So five sessions of ECT is not enough.
This is a discovery I have made the hard way: by getting five sessions of ECT, feeling much better, and deciding that this was all I needed. The effects lasted about two weeks--two weeks in which my energy level went up, I began wearing make-up again, I re-started my exercise program, I began cooking meals for my family again....everything seemed different. And yet the anxiety was gradually building. It was as if I was waiting for the other shoe to drop--and finally, late last week, it did.
There's no way to put down on paper the thoughts inspired by severe depression without sounding melodramatic, or fake. That's because depression inherently distorts thinking; any faithful rendering of what depressive thinking looks like would come out cartoonish. My thoughts ran along the lines of what a miserable mother I was, how toxic my presence was to my house, how much better off my husband and children would be without me if only they knew it, how much I would prefer to be dead if only there was a means of getting that way without inflicting enormous pain on innocent people. And the shame: my God, the shame. What business did I have feeling terrible? Why was I inflicting this on my family? Why couldn't I just get off my ass and enjoy the good things life had given me? And so on. Not to mention that I was an economic liability--unemployable, unable to write, unable to do anything more demanding than maybe a job in retail...providing I could stand up all day, which I probably couldn't.
My husband came home from work to find me sitting on the floor of my office, sobbing. From time to time one of the kids would come knock on the door. "Mommy, are you okay?" they would ask. No, I'm not okay. But I'll be out soon. It's okay. You're okay. It's just...Mommy feels bad. But don't worry. As if that would help.
Saturday passed in a haze; Sunday passed pretty much the same way. Last night I downloaded a program from The Infinite Mind and listened to it on my Ipod while taking my walk through the neighborhood. The program is one I trust; it was begun by Dr. Fred Goodwin, who is the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, and one of my sources from my reporting days. I know the people involved with the production company that produces it, Lichtenstein Creative Media, some of whom have their own mental health issues. I know that the sources the program uses are not perfect, in the sense that medicine is not perfect, but that they are the best sources to be had on any particular topic. This program was about ECT; it was one I probably should have listened to before I went for my first treatment. Yes, the program said, there are problems with memory loss. On the other hand, ECT is the most effective and rapid treatment for severe depression that medicine knows about...and there are ways to minimize the memory loss. I listened to this, and I thought: What point is there having a brain if life is not worth living? What good are intact memories if you cannot enjoy a simple afternoon with your own children?
This morning I got on the phone and talked to my shrink, and we realized that we had miscommunicated; he is not opposed to ECT, just not up to date on it; as for his remark about "shock jocks"--well, it was just slang. "Sometimes they call themselves that, but I shouldn't have used that language around you." Once I responded to the initial treatments, he asked, "Why didn't you talk to me about stopping?" "Because," I said, "I thought I was on my own." And he apologized for that; it was a position I should never have felt myself to be in, he said. At this point, he thinks I should go back.
So I hung up from talking to him, and and then I picked up the phone again and made the call. The only thing worse than making that call was not making it.