  The circumstances are very controlled, and any side effects are completely temporary.  So at about the lowest point in my life, with only my husband to speak to I gave permission for this treatment.  It was done inpatient for several sessions, and then I was released as an outpatient.  I was to come back to the hospital twice a week for ECT treatments.

Within a few weeks I was still spiraling downward.  I was passing out after treatment, blood pressure getting dangerously low, along with a lot of other things…..iron, potassium, weight, so I was readmitted to the hospital in order to continue ECT treatments.   I received those treatments for just over four months.  The goal of the treatment to to try and improve the depression to the point where I could be in control of myself and work on the remaining issues (which is a whole nother story).  I can say that ECT did help improve my depression.  The darkness lifted enough for me to be able to come home, be with my family, see my therapist again, and start a path towards healing.

I was on so many different medications during this time that it is hard to know what was helping and what was not.  But in the end, my bloodwork got much better, as did my blood pressure and I gained enough weight back to satisfy my doctors.

The ECT itself is the thing that has been the hardest to deal with and why I feel compelled to share my true experience….and this is really without judgement.  After my first treatment (bilateral) I woke up, did not know who I was or where I was.  I did not know my name, or recognize anyone.  It was quite a shock.  I had a terrible headache and jawache from clenching my teeth so tight even though I did have in a mouthgurad.  I was completely asleep for the procedure and felt nothing at all.  Those lost pieces of information came back once I was reminded.  That was probably the hardest treatment of them all.  We did several more bilateral treatments and the effects were positive, but the side effects were starting to pile up.  I was frequently passing out afterwards, and was losing chunks of memory.  Once I was released the second time I came back still for outpatient treatment.  Towards the end of the four months I made the decision to stop the treatment.  It was taking its toll on me and my family.  My depression was mildly better, but my memory, anxiety, and personality were shattered.  Here it is now a whole year later and I am still dealing with the memory loss, and other side effects, which no one really knows if they are side effects because no one knows the long term consequences of ECT.  I have just been diagnosed with Essential Tremors because my hands started involuntarily shaking after the treatments.  I’m still trying to get back to working fully.  It has been a challenge because I work with my hands.  But I am on a new medication which is really helping with that.

I want to share this experience because I have searched for other people who have undergone similar treatment and found nothing.  I know it would help me to have someone to reach out to and talk about their progress or lack thereof.  I have a great therapist who is so honest with me, she has really gone above and beyond anything I could have hoped for in terms of unconditional support.  She has helped me understand that my life is worth living and not only that, but it can be a good life.  We are working hard on the PTSD now which is what has been needed all along.  There still seems a huge stigma attached to ECT in addition to any discussion about mental health.  It has been a very hard road.  Which is one of the reasons I keep up with your blog posts……the road is hard wherever it is, but we can walk down it together no matter how far apart we really are.  I do hope this helps someone out there in their struggle.  Thanks for listening.  🙂

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