Life Decision

Photo credit: niftyniall on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

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: 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?

9 thoughts on “Life Decision

  1. My hat goes off to you Barb for having that done. Would I ever consider having that done? well I would have to say no. I really hope your memory starts to improve🤞🏻

    My memory is shot to bits, but I think that’s just my age 😂 funny thing is…I can remember things from 20/30 years ago, but I can’t remember what I said 5 minutes ago 😩😂

    1. Yes, I can’t remember what I said 5 minute ago lol I don’t blame you for not wanting to go through ECT.

  2. I also opted for ECT while in the depths of an untreatable/unresponsive bipolar depression. It did me such good that I have continued with it every four weeks ever since starting several years ago. It has served me well, but like you, my memory has suffered.

  3. Wow, Barb… I can see that ECT did work wonders for you, but I don’t think I would want to go in that direction. (Based on fear). I already have enough problems with memory loss now, I don’t think I would want to push the envelope and make my memory worsen.
    Like you, I crochet (Fall & Winter Months) I too normally have to go to tutorials to get jump started.
    The mid-talking memory loss scares me the most. I could be in mid-sentence making a point about something, and “Poof” gone in seconds. It’s very unnerving.
    I feel so badly for you to have lost so many cherished memories though. I can’t imagine not remembering my honeymoon. It all seems so sad.

    1. Yes — that mid-talking memory loss is awful. I don’t blame you for not wanting to go through ECT.

  4. Oops… I forgot to include a decision that changed my life. (See…That memory thing, duh?)
    The biggest decision was when I was suicidal. On August 14, 2015, I finally realized that drinking was one of the main factors that would push me to succeed in killing myself. My mother and I were on the phone and I was hysterical crying to the point of not being able to catch my breath. She finally convinced me it was time I went into the hospital. August 16, 2015. I was admitted. Not just for alcoholism, but it was then when I learned I had a mental illness, and disorders.
    My stopping drinking was by far the best choice I ever made in my life. I can’t believe it’s coming up on my four-year sobriety date soon. It all still seems so fresh in my mind of what I was like prior to stopping, but in a good way. I never want to be the person I was ever again.

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