ECT and Me

I’ve talked a lot recently about my six-week stay at the Menninger Clinic but haven’t really discussed why my stay there was so helpful – doing (electroconvulsive therapy) ECT treatments.

Over the years I was told to try ECT because of my treatment-resistant depression, meaning none of the meds I tried (and I tried a lot) worked well. ECT always scared me and I think it scares a lot of people. I imagine a lot of people associate it as being “shock therapy,” a very primitive form of today’s ECT from the 1900s. But I was doing so poorly by the time I got to Menninger, I prayed that I was a candidate and it worked. Turns out I was and it did.

I did my initial (or index) treatments at Menninger. I did treatments about three times a week until I left the hospital. Each treatment began with memory and cognitive testing. After that came the actual treatment. The nurses would place electrodes on my head, which would provide an electric stimulus to my brain, inducing a seizure. It was then my brain’s job to shut off the seizure, and I was told the shorter the seizure the better. I had monitors for my heart function, blood pressure and pulse, as well.

After everything was in place it was time for the anesthesia. They would administer it, insert a bite guard into my mouth and place an oxygen mask over my face and nose. I’d fall asleep, have the seizure and be awake in about 15-20 minutes.

At first I had awful migraines after the treatments and would have to stay in bed, but now I get a minor headache, some neck pain and fatigue. Not so bad, considering.

As I mentioned earlier, I did my initial treatments at the Menninger Clinic but then switched to a facility in San Antonio, Laurel Ridge Treatment Center after I done at Menninger. Unfortunately, there are no doctors who perform ECT in Corpus Christi, where I live. Both facilities are very good but different. Whereas Menninger might see a handful of patients – if that – a day, Laurel Ridge sees much more and they’re very efficient getting people in and out.

Sometimes I panic before a treatment, although I don’t know why. Nothing scary has ever happened to me but I do get very nervous beforehand. The nurses/doctors can’t give me anything to relax because most meds in that category prolong the seizures. Regardless of my panic, I still get treatments when I’m feeling down.

If you are contemplating ECT, feel free to contact me and I’ll answer any questions. I know it can be scary and intimidating but the treatments are very safe. It has been, by far, the most effective treatment for my treatment-resistant Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder. I’m happier and have more energy now.

One thing I will mention is memory loss. This is normal and usually occurs around the time of treatment, so you might not remember getting to the hospital or recent conversations. In my case – and this is just me – I have lost memories from years ago and short-term as well. You can read my memory loss blog here.

Having said that, I would still recommend ECT to anyone who is suffering with depression. It really changed my life at a time I wasn’t sure if I’d make it much longer.

14 thoughts on “ECT and Me

  1. ashleyleia – I'm a mental health nurse and author of three books, and I live with major depressive disorder. My goal with MH@H is to fight stigma and empower others to make informed decisions about managing their own mental health and to raise their own voices.
    ashleyleia says:

    For me the memory loss was also worth it given how well the ECT worked.

    1. Heather Loeb – I suffer with Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety and a personality disorder. I hope to end the stigma of depression and normal mental illness.
      Heather Loeb says:

      How bad is yours? Short term or long term or both? How many treatments have you had?

      1. ashleyleia – I'm a mental health nurse and author of three books, and I live with major depressive disorder. My goal with MH@H is to fight stigma and empower others to make informed decisions about managing their own mental health and to raise their own voices.
        ashleyleia says:

        My first course was 17 treatments, and I lost memories going back several months that never came back. My next course was I think 16, and I had a lot of short-term memory loss didn’t lose too much from the time prior to that hospitalization. The next time I had it I was in hospital for 3 weeks, so maybe 8 or so treatments, and again I had lots of short-term but I don’t think I had any long-term. I got a couple of treatments done in community, but it didn’t work out logistically because I just didn’t have anyone that could take me home from treatments and babysit me.

  2. So you mainly lost memories from the time period around having ECT? Like before ECT and during? I am considering this procedure so any information is helpful!

    1. Heather Loeb – I suffer with Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety and a personality disorder. I hope to end the stigma of depression and normal mental illness.
      Heather Loeb says:

      I often do forget things around the time of a treatment but I’ve also forgotten memories from years ago. Even with the memory loss, ECT is worth it – in my opinion. It’s lifesaving.

  3. mentalhealth360.uk – United Kingdom – Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.
    mentalhealth360.uk says:

    I’ve never had ECt myself but I think that if I had a Major Depressive disorder which was meds resistant, I’d try the ECT. I wrote a post on it some time ago, explaining how it works for most people and we had people coming back say 10-20 years later, asking for ECT again.

    My mum’s had 2 courses of ECT, back in the olden days lol when it was the asylums. That place terrified me. But it made my mum better 🙂

  4. I have so many questions. My first and most important; Can this be done as an outpatient or so I have to be admitted?

    1. Heather Loeb – I suffer with Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety and a personality disorder. I hope to end the stigma of depression and normal mental illness.
      Heather Loeb says:

      Yes. I started when I was inpatient but you can definitely get it done outpatient. I get all my maintenance treatments done outpatient in San Antonio.

      1. Thank you, I am starting to believe that I need this treatment, but can not be impatient. Thank you for sharing

      2. Heather Loeb – I suffer with Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety and a personality disorder. I hope to end the stigma of depression and normal mental illness.
        Heather Loeb says:

        You’re welcome. I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Thanks for reading.

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