It has been 14 weeks since my last ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), a milestone for sure. That’s the longest I’ve been able to go since 2019, after leaving a psychiatric hospital for depression and anxiety.
It makes me so happy because, frankly, I hate them. I developed a phobia to anesthesia last year and have panic attacks before treatment. For those who don’t know, ECT entails going under anesthesia then doctors induce a seizure. It’s usually a short seizure and they give me a muscle relaxant so I’m not thrashing around. The seizure sort of resets my brain. Doctors aren’t sure why or how exactly it works, but it’s very beneficial to people like me who have treatment-resistant depression.
I thought since it has been awhile since my last treatment that my memory would start coming back, but there are still huge chunks of my memory I can’t recall. It’s common for people to experience retrograde amnesia, but usually memories return.
Not only can I not remember things from the past but also it affects my short-term memory. I can’t always retain new information. It’s especially hard to follow recipes or instructions on how to do something. Now I need assistance from my husband when I’m cooking.
It’s also embarrassing.
I’ll meet someone and not remember we met. Or I’ve forgotten people who I knew. People come up to me all the time and ask how David is or the kids, and most of the time I just can’t place them so I try to hide it. Hopefully they can’t see it in my face.
Still, even with the memory loss, it’s one million times better than being where I was. I was so lost and unhealthy, relying on binge eating, abusing my medication, cutting and shopping to distract me from my pain. I was suicidal all the time. Somehow I was able to take care of the kids, but my health suffered greatly. The kids sucked up everything I had. I don’t regret going to the mental hospital at all.
I wrote about ECT and losing my memory for a mental health site, The Mighty, and some people — a lot of people — thought it was so horrible that I was risking my memories. They couldn’t comprehend it, but one of the best things about my memory loss is that I don’t remember all the ugly, dark parts of my illness before I went to the hospital. It’s a blessing, actually. What I do remember is so awful and sad. There’s no part of me that wants to relive that at all.
So while my memory (what’s left of it) is terrible and it can be embarrassing, I’m so fucking grateful for where I am. For my support system, all my friends and family members who stepped up and completely support me. For being able to find joy in the little things. For being able to enjoy watching my kids grow up. For laughing until tears come to my eyes. For the growth that I’ve seen in the past three years. I’m just so grateful. I’d do it all again if I had to in order to feel as good as I’m feeling now.
I know there’s always a possibility of a depressive episode recurring, but that’s why I’m doing the difficult work of confronting my demons and putting into place healthy habits. I have to walk a fine line in order to be healthy, and sometimes that can be annoying, but it’s so worth it.
For anyone struggling with their mental health, I see you. I pray you don’t give up, and I have to tell you that it gets better. It gets sooo good.
There’s great divinity in finding the light where it is dark. And I hope you find the light.
You can do it. I clawed my way back from hell, and I’ll keep fighting to stay where I am, every single day.
Thank you to all my loved ones (and even strangers) who have been rooting me on all this time. It’s a beautiful thing to receive that kind of support.
And I love you all.