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Juliet on ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)

 

It’s not for everyone. Do your research if you are able. Ask MANY questions. Get support from others, you'll need it.

 

A tangled web indeed! I can’t recall all of the details that lead me through the maze of my hospitalization in February of 2008. My husband Greg has filled in the gaps of forgotten events which lead my on my journey through ECT. It’s all quite foggy and troublesome.

 

I had been having mood swings for several months. The downs were much worse this time, then the ups and mixed states I had been experiencing. My medications were increased and changed in an attempt to “level” me out. My brain was in total melt down mode to say the least. At the urging of my doctors and husband, I entered the hospital in November 2007 due to severe depression. The powers that be at the infamous Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland (miles and miles from home) wanted me to undergo ECT treatments. I flatly refused and insisted they attempt to pump me full of more and different medications. At the time, I just couldn’t bear the thought of having to go through this again. I had endured ECT twice before and just could not deal…period. Much to the dismay of the doctors and my husband, they agreed to “medicate” me. I spent the month of November in the hospital trying to get some stability.

 

I have very vague memories of my being released and coming home. The months of December 2007 and January 2008 are a virtual blur. I can remember some of my insane and varied states, but not very much. Here’s where Greg comes in. He has filled in the blanks of a very dark period in my life. I was told that my moods were very uncertain and that I was all over the map…up and down…up and down. I don’t remember blasting Gospel music on my computer into the wee hours of the morning, insisting that my Dachshund Ruby spoke to me, demanding to be called Mrs. Yaphet Kotto and spending gobs of money on E-Bay. Packages were arriving at my house every other day. January’s crash just about killed me. I was plotting for days to end my life, keeping it a deep and dark secret. When the depression came, I retreated to my bedroom and I never left except to go to the “ladies room.” Greg tells me that I didn’t shower or brush my teeth for days on end. Just before I was hospitalized again in February 2008, I didn’t groom for twelve straight days. My husband actually told me very softly that I had terrible aroma, but I don’t recall this at all.

 

So, here I was again in the midst of a terrible brain freeze. I had come undone. My sanity had completely vanished. I checked back into Johns Hopkins for my new tour of duty in the bitter winter month of February. I signed my life away at the admitting office and was whisked away to Meyer-4, the affective disorders unit at the hospital. I was interviewed by both a resident and an attending psychiatrist. After reviewing me and my records, they proposed ECT once again. By this point I was so very desperate to feel better that I advised them I would consider it. I was terrified of the whole process, but more troubled and comforted by the knowledge I could just end my life, if that makes sense. My husband was the only person who saved me from Suicide Bridge.

 

My anxiety at this point was horrific. I discussed undergoing ECT with Greg and we agreed that this really was my only option. The meds had just stopped working. My stability had cracked entirely. This was one of the toughest decisions I had ever made. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed, turn out the lights, and never wake up again. We informed the doctors and my treatment plan was sealed.

 

ECT was to take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Prior to the treatments, and IV would be inserted into my arm so that I would be ready when they took me down to the ECT suite. I do recall my first trip downstairs in the early morning, my mind wandering as they rolled me down the hall to the elevator, lights flickering, blinded without my glasses on, and scared to death. I insisted that they give me a little joy juice prior to the treatment to quell my frightful anxiety. Once I arrived in the ECT suite, the docs, nurses, anaesthesiologist, and others wasted no time in preparing me for the treatment.  They gave me oxygen, hooked me up to a heart monitor, strapped the small electrodes to my head, and sent me off to nah-nah land. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? All I can recollect after this is waking up in my room with wonderful nurses looking after me asking me if I was able to eat a little breakfast.

 

Okay, so here’s the deal… I underwent ten ECT treatments this time. This is all I would allow because I was beginning to feel better. My doctors wanted me to go a bit further, but I declined. I was more then ready to go home. I had been in the “hut” for a month, participated in the curriculum, and did what was expected of me. I missed my husband and my dogs terribly. Now let me explain about my memory issues.

 

Okay, so they tell you that you may experience “short term” memory problems. Well, from my experience, I can tell you that I believe I had both short term and long term memory troubles. The time period surrounding the actual ECT treatments is quite fuzzy at best. I don’t recall everything that went on while I was in the hospital. When I arrived home and went online, I had forgotten passwords on my computer to many important things. These were not short term items. I discovered many things I had written…poetry, journal entries, work on my web site, etc. that I had no memory of. I couldn’t connect how my terminally ill father had ended up relocating to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where I live. My mother and husband had to clue me in, but that’s a long story. I had been making business cards for my dear friend Pam for a good while and had completely forgotten this. When she asked me on the third day of my arrival at home to make her some, I thought this was something new. I asked her if I had ever done business cards for her before and she was very perplexed and said “yes.”  Greg had to show me the file on my computer where I kept them and remind me that I had been doing this for a few years.

 

I guess it’s like the “Swiss Cheese” effect. I had pockets of things that just faded into the background. As time went on, Greg began to fill in the gaps of things I had misplaced and forgotten. In conversation, I would get “triggers” and my memory would come back. I’m still filling in the gaps of various lapses. It’s been four months since the treatments took place, and my memory is improving as time goes on. It’s a very alarming and scary occurrence.

 

Would I do it again? In all honesty, I must say that I would. Is it an easy thing to do? Absolutely not! The actual procedure, although painless, does have its price. Personally, it was worth it to go through such a tumultuous course of action. ECT changed a horrific time in my life into a road to gaining composure again. I don’t know how to act at times because I have some sense of life back. It’s very odd. Am I cured? No. Has it improved my life? Yes. I suppose it’s a very personal choice and trade-off.

 

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