ECT Part I (the preamble)

I just found the rest of my scattershot notes from the hospital, all written with a tiny golf pencil that the nurse gave me after I promised I wouldn’t hurt myself with it. I told her I would first have to figure out how a person could hurt themselves with a golf pencil, but she didn’t even smile. Tough crowd, the Unit III nurses station. I was going to write something else about my time there, and was holding off until I found those notes, but they turned out to be sort of boring, and aside from a few strange moments that I doubt I’ll ever forget (generally involving outbursts of one sort or another from my fellow residents), the rest of my time there doesn’t really stand out in any particular way. You wanna know what it’s like? Have a total and complete breakdown and go yourself, why don’t you? I can’t do all the work here.

Since I was sent home (a day early, have I mentioned that?), there have been a couple of times where I thought about going back, but truth be told, I don’t really have the time, and so far I’ve been able to work it out in the wild, more or less. Plus, I’ve had the benefit (and rollercoaster ride) of ECT- electroconvulsive therapy- since then.

It turns out there’s a sweet spot somewhere between feeling great and feeling awful when you actually feel compelled to write, which is why I’ve taken so long to actually getting around to writing about the namesake of this blog. Sometime during that time in the hospital (or maybe it was right after? I ended up with a referral to what I was told was the best ECT doctor there is. Top 100 doctors in the country of any kind! Cryptically (without violating Doctor/Patient confidentiality), I learned that this was where the Hollywood types went. For what that’s worth. Probably not a lot.

The stigma attached to ECT- formerly known as “shock therapy” is something those in the practice have been working really really hard to overcome. For one, they don’t call it shock therapy anymore. For another, they like to emphasize that it’s “not like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest!”, something I never really associated it with, but something I can’t seem to avoid hearing in every conversation I’ve had with medical professionals regarding the procedure. Personally, I would have preferred the reference to be Return to Oz or Young Frankenstein, but it’s not up to me, so here we are.

ECT

To help with that stigma, there is (are?) a litany of tests that one must go through to make sure that one is both physically healthy and mentally competent enough to do it. Blood tests, heart tests, various other organ tests, a meeting with my psychiatrist, who assessed whether or not I could consent to the procedure. Form after form of my initials, indicating that I understood what I was getting myself into. And finally, a meeting with the Doctor himself.

In that meeting, I was given the basic overview of how it works, and he reviewed my test results, all of which came back normal. The one thing, he said, is that ECT works best in patients who have “bouts” of depression, versus people like me. People like me are the ones for whom it’s always there to varying degrees. Sometimes just kind of like walking through a puddle- feet wet, kind of uncomfortable, but not really keeping me from carrying on, and sometimes bubbling up past my ears and I feel like I’m drowning. But the odds of this being a success were still high- somewhere between 60 and 70%, versus the 70-80% of the “bouts” people. It was up to me, and since nothing else had really worked I decided to go for it. I would start in February, with 4-6 weeks of “acute” treatment (M/W/F every week), eventually tapering off to the ultimate goal of one treatment every six weeks.

And so it began.

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