I'm back! How are you?
You have no idea how much I've missed you. So much has happened over the last week – my Reading Week. There were times I ached to sit down here at my trusty iMac and write to you – what a relief it would have been to interrupt the monotony of "marking midterms," but I needed a break.
I've continued speaking with Angela daily over the last 13 days even though I've not been posting about her progress. I take notes. I have an Angela journal.
She's had a few little ups and downs but nothing dramatic – with one exception – and this would definitely qualify as an "up"... she's sleeping well. Better than she's slept in years.
Angela is athletic. She loves to snowboard. Watching hockey is one of her passions. You know where she is every Saturday night and could safely bet money on it. It's a good thing she doesn't have her Electroconvulsive Therapy treatments on Saturdays.
On a few occasions, over the last week and during the Olympic Hockey matches, she slept through the games.
And she wasn't upset about it.
Once, she said she went to sleep "to escape my mind," a curious phrase. When I asked her why, she mentioned some long running personal concerns, matters of everyday living that no ECT treatment can or ever has been able to resolve. The stuff that can turn a good day sour for anyone. The stresses that wear you down emotionally.
ECT IS GRADUALLY TRANSFORMING HER OUTLOOK ON LIFE
These issues are not the cause of her drug-resistant clinical depression. They could be filed in a drawer called "Life Sucks" and we all have those drawers. Sometimes, I think unhappiness is confused with depression. Both can be exhausting and stressful, but for Angela, her ECT is gradually transforming her outlook on life. Brightening it. Refreshing her mind. Buoying her on so she can better handle the real consequential issues in her life.
Not just those "Life Sucks" issues, but even tougher stuff.
Sleep, as I've often said, heals. So it is, often, for Angela. She's an early riser and not only on the two days a week when she must awaken at 6 a.m. to be at the University Health Network at 7 a.m., hopefully to be the first in line to receive her ECT treatment, which she prefers.
Since she began her eight or possibly 12 weeks of bi-weekly ECT treatments on Monday, January 25, she's has changed dramatically, although it's a slow and steady transformation and she's not entirely aware of it. These posts have become a mirror for her.
It's blatantly obvious to me that she's joking and laughing more these days than I've ever known her to do – and we've known each other for years. When I called last night, she was watching the Toronto-Boston Hockey Game and not sleeping.
"It's tied right now," she said, sounding anxious to get off the phone. I let her go back to her passion. Three months ago, Angela felt no passion for anything. She complained constantly of feeling "flat" or "feeling nothing" or "being blah." She was immobilized by her severe depression.
Last night, her gusto for the game she loves seemed a significant benchmark in the headway she's making.
SUICIDAL THOUGHTS SEEM LIKE A THING OF THE PAST – FOR NOW
After 12 treatments, her suicidal thoughts seem a thing of the past. She hasn't mentioned them in several weeks. This doesn't mean she is perfectly recovered. ECT doesn't purport to solve all your problems and cannot. She knows this. She sees her psychiatrist twice a week. She takes all her medications.
She also knows that she may need follow-up weekly or semi-monthly treatments when this current treatment course finishes because ECT is not permanent. Depression can be cyclical. So she may need ECT on an ongoing basis or every three or four or more months. But it should keep her suicidal thoughts at bay and help her function better than she has in years.
ECT IS NO ONE SHOT DEAL
No responsible, knowledgeable and experienced psychiatrist who routinely administers ECT would ever suggest that ECT is a one-time only treatment course. For some people, not all, it's not.
Like medication, it may have to be part of an ongoing treatment protocol for mood stability. (Like the Tegretol that I take twice a day for my mania. I've been taking it for 22 years. It's one of my major recovery tools.) Any follow-up ECT regime, its schedule, differs depending on each individual ~ as does everything in life, it seems.
Since her first course of ECT treatments in 2001, Kitty Dukakis has follow-up "sets of ECT treatments," on average, every seven or eight months, when her depression returns. The wife of Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic Presidential candidate, bravely and with brutal, visceral honesty writes about her ECT experiences in Shock – The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy. It ended her lifelong struggle not only with severe drug-resistant depression, but with her alcohol and amphetamine addictions that masked it for years.
HER MEMORY HAS STAYED PERFECTLY INTACT
Angela is now in Week Seven of her treatment course. It may end next week or continue for four more weeks. She doesn't know. So far, her memory has stayed perfectly intact. Sometimes, like this past Monday morning, 90 minutes after treatment, when I called her from Seneca, she sounded groggy.
It was 10:30 a.m. "What day is it?" she asked.
She had been sleeping and my call woke her.
"It's Monday and I'll call you later."
Let's be honest. Don't you find that sometimes, it you take a nap in the late afternoon and wake up at 9 p.m. you feel a little disoriented. "Did I sleep through the night?" you ask yourself. You search for a clock wondering, "What time is it?"
By Monday night the disorientation Angela felt earlier in the day had disappeared. It always does within a few hours of her ECT treatments, always with healing sleep. To the best of her knowledge, she is experiencing no permanent or even temporary memory loss whatsoever, thus far.
Time will tell. And I'll tell you.
Now, then. Let me know how you're faring. Comment. Comment. Comment.
I've missed your voices. Your ideas. Even your criticisms. You inspire and stimulate me.
It's great to be back.