Ect Successful But At A Price

I was at the lowest point of my severe depression. I could barely respond verbally I was so depressed. I told my doctor I was desperate and that the meds weren't working. We agreed to try ECT.

The closest hospital that did ECT was three hours away. I drove up there and was admited for about a week. During that time I had three courses of ECT. It really wasn't very stressful (at least at first). I improved dramatically after about the third treatment. My depression was almost completely gone. I checked out of the hospital and went home. I continued to drive to the hospital for out-patient ECT, multiple times a week. I drove and my wife drove me back home after the treatments. The waiting room was the worst. I usually had to wait between 1-3 hours. You tend to get anxious waiting. Sometimes before the treatment, I'd be so anxious they'd have to give me something to calm my nerves. That was silly since you don't feel anything at all but your mind plays tricks on you and makes it worse than it actually is.

I had a total of 12 treatments when I decided I was tired of driving three hours. My doctor wanted me to have 18 but I quit early. The positive effects lasted for about 6 months then slowly wore off. I was still much better off than I was. I was able to function again at work and it's only three years later that I'm strongly considering another course of treatment. I think had I been on a good series of meds, the positive effects would have lasted much longer.

The only downside was the memory loss. My memory during the entire time I was doing ECT is very poor and has large gaps that are permanently gone. I can't remember going to certain parties, meeting certain people, seeing movies, reading books, etc... I'm not aware of the memory loss until someone brings up something they expect I should remember. The memories are just absolutely gone never to return. I forgot how to do a few things at my IT job but I quickly relearned them.

My coworkers never knew what I was being treated for. I'm not about to tell them except my closest friends. I just tell them I have some memory problems and they take that at face value.

I'd do it again and probably will. I responded very well to the treatments. The price is the memory loss. But I'll take memory loss anyday over just sitting in a rocking chair unable to respond to my wife and son. I still have memory problems today but I blame the depression and not the ECT. I know some would claim that ECT has damaged my brain and reduced my ability to remember things and perhaps even lowered my IQ. Perhaps. But the more likely explanation is the depression which causes those things.

If you're severely depressed and not responding to meds, don't continue to suffer. Give ECT a try. Not everybody responds to it but those that do are usually very pleased with the results. It can literally give you your life back. It certainly did for me.
geophory geophory
36-40, M
4 Responses Aug 30, 2010

The price for life over temporary memory loss is worth it.

I still debate that to myself... To this day I still struggle with memory issues because of the ECT. I have to write everything down or I'll immediately forget. It's not debilitating but more of a "mild-disability" that I can work around. It's frustrating though. I strongly suspect that some part of my brain has been damaged to a minor degree otherwise this wouldn't be happening. I know a lot of doctors would disagree with that but it's been my reality post-ECT.

But yes, ECT did save my life.

You're right of course. I am very happy to have my depression mostly gone. I can function at a very high level now. My short term memory is better. Still not perfect but improving each month. Some of my long term memories have returned in bits and pieces. I can live with that. Still can't remember my wedding but I'm told it was nice. :)<br />
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My current goal with the doctor is to stabilize where I'm at. By continually adjusting my meds I think we're succeeding this time. If I were to fall back into deep depression again for the third time I'm not sure I'd do ECT again. I've had a total of 21 treatments and I couldn't face any more treatments. Too scary for me. You'd think I'd get used to it but I never did. I knew people who were able to have more than 90 treatments. I don't know how they did that. But they never gave up and it did help them for a while.<br />
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Having said all that I am happy I did it twice. I'm 100% better off than I was before the treatments. I pray every night the depression doesn't return. I try very hard to eliminate stress and insomnia that can trigger another episode. I try to be alive and do the things I enjoy which I could never do during the depression. I'm quite thankful now.

How are you doing now? Has the depression come back? I hope things are still going well. This was posted a while ago.

It's a little funny that I don't even remember posting the above story. My second course of ECT (which I started in December) wiped those months from my mind.<br />
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The second course of ECT caused me to lose more long term memories. I can't remember my wedding, my previous house, my wife having a miscarriage and more. Bits and pieces sometimes come back when someone tells me something I'm supposed to remember. My short term memory is completely shot. Often times I can't remember what I did yesturday. My short-term memory seems to be very slowly returning.<br />
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Would I do ECT a third time? No way. Am I sorry I did it two times, probably not. It did eliminate my depression but at a high price.

I am sorry to hear the downside and I can imagine the memory cost/benefit burden... But focus on the fact that you are alive! Depression is/can be a fatal disease and people who get to the point of ECT are at that cross roads. You've lost many precious memories, but you were given the gift of hope and being able to make many more precious memories. It doesn't take away the sting of the hard parts, but that's what I try to tell myself...

Thank you for this. I am at that crossroads and I feel like I am the walking dead. If I have to give up memories to feel alive again and interested and like I have any energy, I will be grateful for ECT.

I too have been treated for severe depression with ECT both as an inpatient and an outpatient. My memory is shot to the point where I no longer work (a am now receiving Disability). However, I too got my life back. I'm able to actually enjoy living now. After weighing the pros and the cons of ECT vs. being depressed, I'm not sorry. I'm not even sure I'd be here had it not been for ECT.

Was it hard to get on disability? I had to get ECT to fix the suicidal depression that Paxil gave me in 99 and It took until 2009 for me to finally give up on trying to maintain working. I got worse over time until I just cant work full time or sometimes at all. It took away the chemically induced depression within 3 treatments but I've never been the same or even felt fully human and suffer from short term memory loss, some long term and a whole host of other mood things after all this...

I didn't have any problem getting on disability. I had a good psychiatrist who was very supportive and instrumental in my getting approval. It took 4 months from the time i first applied until getting approval. There was tons of paperwork which my husband had to help me with doing. I don't remember any of it but recently found the notebook with copies of all my correspondence with Social Security. It's an inch thick. I'd contact Social Security for more info as a place to start. They have some pamphlets that might help. Also talk to your doctor about it if you have one.

It's hard enough not being able to work let alone having to struggle financially, so I say it's worth the effort. Good luck.

I am on SSDI due to long-term issues with bipolar depressive disorder and it sucks. I really don't care what memories I lose at this point - if only I can lose this headache feeling of a firestorm going on in my brain where I am just suffering and struggling through every day in spite of practicing Ashtanga yoga five days a week, taking supplements, meditation, taking meds, not taking meds. I'm sick of it. I'd rather have relief than memories. In fact, I've been depressed so long due to so many jerks coming and going in my life as well, I'd be happy to forget bad experiences that I feel triggered ever worsening episodes, as extra stress tends to do.