I’ve had the ECT therapy done to me 6 times now. That’s half of the total treatments planned. I guess the big question is “is it working?” I definitely feel different, but it’s difficult to express how I’m feeling in words. I am experiencing lapses in memory which is rather annoying. I’m experiencing a lot flashbacks to frames of mind I’ve only felt in dreams of the past. That may not make any sense. It feels like I’m living in bizarro world. But am I any happier? I don’t really know for sure.
As far as I can recollect, here’s what the doctor said they would do to me.
I will undress and get myself into one of those awesome hospital smocks. I will then lie down on a questionably comfortable surface. Once I’m there, they will poke me until they get an IV going. And then the real fun will begin. They will add a drug to the IV that will put me to sleep. After I’m out cold, they will give me another drug that will paralyze my entire body. It won’t last too long; 8 to 10 minutes is all. During this time they will stick a couple of electrodes onto my forehead. After that, the doctor in whom I’ve placed all of my trust, will send an electrical charge into my head with the purpose of sending my brain into a seizure.
And that’s it.
I’ll slowly wake back up, then I’ll be on my merry way.
Repeat every other day or so for about a month.
It’s called Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT.) It may sound brutal, but I am electing* to have it done to me. ECT is recommended to those who are severely depressed and who haven’t responded well to other treatments and medication. The best part about all of it? Nobody knows how or why it works. They just know that it is highly effective and has helped a great percentage of people with depression.
It’s not without its drawbacks. The most reported side effect of the treatment is memory loss. They say it’s not permanent, but it’s still worrisome. I have memory problems as it is. I also won’t be able to drive during the span of the treatment either. That’s just annoying more than anything.
I’ll admit, I’m kind of nervous about the whole thing. There’s so many uncertainties. But I guess there are uncertainties with anything in life. Just have to be brave and go for it.
Stay tuned. I’ll keep you up to date as I explore this treatment. Should be fun, right?
*Provided I don’t change my mind before going in.
It’s probably safe to assume that if I go for a while without posting something, I’m feeling ‘low.’ My brain just doesn’t seem to work right, and any creativity I may have is a whisper of its former self. It’s kinda like my brain, despite what my body feels, is sleepy. Some might describe it as brain fog. I can go along with that too.
So here I am with my foggy, sleepy brain, wishing I could write a nice and meaningful post. It’s just not happening.
Please don’t give up on me.
If you’ve have, or have had depression, you already know all too well what it feels like. As it turns out, I’ve run into a lot of people that have experienced the horrors of the disease. We’ll call these people the ‘Inner Circle.’ But occasionally I’ll come across someone who hasn’t, and they ask me, “What does it feel like?”
It can be challenging explaining to those in the ‘Outer Circle’ just how it feels to have depression. So I tell them something like:
“It’s like you’re walking in six feet of mud.”
“It’s like you’re surrounded by a dense black fog that penetrates your mind.”
“It’s like swimming in molasses.”
“It’s a complete paralysis of motivation.”
And I know what they are thinking. They’re thinking, “I don’t get it. What’s the deal? You don’t look sad!”
And they’re right. I don’t look sad because it’s not really sadness that I am feeling. It’s more of a lack of happiness; an empty feeling. I don’t laugh very often, and you’ll rarely see a smile on my face. It’s like my brain doesn’t have a ‘happy setting.’ You can turn the knob over and over, and it’s just not there.
Then that void, that emptiness will translate into a complete lack of enjoyment. Nothing you do brings any kind of pleasure. Even things you once loved doing before brings you no joy whatsoever. So the question weighs heavily in my mind, “What do you do when you don’t feel like doing anything?”
But it doesn’t matter anyway. If I do manage to engage in an activity, I have to deal with disastrously low energy levels and a crippled ability to focus.
People say, “you should exercise! You should go for a walk!” I would love to, but in addition to the low levels of motivation, energy, and focus, I have to contend with fatigue and even muscle weakness. Overcoming all of that in order to just take a walk can seem insurmountable.
And most of the time I’m tired, sleepy. Despite the fact that I’m getting 12 hrs. of sleep a day.
Oh, and please don’t ask me to make decisions. I can’t. My wife, bless her heart, asks my opinion on things often, but the fog in my head makes it so hard.
So, there is no happiness, and sadness really isn’t the issue. What’s left?
Irritability and anger. So. Much. Anger.
And let’s not leave out the big ol’ elephant in the room. Suicide. Fortunately for me, I don’t feel like I would ever go through with it. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. Thinking about how I would do it. It’s not constant or even frequent, but those thoughts do arise from time to time. Yes. I know. Scary.
Even after describing all of this, I still don’t expect the Outer Circle folks to fully understand what I’m going through. It would be like someone describing to me the exhilarating feeling of jumping out of an airplane. I would never fully understand how it feels until I do it myself.
And to be honest, I really don’t want to know what it’s like to jump out of an airplane.
But I would do it in an instant if it took the depression away for good.
I’m not a poet by any stretch of the imagination, but about 6 years ago during a particularly down time in my life, I wrote this:
I wonder if I had
The strength to die,
To stop reaching out
I could blissfully resign
Into the divine,
A pain cloaked
And to keep to myself,
To share with no one else
The deafening and
Does it grow dimmer,
The hope, the glimmer,
The something that
Takes it away?