I was 34 or 35 when I made a decision that changed my entire life. I had been depressed for months, and was prescribed all kinds of different medications, none of which worked. Finally, my psychiatrist proposed electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), aka shock treatment.
Before you cringe, know that ECT is administered humanely to candidates deemed fit for the treatment. It’s not done willy-nilly to whichever patient on the unit is “misbehaving.” Medication and anesthesia are given to the patient — it doesn’t happen while you are awake. (If you’d like to know the procedure I went through for outpatient ECT, click here.)
The decision to try ECT was not made lightly. I was warned about the side effects, mainly memory loss. My doctor called the procedure a last resort, and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. So I decided to do it.
It has helped improve my mood whenever I have treatments (they don’t just do it once). However, I don’t think ECT made me feel “not depressed.” Better mood? To be sure. Remission? No. (Lithium did that. For me.)
The memory loss is more than I imagined it would be. I’ve forgotten many things from my past, such as my honeymoon, helping my dad move across the country. Not only can’t I remember what movies I’ve seen or books I’ve read, but when I’m reminded, I don’t even know if I liked them.
The worst is the short-term memory loss. These are things like, if I’m counting something (like crochet stitches) and someone interrupts, I’ll completely forget where I left off counting. I have a stitch counter, but sometimes the project has more than 99 stitches, which is as high as the counter goes.
Or I’ll be in the middle of a conversation, and then I’ll totally forget what I wanted to say. Like I had the thought in my head one second, but the next second, it’s gone — like losing your train of thought. It makes conversing difficult and embarrassing. I’m always fumbling for the right words, or the thoughts I want to convey.
Other times it’s forgetting how to do something. For example, I crochet, and whatever I’m making is composed of individual stitches. If I haven’t crocheted for about 2 months, I’ll have forgotten how to do the basic stitches, and have to watch a tutorial.
Maybe none of this sounds bad, but let me tell you: it.is.hell. Do I regret the decision to go through ECT (multiple times throughout the years)? If I’m honest, I don’t know. I was told that my memory would improve with time, but it’s been 2 years since my last treatment, and it hasn’t. I’m learning to live with the memory loss, and it’s hard.
Have you made a decision that changed your life? What was it?