Among the things I hate to admit is the fact that I truly believe ECT is helping me. How can something so uncomfortable and dreaded have such a positive result?
I had ECT yesterday. I make myself physically ill with the anticipation leading up to it, and I know I have to totally clear my calendar for that day because I will be useless when I get home. For starters, I can’t eat anything for 12 hours prior to the appointment because otherwise I tend to throw up and it’s not pretty. Upon arriving for my session, I take a cognitive response test to make sure I’m “with it” enough to go through with the therapy. I take a shot of oral meds to help increase the level of my seizures, and then another to keep my stomach acids from roiling. Then I take a pill that falls in the same category as Dramamine to keep me from tossing up the rest of the meds.
After I’m plugged into the IV, I’m rolled on a stretcher into the “electricity room” (my name, not theirs…..) and get hooked up to be zapped. I am put under general anesthesia every time (47 times now, but who’s counting!). But none of that is the part that I consider uncomfortable. It’s how I feel when I wake up.
I’ve not seen myself in a mirror following ECT, but I have a fairly good idea of how I look. Frazzled, drugged, unable to comprehend. But I know how I feel, and it’s not pretty. I feel dizzy and nauseous, and I typically have a terrible headache. The 7-mile ride home in the car is almost too long, because I feel so nauseous and cannot hold up my head. Yesterday I actually fell out of the car when I opened the door. I need assistance getting in and out of the vehicle, and the only reason I brave the stairs to get to my bed is because I don’t want my children to see me post-ECT. It’s scary and ugly and sad. So I receive help getting up that staircase and collapse in my bed unconscious for at least another 4-5 hours. If I don’t sleep through the night, I might get up to find something to eat. But I typically don’t have much of an appetite and it’s tough to move around once I’m up. I eat simply because I need the nutrition and hydration; otherwise, I’d stay in bed.
Halfway through the night following ECT, I often wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck, because every muscle in my body aches. I’ve been told that’s because of the seizures. And when I wake the following morning, sometimes my head feels a little thick.
But surprisingly, that’s it. Most often, I wake up and feel great. I feel positive and alert. And when I consider what I’d gone through the previous day, I’m always surprised at how great I really do feel. The nausea and extreme fatigue are gone, the anxiety and darkness leading up to knowing I needed to return to ECT is gone. I feel really good. It’s amazing how many things in life start off badly, only to be good for you somewhere farther down the line. I find myself doing this a lot lately: trying something hard and distasteful, hoping for a good result. And ECT is a good example of this. I hate it. I truly hate the anticipation and anxiety leading up to it, and all of the nasty discomfort and pain that follows for about a day. And then I’m good for 5-6 weeks before I am the one to decide it’s time to go back. The good feeling is addicting. And I’m willing to go through the bad to get to that feeling. I’m willing to do that in all aspects of my life.