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ECT Shock Therapy A Personal Account

Posted Oct 26 2009 11:00pm

During my first admission the doctor told me that he believed that ECT might be good for my situation and he said I should go forward with it. I replied that is good what the heck are you talking about? ECT is Electro Convulsive Therapy or shock treatments and when he said this all I pictured was the scene from "One flew over the Cuckoo's nest" so I was not exactly thrilled with this suggestion but the mental place I was in at the time was eating me alive so I said what the heck thinking I would just pull out at a later date if things became to hairy.

First things first they need a second doctor to check you out to make sure that you are a good client for this treatment. The guy met me and a minute later he stamped his sign of approval. Then they get you to watch the movie on how the procedure works and what to expect, it is not a pretty picture but I was really glad to find out I would not be conscious for it. How it works is your brought down to the room where they give you a combination of meds, then you are told to bite down on this piece of rubber and then you breath the sleeping gas until you fall asleep a few moments later. There are two types of ECT one is bilateral which is they put two pads on each temple and the second is unilateral where both pads are on one side of your head. There are a number of people in the room and they each grab a limb then the doctor nods his head and a short blast of current is passed between the two pads putting your body into a convulsion. There are apparently good convulsions and bad convulsions determined by the time they last, the positive one I believe is somewhere over thirty seconds or so. The patient wakes up a while later and after the first one you swear that you had just been run over by a mack truck. Most people undergo a treatment every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for three to four weeks so between nine to twelve sessions is ideal but some people require less while others need a few more. It is a lot safer then it use to be and the injury rate is very small but of course you need to sign a waiver that basically says there is a chance bones or teeth may be broken, bruises may appear and of course there is a chance you may die. Oh by the way your memory around treatment days if not hazy have disappeared and don't come back but why would someone want to remember a day in a mental institution is beyond me.

The problem with ECT is that it does not work for everyone and the so called experts of the field are not really sure why it works at all. The best explanation I have ever heard is that it is like a TV that is on the fritz so you unplug it and then plug it back in hoping for what ever reason it has fixed itself. My ECT sessions were stopped after five or six as I was not showing any signs of improvement and for whatever the reason it was taking a long time for me to come back to consciousness, this is a genetic thing as a number of family members do the same thing even when electricity is not involved. I know people that ECT has worked for and basically changed their lives, I know people where the effects of the treatments only last a short time so they undergo maintenance treatments about once every couple of months to keep on the positive track and I know a lot of people that the treatment did nothing for at all. I was not happy that they stopped my sessions so soon as I thought I was feeling a bit better but the hospital did not want to take a risk when the benefits were not that clear so I lost that argument.

Two years later I am back in the hospital coming off of a number of drugs to start a new med class plus a few other reasons. I figured that since I was in the hospital anyway they might as well try ECT again. They ran every test in the book to make sure I would not have any problems with the meds and then they booked the operating room to ensure nothing went wrong. I remember waking up that morning then waking up in the recovery room with nothing in between. The first thing I did was asked the nurse if I came around fast enough to which she lied to me and nodded her head. I was informed the next day that the ECT sessions were now off limits as I posed to much of a health risk and for a while all my doctor would say is that it took you too long to wake up again. My brain does not let things go that easily so I pestered the heck out of him for the next few days until I got the real story. Everything went smoothly with me falling asleep, I had a great convulsion and then I stopped breathing for about a minute so they had to "bag" me for awhile until my brain remembered I was suppose to be breathing. I didn't ask any more questions about ECT after that.

ECT or Electro Convulsive Therapy is a last resort treatment as the odds are not great that it will work and there is a bit of danger that goes with it, my stopping breathing is not normal and they are unsure whether it was the meds they gave me or the meds that I was taking at the time that was responsible for this. ECT is meant for people whose depression has hit a point where quite honestly it can't get any worse so they will try anything to bring you back out of that hole of despair.

Long term effects I really do not have any except for a few hazy days and a couple of missing hours. After the first couple of treatments the mack truck is down graded to a golf cart that ran you over but within hours after the session you would never know I had it done. I started writing a book in the hospital as a way to basically kill time and I was always able to remember after a session what I had wrote the day before. Like I said if you feel that your on your last legs and will do what it takes to survive then look into ECT and try to picture this post and not "One flew over the Cuckoo's nest" as it is a hell of a lot safer then it use to be.

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