Category Archives: ECT

A Resolution – Finally

I felt alone. It seemed everyone around me wanted me to continue with ECT. Yet it’s my decision. It’s my body. I live with the illness – and it’s consequences. I live with the treatments and the symptoms of anxiety they cause in me. Here is what I decided after several conversations with my therapist, my psychiatrist, the ECT team, and my mom. I even read medical journal articles.

I want my life back. I want the anxiety I’ve been living with to be back to reasonable levels that I know how to live with. My mood has been stable and my psychiatrist expects it to stay that way. I hope he is right! I’d like to learn how to live with a mood that experiences many emotions without dropping or accelerating into a mood state.

I decided NOT to do ECT anymore. I want to try medications again if my mood becomes depressed or manic again, or if I become suicidal. I have to get the port in my chest removed again since I no longer want to do ECT. (The port was used to access a vein so that nurses didn’t have to try multiple times per treatment to create an IV.) ECT has been helpful for getting my mood to baseline, and perhaps it would help in the future too. I’m just not sure, I don’t like the reaction I have to treatments (days of anxiety), and I’d rather work with pills. ECT had been a last resort when I started it last fall, and resumed it this spring and summer. I just don’t think it has to be my Go-To treatment method anymore.

I will be super vigilant about routine, schedule, taking meds, nutrition, exercise, coping skills, and sociability as I try to maintain a stable mood with these things that have Not proven to work before. But I will do what is personally in my power to care for my multiple mental illnesses. I will work with my psychiatrist for meds and therapist for coping and exploration as needed. I will reach out to others for support on a regular basis. So don’t be surprised if I contact YOU!

I’m taking my life back.

Decisions, Decisions

I am living with anxiety: I have coping skills. I have reminders from my therapist. I have a benzo I take 3x/day.

My anxiety was at a 10 on Thursday morning as I met with the doc for the second opinion on ECT, and then with the regular team I see before ECT to talk about the anesthesia trauma and the unbearable anxiety I’m living with. Man, I used every possible coping skill that morning, and I still blubbered all over the place as I talked about what I’m living with.

Ultimately that morning, no final decision was made about ECT. I Did Not Have a treatment that morning. I did not schedule a treatment. I only agreed to talk about the future of ECT and me at a later time when I was calmer an in my own home, not staring at the ECT trappings that reminded me of bad experiences. So Monday I will talk with a person who understands where I am coming from – knowing both the benefits I’ve experienced and the trauma and anxiety I cannot live with.

I was told that there is a med I can take that would drastically reduce my anxiety the day of ECT. And there is something (not sure what – find out Monday) that can be done to prevent anesthesia problems.

I am in the driver’s seat, and I am left with a horrible decision: Do I trust the ECT team with the things they can now do to earn my trust back for smooth ECT experiences, even though they were not offered when I had talked about my experience and great anxiety BEFORE? OR do I stop all ECT, and possibly never do it again, choosing instead to play medication roulette again should my mood waver again or I get suicidal again?

Decisions, decisions. I will get more info Monday.

How Best to Take Care of Myself

Anxiety has been my constant companion at an elevated state since the f*** up at ECT nearly 10 days ago. If my anxiety was at a 9 last week at therapy, it was an 8 this week. Ooooo – totally getting better. Not. I cried through most of the session again this week. And off and on the rest of the day afterward.

This is what I am holding on to. My therapist reminded me that it is my decision whether or not to have ECT. I have been through trauma related to the anesthesia of ECT that I keep reliving every.single.day multiple.times.a.day. Leading to panic and anxiety going up and down all the time. I no longer feel safe in my home or alone. The anxiety is waiting to get me, sometimes as an anxiety attack or as people or things waiting to jump out at me. While ECT has helped my mood like no drug ever did – I found baseline for me! – it has now ruined my life, in my mind. I might be exaggerating, yet I’m miserable now.

Before my next treatment, I have a second opinion appointment which is designed to see if ECT is helping and still beneficial for me. I promised my therapist and mom, I will tell him everything, from how much better my mood is, to the plan to do maintenance treatments so the results last longer, and now how the anxiety from the anesthesia gaff has traumatized me and the anxiety is nearly unbearable.

While I want the decision from me and the second opinion dr to be to stop ECT, I will keep an open mind. Maybe I need to stop for now so the anxiety can subside. Maybe I would need to start up again in the future. Maybe I will ever do it again, and will play pharmaceutical roulette with my psychiatrist if I need it. I just know I Need To Take Care Of Myself. And I’m holding on to ECT being OVER.

