Life after ECT. Much different, but better

This is my success story.. I hope others can share the same.

I’ve said it many times. ECT saved my life. In 2008, I went into a horrible episode of depression I couldn’t get out of, a crash from mania. I was in college, up north, and crashed, hard. I stopped eating, I lost a good deal of weight, and I was struggling to survive. I was SI’ing once a day, at least, and living in residence with one other person in a 6 bedroom apartment. We never really talked, she wasn’t there much.. Because “old res” wasn’t so full as “new res” a lot of people lived like we did, only a couple of people in the 6 bedroom apartments. So fortunately, we had our own bathrooms, we never saw each other in the kitchen, we stayed out of each others way.


My pdoc, 4 hours away, suggested ECT, and I said no, I wanted to try an MAOI. Everything else had pooped out. So I washed out the effexor in my system, and tried Parnate. No change. I got more depressed. I started dropping classes, and withdrew, tearfully, from that college, never to go back. Thinking about it upsets me, and I never want to go back. I had my first psychotic break there a year before, and then that. So I won’t go back there, even though they’re the only ones that offer that program. Fuck it. Not going back. Too many bad memories.





The college I’ll never return to.

I was immediately hospitalized. For months I waited for the referral to the hospital doing the ECT. I got it. They tried me on different meds, and eventually my pdoc there, Dr Br (my GP is Dr B) and I brought up ECT. After a physical and tests on my heart (as I had tachycardia from Cymbalta at one point, bad, just an EKG, echo and Holter monitor) they did ECT. One session bilateral, the rest unilateral. The ECT doc ,I forget his name, had assessed me for hours before the physicals and stuff. They did the ECT, which was rather anticlimatic. There was no pain except a mild headache after. I only took tylenol for it, and they’d let me sleep all day. I was treated twice a week. The ECT nurse that took us to the general hospital (as this was a strictly psychiatric one) by cab or the hospital van, was outgoing, friendly, and let us bum smokes off her, since we were told to leave possessions at the hospital.


No, I’m not the sexy man getting an echo :*(

It wasn’t a negative experience. The staff at the General was always very nice. They kept a lot of students away, set up an IV, took us to Recovery, around 5am, and we’d watch the TV until it was our turn. My one roommate had just finished ECT and raved about how much it helped her, how gentle the nurses were with the IV. She was practically catatonic and bed ridden before the ECT. After, she was joining our other roommate and I in the art room and painting beautiful flowers, attending groups, and eating. I had thought she was physically disabled, but she was a lovely woman. She made me feel much better about it, and she and my other roommate, after my treatments, when I was wiped from the anaesthesia and muscle relaxants, they’d bring me food (food wasn’t on trays there, it was buffet style, and I gained my weight back on my own, no doctors telling me to) and snacks, and hang out with me. By supper I’d be raring to go, I’d eat in the dining room, a bit foggy still.




An ECT procedure. Not me.

The procedure I don’t remember. There’d be a mask over my face, warm blankets on me, the anaesthesiologist would tell me he was putting me under, I didn’t feel anything from it, and I’d wake up and we’d have a some juice, muffins and a smoke while waiting for our escort, and go back. I wouldn’t officially meet with my pdoc those days, but he’d check on me in my room and if I was awake, talk a bit, if I was asleep, he’d let me sleep. They treated us well there. Best treatment at that hospital I’ve ever had.



After 6 sessions, it was stopped, and my meds were reduced, and restarted. I was taking about 1/4 of the pills a day as before, and still am. The depression was gone. I was discharged after my assessment was done, August 1, 2008. After the ECT was discontinued, I was able to attend groups, go to the gym in the hospital and even play baseball outside on the night’s they had it. I can still hit, but I suck at everything else. I kept my weight up, they diagnosed me, they discharged me with the plan to my pdoc in my city, and 2 weeks later, I was working part time at a Tim Horton’s in my city.



A view from above of the hospital I stayed at. Huge grounds. Nice place.

