Shock The Monkey

I'm really not sure where to start. I guess most of you already know that I've been suffering from severe depression for most of this year. I went through the entire range of medications and nothing worked. Then briefly, I felt like myself again. I wasn't crying for no reason, I didn't feel hopeless, I wanted to go out and do things. I thought it was over. I had beat it.

People would ask me "How are you doing?"

Me, hesistant, "...better. Yes, I'm definitely better than I was a few months ago. Yes."

"Well that's great!"

"Well, I'm not 100%..."

"Well, who is!" hahahahahahha....

Yeah, so I guess I was better and since no one is 100% I should just feel lucky I'm alive. Sure. No, I mean, yes, definitely yes. If I'm only sobbing from the depths of my soul for 20% of the day, that leaves a whole 80% that's spent NOT sobbing. That's awesome, isn't it? Yes, that's just hunky-dorey awesome.

Ed said to me this morning that my brain is like an empty swimming pool that I'm skateboarding in. The very bottom is the blackest part of my depression so I keep riding up and down and up and down. I'm never out of that damn pool and I'm always using every bit of my energy just trying to stay above the bottom. It's exhausting.

I had one month where I felt great. People kept telling me how great I looked. "No meds! And I'm happy!" I'd say. I figured I beat it. I did it. I was strong enough to kick it in the ass and keep on trucking.

But then it started again. The fear, the despair, the sobbing at nothing. No thoughts in my head but black. There is no thinking your way out of that. There's no amount of exercise, supplements, or self-help books that will get you out of that. I wanted to kick myself for not being able to do it on my own but I finally admitted that I needed help again.

And for a few weeks I thought that talking to a therapist would help. Then even she said there wasn't anything she could do for me. I saw her partner who is one of the head doctors at Carrier Clinic a couple weeks ago.

"You've been through so many medications. There isn't much left we could try." she said. Whew! I was afraid that she would put me on a new course of meds.

"ECT would be your best option."


That's for crazy people. That's for people who can't even get out of bed in the morning. I'm fine. Really. I'm just going to go now and get some ice cream. I'll be fine. I'm at 80%! No one's at 100%, I'm doing awesome! Bye bye!

I can do this on my own! I'll take a yoga class! I'll train for a marathon! I'll eat vegan organic bean sprouts for the rest of my life! I can do it!

And if you were sitting across from me while I was saying this, you would have seen a broken down, sobbing, desperate woman clinging to the thought that she wasn't sick at all.


Yesterday was my 8th ECT session.

So many people we've spoken to in the waiting room at Carrier all say the same thing, "It's a miracle."

I went every monday, wednesday and friday. I was put under anesthisia for about 30 minutes and then up and out the door. At first they tried uni-lateral which is only on one side of your brain. That was easy. A little headache once I woke up, but I remembered everything super-clearly. I felt a bit better within the first 3 treatments.

Then I had a down day so they switched me to bi-frontal treatments on friday. That took a bit more out of me. Much more confused, temporary memory loss and all those bad things you've heard about ect came flooding back to me. I forgot Thanksgiving, but I didn't forget Ed or my family. And over the course of the weekend, my faculties came back to me. By yesterday morning, I was just about myself again. Just in time for my next treatment...

And my memory is shot again. I'm having trouble remembering what paintings I've done and what prints I have made up. But the funny thing is...emotionally I feel amazing. I'm taking in everything around me as if it were brand new. My house, my business, my husband, my family, my fans.

And they're giving me a little break before my next treatment on friday. Then it will probably be a whole week before my last one.

So I wanted to take the time (even though I'm floating in never-never land right now) to let you all know what's going on. First off so if I screw up any orders for the holidays, you might give me the benefit of the doubt. But second to let people know what ect is all about. It's not a torture device. It's a proven way to treat severe recurrent depression. Just how it works is still being debated, but it has the highest success rate of ANY medical procedure. How can anyone argue with that? And although I would have liked to have stuck with the unilateral and kept my short term memory intact, I can't discount that I feel better now than I have in a very long time.

How many of us get to experience a miracle? I think I may be in the process of one right now. And I'm not alone. Friends of our family have gone through it and said the same thing - it changed theirs lives. So I'm thinking that I may not be the only one here whose gone through it either. Maybe by writing about it I can help to change someone's thinking about what ect is.

The Mayo Clinic has a very straightforward definition of what ect involves here. What also helped me is thinking about the famous people who have gone through it:

Antonin Artaud, French poet and playwright
Richard Brautigan, counter-culture figure, poet and novelist
Beverley Callard, English television actress
Dick Cavett, American television talk show host
Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist
Kitty Dukakis, wife of former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis and author of Shock, a book chronicling her experiences with ECT
Thomas Eagleton, US senator and vice presidential candidate
Roky Erickson, American singer, songwriter, harmonica player and guitarist
Carrie Fisher, American actress and novelist Fisher speaks at length of her experiences with ECT in her autobiography Wishful Drinking.
Janet Frame, New Zealand writer and poet
Judy Garland, American actress
Harold Gimblett, British cricketer
Peter Green, English blues guitarist, founding member of Fleetwood Mac.
David Helfgott, Australian pianist
Ernest Hemingway, American Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Nobel Laureate, short-story writer, and journalist
Marya Hornbacher, American writer
Vladimir Horowitz, Russian-American classical pianist
Vivien Leigh, English actress and second wife of Laurence Olivier
Oscar Levant, American pianist, composer, television and film personality
Michael Moriarty, American actor
Sherwin B. Nuland, American surgeon and writer
Robert M. Pirsig, American author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Sylvia Plath, American writer and poet
Bud Powell, American jazz musician
Lou Reed, American singer-songwriter
Yves Saint-Laurent, French fashion designer
Edie Sedgwick, American socialite and Warhol Superstar
Gene Tierney, American actress
Tammy Wynette, American country music singer
David Foster Wallace, American writer
Townes van Zandt, American country singer-songwriter

So I'm not alone. I'm a little confused, but I'm not scared anymore. The staff at Carrier Clinic has been amazing and I don't think that I could have asked for a more caring crew of people to take care of us through this frightening time. They are also a non-profit organization and accept donations should anyone be so inclined. Ed and I are hoping to get their waiting room repainted and some new artwork up for the patients once my treatments are over.

Well, that's it. I've been struggling with this information for weeks now and felt that it was time to share. I hope that at the very least, it helps someone else out there who may be struggling with the same decision. ECT is not a torture device. It's a proven medical treatment for severe depression.

And it's a miracle.