Making our way through the questions on ECT – Top 3 Reasons for Being an Advocate

  1. How do you address the issue of cognitive and memory impairments?
  2. What are your top 3 reasons for being an advocate for ECT?
  3. What are the differences between ‘old’ ECT and ‘modern’ ECT?

fancy

Ooh La La!

So much fun to play dress up! When I was a scrub, a solid big boned unkempt of the Cleveland National Forest bordered lemon groves, when I walked barefoot, disappeared for the entire day in the rattlesnake infested chaparral, when I followed my brothers around like a desperate child, I still liked to play dress-up. I would sneak into my mother’s long closet, a dressing room really, with folding doors. I could hide behind her dresses, or climb up onto her shelves and be nothing more than luggage. But mostly I remember staring at her clothes and shoes. I remember one of her all time best outfits – a blue knit bell-bottomed jumper. A wide white belt with a hand-made gold buckle was an excellent accent. Yes, it would drag down below, but all the better to cover my brown feet.

When I think of my top three reasons for being an advocate for ECT, I think of dress-up. There are so many great options to put on, and I can and do exchange them with aplomb, as Fancy Nancy would say. That’s a French word for poise. It’s fancy. If you catch sight of my brown feet here and there, well, you can’t take the hills out of the psychiatrist I guess.

For today, Reason Numero Uno, (Fancy for #1, in honor of the second language I wanna-be speak):

  • It works most consistently, and most quickly of any treatment available. One must pick her fights after all, mustn’t she?

Reason Ithnān, (Arabic for two, in honor of my fancy mother):

  • It doesn’t touch “the body,” i.e. metabolics. Clean.

Reason Trois, pronounced I think like, twa, (Fancy Nancy’s favorite language. Need anyone explain? “French is fancy”):

For example, just by requiring someone to help with transportation, it’s built in. That thereby inherently increases community awareness of mental illness, something we rarely speak of with each other.

Then there is the medical staff. Our nurses are every patient’s advocate. Our masseuse increases oxytocin and other healing neurotransmitters when the patient’s get their massage waiting for treatment and then when in recovery. Our anesthesiologists are knowledgable, see the patient in their “whole person,” often picking up other issues that then will get the patient to receive treatment and improve the patient’s quality of life (QOL); such as hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, etc…

There’s more, but basically in ECT, none of our patient’s are alone. That stands.

Question: What are the top three reasons you prefer the treatments you engage in? 

Self-care Tip: It is always helpful to write out why you are doing what you are doing, when it comes to medical treatments.

Making our way through the questions of ECT – Memory Loss

  1. How do you address the issue of cognitive and memory impairments?
  2. What are your top 3 reasons for being an advocate for ECT?
  3. What are the differences between ‘old’ ECT and ‘modern’ ECT?

memory loss

1. Cognitive and memory impairments:

There is no brain damage done with ECT. One way to understand the memory loss is with our own not so fond memory of carbon paper and credit card receipts. It’s not too ago that we made manual credit card receipts. We used, what was essentially, a machine that held the card in place, while we rolled over a two-part receipt, including one surfaced with ink. When rolling over the card, the ink pressed into adjacent paper the outline of the card face.

Inevitably, whenever I had one such interaction, the carbon paper was used up. There would be little patches of ink left on it, but in all the wrong places. People would try to move the carbon paper around to maximize its usefulness. And we’d roll over it multiple times, using repetition to get a good enough copy, when the carbon-paper had gone almost white. Roll. Roll. Put your weight into it. Roll.

The machine hasn’t changed. The machine isn’t broken or damaged. There just isn’t enough ink on that paper.

This is a rough analogy of what happens in our cells.

When we get new experiences, our cells try to “imprint” those memories into another area of our brain for storage and later use.  We use the intracellular “ink” to do this. However, a seizure dumps that ink, the neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, hormones, ions, and all those good ingredients needed to lay down new memories. It squirts the intracellular ink nearly completely out when we are stimulated, like squeezing a bag.

ECT is a stimulation treatment. It uses electricity to stimulate, toward the effort of healing. There are other stimulation therapies that we have discussed already – magnetic and chemical. Not all stimulation therapies result in a seizure. We don’t know why a seizure is needed for such a dramatic benefit, but so far, in our 80+ years of experience with ECT, it is needed for this magnitude of healing. The seizure is the event that “tips the ink-well.”

Our cells will naturally refill if left alone, after being “tipped over” and emptied. What brings about the memory loss is that in the beginning, in the ECT index trial, we don’t. The proximity of the treatments to each other is more frequent than what will allow for the cells to refill adequately for new memories. We stimulate, Monday, then just as they start to refill, we stimulated again Wednesday. And then again Friday. Then we do it again the next Monday, and so forth.

This is only in the index trial though, the first part of ECT that we do in order to get healing. Once the first 2-4 weeks, approximately, are done, treatment response is achieved, and we progress to a maintenance program of ECT to keep those benefits. Just as with medication therapy, if we stop treatment, if we stop the pills, if we stop the stimulation therapy, often, we will relapse and become ill again.

In maintenance ECT, we treat as infrequently as once a week to once a month or more. By allowing our cells to refill with “ink” between stimulus events, the difficulty imprinting new memories goes away. Those memories of events that happened during the index treatment, (the 2-4 weeks when we first start ECT,) may never come back. But we wouldn’t expect them to, necessarily, because there wasn’t enough ink to imprint them at the time. Like a carbon copy paper without ink on it, no matter how many times we roll over it, mechanically, we don’t have the ability, the ink, the ingredients, or whatever you want to call that stuff needed to save the memory of an experience permanently.

I’m not going to go into the obvious juxtaposition of this with what happens cognitively with brain disease untreated, or with other treatment options toward brain health. I hope you do though. Because there’s so much there and it’s fun, liberating, and increases our personal freedom to choose.  Keep on.

Questions: What do you think about not being able to keep the memories of your life for a brief time? What is the cost benefit ratio to you, when you think about this? Please tell us your story.