Anxiety Blows

I deal with anxiety on a daily basis, besides the bipolar disorder. I have generalized anxiety disorder including some form of OCD. I take meds for it, and I use a lot of grounding and mindfulness skills to work through the moments of unease and of panic.

The whole process and concept of ECT weirds me out and makes me anxious, starting several days before treatment. I have trouble managing the anxiety. And then I had the unfortunate experience of waking up after anesthesia was administered and before the procedure started to a feeling of not being able to breathe and not being able to move or talk to tell anyone because of the paralytic administered for the treatment. The experience lasted only a handful of seconds but scared the bejeezus out of me. And so now I Really Hate ECT and get super anxious leading up to treatment. Doggone it that it works for me!

This experience happened to me again last Thursday. I talked to my psychiatrist and to the ECT team about my anxiety-attack-level of panic, but it was my therapist the next day who Finally had something sympathetic and helpful to say! My anxiety is normal and doing what it is supposed to do – warn me of danger – he said. And all the coping skills I’ve learned and practiced for mood shifts and crises Will Work for this anxiety too. Now that my mood is stable, I have the opportunity to use these skills for naturally occurring emotions, and to deal with my anxiety disorder.

Hallelujah! Something to tell myself in the moment, as well as “tricks” to try when the anxiety prevents me from being in the moment, such as writing about the anxiety, both to get support from my support system, as well as to sort out what I’m feeling, and get some distance from what I’m feeling. And What Am I Feeling? Vibrating in the center of my solar plexus. Shallower breathing than I should be doing. Thoughts jumping from partially-formed thought to an awareness of panic that stops all thoughts. Fear. Paranoia. Failure.

Anxiety Blows.

Living with Bipolar, Even When Things Are Good

Well, it’s been a month since I posted! Wow! The good news is that I haven’t had something so pressing, so bothering me, that I needed to write it out and get feedback. ECT is slowing down a bit as we move into maintenance of a stable mood instead of treatment for depression and suicidality. Again, good news! My mood is stable and good – happy even. I want to stop doing ECT because it makes me anxious, but the last time I stopped when I was feeling good, I only had a few months of a good mood. And I’d like to have longer – hence, doing maintenance (once a month ECT for a while).

During this good, happy, stable mood period, I’ve been working on motivation by   exercising in the pool some, taking a short personal enrichment class online, reading a bit more, and working on becoming conversant in Spanish instead of just a reader of Spanish who needs a vocabulary lesson or two. Hooray for me! And yet I still watch way too much tv and have little to do and feel so very unmotivated. I’m giving myself credit for all that I am doing though, and for using my support system to help me with all of it.

Then there’s the anxiety I struggle with. I’ve cancelled get togethers or not gone to my support group because of anxiety. I’m trying to get help with living with the anxiety from my therapist and my mom. I’ve struggled to commit to a self-enrichment class (online) that lasts for 8 weeks because of anxiety about whether it was too much for me to accomplish at this time in my life. I finally came to some peace about it and committed to it. I think it will help me A Lot with finding joy and peace and motivation.

Then there’s the ongoing anxiety concerning the community college chemistry classes I signed up for – and paid a pretty penny for. Back when I was feeling good in January and February, I applied to the local community college, signed up for a summer class (which I ultimately dropped because the syllabus was boring), and signed up for fall and spring’s chemistry 1 and 2 with lab. I was trusting myself that my brain could learn again (there’s been some question) and remember things in order to learn again, and that I could handle the schedule of driving, class time, and lab right after class too.

In reality, I have anxiety about all of this, ongoing, that I have to talk myself out of, that this week became almost debilitating. And then in April I had a huge setback with my mood so that I was hospitalized and started ECT again. NOW I’m feeling better and stable again (yay!) but still anxious about these dang chemistry classes!

Long Story Short: I found science classes on Coursera.org – for free! – that started this week where I will get short lectures, readings, occasional quizzes, and discussion opportunities. I get the chance to study chemistry, etc. – with professors – at home. Anxiety drastically lessened as pressure on schedule, brain ability, and even pocketbook was reduced. So I dropped the community college classes and await my refund – and come to terms with how mental illness has yet again changed my plans, and I am again taking care of myself to avoid problems later. Maybe when I’ve been stable for longer, and maybe anxiety isn’t triggered by stress so easily, I can take traditional classes, if that’s a path I want to take in the future (cough, cough – my dream of a ph.d).

 

A Setback

Yesterday I had ECT a few days earlier than the planned two weeks’ spread. I was a work-in appointment, so of course I went last and didn’t have breakfast until 3:45pm. Oh well??

