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Old 09-05-2019, 09:41 AM   #1
BirdDancer
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Default ECT Experiences

Have you ever had ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)? How well did it work for you? What were your other experiences, related to ECT? Does anyone who hasn't had ECT have questions for those of us that have?

Depressions are episodes I have definitely had off and on throughout my life, since about 15 years old. However, I wouldn't say that depressions have dominated in my bipolar experience. I recall an inpatient psychiatrist recommending I have ECT about a year or so before I did (maybe nine and a half years ago). That was during a severe mixed episode. I refused, quite adamantly. It was only after the extended pure depression that followed that I agreed, and likely because my trusted private psychiatrist recommended it.

I had my first treatment outpatient. My husband took me. I was obviously scared, but the ECT psychiatrist had gone over many details. You can't eat for hours before the procedure, and shouldn't drink too much for at least an hour or so before. Therefore, the procedures were done in the morning. Where I was, there were several patients getting the ECT. We were almost set up in an assembly line in beds separated by curtains. People before me got the procedure. Soon before mine, they set me up with heart monitor, some kind of blood pressure sleeves on my arm and near my ankle (no socks on) and then the electrodes on head with a gel-like stuff under them. Very soon before, I was given the muscle relaxant and anesthesia medication intravenously. I became unconscious almost immediately. I had unilateral treatments (electric currents focus on one side of brain), while some people have bilateral (ditto but both sides of the brain). The unilateral is supposed to cause fewer memory issues than bilateral, but may be slightly less effective for some.

After my treatments, I would stay in the bed for a bit after regaining consciousness. Then I was led to the recovery room, where they gave me a beverage and snack and checked my vital signs again and asked me various questions to test my cognitive abilities. They generally want someone to take you home and be with you for hours after anesthesia.

I decided that I wanted to continue my ECT inpatient because my husband couldn't take the time off. I went in almost immediately after my first treatment. After the first, I remember having a sore throat. I'm not sure why. Maybe because of the intubation that helped me breath when unconscious and with the muscle relaxant. That's the only side effect I had THAT time.

After about three or four more treatments, given every other day, I did notice some memory issues, but very minor. By my fifth treatment, I noticed an improvement in my mood (less depression). I received two more (a total of seven) treatments inpatient. Then I went home. They wanted me to have "maintenance" ECT, but I confess that I refused because a) I felt much better, b) I still had no one to take me for outpatient treatments, and c) because my memory issues did become slightly disturbing.

My memory issues were not NOT bad. I definitely didn't forget anything in my life that happened prior to my first few treatments. The time during the remaining ECT treatments was fuzzy. Also, even after returning home some issues were noticed. Little stuff, though. For example, I forgot how my husband took his coffee. I forgot how to get to the place I got blood tests (hubby had to take me to remind me). Also, I forgot that I had stopped drinking alcohol. But in all of these cases, little reminders brought back the memories. My husband said that my minor memory issues lingered on for a few months.

I really should have gotten the maintenance treatments, because my depression slowly returned. But I was stubborn not to continue ECT. It took a while, but my psychiatrist did eventually find a whole new medication cocktail for me that finally worked. I believe that the ECT made that possible, but again, if I had it to do over again, I would have had at least a few more treatments.

I would have ECT again, if I was ever seriously depressed or in mental health crisis that was best helped by it. I do see ECT as a last resort treatment, though.

I look forward to hearing from others on this to learn about any differences or similarities in other experiences. If anything has changed in the ECT procedures, or I remember the experience a bit incorrectly, please say.
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Old 09-06-2019, 08:37 AM   #2
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

I know other people here have had ECT. I'd love to hear other experiences. Or if you haven't had it, what do think about it?
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Old 09-09-2019, 02:12 AM   #3
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

I had 15 ect treatments spread out in two ip stays earlier this year. Never again! The memory loss was terrible. It wasnít something I asked for. A new pdoc I didnít know suggested it strongly for my depression bc nothing was helping med wise. I felt lost so I consented. Never again!

I hated it!
And it didnít help me so I quit it. Their suggestions??! Oh
Just keeping getting treatments til youíre better. After all that I went back to my regular pdoc and within. Week of med chAnges I was stable.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:09 PM   #4
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

I started ECT in March of 2015. To begin I had a couple weeks of treatments every other day for the intensive introductory series. It may even have been three weeks of that schedule, I don't remember. After that my schedule was increasingly spaced out to the point that now my maintenance treatments come every four weeks.

BirdDancer has described the procedure well. I would only add that since they are inducing a seizure in your brain they also monitor your brainwaves to determine the length of the seizure and thus the success of the procedure. In fact, I once had a seizure of only a few seconds, well under a minute, so my doc kept me hooked up and induced a second one. That one was closer to my usual 90 second response and she was happy with it.

The other thing that is different in my experience from BirdDancer's is the fact that I get bilateral treatments. Unilateral, when we've tried it, simply didn't do anything for me. Yes, bilateral seems to create more and bigger memory holes, but I consider that a reasonable trade-off.

Given that unilateral has grown into the industry standard (though bifrontal is also gaining popularity) if anyone has questions about bilateral I'm happy to field them.
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Old 09-17-2019, 06:26 AM   #5
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

Thanks so much for sharing, Daonnachd and HALLIEBETH!
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Old 09-17-2019, 07:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

I haven't had ECT, but if I slam down into another depression this autumn like I did last year and ended up IP, I'm asking my pdoc to arrange ECT for me. I can't do another one like last year.
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Old 09-17-2019, 07:52 AM   #7
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

Quote:
Originally Posted by BethRags View Post
I haven't had ECT, but if I slam down into another depression this autumn like I did last year and ended up IP, I'm asking my pdoc to arrange ECT for me. I can't do another one like last year.
I hope it doesn't come to that, BethRags, but it's good to have a couple options on the table.
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Old 09-19-2019, 10:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BirdDancer View Post
I know other people here have had ECT. I'd love to hear other experiences. Or if you haven't had it, what do think about it?

I haven't had ECT but once while IP, I was told to get a shower quickly because they were taking me for ECT. As soon as I got the water on, he came back and said nevermind that they got the wrong person.
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Old 09-20-2019, 08:13 AM   #9
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moose72 View Post
I haven't had ECT but once while IP, I was told to get a shower quickly because they were taking me for ECT. As soon as I got the water on, he came back and said nevermind that they got the wrong person.
Oh my goodness! That's kind of scary that they might have made such a mix up, Moose. I'm glad they finally realized their mistake.
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Old 09-22-2019, 05:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: ECT Experiences

Quote:
Originally Posted by BirdDancer View Post
I hope it doesn't come to that, BethRags, but it's good to have a couple options on the table.
Thank you, Birdie.

I hear a lot about the ECT memory loss, but meds cause memory loss, too. ECT still has so much stigma attached to it. Odd.
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