Self-care tip: Be as careful as you can in your accounting, book-keeping, of your risk-to-benefit ratio of treatment.

Questions From Someone Important – On ECT

Hi. I was hoping I could ask you a couple questions about ECT for a research paper I am writing.

  1. How do you address the issue of cognitive and memory impairments?
  2. What are your top 3 reasons for being an advocate for ECT?
  3. What are the differences between ‘old’ ECT and ‘modern’ ECT?
My thesis statement is:
Although there are many different treatments for Bipolar Disorder, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) has proven to be the most effective therapy, treating both mania and depression.
Thanks in advance,
Priscilla

Good morning Friends!

What would you answer to Priscilla?  Do you have personal experience with ECT, primary, secondary, etc? Where did your beliefs and attitudes about ECT come from?

Last week I almost lost control of my functions when my patient told me about his sister’s comments.

Frank, my patient, had called up his sister, asking her to help drive him to ECT in the morning. Frank’s sister hadn’t even known Frank was getting ECT. She was alarmed but didn’t say anything until they were in the car together, a California dawn and sleep in their eyes for context.

Is this for real Frank? Where are we really going?

Frank was straight faced in his pragmatic style.

She thought maybe we were either going to doughnuts or the devil.
I don’t want this to sound bad or anything, but you know how people go, like to TJ, Mexico, to get some sort of cancer therapy that makes their skin fall off, that’s what she thought. Or we were going to get the psychiatry equivalent of a coat-hanger abortion in someone’s garage.
Don’t judge me for peeing a little.

One of my secretly favorite comedians, Amy Schumer, has a way of taking the worst negative biases in our community and denuding them w/o remorse. She did this with “rape.” The internet exploded that, demonstrating that sure enough, our community doesn’t get it. We don’t understand what rape is!

Then Schumer did it again with women. The idea is that we lose value because of age. Sure enough, the world started talking. For example, a few someone’s noticed when Maggie Gyllenhall was told she was too old, at 37, to get the role of a 55 year-old man’s girlfriend.

I wish Schumer would do a skit on electroconvulsive therapy, (“ECT.”) I wonder what she’d play with. Because there is awesome material there!

First introduction to ECT, some people wonder where the leather straps are. Dr. Schumer, in her white coat would say, “Oops! I forgot them at home.”

And what do you wear in an operating room, really? Scrubs for spine surgery. Scrubs for gastrointestinal procedures. And psychiatry?

Dr. Schumer, psychiatrist: “I’m a surgeon!”

Funny how you celebrate things you would otherwise not…”Hey, what a great seizure!” (High fives all around.) Never Say say, “I just push a button.”

Adding to the list of things not to say in the operating room (“OR”):

  • My Bad
  • Who is this?
  • Whoops!
  • I hope this works

ECT patient: “I want to be the placebo guy.” Patient (an older man:) Lifted his head, slightly, after the procedure was over, and asks, “Can I still have children?”

Patient: Being wheeled out of the OR (operating room) on the gurney, she stares up at the ceiling and mutters, “I can see why I need a driver.”two steering wheelsHow do People learn how to drive a gurney?! I just touch the thing and it’s like solid objects appear everywhere. The patients get nervous. One said, “Doctor, there can’t be two steering wheels.”

Dr. Schumer: “I want to reduce staff work load, and since I’ve proven to be an unsafe driver of gurneys… I now control the Tylenol. I am a physician and I hate it when people say that I just ‘push a button.’ They can hardly trust me not to shock myself…. But the Tylenol, the Tylenol is mine!”

Anesthesia: “Versed isn’t really an abused street drug—if you have a good time using it. You don’t remember anything anyway.”

Dr. Schumer: “Yes, I’ve put vaseline on my nipples to help with chaffing.” (Patient: In his ‘twilight’ sleep…we thought, bursts out laughing.) Dr. Schumer: “Yeah, try and not picture your doctor in pasties… It’s not good for your healing.”

Patient to Dr. Schumer: “You’re pretty good at this.” Dr. Schumer:I’ve watched this on the Discovery Channel.” (Then, all of a sudden, she realized “I am not perfect. Such a shame.”) Dr. Schumer: “I really don’t do a whole lot in the OR… In fact, can we just get another gurney in here so that I can lie down?”

Cheap medical service, do you really want that?

Trying to explain, temporary memory loss in ECT

rain gauge

I’m trying to help explain, “Why temporary memory loss in ECT versus loss of memories prior to ECT?” It is “friendly” to understand our treatment options and dispel stigma, starting with “Me.”  Please let me know if this effort is helpful in any way. 🙂

Community opinion of ECT, largely influenced by the media rather than data, has a very hard time believing that the memory loss is of new memories, (or imprinting memory, ) during the course of the index trial; not memories before ECT, not memories after the index trial is done, not memories when maintenance ECT is going on.  

The best way I can explain this, (and this is my own Dr. Q effort,) is that the memory loss is related to mechanical issues, like a cork in a bottle.  Think of a rain gauge, for example.  After it rains, we see on the gauge that it rained 2.3 inches last night.  We uncork it at the bottom, and all the rain water flows out until the rain gauge is empty.  We let the water out. The rain gauge may fill again when it is recorked.

The electrical stimulus and subsequent seizure to a brain cell is like the process of uncorking the rain gauge.  The natural process of the brain is to “recork” after a stimulus, be the stimulus pressure, magnetic, chemical, or in this case, electrical, and let the cell fill back up each time it happens.  The recorking process happens all the time in our brain, (in vitro,) after natural stimuli act upon a cell, be those natural stimuli pressure, magnetic, chemical, electrical, or another.  

ECT is a medical therapy that uses the basic recovery methods of our own physical design and perhaps, this is one of the reasons it is so effective.

Unless the cell has that inside content, it cannot lay down new memories.  The stimulus and stimulus response does not damage the cell.  They empty it. The response is mechanical.

