If you follow this blog you'll have noticed that I have been absent for quite some time. I mean, I guess not that long, but a lot has happened since I last wrote. When I last wrote I was just at the beginning of my second round with ECT. It was only supposed to be every other week for a month and then once a month, but turned into three times a week for a month. It was rough. I tried to keep working during the off days, but quite quickly it became apparent that I was not mentally up to the challenge of my job. Every one at work was so kind and understanding, even if I didn't take it as that at the time. But I've been assured that they were.
So I just wanted to take this blog post to sort of explain, both to you and to me, what exactly ECT is and what it does and how it is performed. So let us begin with some information I found from the Mayo Clinic. So, first of all, ECT stands for Electro-Convulsive Therapy and is used primarily in treatment resistant patients. Now I am not completely treatment resistant, I guess I am partially resistant. Medications work but only to a certain extent. And at various times that extent is not enough to have any sort of enjoyable life. Unacceptable!!!! What I've read says that the actual procedure takes anywhere from five to 10 minutes. WOW!!!! The whole shebang takes like four hours (give or take depending on how long it takes for the nurses to get you set up and how many people are in line before you). I actually had no idea how quick the ECT procedure took. ECT can be done either outpatient or inpatient, although in my Mental Health Advance Directive I've very clearly stated that I will only undergo ECT as an outpatient patient, with a family member there to be with me (check out this link for more information on Mental Health Advance Directives). So after you're called in, and taken back, you put on a hospital gown and wait to have an IV inserted. This was always my most dreaded part....me and needles....NO THANK YOU!!!!!
When it is your turn they wheel you into the treatment room. In that room, at least in my experience, there is the doctor who administers the ECT, the anesthesiologist, and a nurse. So there is a little chit chat as the doctor puts electrodes on your head. The Mayo Clinic says that ECT can be unilateral, in which electric currents focus on only one side of the brain, or bilateral, in which both sides of the brain receive focused electric currents. For my first round of ECT, back in 2016, I had bilateral. And man did it do a number on my whole self. I had no memory and was like a zombie. This year, after a week or two of bilateral, we switched to unilateral because the bilateral was making me into a zombie again. I guess this year the lasting negative effects of the ECT didn't last as long as with the bilateral last year. So, now comes the fun part (not really, I'm saying that with my tongue in my cheek), they start the anesthesia. It burns like a mother f*cker going in. They would give me something to help numb it but it didn't really do anything I felt. Very quickly I was asleep and not aware of anything else until I woke up.
According to the Mayo Clinic not only is an anesthetic given, but also a muscle relaxant, to help make the seizure less intense. I wasn't aware of this. The Mayo Clinic also says that a blood pressure cuff is put around your ankle to stop the muscle relaxant from reaching your foot so that the doctor can monitor the seizure through the foot's movement. But they also have all sorts of monitors to see the progress of the seizure too, so I don't even know if they put a blood pressure cuff around my ankle. And after a few minutes the seizure is over and you are done.
Next they wheel you into recovery to let the anesthesia wear off. Sometimes I had an easy wake up and sometimes they were more difficult with confusion and nausea. Thank goodness most of them were okay and I really didn't even know if I had had the procedure yet or not. When I was awake they would take out the IV and call my mother back in to see me. She would then go get the car, I would get dressed, and an orderly would wheel me down to the front door to meet my mother in the car.
This I'm just going to copy, word for word, from www.mayoclinic.org:
No one knows for certain how ECT helps treat severe depression and other mental illnesses. What is known, though, is that many chemical aspects of brain function are changed during and after seizure activity. These chemical changes may build upon one another, somehow reducing symptoms of severe depression or other mental illnesses. That's why ECT is most effective in people who receive a full course of multiple treatments.
And that was my life for the month of May in 2017. I didn't really enjoy it. It was very taxing on not only me, physically and emotionally, but on my parents as well. My mother had to come stay with me and my parents are very much in love so it was hard for them to be apart so much. I know they love me and would do almost anything to help me be and stay healthy, but they still need to be with each other. I appreciate all they do and have done for me and my health.