In year 2, I was getting desperate; the various medication combinations, I had been trying, weren't improving my moods. I was sick and tired of being low, sobbing, and having negative thoughts of finding peace. I had done some research on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) on various internet sources and even watched several ECT procedures on YouTube.
At me next appointment, my psychiatrist and I discussed my eligibility for the treatment (as I was med resistant and remained mainly in a severe depressive state), what the potential side effects were, and how it was going to be administered.
He referred me to the head psychiatrist, who performed the ECT treatments. I was scheduled for an initial trial of 8 treatments, on an outpatient basis, with a reassessment after the 4th treatment to check for any impact or side effects.
Here's my experience. I fasted prior to each treatment (like any surgical procedure). Hubby and I would drive to the hospital, as I required a driver after the general anesthetic, and I would gown up. I laid down on the gurney and was hooked up to an IV, blood pressure cuff, and the heart monitor. Through the IV they would eventually administer the muscle relaxer and general anesthetic. At the first session, the Dr. explained, step by step, what was being done and why. He then attached the wires to my head. Once I was all hooked up, the anesthesiologist started the drip and the Dr asked me to start counting backwards from 100.
I may have got to 97 when I realized I was awake and finished! The treatment only takes about 3 minutes from start to finish. I was then wheeled into the psychiatric unit to recover from my anesthetic, was allowed to each lunch, then was released to head home until the next treatment.
I had 4 treatments that were painless and uneventful. I already had cognitive impairments prior to receiving my ECT treatments, due to my Bipolar Disorder, but unfortunately the ECT made it worse. Typically, people that have the treatments may have short term memory gaps surrounding the day of the treatment or around that time frame, which gradually returns over time. Mine however were more extensive and the 4 treatments had not resulted in any positive improvements of my depression. So, unfortunately, any further treatments were cancelled as the risks outweighed the benefits.
In my opinion, the general ECT process was not painful and I had no physical side effects. It just wasn't right for me. I can say though, that if it had made a marked improvement in my depression, I would have gladly put up with a little more cognitive impairment.
Before you make up your mind about Electroconvulsive Therapy, please do research the topic, the procedure itself, the benefits and the risks, and watch a few YouTube videos. Get educated!
I was blessed right from the get-go.
After my admission to the psychiatric unit, I was assigned a psychiatrist. He was very thorough with his assessment of my bipolar disorder, even going to great lengths to interview my husband, daughters, and parents to determine if there were any previous indicators. He not only sent me to 2 other agencies for confirmation but scheduled extensive blood work up, at CT scan, and a neurologist, to rule out any other medical conditions. In my opinion, that was Point #1 for him, as it showed he didn't have an ego and based his diagnosis on ALL findings.
His office is a sterile environment and has little photos and objets d'art from around the world. He detests fluorescent lighting so his office is illuminated by a soft white desk lamp and a light box. Oh, and 1 half-dead poinsettia!
He is an old-school type of psychiatrist that still uses pen and paper to maintain his notes and does not have a computer in his office, He knows my husband and both my girls by name. Surprisingly, he remembers where both of them live and go to school.
When it comes to his treatment of me, he is always caring and empathetic. Not once has he undermined my symptoms or frustrations.
I know I am very lucky as I am aware of the new style of psychiatric care in which a patient would see their psychiatrist for either a prescription change or if their episodes have worsened, their General Practitioner for maintenance, and a therapist/counselor/psychologist for their talk therapy.
I really don't like that 3 tiered approach as I truly don't believe that ANY of them have the opportunity to get to know YOU! 3 different people, 3 different views, 3 different approaches, 3 different spread out appointments?
When I'm in the waiting room, where all the psychiatric offices are, some of the psychiatrists come out EVERY month and ask if I am so-in-so. THEY don't even know who their patients ARE!
My psychiatrist is typically great on his 1 hour scheduled slots but I don't mind waiting as I know he is providing QUALITY care to someone that needs it. Sometimes we are done in less than an hour, other times, when I am having difficulties coping, and we go over an hour, he doesn't kick me out, he LISTENS.
I've been with him for over 6 years, actually since my onset, and I've never seen another (nor do I want to). He has been relentless in supporting me through my trials and tribulations with the multitude of med changes. He doesn't play Dr-knows-best when I suggest something I've researched and will either try it or tell me it isn't really beneficial for my set of circumstances. You know why?? Because he knows ME. We've always worked as a TEAM towards my Mental Wellness.
I don't know how many times he has told me that I'm one of his strongest patients yet most confusing, not only with my med resistances and sensitivities, but with my ever-so-present bipolar symptoms. Over the last 6+ years, we still haven't found a combo that provides me with relief. I am very lucky though as he is like me, very patient and persistent, we keep trying. He hasn't thrown in the towel and neither have I.
I have become very anxious however, over the last year, ruminating over the day he announces his retirement. I will be assigned one of those pill pushers, who are clueless to who you are and can't remember, from appointment to appointment, where you stand mentally, emotionally, and physically, without referring to their notes. I will no longer be Laura who has Bipolar Disorder II, but will become a case file in the system.
**Note: Please don't inquire about which medications I was on as I've been on about 25 over the past 6 years and don't recall side effects (or no benefit) I had with each.
