Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Thoughts (Mostly Negative) on ECT

Yesterday I had my second weekly ECT appointment, and it occurred to me as I was waiting that I really, strongly dislike these treatments.

Did you ever have a person that you'd known for years, and one day it just hit you that you really didn't like them?  This has happened to me a couple of times recently, and I kind of liken it to how I suddenly came to feel about the ECT treatments.  I'm not saying that I don't think they're doing some good -- I do -- but just the whole process is really not my cup of tea. (Here's an article from about ECT side effects).

My first dislike (and I'm going to sound like a total baby here) is that every time I go they run an IV.  Obviously, they have to do that to administer the general anesthesia, and you'd think it would get easier the more frequently they do it, but it doesn't.  And every so often they kind of botch it up, and I'm left with a massive, painful bruise on one of my hands for a week.

My second complaint is the anesthesia itself.  I'm going to be clear and say, unequivocally, that I do NOT want to be awake for these treatements.  I want to be asleep.  I do not want to be conscious of being shocked into a seizure.  However, that weird "Lost Weekend" feeling you get after you go under general anesthesia really freaks me out.  Like, you remember being in the procedure room, then all of a sudden you're sitting in a chair drinking a Sprite with no recollection of how you got there, and no sense of passing time.  I think that's really the worst part, that it's not like going to sleep where you have some sense that an hour or so has passed; instead, you close your eyes and then (feel like you) immediately open them and an hour has passed.  For some reason, I think that must be sort of like being dead, or at least a close approximation.

Then there's other little things that just make the whole experience less-than-pleasurable.  Weird aches and pains from the seizure itself, the time involvement, and the draggy post-anesthesia feeling I get.  In the past, the anesthesia hasn't been so bad, but for several treatments I had this horrible feeling when I woke up that I was suffocating.  The doctor explained to me that it was because the sleep medication was wearing off before the muscle relaxers, so the heaviness in my muscles was making it hard for me to breathe.  The anesthesiologist fixed this problem by giving me more sleep medication,  It worked -- I haven't had the suffocating feeling since then, but I've also wanted to sleep for a full two days after the treatment.  I know my husband thinks I should just tell them to take away the other sleep medication, but if you've ever felt like you were going to suffocate or drown (even if you weren't), you'd know that there are very few reasons you'd voluntarily experience it. (Here's an article from about the risks of general anesthesia).

But, as I said, I do think they're working, at least on some degree.  I feel generally more mellow, and it's helped a lot with my "racing thoughts" (the bane of a bipolar person's existence) and overall suicidal feelings.  Well, at least till the last few days when I think my "normal" mental issues are vying for attention with some serious PMS problems and I'm just a not fun person to be around.

On a more positive note, I got a really cute book for Christmas called Itty-Bitty Toys, by Susan B. Anderson (her blog is listed at the left).  There are some adorable knit critters in there, and they look like pretty quick hitters, so I've dug in and started on a little bear.  Gotta keep the hands busy -- it helps the mind shut up!

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