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ECT- The Day Of

quick note: it’s come to my attention some internet folk from a long-ago moment in my life  have found this blog and chat about it sometimes. I just wanted to say that there are really no hard feelings on my end, and I hope if any of y’all are dealing with this stuff, it helps you in some way to feel less alone, too. I’m around for anyone who needs an understanding ear. 

When I first arrive at the hospital, they direct me to one of the five open rooms that are set in a semicircle around the nurses’ station. Each one connects to the ones next to them through a really privacy-free bathroom. I only mention this because there’s a sign outside each one reminding us to wash our hands, because over 1 billion germs can live in one gram of poop. I love that sign. So straightforward. The word “poop” in an official setting makes me giggle.

Once I’m there, I wait for my IV setup (filled with saline while we wait for my turn in the electricity room- name my own. It’s really more of a treatment room) and other pre-treatment measures; my temperature (which gets written on the tape holding the IV in place), and my blood pressure cuff. From there, it’s a waiting game- well, a napping game- until it’s time to go in. The difference between a 7:30 appointment and an 8:30 appointment is incredible. It’s the difference between waiting 5 minutes and waiting half an hour or so. I think. It’s hard to say, really…I usually stay up too late the night before, getting more and more anxious about the next day, unable to take klonopin the night before, and reminding myself that my only obligation the next day is to wake up long enough to get there, and then I get to go right back to sleep. So I’m usually pretty tired and nap whenever I can while I wait.

Once I’m hooked up to the IV, I’m pretty much stuck in the bed until the whole thing is over. That means I’m wheeled, lying down, into the treatment room. Once I’m there, the doctor goes over any med changes with me as they place heart monitors on my chest, stomach, and thumb, along with the electrodes that go on my forehead, temples, and behind my ears. Then the doctor and nurses list out loud to each other what should go in my IV before an oxygen mask is placed over my face and the anesthesia is administered. I can tell it’s starting because I feel something warm in the crook of my arm where the needle when in, and can taste a bitter taste in the back of my throat. That’s when I know I have about ten seconds to enjoy that bit of oblivion before I’m out. It’s also how I know I can never try opioids recreationally (and I won’t, don’t worry). For just a few seconds everything is just fine. I’m not “out of it”, but everything is just…fine.

The next thing I know I’m in the recovery room, unclear on what’s going on, and who is coming in and out of my room. I can’t figure out how to open my eyes, and I still don’t know for sure if I’m truly having a hard time breathing, or if I just think I am. It must be the latter, since I’m still hooked up to monitoring machines and nobody seems very bothered by my stats. I also wake up in an ice helmet, which is supposed to stop any oncoming headaches, but at this point, it’s a pavlovian tool to remind me to stay panicked. Sometimes a nurse is sitting there, talking to me as I wake up, but I often find myself unsure how to respond to the conversation, which just adds to the stress- one morning I got so upset about forgetting where Temecula is that I started crying out of frustration. You could say I’m a little…wound up emotionally at this point.

After I’m more or less fully conscious, I’m wheeled into the room where I’m reunited with the person taking me home, and given hospital coffee (barf) to help me wake up. At this point I’m usually so groggy I can barely hold a conversation, but at least my eyes are open and I know where I am. I know part of this comes from the anesthesia and the fact that I’ve just been essentially electrocuted, but a lot of it comes from the ketamine infusions that are the real key to making all of this work for me. I will never understand why people do that for fun.

When I get home, I usually take the dog out and then fall into bed for what is truly the best, most appreciated sleep I’ve ever had. It’s a full-body tiredness that also includes my brain. I’m home, and don’t have to worry about anything for the next few hours, except getting the right audiobook or podcast to play me to sleep. I’m lucky to have a napping-enabler dog who is usually less eager to get out of bed than I am.

From there, the only two things I have to worry about are the memory loss (more on that later), and the muscle soreness that creeps in by the end of the day, topping out the day after. It varies sometimes, but usually shows up in my back and chest muscles (the ones I use to take deep breaths), and my neck, running up to my jaw. It lasts a couple of days, and seems to be a side effect of the muscle paralytic I receive while I’m under.

I know that this makes it sound upsetting, stressful, and just generally unpleasant. The thing is that all of it- from having to take the day off work, to the wakeup panic, to the muscle pain- it’s all worth the edge it takes off of my depression, beginning with the moment I wake up from my nap. I may have to start going in every two weeks (rather than once a month), and it’s still so, so worth it. It’s already 2am here, so I’m going to leave it to Broadway to describe the feeling that leads to seeking out this kind of treatment:

Stigma and Mental Illness

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls…At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” – Carrie Fisher Continue reading

ECT Part II (the prep)

 

I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe ECT, and since it’s such a bizzaro procedure that everyone experiences differently, I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. But I guess really, between the memory loss and the other ECT effects, it’s not going to be perfect. It’s just going to be my experience of my experience.  Continue reading

On Suicide

Before I get deeper into the world of ECT (I swear, there’s a part II coming!), I heard today about the loss of Chester Bennington to suicide. Linkin Park was always sort of in the periphery for me, but that’s not really the point. Every time I read about another celebrity’s (or non) suicide, I’m immediately time warped back to the moments that I wish I could…not die exactly, but maybe just not exist.

Although, sometimes death was the ultimate wish when things got really…complicated. Removing myself from it all seemed like the best option. Just as a warning, I’m not going to use euphemisms or dance around the subject of suicide and suicidal ideations so. And family, friends, please know that I have too much of a complex about making everything ok and breaking the tension to actually do something so destructive to my loved ones. Plus, I promised some of you I wouldn’t. Besides, I still haven’t been to Dollywood. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

15 Questions People Who’ve Been Suicidal Wish They Had Been Asked

This is so good, and so true.

Just Some Quotes I Like

“Take your broken heart, make it into art.”- Carrie Fisher

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”- Eleventh Doctor “Vincent and the Doctor”  Continue reading