This idea also works to help understand why the memory loss is most often temporary rather than long-term.  The cells replenish between treatments.  It is a cumulative effect, so the closer the treatments are, the more the degree of memory loss.  As the time between treatments increases, the recovery time is so brief, that the patient doesn’t notice memory loss.  The patient is able to imprint memories without difficulty.  The rain gauge, we could say, has its cork in for longer periods of time.

Question:  Have your choices toward treatment ever changed based on dispelling your own stigma?  Has information and greater understanding of your treatment options ever specifically improved your self-care?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Use information and greater understanding of your treatment options to improve your self-care.  Keep on.

What Are Our Treatment Options in Psychiatry?

choosing

I go through this almost every time I see a new patient.  I often hear that this is all they really wanted, “To know what my options are and that I’m not choosing something way out there.”

First off, most treatments for psychiatric brain illnesses are not done with intention to cure, but rather to restore health and increase quality of life.  Healthy is not the same as disease free.

This applies to all the treatments listed here.

1.  Hospitalization:

Inpatient – 24 hour locked unit, voluntary and involuntary, little psychotherapy, and daily physician care.

Partial Hospital – Day Hospital that runs during business hours such as 9AM-3PM, voluntary only, includes intensive psychotherapy, and weekly physician care.

2.  Counselling/Psychotherapy:

Talk therapy and exercises of various forms.  May be with physician or nonphysician.

3.  Stimulation Therapies, such as:

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) requires brain surgery to implant an electrical stimulation device in the specific brain area, controlled by a device implanted in the gut. Effective, but higher risk.  Least time consuming for maintenance care.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – The patient sits in a chair with a magnet at the head’s surface that uses magnetism to stimulate the brain for treatment, 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for various weeks, according to the patient’s need and funding.  Few side-effects.  Time consuming.  Not as effective as DBS or ECT but comparable to some medications.

Electroconvulsive Therapy – Uses electricity to stimulate the brain, inducing a short seizure for treatment.  Considered safe and of low risk.  Most effective.  Response is speedy.  Few, and mostly temporary side effects.  Does not enter into the body systems.  Less time consuming.

4.  Medications:

Chemicals for treatment in the form of pills, liquids, injections, patches, powders, vapors, gases – enter into the body systems causing physical side effects that, as with any treatment, must be weighed against the benefits.

Pills – generally taken daily, which is a challenge to treatment compliance, and activate internal conflict and personal stigmas.

Injections – generally done in a clinical setting, bimonthly or monthly.

5.  Aerobic exercise 50+ minutes, 5 days a week.

6.  Sleep hygiene.

7.  Diet

8.  Alternatives – such as over the counter herbals, naturalistic supplements, meditation, spiritual, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, or no treatment.

Questions:  What do you think of your options?  What do you choose?  And why?  Please tell us your story.

Did I miss anything?

Self-Care Tip:  Get informed about your treatment options.

What are you up to?

Image

Hello Friends,

What are you up to?

Lately, I have been working on getting our ECT book done.  I am spending more time with the kids, exercising less, quilting more, and eating tons of fruit as it is always in season and “going to waste” (which guts me to see) around our little property.  I am still listening to tons of books from audible and I think that my portrait would show me anywhere anytime with earbuds in.  It must annoy others. …What was that?

Let us know what you are doing.

Be a friend to yourself.  Keep on.

Tower-of-Babel Syndrome

COMPLETION-OF-THE-TOWER-OF-BABEL-GENESIS-XI9-2-Q6503

From time to time, I hear complaints that someone’s brain illness got better with medications and/or ECT, but just came back when they stopped. This almost always happens when a patient never transitioned to maintenance ECT and/or medication therapy.

I dub this, the Tower-of-Babel Syndrome.  We all suffer from it at some point in life, trying to be like God.  Or maybe a lesser god?  During this Tower-of-Babel Syndrome, after we have paid the price, after we have complied with the many hard tasks, after we have built ourselves up into something glorious, we are cured from illness. Right? Once we stop perceiving it, illness that is, we are closer to God, more like Him/Her, perhaps more perfect, when we feel better and do not need medical care. Little gusts of wind are all it takes to fill our wings and off we go, living life free from disease laden earth.

But this is a mistaken expression of freedom.

The number one reason for relapse is…? You remember.  Treatment noncompliance. Is relapse most often due to life stressors? There are so many. No. All those reasons for why we think we feel what we feel and do what we do, all those forces acting on us from the outside in, they are not the reasons we relapse most often.

There is something like a super-bug growing amongst us who engage in treatment on and off. We do it four or five months out of seven. We skip here and there and do not “over-react” if we do. “They don’t control me, after-all.” We apperceive the situation. We think we, by not being consistent with medical treatment, demonstrate our freedom. We are free when we engage in medical treatment or when we do not. We are free because we are human.

The super-bug in brain illness is a progression of disease process heightened and sharpened by treatment noncompliance. A growing resistance to treatment and an acceleration of our falls, how long it takes for us to drop into a relapse and how hard and far we fall.

Let us work together to take away barriers to consistent treatment.  You may laugh when you hear about the Tower of Babel.  You can laugh.  A bonus.

The Tower-of-Babel Syndrome is familiar to those of us who stop any variety of medical treatments on our own, excluding our treatment team members, (such as our physician, Wink! Wink!) in our decision to end treatment.

By stopping medical treatment, many of us have this sense of eliminating the reason we started in the first place.  Take treatment.  Disease continues.  Stop treatment.  We are superior.

When my son was about one year old, he learned that if he turned his head away from you, it was as good as denying your existence.  Turn.  You are gone.  Turn back.  You reappear.  Turn.  And just like that, you have been eliminated.  Even now, remembering it delights me.

Not so cute however, is disease relapse.  Maintenance ECT and/or medication therapy has a protective effect on the brain, prophylactic against further insult. It does not increase the distance between Me and God.  It does not increase a mislabeled dependency on treatment.  Maintenance therapy is part of our life journey.  It is part of our ability to be present with ourselves.  It is friendly.