I was experiencing fear and paranoia about the dark, about people jumping out at me, and even about my cat attacking me. I didn’t feel like I was managing very well. And I started having more suicidal thoughts too. Ugh. The doctors and I wondered how much was the psychotropic med I had injected on Friday. My mom remembers my having a problem after the shot last month. Hmmm…

Today, after yesterday’s ECT, I feel like I’m coping and managing better, though these fears are still present, just not so dominant. I’m feeling more myself again.

Gotta love bipolar, huh?

Self Care – Hospital and ECT

I was in the hospital the first three weeks of April after my last post. I took care of myself by going in the hospital to be kept safe from my suicidal impulses and to start ECT again. As a common meme says, “It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to start again. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to rest. It’s ok to let go. It’s ok not to be ok.” Going in the hospital and starting ECT again was telling myself it’s ok not to be ok, and it’s ok to rest and to start over again. Having had success with ECT at the end of 2018, my psychiatrist recommended a course of it again including maintenance to hopefully prevent a mood crash again after only a couple months of stability.

Now I am out of the hospital, adjusting to life without suicidal thoughts, and have had 13 treatments. My mood is holding steady between treatments and suicidal thoughts are drastically reduced. I can’t say I’m feeling as good as I had been after the last course of ECT. But I did just go from ECT 3x/week to ECT 2x/week. I’m staying the course by keeping up treatments even though I don’t really want to do ECT. Something about it just weirds me out. But I really want the experience of feeling good for an extended period of time, and ECT seems to be the main treatment that leads there.

I continue talking with my therapist over the phone on Fridays. And my mom is my companion for ECT, driving into the city and then keeping watch over me as I recover. I’m able to reach out to these thick branches of my support system, as well as some smaller limbs too, as I try to feel not alone. I wish I felt good and strong and happy again, but at this point I at least have hope that it will happen again as ECT continues.

No ECT!!!

I showed up for my scheduled ECT this morning. And in the pre-screen I talked about how well I’m doing, back to baseline on everything. Somehow the conversation twisted and the PA asked if I even wanted a treatment today. Um, NO!

I waited an agonizing 5+ minutes while she talked with the treating psychiatrist. They agreed I was doing well enough not to have a treatment! I’m to call in a week for a phone screen to see if I’m still doing well or if I need a treatment. If I’m doing fine, they will discharge me and I can get the port out of my chest (used to access a vein easily since IV’s are hard to get on me).

Hooray! I celebrated my unexpected free day and good prognosis with a ginormous mocha from the coffee shop in the hospital lobby.

I also saw my regular psychiatrist today to ask about the fine tremors I have developed in my hands. But, I got to gloat about how well I was feeling. And I was shocked to be doing so well that he wanted to see me next In Three Months(!).

Even as I’m feeling well, and stable, and Good, I’m worried about the bottom falling out and plunging into suicidal depression for the millionth time. My doctor encouraged me not to worry about what might happen, and even to make a video or add to my mirror post-its that Yes, I was doing well. Something to help remember if (when?) things get bad, that I had been healthy and it would happen again.

Why do I expect suicidal depression to come again? Just because it has been a companion I could count on? And I got as good as one could get at dealing with it healthily?

How about I have no freaking clue how to be in a good space? I’m worried that the increased energy I feel is mania, and that the only way I have to express how good I’m feeling is to talk too much or to spend money. Both of those are things I do when I’m manic, yet I’m not manic.

I just don’t know how to be healthy! What are behaviors You have when You are healthy?

Suicidal Perspective

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!

Brighter Affect

Not only am I feeling better – much less depressed – but I am also _looking_ better too. Doctors and nurses are noticing that I look like I’m feeling better. My appearance matches my reported mood. People at church are also noticing my increased mood in how I present myself and speak. In general people are saying I have a brighter affect and more positive aura.

It’s wonderful that I’m looking as good as I’m feeling. In the last week I’ve had to put a number, a percentage, to how I’m feeling. I think I’m about 90%! I still feel a little depressed, lethargic, tired, difficulty concentrating, not enjoying activities. Yet overall my mood is uplifted, nearly happy, and I’m finding some enjoyment and motivation.

I’m dumbfounded at how well ECT is working, and I’m wondering if I chickened out the three times I tried it at Linden Oaks and didn’t get beyond three treatments. I stopped after 8 treatments while at Good Sam because of side effects and memory problems. Now I’m not getting side effects or memory problems, thank goodness. I do have some aphasia, not being able to think of or come up with words for thoughts I get. I’m told it will go away after ECT treatments are over.