Today I have the Debbie from Sad Mum, Happy Mum talking about her experiences with Electroconvulsive Therapy. Please make her feel welcome!
Electroconvulsive Therapy – Its Impact on Me.
I had not heard of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) until two years ago when I tried to take my own life and since my treatment with it those I have mentioned it to have all said ‘I thought that happened back in the dark ages’. In the deep dark world of psychiatry there is a select few qualified to conduct ECT and to receive it you must be extremely sick. I guess anything that involves electrocuting someone until they convulse has to be barbaric doesn’t it, something that the founders of psychiatry used to experiment on the mentally ill? Well no, today it still occurs, not to many but for those extremely sick with depression it is a lingering hope that wellness will come.
ECT occurs when an individual is under anesthetic, electrodes are placed on the right side of the skull and electrical currents are transmitted into the brain causing the individual to convulse with the aim that this will stimulate the chemicals in the brain to improve the patient’s mood.
The time that I had my first session of ECT is a bit of a blur due to the amount of medications I was on and the amnesia that occurred later on. If they talked to me about ECT, what it was about, benefits and risks, I don’t remember. I am sure the soul mate and I agreed to have it as it was pretty much a last resort in trying to get better.
So began the first of what would end up being 18 sessions of ECT. After each session I didn’t feel any different, there were no side effects, and my mood remained pretty much the same. After the first nine sessions I was discharged from the psych ward because it was Christmas Eve 2012 and they said they needed my bed for those affected by drug and alcohol over the festive season. I was told to go home even though I wasn’t well and I didn’t feel safe. I guess that all the medications I was on were a blessing, causing me to sleep most of the time which was better than feeling so depressed that you can’t see any hope.
Christmas came and went in pretty much a blur which I have no memory of. At the start of February I was entitled to a bed in a private psychiatric hospital that came with the health insurance my soul mate organised for me even though we couldn’t afford it. I was admitted and started a course of nine more ECT sessions, one every second day. I didn’t seem to notice the change that gradually occurred in me but those around me did. They saw how confused I was and how forgetful I was getting. By the last session two weeks later I couldn’t work out what day it was, where I was, couldn’t remember what I did the day before, and was agitated by my own confusion and memory loss. I kept begging the staff, my psychiatrist and my soul mate to let me go home so that I wasn’t as confused but they all said no as I needed to be constantly monitored.
The staff and my psychiatrist kept saying that it was a temporary side effect which would pass and my memory would return. I eventually wasn’t confused anymore, but I am still waiting a year later for my memory to return, but it won’t now. I read up on memory and ECT, retrograde amnesia and the loss of past memories was mentioned as a side effect of ECT. However I am unsure why they kept saying my memory would return when retrograde amnesia is caused by damage to the brain that can’t be healed.
I eventually came home minus six months to three years worth of memories and I started a journey filled with big black holes. The last six months were completely gone. I couldn’t remember my little boys birthday, Christmas and New Years, my little boys first day at high school, didn’t remember who had visited me, didn’t remember that I smoked, didn’t remember we had moved house, and didn’t remember how to drive the car. It was just a black hole. As much as people around me tell me things that have happened it still doesn’t trigger any recollection, there is absolutely nothing there to remember. Memories as far back as three years have black spots and it was tough trying to get on with life when there are black holes in my past. I didn’t mind losing memories about how sick I was and how I ended up in hospital in the first place, but I did want to remember the good times, the special times that I had in those last three years, but they were mostly all gone.
My soul mate, psychiatrist, and I didn’t notice an improvement in my mood after ECT but whether it was from ECT or the medications I was on I am unsure. I can’t have ECT again due to the amnesia and confusion it caused and if I get to that point of sickness again it is recommended that I undertake Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which is the new black if you like involving the use of magnets to stimulate the chemicals in the brain.
Despite the memory loss caused by ECT, yes it’s a big thing to lose, I don’t object to ECT as a treatment because I do meet people whose lives had changed considerably from ongoing ECT.
About Sad Mum Happy Mum…
Debbie is the author of Sad Mum Happy Mum, which is the story of a Mum living with depression, and her journey to recovery and happiness. Debbie is a single Mum of a 13 year old son, a keen photographer, reader, camper and academic, and has lived with depression since her early teenage years. Debbie’s experience with depression has inspired her to write a blog about her experiences, and learning’s in the hope of helping others’ with depression, as well as increasing the awareness of depression and mental illness, and breaking down the stigma attached to depression. A strong advocate, mentor, and living example Debbie is determined to provide a safe environment for other Mums to talk about their experiences with depression, and is working towards establishing a support group that assists Mum’s living with depression.