Questions:  What keeps you in treatment?  Do you feel more diseased when taking maintenance therapy?  How do you manage that?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Stay in maintenance therapy.

Value Yourself

tiger cat

The room is dark, shades drawn for hours. Sandra stays unwashed in her blanket.  Around her are gathering piles of laundry and stale air.  Pictures have fallen over in their frames.  Sandra hears her daughter, “Mommy, please get up now.  Let’s get up Mommy.  I want you to get up.”  Sandra’s body feels like a bag of concrete and she tries to explain this to her seven-year-old.  “I’m just so tired, Honey.  You go play.”

Days and then months go by, like this.  Some of them, Sandra is up and functioning.  But mostly just.  She finds her thoughts are not clear.  It is hard to find words, let alone anything around the house.

“Who is this person?” Sandra thinks about herself.  She wonders if her husband will leave her.  He is trying to have sex less and less.  They do not talk and she is pretty sure her last real orgasm was a year ago, Thursday.  She cannot believe he even likes her when she dislikes herself so much.

Sandra is not treating anyone very well.  She has lost what was in her bank and cannot account for her own value.

Our value is not a very politick thing to celebrate, to speak of, or to put at the front of the line, but we, individually are worth it.  Sandra is worth it.

You are worth it.

Sandra was having trouble like this.  She had been missing more and more work, for “sick days” and she was worried she would be replaced.  “Who are these people?” she wondered about her colleagues, whom she used to enjoy, joke with, and compete with.

It occurred to Sandra, at last, that everything that was worth living for was only insecurely hers.  She thought, if she lost them, she would die.  She needed to get better.  She wanted to get better.  All the way better, back to herself, funny and sexy and showered.  That would be real nice.

Sandra took, what for her felt like, a desperate action.  Sandra went to see a psychiatrist.  It was not easy understanding her treatment options but basically they came down to, medications, psychotherapy, and stimulation therapies of which electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is the gold standard.

To grasp what these options meant, Sandra needed to think about how long it takes to respond to treatment, the chance of responding to treatment compared with not responding, either at all or only partially, and side effects.  Because of knowing she was about to lose “it all,” (home, marriage, employment, possibly parenting rights, and more,) she decided she needed treatment that was the most likely to work and work fast. (ECT can be up to 90 percent effective in reducing the severity of symptoms.)  Sandra did not want to gain weight.  “I would rather die,” she said.  And she did not want to get other medical problems from trying to treat another.  (We call these iatrogenic, when a medical treatment causes another disease, such as an antidepressant causing obesity.)  Because ECT allowed for all these, Sandra launched her ECT index treatment.  She started in treatment even before she started having hope.  Sandra took the action she was able to, toward her value.

This a a short story about Sandra, but her story goes on in a much richer, and pleasure filled way.  I wrote her story to give you an idea of how someone who has never tried medication therapy may decide on choosing ECT as their first treatment effort when struggling with brain illness.  Because of her value.  Because of our value.

Question:  When you explore your value, what would you like to do that more directly honors you?  What does valuing yourself do for those you value outside of yourself?  How can you show that you value others but caring for yourself?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Care for yourself to care for others.

Treating Depression with Electroconvulsive Therapy

mcfadden-moMaureen McFadden, a two time Emmy Award winning journalist, at WNDU.  In November 2007, she documented a winning medical series called Rewiring the Brain. 

  See part of the Emmy award winning story on a local man’s path to a better life in the series “Rewiring the Brain.”

I am sharing my response to Ms. McFadden with you, my friends, colleagues, and community, because I choose you for company.  Thank you for that.

Hello Ms. McFadden,

Thank you so much for your work increasing community awareness of ECT and diminishing social stigma.  Thank you for having a life-work, such as this, for obtaining a powerful voice that people want to listen to, and doing what you have done to get attention.  Your influence, hard-earned, is collateral and that you spent it “here” is huge.  I am so grateful.
I am a psychiatrist.  It is difficult for me to work with these, community awareness and social stigma.  I am not special in this difficult experience, of course, and I know that the bummer feeling that I am “alone” in it is a distortion.  Thank you for your company and illuminating presence.  Keep on.
Sana Johnson-Quijada MD

Nurse tells her experience – Suicide

Guest Post

by, Leslie Oneil, RN

Nurse extraordinaire!  Person to know.  More.

Nurse extraordinaire! Person to know. More.

In The Ring

I sat at a table in a large meeting room watching Dr. as she stood in front of the room. She stood in front of us with poise…armored with stories, analogies, statistics, and invisible red boxing gloves to match her red dress. She was ready to defend mental illness, and fight for its proper place in medicine and in the spot light where it belongs…right next to the heavy hitters: cancer, heart disease, diabetes.

Dr. delivered the statistics….”1 in 5 people suffer from depression.” She counts the room, “1, 2, 3, 4, depressed. 1, 2, 3, 4, depression.” She continued, “Put all of the depressed people in a room, and look around. 1 in 15 of those suffering from depression will go on to commit suicide.” It’s dramatic. The room was silent. It usually is. I am not comfortable with the topic anymore than I was the first time, but I am getting used to hearing the same phrases, the same statistics, and responding to the same questions from the audience. I am now familiar with the language of mental illness.

Last Friday, as I stood in the middle of the PACU, our eyes met. It felt intense. it was an emergency, and an emergency in behavioral health means…

Then I heard Michael Buffer, the master of ceremonies, in my head. He introduced the statistic to the ring. Dramatic music played, and before I had the chance to raise my gloves, the statistic nailed me…First with a left hook, then went below the belt. I was knocked out. Speechless with my face in my hands. Gloves were off.

 

Your patient committed suicide.

 

No amount of training prepares you. No power point presentation. No book. No doctor.

TKO.

I never even imagined how I would handle the news. I was weak in the knees and shook.

