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I’m Not Depressed (For The First Time Ever)

…and I have my electroconvulsive therapy doctors to thank for that.

I know ECT is controversial. However, there’s no denying its effectiveness, regardless of whether you think it’s morally alright to purposefully induce seizures in a person repeatedly. (For a rundown of what ECT is, check out the post I wrote about it here.)

There are many drawbacks to doing ECT, none of which I will be sorry to bid farewell to when I complete my course of treatment. The headaches, the indigestion, the whole days spent waking up from anesthetic; not to mention my flaky memory, and the boredom of being stuck at home because I can’t drive.

In short, the point I want to make is that ECT is a major inconvenience. I won’t miss fasting three nights a week, or driving 45 minutes one way to the hospital.

That being said, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I have been depressed since I was 12 years old. That means I’ve been dealing with a mood disorder every damn day for ten years, which, as you might imagine, is exhausting. It’s easy, in that period of time, to begin to believe that you’ll never recover. That belief is perpetuated by a relentless, bombarding depression that attacks day in and day out for years. A person in that scenario, which I have been for the past decade, begins to naturally adapt to their mood-disordered lifestyle. For example, the oldest music I can remember listening to is goth rock because it matched my gloomy outlook on life. I still know all the words to all those songs, and I listen to them when I need to hear something familiar. They bring me a certain comfort that cheerful music has never been able to produce for me.  

So, given my history of doom-and-gloom, imagine what must have gone through my mind the first time someone told me about electroconvulsive therapy. Here was this seemingly miraculous treatment that worked on even the most stubborn cases of medicine-resistant depression. When I heard about ECT, I wasn’t thinking about any reluctance to submit myself to general anesthetic, or whether I wanted to go through multiple seizures.

I wasn’t thinking “Oh, I hope I don’t have to do that.” I was thinking, “Thank God, there’s a last resort I can try if all else fails.

The worst thing that could possibly happen is if I had to go through more of the same. The same depression, the same hopelessness, the same constant melancholia. From the moment I realized that drugs weren’t working very well on my mood disorder, I was acutely aware of the possibility that nothing might ever fix me. Suicide was the only option left in that horrible eventuality, and I’ve been preparing myself to take it for ten years.

And then, a scientific miracle happened: ECT.

Granted, it is a last resort treatment. There aren’t many options that exist for treating a patient who’s ECT resistant. And it’s so inconvenient that patients are strongly encouraged to try other alternatives before resorting to ECT, like pharmaceuticals and talk therapy.   

But, in a case like mine where those first-line treatments have already proven themselves to be ineffective, ECT is an obvious option, and I will fight tooth and claw to defend its place in the medical repertoire. When practiced correctly, it’s perfectly safe. While there is a risk of complications happening any time anesthesia is involved, I would argue that not performing ECT dooms a person to an even worse, much more certain fate: perpetual depression.

One more time, for the people in the back: I would rather die on the operating table than face an entire lifetime with a diseased brain.

And so, while I won’t miss the electroconvulsive treatments once they’re done, I will always be extremely grateful that they existed as a treatment option for me. I never realized until this past healthy month what life could really be like without depression. Staying awake every day, feeling like a whole person, not feeling tempted to hurt myself – these are the trademarks of a healthy existence. These are the reasons why people are motivated to stay alive. I understand that now.

I understand that now.

18 thoughts on “I’m Not Depressed (For The First Time Ever)

  1. Was your depression the logical result of a situation you found yourself in?
    A situation that prevents therapy and/or meds to work as long as it isn’t resolved?

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    1. No, my depression has always been the result of biology, not my surroundings. Even when everything is going well around me, I can still be miserable, and it’s because my brain chemistry is messed up, not because of something that’s happening externally to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So sorry to hear your history of almost perpetual depression. A dire outlook indeed!
    My mom had ECT some years ago with equally good results.

    Hoping the best!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your first hand experience of ECT and the explaination for how it works.
    Prior to these posts, all ECT meant to me was something akin to leeches; something tried in the past that we grew out of.

    I’m glad that it is working for you, are the effects meant to be long term / permanent, or will you need ongoing (even if infrequent) treatments to maintain the results?

    Again, thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. You’re absolutely welcome. Thank you for reading. 🙂 I don’t know if I’ll need future treatments to maintain the ECT’s antidepressant effects. I hope not, but even if I do, there are worse things. Again, I’m just glad there’s SOMETHING out there that will take care of my symptoms, even if it’s only for a short time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Have you heard about TMS as an alternative? There’s no anesthesia, no side effects for me and diving is fine. Transcranial magnetic stimulation. I did ECT as well, TMS is much better. Do some research.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I looked into this twenty years ago and couldn’t get it done . It’s too late for me but I’m thrilled for you and Anyone who can benefit. Drug resistant depression , a life time of it is/has been a relentless nightmare for me and I’m sure many many others

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  6. Bravo Zoe,
    I feel like you are going to be ok, if only for the fact that you were finally able to feel the darkness lift. Even if it is for a short time, you now know it is attainable. I lost someone very close to me that was never able to feel relief and believed she never would. So I will take your words close to me, telling myself that this too is how she too would have felt. Thank you for sharing…

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  7. Zoe: I had to comment, because this is so much like my life. Except 20 years on down the road. I don’t expect to be fixed, and I’m not entirely sure I want to be–my depression is part of who I am. A couple of years ago, I had to go under general anesthesia for gallbladder surgery. Oddly, I had almost complete relief from symptoms for about a year before the veil began to descent again.
    I would seriously pay just to have a hospital knock me out once a year.
    There’s a ketamine clinic not too far from me, but they apparently do not tailor treatments; I was informed I’d be paying $300 for the consult and $1000 for each of 6 treatments. What if I don’t need that many? Too bad. That’s the treatment. I’m very glad that the ECT has helped! I know how strange that feels-to not have the depression-but to know that the side effects are still worth it means that I have a (slightly different) backup plan.

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