A few months prior to my onset of Bipolar Disorder, I was initially treated for depression due to being constantly antagonized (not an understatement) by an individual (eventually they were the one that pushed me over the edge).
The medication my General Practitioner had put me on for the depression was not improving my depressive state and I continued to sink lower and lower until my breaking point. I just cope with the abuse any longer.
During my days in the psychiatric unit, they put me on my first "med cocktail" (a combination of more than one medication) that being an anti-depressant, an anti-psychotic, and a mood stabilizer. The first 2 years were a nightmare of adding, removing, upping doses, lowering doses, within that "cocktail", to try and put me on an even keel.
I honestly detested taking my medications but I did know that it was the best for my mental wellness.
Within a 1 year period, I gained 84lbs. I went from 98lbs to 182lbs! Almost doubled my weight! I had not only lost all my flexibility, muscle tone, and stamina, but also my self-esteem.
I was eventually informed that one of the meds I was on (don't ask me which one!) didn't trigger the little switch in my bipolar brain that told me when I was full! I had an insatiable appetite!
I decided it was time to put my life back in my own hands, straighten up my back bone, give myself the kick-in-the-arse, stop whining, and do something about it.
I first set my S.M.A.R.T. weight loss goals (I use this method for most things). Then all I did was change my "eat-every-thing-in-sight" lifestyle to a healthy one! Haha! Not one diet pill, fad, or gimmick. I ate 5 small nutritious meals a day and when I did get the urge to snack I ate 0 calorie fruits and veggies. Oh...and A LOT of water...with lemon slices. One the 1st anniversary of my change in lifestyle I lost 40lbs. By my 2nd anniversary I lost 22lbs bringing me to a comfy 120lbs. Now that my metabolic rate is back up I do have some freedom to enjoy those forbidden tasty treats that I do love.
Back to the search. I will be blatantly honest here. I'm not truly happy. In fact I haven't had a day of sincere happiness since my onset. I wear my mask everyday and it is wearing me out. It sucks. Two months ago, I broke down crying to my psychiatrist that I wanted peace. I hated how I was feeling and I was tired of fighting but promised him that under no circumstances was I going to self harm or end my life. At that moment, I cracked, I was helpless, I was so very tired. Okay Laura, let's look back on what you haven't tried. He prescribed me a new med. All was hunkydory when one month into it I became very physically ill. Apparently it was hyponatremia , a drastic drop in the level of sodium in my blood which caused my blood pressure and pulse to plummet in half over a 2 day period. At the next appointment we tried another new medication. Again, all was fine, until week 3 when I woke up with a full body rash! I have no luck whatsoever. Now, I'm on ANOTHER one and 2 weeks and so far so go. I don't feel any change but no reaction. Let the trials & tribulaltions of "In Search of My Med Cocktail" continue. I will reblog if and when we become successful.
At one point in my life, before my Bipolar Disorder kicked in, I use to be a fairly eloquent writer. Most people found me to be very intelligent and I was well educated. Now, I was in no means a "Shakespearean-style" writer, with pretty prose, nor a "Steven King-type" writer, using words that could captivate his "faithful readers", but at least I could write.
Graduating with 4 diplomas, with one being an A+ with distinction, would somewhat indicate that I could write intelligent and well formulated essays, independent studies, and assignments. I could prepare and deliver lengthy presentations to audiences, from 10-300, AND be in control and confident!
When my Bipolar Disorder surfaced, I was in tears, mortified, so very deflated, as public speaking was my passion and reading was my love (being a lifelong learner). In the beginning, I couldn't even pick up a book. When I looked at a page, it was like I was reading a new language. Crosswords? HA! Are you kidding me! I had lost my thought processing capabilities for simple things like reading and writing.
Demoralized, I resorted to word search puzzles. Now, they may seem easy for you, but for me, I had a game plan. I would study the page as a whole, just opening my mind, and miraculously words would appear before my eyes. Over time, when I fulfilled and mastered my personal obligation with this brain exercise, I tried another whack at reading, but now I COULD read, one paragraph at a time, AND it made sense!
Soon, I was reading "mind candy" books, just to relish the fact that I could once again read. Then I got hungry for knowledge about Bipolar Disorder; what causes it, treatments, biographies, memoirs, self-help books, you name it I read it and LEARN! If I am to have this disorder, I want to learn EVERYTHING!
Writing was still a major obstacle. Even while I am writing the material for my blog, it is on paper, double-spaced, using a pencil and eraser! I still have a real difficult time with "word processing" and "word finding". I find I'm grasping for the right words when I speak or write. So, I write down, in plain text, of what I want to say, leave it alone (as it will frustrate me to no end), and when I'm doing something mindless (like folding laundry), a better phrase or word will come to me. I drop everything, and head to my journal, and either erase or insert in one of blank spaces.
Since I have challenges now with my frontal lobe (the front portion of your brain for executive functioning), I lose my train of thought easy, requiring total silence, and found that I've turned into a "kinesthetic" learner (hands on) rather that my old visual/auditory learning styles. So typing a rough draft in a word document has "0" benefit for me; I just see a screen with words. Hey, my methods work for me! I've made progress!
I'm hoping, over time, you will also see an improvement in my writing skills and style. That's my hope :)
See you soon!
Laura Marchildon will blog honest and true posts about her real life experiences.