Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Electroconvulsive Therapy

When I was a brand new mom, I had plans, goals, and ideas. I was organized and I always had a plan. Each day had a "name" and I don't really remember it all now, but there was a day for cleaning the kitchen, a day to clean the bathrooms, a day to change the bedding on all the beds, a day to organize the cupboards and pantry. 7pm was always time for baths/showers and brushing teeth. Kids always got to bed at 8pm. If anything was off-task I had a panic attack. I wasn't always good at it, I often fell behind and I still had plenty of things that I failed at. For example, I was (am) not good at keeping up with the organizing and decorating.

Well, fast forward a few years. Skip ahead to my hospital stay, and my Electroconvulsive Therapy ("Treatment" or ECT). I've been doing these treatments for just under 6 months. When I first started treatments, side effects were much worse. I knew I'd had a seizure, my entire body would ache, and I was certain I knew what an epileptic felt like.
When I was inpatient, Jason told me that a lot of people helped my family. Watching kids, arranging playdates, bringing meals, checking in on everyone. I am so grateful for all the people that helped my family when I couldn't be there for them. Let me make it very clear that I am eternally indebted to those who have helped my family. I hope this doesn't come across as me being negative or ungrateful. But the whole point of my blog is to get things off my chest, and to help me share things about my mental health journey. Let me also make it very clear that ECT has affected my memory and some of this could be wrong. But this has been on my mind for months now and I feel a need to share it, if only for my own benefit.
When I got home from the hospital, things started out with the typical excitement you always feel at a homecoming. I could cuddle my kids every night, I was home in time for a brief vacation with Jason's brother and new sister-in-law. I was home in time to get my kids ready for back-to-school. I was not able to drive yet (due to ECT) but I was able to physically be with my family and that was InCrEdIbLe! I was on an emotional high, heck, we all were! It felt perfect
Soon, things started getting back to "normal" except for one thing, I was still undergoing treatments. I knew it was working for me, and I had every intention of continuing. As treatments progressed, we tried to spread them out in the hopes of eventually being able to stop altogether. It didn't work, I started to "sink" (emotionally) and we had to move treatments closer together again. It was really hard on me, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and of course mentally. Being hard on me meant it was hard on my family. But I was home, so why would anybody need to help us?
So we started changing my medication and working with my counselor, my psychiatrist, and the staff at the ECT clinic so we could move treatments further apart. I was still on a type of "high" because I wasn't in the hospital anymore. But side effects were really bad and it was getting harder and harder to keep up with the things I needed to do. At least I thought I needed to do these things. And the help and support was less and less.
The depression is under control. Suicidal thoughts are few and very far between. But I yell like never before. My poor kids have taken the brunt of it because they are the only ones around, and they are almost always around. My dad had to tell me the other day that I had "gone too far" when I was punishing one of the kids. I use swear words like never before, I'm disgusted with myself. I end up apologizing and "beating myself up" for the way I react to things, and the things I'm failing to keep up with. I don't dust, or scrub walls/ceilings. Cobwebs are everywhere. I can't keep up with the laundry. I don't know the last time I helped the kids change their bedding, let alone the last time I changed my own. I rarely vacuum. I don't go shopping like I used to. I don't plan the menu. I don't bake "for fun". I struggle to keep up with the chores. I rarely do "fun" outings, (we used to use Groupon and other deals at least once a week).
So, what I'm saying is: ECT is doing what it should. For the first time in over 25 years I have felt an improvement in my depression. But the side effects are so incredibly difficult for me! And because the "thing" I was hospitalized for has improved, it seems like nobody cares anymore.
I don't want to sound needy or whiney because for the most part, I don't really need much of anything. But, I recently talked to a friend of mine that is a cancer survivor, and talked to a family member (who is also a friend) and read an article, all of these things have helped me find words for what I'm trying to express right now. If this were any other illness it would be different. My exhaustion would be understood, accepted even. I wouldn't be expected to work the day before/day of/day after treatment, especially not when I have to fast. My messy house would not be something to look down on, it would be "hey, I see that you need some help, can I come help clean your kitchen?" My forgetfulness wouldn't be mocked, it would be understood. Mood swings would be something to help with, not another thing to look down on me for.
I find myself resetting passwords, passwords I use daily are getting reset constantly. I forget recipes I used to have memorized. I forget how to play songs on the piano that I used to play all the time. I rarely read to my kids anymore, it's too hard to read. I never read for myself, I'm just going to forget it all. Every treatment is a little different. Sometimes I'm really sick, other times I'm just a little nauseated, and other times I don't feel sick at all. Sometimes I can't do anything but sleep for 2 days, sometimes I just sleep for a few hours.
I am going to close this, by begging all of my family, friends, and my readers (though they may be few!) to show a little more compassion and kindness. You don't know what the person next to you may have gone through recently. Don't stop showing love and sympathy just because you "think" someone is doing better. I'm not begging because I want that love, sympathy, and help for myself. Though there are days I could use it, I have a great support system in my parents, my teenage daughter (she's pretty amazing) my husband, and even my other kids can be pretty helpful at times. Just know that everyone out there is fighting a battle, and you rarely know anything about it. So BE KIND

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