At The Doorstep
Electroconvulsive therapy. I've been aware of it for years.
I know it's been around for decades.
I know it's the most successful treatment for depression—ever.
My current doctor as well as several other doctors, nurses, counselors and therapists from the past have recommended it. When I went for the TMS treatments, the doctor in charge was strongly selling "ECT" as the treatment of choice. He's been treating people for years with this method and has seen the results. The positive results. At least that's what he told me.
My longtime perception of this treatment has been one of a cautious procrastination. It's something that's always been waiting in the wings as a last resort. It's a point I'm heading towards but I'll never get to because there's bound to be something less extreme to pull me up and out. There's gotta be a pill; a vitamin; an herb; a therapy; a miracle. That's been my flawed thinking for years and years.
After each failed medication, my doctor brings it up again. Each time I recoil. I can't conceive of this. How can I possibly be here? At its doorstep. Only crazy people get shock therapy. Only people who are suicidal or a danger to others. That's not me. It's not time yet.
My doctor has recommended ECT to several of her other patients and many have reported profound recoveries. I asked if it would be possible to speak to any of them because I've read countless nightmarish accounts on the Internet of memory loss, slurred speech, further brain damage, etc. There are even several organizations established to ban ECT because it's perceived as barbaric and dangerous. I don't know what to think.
She gave me the number of a lady. I'll call her K. Middle-aged, married with children. I waited a while to phone her. I was waiting for "the right time" whatever the hell that was. The right time came when I was at a very low point. I can't even remember what triggered it. It's so hard to keep track of all the low points. I actually texted her first so as not to catch her at a bad time. She didn't know what to make of this strange text. After a few more text exchanges it became clear to her who I was. When we spoke on the phone she was so glad I had called. She had been anticipating hearing from me and was eager to chat. We began exchanging our stories. K had been through unimaginable hell for years. Bedridden for months on end, divorced, had a miscarriage, was committed to hospitals, endured years of unending medications, etc. She hit depths that I've never comprehended. I felt ridiculous describing my pity party. I have no business whining about my situation because it's a walk on the beach compared to others' torturous existences.
She became passionate about helping me. ECT saved her life and she knew it would save mine as well. There were no regrets and she would do it again. There were no memory loss issues or debilitating side effects. She only wished she had done it sooner in her life. As I remember she mentioned she had ten or so treatments. K repeatedly and adamantly urged me to go through with it. She was determined to see me through and felt it was a divine occurrence that I had contacted her. She was convinced God sent me to her so she could help someone else. I was appreciative at first if not slightly put off by the religious overtones she was touting. I thanked her promising I would keep her posted.
It was good to speak to a real person who had gone through this treatment. All the anonymous Internet testimonials are suspect. This was the real deal that could feasibly change my perception of this scary treatment.
A couple of months later I hit a rough patch involving my wife. I was riddled with guilt because of some careless things that I had done to her. I was pretty distraught and had nowhere to turn for solace. I then thought to call K because I knew she would relate on some level.
This conversation was different than the first. Right off the bat she said she knew I was going to call and knew something was wrong. Put off again, I played along. I basically cried on her shoulder and vented to a total stranger. This time the religious overtones that were sprinkled into the first conversation completely hijacked this one. She revealed that God was talking to her right at that moment. She wanted me to accept that Jesus was going to steer me in the right direction. I stopped her short and informed her I was Jewish and was not a believer. I also told her point blank that this sort of talk is a huge red flag for me. She replied that if I hadn't thought that of her she would have been very surprised. She gets that a lot apparently. She compromised by refraining from using the name Jesus and dismissed the religious differences because we "believe in the same god anyway." I wanted to lash out at such an ignorant remark but restrained myself because her intentions were sincere and she was genuinely trying to help. So again, I played along. I was too exasperated to squabble over religion. She asked if she could pray for me. I obliged feeling as though I had just driven a bus into a wall. She went on and on about casting demons from my soul and how "god" will cause a miracle for me. I just let her perform her faith healing session as long as she wanted. It really didn't matter anymore.
It was a long, tearful, disappointing conversation for me. I realized who and what she was, and— well, it figured—after all I was speaking to someone who was admittedly mentally unstable so it shouldn't have surprised me. Though ECT "saved her life," she attributed most of her recovery to a divine miracle and that's where we parted. I haven't called her since. Not because of the religious babble, but because there hasn't been anything to report regarding ECT. I haven't yet committed to a decision. If I do, I might contact her again. She'll tell me she knew that anyway.
Another ECT patient who I'll call J wasn't as talkative as K but he did highly recommend ECT. He's had dozens of treatments with no regrets. He did say he experienced temporary memory loss but it came back after a couple of weeks. When we discussed the meds we had each taken, he surprised me by saying he was currently on ELEVEN drugs. Even with the ECT treatments he has to be medicated with a huge antidepressant cocktail that he is resigned to for the rest of his life. I felt pathetic admitting I was on 2. So here again is another REAL individual who raves about ECT.
As I write this, it's a few days before the holidays of which... surprise... I loathe, so there's no way I can pursue ECT until after the first of the year. I have several more weeks to ponder this. I can't help but to feel it will be a mistake to go through with it. I fear it won't work or it will do irreversible damage that will only make things worse. If I choose to move forward with it, I'll have to figure out how to take some sort of medical leave from work and an explanation for it. I'll also have to find transportation because you're not allowed to drive after each treatment. But I don't want anyone to know. I don't know what to do. I need someone to decide for me.