The patient was starting electroconvulsive therapy in 3 days. The patient had just called me. The patient denied any suicidal thoughts. The patient…….It doesn’t stop.

The gravity of what I do hit me. It hit me hard.

As I drove home I thought, “Have I entered a losing battle? I’ve wanted to be a nurse to comfort people, advocate for them, care for them, and try to help improve their quality of life if possible.” If possible are the key words.

Am I okay with, “We did everything we could. Stop. Time of death….”

 

My question to you: “Do you find gratification with the result or with the process?”

You think you know the answer…until you’re in the ring.

 

Leslie Oneil, RN, is a ECT specialist nurse.  She writes at a blog worth following, A Very LOshow.

 

Answering Jim, professionally and personally – ECT

A few days ago, Jim, from blog, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” asked in his comment to my blog post,

What is your educated opinion about this?  A friend of mine is seriously considering this.

Jim was asking regarding ECT – electroconvulsive therapy.

021 Side Effect

021 Side Effect (Photo credit: Jester Jay Music)

Responding to a question that asks me to answer both personally and professionally is a little uncomfortable but this is my best effort.

…Alright, Provocateur Jim, I have been chewing my cheek on this, wanting to say something profound, considered “educated,” 🙂 yet not to turn anyone off with an up-tilted schnoz.

I do love ECT as a treatment option.

ECT is not for everyone of course, as nothing is, but consider it if you are looking for a treatment to work quickly and effectively .

Quickly is important.

  1. Can be life-saving, (“Timing is everything,” they say)
  2. Brain health short and long-term
  • less dementia,
  • less onset of other brain illnesses that come when one brain illness is not fully treated,
  • easier to respond to any future necessary treatments when we get more rapid and full treatment response to current illness episode,
  • ECT (as with medication therapy) that is done earlier in illness episode has a more robust response,
  • relapses are less severe, and we do not drop as rapidly when treatment is obtained more quickly for current illness episode

3. Quality of life,
4. Halt the damage to interpersonal relationships,
5. Diminish financial demise secondary to disability of brain illness,
6. Minimize side-effects,
7. Minimize medications.

Efficacy… do we really need to even say that the goal is to use a treatment that works?  ECT works more often and more thoroughly than any other treatment options.

Furthermore, we suffer less illness relapse when ECT is continued in maintenance.

Treatment response is much more robust when ECT is combined with medication.

Side Effects:

The side effects can only be measured on an individual basis, as qualified by the person going through them.

First off, there is no brain damage done by ECT, as seen in medical studies. This is a common fear.

Neither does ECT go through the body systems, it is not metabolized, and does not touch our body organs.  Yay, right!?  Medication side effects are a huge pill-dotted elephant in the room.  ECT does not touch the body (i.e. It is not a substance ingested or entered materially into the body,) all related potential side effects never happen.

The number one reason for relapse in brain illness is medication noncompliance.   This is due to many reasons, such as intolerable side-effects and the cascade of subsequent related issues.  Even dry mouth can lead to root canals.  We do not think of osteoporosis from serotonin agents.  Not taking our medication daily can be for more obvious reasons, like not climaxing during orgasm.

Zoloft Side effects in women

Zoloft Side effects in women (Photo credit: Life Mental Health)

Plus, it is just hard to remember.  Even the most consistent of us generally miss one to two days of medication a week or a month.  It is tough to be consistent.
ECT is less difficult to remember and maintenance ECT is much less frequent than taking pills every day.  Even when the ECT is combined with medication, if a day or two is missed, at least the ECT will be consistent as it has the support of the community of ECT staff and the transportation person to and from the surgery center.

In these regards, ECT has fewer barriers to treatment compliance that the majority of us suffer with medication therapies.  That is a big deal.

The side-effects of ECT are generally headache and temporary memory loss.

During index treatment, (about the first 3-4 weeks,) it is common to experience difficulty imprinting/recording memories. This typically takes about five weeks after the index treatment to return toward baseline. 80 years of data do not demonstrate that there is other memory loss but there are individual complaints of that.

Headaches are common for the the first couple treatments until the anesthesia becomes customized to the individuals experience. Generally after the first few treatments, the personalized anesthesia medications are able to resolve these from causing too much suffering. Not universally of course, but generally. Then once the maintenance treatments get going, memory loss and headaches are not common complaints.

…Big breath…

Did I do it?  Any questions about this diatribe?  🙂  Thank you for your patience.  I am trying…  Please let me know.  Keep on.

Past week, latest on ECT on the web

  1. Shock therapy used to treat depression video from wzzm13.com community
  2. Wrong Planet Autism Forum Index -> Bipolar, Tourettes, Schizophrenia, and other Psychological Conditions
  3. Why are we still using electroconvulsive therapy?
  4. By Jim ReedBBC Newsnight
  5. PLOS ONE  :  Electroconvulsive Therapy Induces Neurogenesis
Cured by Electroshock Therapy,  Wall Street Journal

Conditional Love With Me

frayed rope

We have a tenuous relationship with ourselves.  Very conditional, as if we were in a constant state of probation. Have you noticed?  Conditional love: part of the human condition.

I was reading the The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel, by Helene Wecker, and found myself getting into her golem-philosophy, that went something like this,

Since so many of us have it, can’t you just say it is the way things are, and not about freedom or fairness?

Wecker in such eloquence ironically describes the human condition from the story of two inhuman beings.

The New York Times, , describes it as,

When they are later confronted by the evil power who controls their fates, they discover that the ultimate expression of free will may lie in the embrace of limitations.

In considering our limitations in loving our own self, this idea can be useful to come to terms with the day in and out internal conflict of loving what is imperfect and distasteful, with what we would otherwise rather not identify with, and with the acts of friendship toward this seemingly inhuman part of our selves.  In embracing our limitations, we may find less conflict in loving Me, less conditioning, or perhaps a shorter probation each day.  We may experience the probation differently, Chava, The Golem, when we say, “It just is this way with all of us.  I have the community of humanity.

