Sentenced to Life

Please note that this was written two weeks ago and I feel better.

Last week I had a much needed ECT. When I awoke from the short procedure, I felt strange. Usually, I have a terrible migraine, I’m confused and fatigued, but this time I was alert, I knew what had just happened and there was no sign of a migraine. Good, right?

During the two-hour drive home, I kept thinking that it was amazing that I didn’t feel like crap. I looked over the papers the hospital gave me and saw that I had a short, 42-second seizure, which is good — the shorter, the better. But something was bothering me.

It’s now been several days since the ECT. I don’t feel as different as I’d like. I don’t have much energy, I’m not as optimistic as usual and at times I’m just sad. I hate to say it, but I don’t think this treatment worked. It’s happened before — the ECT leaves me feeling no different or actually worse, but it’s rare. It scares me, because getting treatments is the main part of my treatment plan. I rely on them to feel better.

This is just a very sad reminder that I’ve been sentenced to life with major depression/anxiety, and there is no cure. I’m treatment resistant, meaning most medications won’t help. Therapy, ECTs and behavioral modification are the only things keeping me from slipping back into a depressive episode. And I’ve worked too hard to go back.

I don’t mean to be gloomy. Maybe it’ll take a week before I feel better. Maybe I’ll have to work harder on self-care and turning to healthy coping mechanisms. I hope to hell I don’t, but maybe I’ll need another ECT before the next one scheduled in eight weeks. Maybe that one will work.

It’s just hard not to feel betrayed right now. I hate getting ECTs, but I continue to get them because I know they help make me a better mom, wife and friend…they usually help, anyway. But this time was different — I feel bamboozled. I went to all that trouble for what? To still feel out of gas and like there’s nothing to look forward to? I hate my brain! Even if I do (most) everything right, my efforts are thwarted. It just doesn’t matter, my brain’s gonna do what my brain’s gonna do. And that, my friends, is depressing in itself.

I’ll give it a few more days. I’ll do my best, practice self-care, go to therapy. I’ll drudge on, but I have a feeling I’ll be making another trip to San Antonio sooner than expected. And that’s OK, if the next time works.

But what in the hell will I do if it doesn’t?

I can’t really entertain that thought, because it’s so suffocating. I feel the urge to stomp my foot like a child and scream, “It’s not fair!” Because it sure the fuck isn’t.

It’s just not fair.

All About ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)

I’ve had a lot of questions about ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) lately, so I thought I’d talk about it more today.

I’ve been doing ECT treatments since 2019, after I stayed at the Menninger Clinic for six weeks. My doctors all agreed that I was treatment-resistant, meaning most depression medications would be ineffective in helping me, and ECT has a high success rate.

I’ve had about 30 treatments, and I can honestly say they have changed my life for the better. I have more energy, more patience, I’m not sad as often, and I’m able to function pretty well for a girl with no serotonin, lol.

I now do my treatments at the Laurel Ridge Treatment Center in San Antonio; there are no doctors who do them in Corpus Christi where I live.

When I arrive at the treatment center, I fill out paperwork on how I’ve been feeling and whether I’ve been suicidal. I talik to the nurses and PA, discuss the depression symptoms I’ve experiencing then they move me to a bed. A nurse then puts in an IV and they give me medication for nausea, just in case. Next, they wheel my bed into the treatment room where an anesthesiologist, a doctor and nurse are waiting. They attach electrodes to my forehead and temple, then add a blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter. Usually at this time, my blood pressure gets higher and my pulse races because I’m scared, even though I have no reason to be.

The docs chat with me for a bit and then they put me under anesthesia. After I’m out, they put a bite guard in my mouth and give me the oxygen mask. The nurse starts up the ECT machine which will send electric pulses to my brain, triggering a brief seizure. They also give me a muscle relaxant, so I’m not moving a whole lot. Once the seizure is started, they wait for my brain to stop it. My brain works hard to stop it as fast as it can, but sometimes the docs have to administer medication to stop it. The shorter the seizure, the better the outcome I usually have. This past ECT I had a 42-second seizure but I’ve also had ones that last up to a minute or longer.

After the seizure, I’m sent to a recovery area. It usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes for me to wake up. After I’m looked over by the nurses, I’m free to go home. I usually have a killer headache, so I get something to eat, take my migraine meds and sleep on the way back to Corpus Christi.

I can see how reading this would surprise some people — one person described it as barbaric after I explained the treatments, but it is not barbaric. For someone like me, it’s life-saving, and even though I don’t like getting them done, I’m grateful for treatments.

ECT helps as many as 80-85 percent of patients who receive it and is the most effective treatment option for those who are treatment-resistant.

Most people have an initial course of ECT then do maintenance treatments every now and then. I haven’t gotten to the point where I don’t need them, so I go every four to eight weeks. I’m working on stretching out the treatments, and maybe one day I won’t need as many.

I hope I haven’t shocked you — haha, get it? If you’d like to know more, please leave a comment on email me heatherannloeb@gmail.com