No, I’m not suicidal. At least I don’t think I am. I am scheduled for a 21st ECT tomorrow, but am authorized to call it off and schedule for Thursday instead if I don’t have any symptoms. Which means I’d be down to once a week – and I’d be allowed to drive again. So am I suicidal? Am I paranoid? Am I depressed?
The doctors think the irrational fear manifesting as paranoia is part of the cognitive side effects of ECT. So the presence of some paranoia is not cause for having a treatment tomorrow. I don’t think I’m depressed either; I have been highly motivated to do things and be social this weekend, and my mood is elevated. I don’t believe we’re in hypomania territory either.
Finally there is the ever-present suicidal ideation. They are just thoughts that pop into my head and are easily dismissed, even plans or the occasional desire for death. I’m not ruminating on death or desiring it as I think about it. The desire and intent to follow through just isn’t present. So, yes, I’m having suicidal thoughts – as is usual for me – but I’m not depressed, and the plan(s) are only theoretical, not action plans.
In fact I’m re-reading Night Falls Fast by Kay Redfield Jamison, about understanding suicide. This read through I’m not looking for ideas or plans or reassurance – or even a reason Not to kill myself. I don’t have a suicidal perspective. My mind is approaching the topic as a curiosity: why would someone think such thoughts or consider such actions? What psychopathology do I manifest when I’m thinking of suicide or taking actions toward it? And while I look with curiosity, thoughts of suicide do pop in and out and I wonder if I am thinking too seriously of suicide and need an ECT treatment tomorrow. My mind’s perspective is not suicidal though, even though I have energy and drive to follow through on plans. I don’t desire death. And, in fact, I wish to desire life. So sometimes I do desire life, and sometimes I wish I did in the midst of suicidal thoughts popping in and out.
But I don’t think I need a treatment tomorrow!
Today I had my 13th ECT treatment. My depression continues to improve! I’ve had 3 ECT’s each week of the last several weeks. My brain is rewiring itself with the seizures, and symptoms are going away. Appetite and sleep are good now when they weren’t a couple weeks ago. Concentration is getting better, and psychomotor agitation and suicidal thoughts have dissipated. I still feel depressed or down every day, and have low energy. I think I’m about 90% better. And the gains are solid through non-ECT days too. Starting next week I’ll be having only 2 treatments each week and decreasing from there too.
Cognitively, the only side effect I’m having from ECT is some aphasia and some slowness putting thoughts together into sentences. My memory is not affected at all this time with ECT. The doctor has been careful to only do right unilateral ECT and not bilateral or bifrontal ECT which led to memory problems last time.
My family is surrounding me with help during this treatment. My brother drives my mom and I to and from the hospital downtown. My mom accompanies me through the several waiting rooms, and I’m discharged to her care. She prepares a sack-breakfast for me for after ECT. She cooks dinners too. My dad cleans up the dinner dishes and the kitchen counters for me.
My therapist asked me what I thought life would be like once these treatments are over. I don’t know if I’ll want to move, and if so, to where – back to CA for geography and culture, back to Chicago area for support system, to somewhere local to the family’s house to remain with their support. I do expect more independence: cooking, laundry, cleaning. But I am considering the benefits of staying with family, living in community.
I have now had 8 ECT treatments. My short-term memory is just starting to be affected, but with prompts I can remember things ok. My mood is slowly getting better, though. I’m not thinking about suicide and I don’t seem to be wallowing in depression. But I’m not enjoying activities yet. So I’ll continue with ECT three times a week for at least another week or two before we taper the treatments down to once a week or so.
I wake up at 5:15am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for ECT and get a ride with my brother to the hospital which is in downtown Dallas near his workplace. My mom goes with me as you need to be released into an adult’s care after ECT. We wait in the hospital’s lobby for a couple hours before ECT and then an hour or so afterwards too until my brother comes to pick us up. Then I relax for the rest of the day to let my body come down from the seizure. I’m grateful my family is supporting me through this treatment and I don’t have to go through this alone.