After that I moved out of my parents, a few months later, and up north a bit to a friends. Things didn’t go well, and 8 months later I was back with my parents. It was during the summer, so I applied to college and got in for Computer Engineering. I hadn’t had a true depressive episode, only situational: like when my beloved grandma passed away that summer. I almost ended up admitted to the hospital, but they recommended I see a therapist. I found one on a sliding scale and talked about my grief. It helped. I got accepted to college and started in the January semester in Computer Engineering Technician, one of the more difficult programs.



Long story short, even though I failed a course (I underestimated the course and put too much work into others and not enough into that one, oops) and graduated a year late, almost dropping out a few times, I made it through college with one stay at Safebed’s, the alternative to a psychiatric hospital, with only counsellors on staff. I saw my pdoc twice in my week there. I had the Mirena IUD, which caused a lot of problems, at the time, so I had that removed. Things changed a lot without it, the mood swings, for one. I react badly to hormones it seems. My aunt, who isn’t MI, had the same mood swings with the Mirena and had to have it removed, too. It took a lot of fighting to get rid of it!


This stupid thing caused so many problems!

For school, I didn’t find it any different than before ECT. I didn’t do a lot of studying at home, and I pulled good grades. My memory wasn’t affected. I graduated with a B+ average because of one bad grade in a class, and I had a good counsellor at the college during my time there. He busted my ass. He was nice, but he wouldn’t let me get away with anything. He was always on me for not working hard enough. I did what I had to do to get decent grades. I was about in the middle of my class, and graduation day, I got a lot of congrats from my professors and a few letters of recommendation. I even, when I came back to redo my class, got offered a job as a peer tutor for 2 classes, which I took! Graduation day was pretty cool. Only 15 people in my course graduated, we started with 50.



Me, on graduation day, right before I shaved my hair into a mohawk. I didn’t do it before to please my mom. Then I added a few more piercings. I wanted to look good for her. 🙂

I didn’t get a job straight out of college, but I moved out of my parents, found a boyfriend, and had a lot of friends. I’ve had my ups and downs, but the highs aren’t as high, the low’s aren’t as low, nowhere near to that horrible episode up north when I had nothing in front of me, where I thought I was letting everyone down and had nowhere to turn. I haven’t really worked since college, but I have the diploma. I’ve done odd jobs, I do computer programming and some repairs, and I help my mom out because she’s in the same field. I just suck at networking (the class I failed and retook, fortunately, with a different prof. Oh, I failed it by 2%. If I had failed it by 1%, I would have grade appealed and graduated in 2011, not 2012).



Part of why I hate networking.

I still struggle. If I needed ECT, I’d do it again. Right now, I’m doing well. I’m hoping I can work part time this summer, if my pdoc approves it, so I can save some money for the future. I’m thinking about college for pharmacy technician. ECT for me was a lifesaver ,my last resort, and it helped a LOT. Times around it are fuzzy, I wouldn’t do it during school, I would have taken a leave of absence, but it did help a helluva lot more than the constant med switching did.


I had a nurse ,when I was IP last March, go “They don’t do ECT on bipolar patients!”. What a derp. I said “Bipolar people do get depressed, you know” and she goes “Yes they do” and walks off. I do tell people IRL. Some think its scary, traumatic, inhumane. I tell them of my experience, they say, “I never would have known.” I say, “Well, you do now.” One old college buddy says my nickname should have been “Gr33nm1l3″ (the horrible movie with the electric chair, horrible joke, but we have that kind of sense of humour, I laughed, sorry if it offends) because its “so much more 31337 (hacker talk for elite) than “San”.




I hate the death penalty

But it was there when I needed it. I’m glad they still use it. It saved my life, and eventually, I hope, I’ll live a more normal life. I know my life will never be normal, I’ve accepted that.



That’s what I call a juice junky!

 I’m doing well. Not at 100% yet, probably never going to hit it, but going up. If it weren’t for ECT, I doubt I’d be here. I think my dice have rolled pretty well.


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