Shock: My Experience with Electroconvulsive Therapy

It’s no secret that I’ve been through ECT, otherwise known as “shock” therapy. I’ve talked about it before. I’ve done interviews on the subject of ECT. Six years were spent going through ECT, and I had probably close to 150 – 200 treatments. I went through several acute series and years of maintenance treatments. I have scars on the inside of my elbows where I’ve had so many IV lines. (Eventually, they had to start going in my upper shoulder since my veins are so bad. No matter how much water I would drink the night before, it always took at least a few sticks to get an IV that was viable.)

Let me first say this: ECT is not like what it used to be. It’s not One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. You’re not awake during the procedure, and no one is forcing paddles wrapped in wet towels on your head while shoving a bite guard in your mouth.

Some of the nicest, kindest medical people I’ve met were ECT folks, people whose names I’ll never forget. And I’ll be honest:

ECT saved my life when I was desperate.

The times when I was severely suicidal and needed to get out of it quickly before I hurt myself? ECT saved me. The times I was so manic that I was delusional and psychotic? ECT saved me when medication wouldn’t work.

It got me quickly out of my episodes with just a few treatments. By the second week, I would start to feel back to my normal self. By the end of the acute series, I was totally fine.

There were side effects to ECT, namely the muscle aches and headaches on the day of the treatment and the overall memory loss. I don’t remember my first date with my husband. I don’t remember bits of our wedding, namely the dinner we had afterwards. I don’t remember a trip to Texas we apparently took during the time I was going for ECT. My husband has to remind me of these things. He’ll talk about something we did together, and I’ll look at him, all confused, then he’ll remind me that we did that thing together. It can be disheartening.

It’s going on two years now that I stopped going for ECT. March 12, 2023 will make two years, to be more exact. While my memory has improved somewhat, there are still holes in it.

Say what you will about electroconvulsive therapy. Call it “torture” if you want. But the truth? ECT saved my life.

One response to “Shock: My Experience with Electroconvulsive Therapy”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: