When I decided to come off all medications, I also made the decision to combat any possibility of a reoccurrence of depression, by doing outpatient ECT. I had four treatments while I was still hospitalized, and have since had three more, on a bi-weekly basis. While I have had no depressive symptoms, and am managing any emotional distress I may have with therapy and groups and the support of my friends and family, I am still scheduled to have six to eight more treatments over the course of the next few months.
With each treatment, however, I question if I've made the right decision. While I was receiving ECT in the hospital, I had round the clock nursing care, and the after effects didn't seem so bad. Now, having the treatments as an outpatient, the recovery is much more difficult, and I end up losing two days, while I nurse myself back from the headache and nausea and confusion, that comes from being put under anesthesia every two weeks. Not only do I suffer from physical discomfort post treatment, my memory is suffering also. I forget conversations I have, lose words mid-sentence, and can't remember things that are told to me numerous times.
The last treatment kept me at the hospital much longer than the standard two hours, as my already low blood pressure refused to return to normal, and the nausea and headache gave way to persistent vomiting and a migraine. I was pumped full of pain medications and anti emetics, and left to sit outside the nurse's station, while I watched other ECT patients walk out of the recovery room, eat eggs and toast, and walk out of the unit with big smiles on their faces, chiming "See you in a couple weeks!" In the moment, I had no energy to be jealous of them, but as I recovered, and time has passed, I can't help but feel angry that this isn't just a simple procedure for me.
I've spoken with my psychiatrists, therapists, group members, family members, and friends, about how much I have come to dread having ECT, and the inner struggle I am having about continuing. The professionals of my support team have suggested perhaps I am having a reaction to the anesthesia, and another one needs to be tried. They've suggested using preventative medications during and after ECT to quell the nausea, and narcotic pain medication for the headaches. They are urging me to "finish it out, because it's better to go through this discomfort now, then have another depressive episode and land back in the hospital later." But the struggle surges inside me. The whole reason I came off the psychiatric medications was because I have an obvious sensitivity to them. So how can I justify loading my system with more medications to counter the new, albeit temporary, medications that I am showing a sensitivity to?
My only concern right now is my mental health, and remaining stable and functional. I want to make the best decision for me in the long run, the one that will keep me off medications, and out of the hospital, living a full, and productive life. I know that while having ECT, I have managed to steer clear of any depressive symptoms, and have remained motivated in my recovery. I also know, that having it, is affecting my quality of life, leaving me with the frustration of losing memory, and in physical discomfort. Weighing the pros and cons of continuing with this treatment has become a daily battle, with no definitive choice being made. I go back and forth, wondering "To shock or not to shock?" That is the question.