I feel compelled to write about my most recent ElectroConvulsive Therapy (ECT) experience. For those who aren’t aware I am undergoing a course of ECT for my Depression, after attempting many different anti-depressants and mood stabilisers, along with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), despite this my Suicidal Ideation continued, and actually resulted in a plan.
From the outset I should say I was still nervous and apprehensive regarding the treatment. Not because I thought it wouldn’t work, or because I would be scrambled, but I was worried about loosing memories, people, events, and other important information. Thankfully the fear was completely misplaced.
The day began like any other operation, of which I have had 14, where by you arrive at the Day Surgery unit, fill out some paperwork and await to be ushered around to your bed. Once ushered to your bed, you get changed into a paper gown and spend the rest of the wait cold, huddled under a blanket, awaiting your turn in the theatre. Once in the theatre there is a flurry of activity which ends with the anaesthetist placing oxygen on your face and giving you the start of your sedative.
After a period of time, of which I estimated 30-45 minutes, you awake back to where you started from, with the headache to end all headaches. The staff were all attentive and checked my observations as they should, offered paracetamol which I accepted with great glee, gave me something small to eat, which was completely insufficient after fasting for over 12 hours. On the whole the actual experience was very reminiscent of every other operation/procedure I have had done. With a couple of exceptions.
The memory blanks that I was warned about are a totally real and frustrating part of the treatment. I have bits missing from the couple of days prior to, and day of treatment, I find myself repeating thing I have already said, and my wife doubly so. However, apart from the whopping headache which was solved with Aspirin in the end of it all, and a couple of memory lapses, the experience has been entirely positive. My mood appears to be slightly improved, I haven’t had a serious Ideation all weekend, and most importantly my wife has seen an improvement in my mood.
I will have somewhere between 8 and 12 treatments every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until complete. I will continue to see my Psychiatrist and Psychologist during this time to monitor the treatment and continue with CBT.
There is a lot of negative press out there surrounding ECT, people claiming that it has completely wiped all memories, erased family memories, caused irreparable brain damage, makes depression worse, triggers migraines, and a host of other negatives. I am not going to dispute any of them, I am going to suggest that you talk to you psychiatrist before treatment and understand all the risks associated ECT itself and also anaesthesia. My suggestion would be to be risk aware not risk adverse. Make sure you know all the risks, and don’t forget to weigh those risks against the risk of not receiving treatment.
I will continue to share my journey through ECT, and my struggle with Mental Health. I thank you all for coming on this journey with me, and I pray that you all get something out of it as well.
Maintain the Rage