Monday, December 19, 2011

ECT Status Report

Since my life has been absorbed by ECT treatments the last week or so, that's pretty much all I have to write about.  I had my fourth treatment yesterday, which marks the mid-way point of this "batch."  Most people, according to my doctor, need an initial course of 6-12 treatments (at anywhere from $300-$800 per treatment) over two to four weeks. You then can have "maintenance" treatments once a week, once a month, every six weeks, or whatever your mood dictates (the American Psychiatric Association backs up this prescription).

Let me tell you flat out:  I'm not loving these treatments.  For one thing, the travel time is 45 minutes each way for each session, and tomorrow I have an appointment with my psychiatrist as well, so it's going to be an all-day affair.  But time is really just a minor inconvenience.  The whole process isn't all that fun, either.

Going under general anesthesia 3x a week can't be good for your body, not to mention, the whole fact that while you're out they zap you with enough electricity through the brain to cause a sizable seizure (read about ECT risks from the Mayo Clinic here).  Yesterday when I woke up from the anesthesia, I felt like I couldn't breathe, which was slightly alarming.  I almost always have some sort of headache afterwards, from mild to severe, and I have constant jaw, back, and shoulder pain.  During the first week, my calves were so sore it was difficult to walk immediately after sitting, until they loosened up. I think I mentioned some of these complaints in my last post.

But it is working?  In the greater scheme of things, jaw and calf pain is a small price to pay for a potentially large payoff.  The short answer:  I'm not sure.  I definitely feel like my brain is much quieter, with  less thoughts of self-harm, and suicide.  In my last post I said I felt "blunted," and I stand by that.  I kind of just want to sit in a chair and watch TV and zone out.

I even started a knitting project yesterday so I didn't feel like such a vegetable.  Someone was telling me about this cute knit headwarmer-wrap thing they got and how it would probalby be pretty easy to make, so I found a pattern for one here.  And I swear, it's a really simple pattern, but it took me forever to get the hang of it -- a lot longer than it should have.  I'd catch myself halfway done with a row, having knit every purl stitch and vice-versa.  It's like the instructions got scrambled in the translation from the page to my brain.  It's sort of how I used to feel with calculus.  And, man, I hated calculus.

In addition to having knitting problems, I seem to have problems remembering words, finding the right words, and holding a conversation.  These kinds of problems are the side effects most commonly associated with ECT treatments.  According to the APA, cognitive and memory problems are some of the more serious and worrisome risks associated with ECT, after problems with the actual procedure itself.  I found this cool website called the Experience Project, which collects personal stories on various topics, and one of the topics is ECT.  The biggest complaint that people had were significant memory issues; one person said their ability to do math was permanently impaired.  Another person said his memory was so impaired that he didn't even consider himself the same person that he had been before the treatment.

There are a couple of different places on the web to read personal stories, but if I read too much of them they'll drive me crazy.  It's like with anything else on the web; unusually people only get online and spend time talking about something if they really, really love it or really, really hate it -- whether it's a medical treatment or a refrigerator.  So I'll take all the online stuff with a grain of salt.

I do think my unusually-low irritation level is starting to rise back up, whether a result of medication or ECT, I don't know.  So that's a good thing.  I say this because yesterday, my favorite five-year-old dumped a yogurt smoothie on my computer keyboard, and nobody (and nothing) got hurt.  Two weeks ago, some innocent, inanimate object that was within my realm of reach would have been hurled across the room during a scene like that, but I managed to hold it together.

That's it for now.  This "status report" is sort of a misnomer, in that I really don't know what my status is at the moment.  But we'll just keep plugging away (plugging?  electricity?  get it??) and hoping for the best.


    click on ECT tab
    watch video
    Read and Bentall’s study of ECT safety and efficacy
    see Harold Sackeim study
    UK Government e-petition

  2. I continue to enjoy reading these.

    I hope you dont mind, but Ive added a link to your blog on mine.

  3. Cheryl - thanks for the links; I'll check them out.

    Lindsay -- I'm glad you're reading, and a
    Link is always welcome!