Lighting The Spark (ECT Day 1)


It wasn’t nearly as harrowing as I expected.

They had me fill out some forms (“I agree that if my cerebellum sizzles like a frying egg, I absolve the cook from all responsibility…”). They encouraged me to empty my bladder, and recommended I put on a Depends diaper because sometimes people wet themselves when they’re on the muscle relaxants. I opted for no diaper. I’d expected to have to don a gown, but they let me keep my clothes on.

Then they had me lay on a gurney to wait. I listened to tunes on my iPhone and watched other patients be rolled to and fro, most of them way older than me. Apparently my brain’s a prodigy, it fucked up ahead of the curve. “If I Only had A Brain” cycled up on the iPhone, which cracked me up. Then “Unchained Melody,” which is one of my favorite songs, but it reminded me too much of Kate and I felt like crying so I skipped forward. “Cosmic Love” by Florence and the Machine. Which also reminded me too much of Kate, and was a song we’d shared, but I listened anyway.

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart

 And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat
I tried to find the sound
But then, it stopped, and I was in the darkness,
So darkness I became.

I wondered if I’d lose any memories of her. I wondered if it’d be best if I lost all memories of her. But no…I really want to remember the happy stuff.

In time, a nurse rolled me to the prep area and went over procedure and requirements. Turns out I was wrong when I thought they didn’t allow you to drive immediately following a session. Actually, they don’t allow you to drive throughout treatment. And possibly up to two weeks after treatment is done. So it may be a month or even more before I’m technically supposed to drive anywhere. Look at me: saving gas!

They checked my pulse and blood pressure, then the anesthesiologist appeared and told me more about what was going to happen. Then the nurse inserted the IV. Through that needle, I would get a migraine drug to help prevent headache, muscle relaxants which completely relax (you guessed it) your muscles, and of course the anesthesia. I’d never had an IV before, and was actually more anxious about it than the brain zap ahead, thinking it meant a really large gauge needle getting shoved up my vein. But the needle wasn’t that bad.

More waiting. Then the time came. They rolled me to the treatment room. A nurse was complaining about a computer that had apparently burnt out, and when told another was coming said “we’ll just kill this one too.” The anesthesiologist said, “Now, now, we don’t use the word ‘kill’ in here.”

They told me some nursing trainees would be observing, and the group came in looking like extras on Scrubs. One was a very fetching brunette with glasses, and she gave me what I’m pretty sure was an interested smile and actually wiggled her fingers in a cute wave. She seemed nice, but after the past few weeks I’m really doubting my judgment in such matters.

The anesthesiologist started the drip, and they had me breathe deeply from an oxygen mask. And I was out.

During that time, they stuck a rubber guard in my mouth so I wouldn’t bite my tongue off or crack any teeth when they turned on the juice. And then they put an electrode on the right side of my head and shot electricity through my brain, inducing a “therapeutic clonic seizure” and maintaining it for a minimum of thirty seconds, and for up to two minutes.

When I awoke, I felt fine, if a bit groggy. I feel worse most mornings just dragging my ass out of bed. I remembered everything, though at first all I recalled of what went on in the treatment room was the small amount of talk and flirting with the nurse (glad I hadn’t lost that memory because I need that kind of validation just now). I didn’t remember the anesthesia being started, or the deep breaths of oxygen, though within an hour or two all that came back to me.

Now, most of a day has passed, and as far as I can tell, I’m not missing any memories. I remember Kate, both the loving playful time together and the other time. I remember the books I’m reading and what’s happened in them so far. I remember all the plot twists this season on Fringe (which is saying something). I remember how to navigate all the tubes of the Internets, and apparently how to write. Of course, I have only had one session.

I’m glad I’m doing this. Their success rate is above 90%, so it has a good chance of really helping me, unless the universe just totally enjoys fucking with me.

Next session, Friday morning.

6 comments on “Lighting The Spark (ECT Day 1)

  1. Here’s hoping for the best. You certainly deserve it!

  2. Tim Byrd says:

    Thanks. I hope I deserve it.

  3. decidetodecideetc says:

    I’m thinking about trying ECT. I’ve been on every antidepressant there is, except for MAOI’s (and I’m not willing to make the diet changes to take them) and have had bad results/side effects. I’m going to sign up to follow your blog. All the best to you.

  4. Craig Henson says:

    Here’s hoping you get everything you need and a few of the things you want from this. Best of luck old friend.


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