Getting into the space of where our “tenuous bond” between what we love and would otherwise not love about ME, in fact diminishes the frailty and increases the strength in our personal journey.  Rather than putting us into further danger of internal conflict and self-loathing, it allows us to experience what will happen from and in the company of the tension.

More specifically, in brain health, getting into the space of our conditional love for our self, allows us to do things like seek medical treatment when needed, ally with help, with medical treatments that once repulsed us, with something as formulated as putting a pill in our mouth seven days a week indefinitely.  Or another treatment, such as ECT.

We are conditional with ourselves.  It is part of our human condition.  That is pretty close to, “Normal.”

Question: How often are you aware of your own difficulty loving yourself, your Me?  What improves this?  Why does difficulty with loving Me recur and recur without end?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Get into the tenuous space between the “good and bad” of Me where you are normal.

 

another answer to ECT questions

Yesterday, we discussed seven bullet points on ECT.  I disclosed that I have a personal agenda in pursuing knowledge and community awareness about ECT.  (Maniacal laugh! j/k)

In my questions at the end, I asked for ways to continue to improve in this effort, and happily, Nance responded with these scintillating questions!  I’m listing the questions in her words, and responding to them one at a time because really, they are what I hear asked about so often from many others that it’s a no-brainer.  We have to talk about it.  🙂

Good looking lady

1.  Please help those of us who fear good memory loss to understand (or feel better, at least) how ECT is still a viable option. Is the good memory loss permanent?

Studies demonstrate, as does the collective opinion of physicians anecdotal experience, that ECT memory loss is temporary.  Some mild memory loss happens during treatment of course because of the seizures, (also known as convulsions.)  Within a few weeks of the index treatment course ending, the memory returns to normal.

When we have seizures, it is typical, whether artificially induced, such as with ECT, or because of pathology, for us to feel sleepy, not remember events surrounding the seizure and even possibly disorientation.

After a seizure, the brain has a period of “quiescence,” or becomes quiet, when its natural electrical activity rests.  During this time, (the index treatment,) it makes sense therefore, that we will not imprint memories well.

ECT starts out with what we call the index treatment – around four weeks of ECT dosed generally three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, for a total of twelve treatments.

Index treatment = 3 ECT treatments/week x 4 weeks = 12 treatments total

This is not set in stone and some people have fewer or more.

Furthermore, most people say that within fifteen days of initiating ECT, memory is actually better!  That’s pretty cool.  It ties in with our understanding that our perception of how we concentrate and remember things is worse with brain illness.  However, in many brain illnesses, it stops there.  It is just our perception, when in reality, our memory is just fine.

Soooo, connect that with what we said yesterday about ECT taking about 1-2 weeks to start working, (i.e. round 15 days!)  And, when the brain illness is healing, the symptoms of the brain illness, (in this discussion it is memory loss,) is better.  Yay!  The term to describe this kind of perceived memory loss is “pseudodementia” because there really is no memory loss in the first place.

2.  How often, after the couple of weeks that you mention, would ECT be necessary?

ECT, like most treatments for brain illness, is not a cure.  Healing does happen, but the genetic predisposition remains.  Most of the time when people c/o that their illness got better with ECT but just came back when they stopped, it is because they never transitioned to maintenance ECT.

After the index treatment is done, we need to taper the ECT doses down slowly, monitoring all the while for symptoms of brain illness resurfacing.  When we decide that the symptoms are just starting to come back, we stop the taper and continue the ECT treatments at that frequency.  For example, if you Nance were at this point getting one ECT treatment every three months, we’d continue you with that.  Every three months you would get one ECT treatment and we would monitor to see that your brain illness remained fully treated.

If you relapsed, we would increase the ECT dosing again until you responded fully and then try to taper down again.

3.  Would it completely replace the need for medication or talk therapy?

ECT works alone, as does medication treatments and talk therapies.  However, any of these work best when used together.  We know that our goal is full treatment response and not just – “Ah, she’s better.  That’s great!  We’ll just see how she does for now.  She soooo much better than she was after all.  We should just be glad and not complain.”

Our goal is not to only improve the illness some, but get it fully responding to treatment and allow for maximum brain health.

Leaving a brain illness only partially responding to treatment equals leaving the disease to progress.  When we fight for full treatment response, we are fighting for our brain health fifteen years from now.

One of the beauties about ECT is that is gets us to this great place where we are giving ourselves a healthier brain in our futures.  For example, we know that there is more dementia and earlier onset of dementia if brain illnesses are not fully treated.

Thank you Nancy for these questions and opportunity to further discuss this important, underutilized treatment option for brian illness!

Thank you readers for joining us in this discussion.  Let us connect with our community, increase community awareness and decrease stigma together.

Everything starts and ends with Me.  Keep on.

RELATED ARTICLES

The hard work of being friendly to Me – talking about ECT

i take drugs

i take drugs (Photo credit: the|G|™)

I give a lot of talks in my community on understanding electroconvulsive therapy, (ECT,) as a treatment option for brain illness and I am finally able to bullet point most of it.  It has been and continues to be a long love-labor I am honored to be involved in.  (It looks so simple! – Not!) These seven points, believe me or don’t, represent many hours of research, training, practical experience and time looking into my own motives of interest.

Even here! everything starts and ends with me.  Ah.  So sweet.  😉

drum-drum-drum-drum… rollllllll!

Number 1.  20% more effective than medication at any point in treatment.

In other words, if it is a first episode or fifth episode of brain illness, ECT is 20% more likely to get a positive treatment response than psychotropics.

Number 2.  It starts working in 1-2 weeks, versus medication therapy takes 6-8 weeks.

Number 3.  It does not touch the body systems – does not affect metabolism, heart, weight/appetite, sex drive/performance, cause dry mouth, or vomiting and diarrhea, life-threatening rash or anything else common or bizarre side effect to the body.

Name it, imagine it, confabulate about it but ECT does not do that to your body.  It does not touch the body except the brain where we are trying to make therapeutic changes.