Today I was stuck 4 times to get an I.V. started. It’s the first time it took more than one stick. Ouch!! The only other problem I’m having with ECT is lightheadedness upon standing. Could be the ECT or the anesthesia. It started after the 4th ECT and isn’t getting better.
17 days in the hospital, 3 ECT, 1 new med, 3 meds stopped, and 1 med in a different form. Its been a busy time in here! So far my responsiveness is better and brighter, as is my affect. My mood is a little higher than when I got here, and suicidal thoughts are more academic with less intent. Although, death is still appealing to me. It’s all progress, and I’ll take it! Best guess is that I’ll go home on Monday after ECT #5. Friday was a possibility but we’ll have a better sense of whether the treatments are working if there is sustained remission with the extra day over the weekend. And I’d like to be thinking about suicide less before going home since going home will increase anxiety which will increase suicidal thinking (how it works for me at least).
I’ve read 4 books so far and am a third of the way through a 5th. Watching tv a lot, since there are only 2 groups a day plus meals to occupy our time. Played some games, talked to people too. Such is life in a psych unit.
On Friday I had the first ECT in this series. It went smoothly with only the expected horrible all-over aches for two days now. I have the next three this week, Mon,Wed, Fri. When I am adjusted to the treatments AND I am no longer suicidal, I can move on into outpatient ECT treatments. Logistics for that is a bigger issue than it should be. Sigh. Family. Sigh.
I did not take on ECT lightly. I know I could lose more memories and cognitive function. But I can’t live with suicidal thoughts Every.Fucking.Day. I can’t live in the depths of despair Every Day. Medications are not and have not worked to keep me stable. Hospitals have lifted me out. Time with family has held a fall at bay. I have been told that ECT changes lives. I’m trying to have hope that it will change mine.
See, there’s a contradiction. Hope that it will change my life presupposes that I want to live. I don’t want to live suicidally depressed or cycling rapidly into and out of it. AND I have little hope at all that ANything can work. So death is my best option out of this quandary of hades’ making.
Want to know why I am still in the hospital then?
I have been staring into the abyss for two weeks. I have been very close to suicide, even in the hospital, where I am right now. I didn’t get to take my Chicago vacation because I was in a New And Good hospital. Excellent doctors and staff, comfy bed, decent food.
And still I struggle with life and death. It is deeply agonizing. Good doctors have taken me off three of my meds and added one. Med changes are miserable but usually necessary. One thing to discern is whether my suicidal visions are from depression or OCD, reopening an old argument. I want the death, but the visions come unbidden. So the argument remains.
With only a little persuasion, I have agreed to a full course of ECT – 12-20 sessions, three days a week. Yes, I have had bad experiences such as long-term memory loss and cognitive loss. I’m at the end of meds I can I can try. I’ve been told I’ve taken enough that I have a 5-10 percent chance of Any working at this point. I never did a full series of ECT before so I don’t know if it will work. I’m going risk further memory and cognitive issues because sometimes I want to live.
I need your love and support. I’m very alone at the edge of the abyss.
From my last post you know I was in the hospital – yet again. I think I am up to 35 hospitalizations in almost 8 years. I lost count once the number slipped over 30.
While in the hospital with severe depression this time, I noticed I was beating up on myself for (1) being depressed – again, and (2) being in the hospital – again. I believed each of these things meant I had failed, and therefore I was a bad person.
I brought this thinking pattern up to my therapist. I knew the conclusion was false, but I felt it to be true. I have been very judgmental about myself.
One of the questions my therapist asked me was whether I was taking care of myself before this hospitalization. I said I was. He pointed out that I was taking my meds, and I was keeping appointments with him and my psychiatrist. I agreed I was doing everything I could to feel better. Then I didn’t fail, he said. I had a reaction to a medication prescribed to me, and I still kept my appointment with him and went to the ER when told to do so. Apparently in Texas, there is no law about being detained by a professional if you are a danger to yourself or others. So I could have left at any time.
But I got help. I was taking care of myself and showing myself compassion, instead of judgment. I’m not very good at that usually. As I left my therapist said he doesn’t know any failures. I’ve been holding on to that.