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.

    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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