Number 4.  It is the gold standard in pregnancy and peripartum for the same reasons – does not touch the body systems.

For the fetus – there really are not yet any psychotropics that are considered “safe.”  Even serotonin agents that once were the go-to pills for Ob-gyn physicians, are now known to risk increasing bowl irritability, lung function problems and possibly even heart disease.

Number 5.  It is the gold standard in the elderly for the same reasons – does not touch the body systems.

As we age, medications metabolize differently, interact more and cause a lot more life threatening side effects.  Even medications we’ve been safely on for years, one day, cause dizziness and falls.  Out of the blue, we start having nausea.  As if betrayed by an old friend, we don’t metabolize them well, our organs are sickened by them, we develop kidney disease.  Etcetera.  It goes on.

ECT does not.  ECT does not do any of this.  It does not touch the body systems.

Number 6.  ECT has been around for eighty years.

That is a big deal.  That is helpful if kept in mind when we consider if it is fad, a gimmick, secondary-gain driven procedure, motives for treatment and other concerns against its use.

So often in practice, we thrill at the medication samples in their shiny colorful boxes so well marketed with commercials on the television to support their use.  Our physicians pull their drawer out and present them as a new chance at treatment response, which they are.  These medications have been around for how long though?  Surely not eighty years.

How long does their patent last even?  Eight to ten years maybe.

What will we discover about study-medication-X over that amount of time?  Maybe nothing dangerous or too intolerable   How bout eighty years of time?  Still, study-medication-X might remain in a relatively safe category.   Maybe.  Or not.

Most medication trials, to get a medication legalized in the USA, are designed to study medications for about 8-12 weeks on any one patient.  Many trials are done over years, and they are compared with each other using complicated mathematical statistical analysis and governments.  It is not bad and I am grateful to be a part of this community of physicians who studies and prescribes medications from this pool of treatment options.  Still, I think how despite the huge number of persons who received this study-medication-X, none of them were individually treated with that compound for very long.

Deciding to launch a medication into the community is based on this.  Once it is on the market, data is collected and made transparent to the community progressively thereafter. But initially, we are making our decisions to use or not to use with this at our spine.

Shiny boxed pills with a few years gathered round them at most of information from individuals who probably used the study-medication-X no longer than several weeks total, verses, ECT that has eighty years of transparent data regarding what we want to know – side effects, efficacy and any other sense.

Can’t poo poo that.  Eighty years has its own kind of luminescence.

Number 7.  ECT works by changing how different parts of the brain communicate with each other.

ECT “turns down” those areas that have overreactive connection.

It turns out, this is similar with how medications work for brain illness, but without the medication side effects.

For a long time, stigma-related opinions about ECT exposed that we knew ECT worked but did not have studies demonstrating how.  That is no longer true.  This is an important milestone for the history of our treatment choices.

None of this is to say that one person’s choice of treatment is superior to another or not.  Rather, the import of this is that ECT is underutilized largely because of ignorance and stigma.  Not that it is qualified as better or worse.  Better or worse is the opinion of you and I with an informed consent.

Who are we to say that a side effect of ECT is more worth enduring than those of one medication or another?  Only the patient can say this and then how that side effect(s) compare for her against the benefits received from treatment.

However, psychiatry is not an area of medicine that yet has a huge array of treatment options.  To obscure one of this caliber, life-saving heroics and life-changing import is a huge loss.  ECT is another paradigm of treatment.  It is not an either/or.

Oh, but to share in what this does, mmmm.  That gives Me a sense of value, connection to you and improves the way I care for my professional and personal self.  Rich.

Gratefully,

Dr. Q

Self-care tip:  Share in what improves your sense of value, connections and the way you take care of yourself.

Questions:  I’d like to continue to improve this.  Any suggestions?

Does any of this ring a bell in your mind of something important to you?  Please tell us about it.

Related articles

AfterShocks (…Smile) From our ECT Series

Reference cat

I am hoping to get a running stream of references for those interested in finding out more about ECT.  To start, some are:

  1. As relayed in our last blog post, check out Mayo Clinic
  2. Kitty Dukakis: Shock Therapy Saved My Life – ABC News on abcnews.go.com
  3. Kitty Dukakis And ECT – CBS News Video
  4. Kitty Dukakis And ECT video – CNET TV
  5. Katherine Kitty Dukakis on ECT | Psych Central
  6. Kitty Dukakis & Shock Therapy | World of Psychology
  7. Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy – Amazon …
  8. Kitty Dukakis Backs ECT for Depression : NPR
  9. Scientific Articles on Neurogenisis From ECT as described on PubMed
  10. Mortality Rate From ECT
  11. University of Maryland describes their understanding of ECT as a treatment option for Bipolar Mood Disorder and Depression
  12. Currently under research at Duke University, “Not-So-Deep Brain Stimulation:  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
  13. I also really love the 1st hand words from    Here is one of her excellent statements – “No one really knows how ECT works. For the longest time everyone just said it “rebooted” the brain. Hardly scientific. What we now know is that ECT creates neurogenesis, in other words, neuron growth. And this is needed because long term depression kills brain cells and shrinks the brain. (Antidepressants also induce neurogenesis, FYI.) So ECT is able to make connections in the brain that weren’t previously there, and it makes them very, very quickly compared to any other method.”  She has done her research.
  14. Also, enjoy reading The Bipolar Badger who is going to be writing more on his experience with ECT this week (he’s promised).  The Badger says, “there is very little positive or objective is more like it out there on the interwebs. While I do not expect every post out there to be positive as not everyone has a great experience with ECT. It as important to mention positive outcomes as well.”
If you know of more, please tell us!
Be a friend to yourself.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Your Courage Will Connect You With Your “Me” and With Community

Veterans Day

A seriously cool veteran was cruising Old Town today on his Harley with about fifty American flags affixed in mysterious ways to his bike and person.  I cannot figure how, but those flags were not going anywhere he was not.

