ECT & My Memory

NOTE: As mentioned on my About page, I don’t advocate for or against ECT. I’m just sharing my personal experience. I wrote a post about the outpatient ECT procedure here.

3214197147_a36c631f71I stopped ECT treatment this past March because for the first time, it didn’t seem like it was working, but was still affecting my memory. ECT Doctor 1 asked me to keep him updated on how my memory is functioning. I sent him a 3-month update in June and another in September.

My short-term memory hadn’t improved, so he wanted to meet with my husband and me, which we did in early November. He said, which I already knew, that my long-term memory — some events from my past — would be gone.

For example, after my parents’ divorce about 14 years ago, my mom moved into a townhouse. That townhouse doesn’t exist to me. I have absolutely no recollection of it, and my husband says that we even house-sat for her one weekend. That memory is completely gone. I do remember the condo she moved into when she sold the townhouse. However, if my husband tells me about something I may have forgotten, parts of that memory do return, just not always in detail.

When I first underwent ECT around 2006 with another doctor at another hospital, I understood that this was the trade-off because ECT works for me. (I switched hospitals because when I was last hospitalized in 2014, I was transferred to what I now call ECT Hospital, which is a lot nicer.)

Anyway, back to my short-term memory. I sometimes forget things like saying something to my husband, and then five minutes later, repeating what I said because I completely forgot that I had already said it. I could go on, but this is a good example. Also, what’s really annoying is not knowing a word for something — I know what I want to say and that the word exists, but I have to grasp at what that word is. This word thing is a common side effect of ECT, and in the past improved after a few months. Same with short-term memory. Not this time.

ECT Doctor 1 met with us and talked about my short-term memory, confirming things with my husband as to whether I had those types of memory lapses in the past. (I hadn’t.) The doctor determined that my memory problems are ECT-related and will improve, although because of the number of treatments I’ve had, it’ll take longer than it has in the past.

We also came up with a new plan should I require ECT again: instead of having 3 treatments at the regular (machine) frequency for 2 weeks in a row and then tapering off the number of treatments, I’ll have treatments at a lower frequency 2x/week instead of 3 (and then tapering off), but with the understanding that it would take longer for my depression to improve.

Although I hope that I won’t require ECT in the future, my husband and I are satisfied with this plan.

Also, in my previous post, I mentioned that I couldn’t remember whether or not I continued with ECT in December 2016. Then I came across a Facebook status posted December 9, 2016, that said:

ECT update: I spoke with my original ECT doc about my concerns (mainly how stressful they were) about my 2x/week treatments in November. He suggested a 4-week maintenance schedule since the initial treatments did help. I had my treatment yesterday and he held my hand during the entire procedure, or at least until I drifted off into anesthesia land….

So apparently, I went every 4 weeks, but I’m not sure for how long. And, ECT Doctor 1 rocks!

Photo credit: TZA via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

4 thoughts on “ECT & My Memory

  1. I have never undergone ECT (Thank God), but I know my medication tends to affect my short-term memory and I have the same problem with… In mid-speech, forget what the heck I was saying or the correct words. It sucks! I feel your pain Hon.
    So sorry that you still have suffered the memory loss after so much time has passed.

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    1. It’ll get better. I’d rather deal with memory loss than have the kind of depression where the only solution I see is to kill myself. Sorry that sounds so morbid, but I’ve accepted the trade-off. Thanks for your concern, Beckie 💕

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