I had forgotten today is Veterans Day, even though my kids were all home, off from school, properly running amok.  This man, in his leather skins and industrial number of stars and stripes, reminded me.  As we approached each other from opposite sides of the street, I saw him nod to another biker passing him by.  His nod was enough to say, “Hello.  You are not alone.  I am not alone.  We connect by this brotherhood.”  I watched him in my rearview mirror and immediately dialed my dad, of course.   “Happy Verterans Day.”

Sometimes we do not wear our history as confidently as this cool vet.  How messy that would be, right?  Imagine a world where people used their hard-earned losses as a tool to empathize with themselves and others.  Where people’s pain was used as a force to connect with their Me and with others.  How tiring to receive nods, to accept judgments and applause, as it may be.  Right?  Company can be a burden.

This is my guess as to why not many of us speak up about what electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has done for us.  We hear about the miracles of medication therapies from first person reports, heck, even second, third or tenth hand.  We do not hear much about the miracles of ECT.  Instead, we hear the sound of quiet or else hopeless barbarism.

I was talking with a patient, Carla, about ECT as an option for treatment, and we laughed that we are anesthetized for a colonoscopy for much longer amounts of time than we would if we had ECT.  They seemed like such funny things to juxtapose.  The convulsion lasts around thirty seconds and you are done.  There are no broken bones.  No tongues bitten through.  There are no chickens sacrificed on anyone’s chest.  Carla had never heard about the physician-patient who had undergone thirty-six ECT treatments as a patient, whose morbid melancholia resolved and who later returned to practicing medicine in full capacity.  Why would the physician tell people about his history?  What kind of nods do you think he would get?  What patients would be willing to go to him for medical care?  Carla had not heard about the gamers, computer programmers, the nurses or anyone from the functioning productive public who had the courage to fight for themselves by choosing ECT.

My patients with whom I discuss ECT have concerns.  You have concerns.  Much of the world is concerned.  There are reasons.  ECT has improved farther than Jack Nicholson’s report on One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, though many of us were alive when his movie was first viewed.  The distance we have come in refining the practice of ECT is out of proportion to the distance in time from when ECT was not much more than sticking your finger in a socket and getting voltage in a continuous sine wave for therapy.  Is it shameful being connected to that history?  Is it too soon to say, “These are the ancestors I claim?” You know what to do with shame.

There are few medical specialties that gather as many opinions as psychiatry.  Yes.  Well there are even fewer medical treatments that are found in the company of so much frothing opinions than ECT.  No wonder we are quiet.  No wonder we are concerned.

So, although we veterans of ECT perhaps have not spoken up in our community, although we may not tear up at ceremonies for what our courageous self-care has done for our country or understand how we fit in, although we may not hang flags or tattoo it into our skin, we are courageous important citizens in company.  We are heroes.  Maybe not as cool in leather, but we are where we are because of those who have come before us and for what we have carried on.  We have suffered and died and lived and we are connected.  We have community and we are not alone.

Happy Veterans Day.

Self-Care Tip – Celebrate your courage.

Consider the Barrier Stigma Plays in Your Ability to Take Care of Yourself

Esther... The Girl Who Became Queen DVD Cover

I am just going to come right out and say it.  I have been trying to be clever, a Queen Esther toward her King and Hamon, on behalf of the people she loved.  (Yes.  I am Queen Esther in this story.  You can play her in another one.  Maybe tomorrow.)  I have been talking about treatment options for brain health and it is just not going where I was trying to take us – ECT.

ECT, my friends.  Electroconvulsive Therapy.  Many people see this as an extreme option for the dire, filtered out treatment failures.  That is an ugly description but I believe pretty close to what we have culturally got.  Many of you have told us how you escaped receiving electrically induced convulsions.  You hid from the boogie man and lived to tell us.  (There are chemically induced convulsions but we have more control of the convulsions through electricity, so that is the standard of care.)  Others have testified that it destroyed them with a catalog of specific and nonspecific complaints.

Interestingly we have not heard from you who have received ECT.

Come out, come out wherever you are.

Stigma perhaps hides you, and we can understand why.  Stigma toward ECT is like stigma toward anything – pretty off topic and hurtful.  Although it is improved by education and empathy, it is not fun challenging it “alone.”

Tonight I am not going to talk about the pros and cons of ECT, but to say that you are not alone.  You who are in treatment or have been in treatment or are considering ECT – would you tell us what you know, personal or impersonal?  There are many of us who would benefit from your education and empathy.

(What would that do to stigma?  What would that do for us?)

It would be wonderful to hear questions any of you have, as well, and anything related to ECT that you would like to share.  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Consider the barrier stigma plays in your willingness to receive treatment and to connect with others.

Find Hope When You Otherwise Must Die – Depression

Jane Eyre

Image by madelinetosh via Flickr

Briggs was crying again.  His wife, who came with him to our first appointment, looked like a peeled fruit beside him.  She was undefended, giving her last layer of self without knowing what would be left.  Briggs was one case of serious depression, but his wife; she was heartbreaking.  Both of them in their own ways would not last long.

It is not unusual in a specialty clinic to work with people such as Briggs who have been around the treatment shops.  Then, finally, in Jane Eyre-style, they appear at my door in the company of death.  They have been through therapies, practitioners and churches, but disease resists treatment.  Everywhere they walk, it is as if Hades (or Neptune) were visiting.  Hope-blossoms wilt as they pass by and those of us who share space, feel like the ground is going to open up and suck us under.  It is not uncommon in specialty-care, to be told, “…I have no strength to go further.”  Like Jane Eyre, they plead, “I must die if….”  (By the way, Charlotte Bronte is the bomb.)

As the person on the other side of this exchange, I have worn down the rainbow of “specialty” options available to offer.  And what are they?

I’m going to write more about those options next, but my questions for you today are:

What has worked for you or your loved one?  Is there any treatment you think is too extreme to consider to get brain health?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Find your specialty care.