“Of all the unicorns, she is the only one who knows what it is. . . to feel regret.” ~ from The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Sweet, lovely, wonderful SummerSolsticeGirl gave me a trail of a thought, a thought which I followed to its logical if fairly uncomfortable conclusion. Which is way up from paralyzing. See? Progress.
I already wrote a fair bit about ECT. In the spirit of a nice, cheery, start-to-the-weekend kind of way, I’m going to re-post some here, along with the original links (the first especially is a bit long and doesn’t come to the focus for a while). There are more of them, I know. I also know how to find them, but I won’t, not today. Today is already splendid, and getting splendider (yes, I said splendider) by the minute, so I’ll do more of my post-traumatic electroconvulsive therapy explorations another time.
I have to say that I honestly hope some of you take something valuable from this. I needed the dam to break for me, but my drunken writing of the other night is allowing me to take something else back, too. Perhaps I’ll discuss it another time.
These posts were written in immediate succession, all in one long writing excursion. After which, things got really, really bad. More so than I can yet explain. . . Hence the word “Repression” in the title of this post.
. . . I feel like I kind of “got my brain back,” I guess would be the best way to put it (maybe another post – one day I’ll look for all of my maybe/another post references and make myself actually write about them, that should give me material for about a month). Aside from my girls, my brain is probably the thing I love most in this world. It is decidedly that which I cherish, adore, and appreciate above all other things that make me the specific and unique Homo sapiens sapiens which I am. And ever since I emerged fully from the ECT haze (not to be confused with the long-term effects the experience bestowed upon me, those are still thriving), once again able to fully utilize my fervently adored synthesis of gray and white matter, I have not had more than a week or two where it hasn’t given me some reason to worry. That’s damn near a year straight, and I’m not counting back to the beginning of the ECT, when I should have been extremely worried (that would tack on another eight months, for a lovely round 20 months, or well over a year-and-a half).
Had I known then. . . Actually consulting my notes, I was extremely worried at first, but not for the reasons that ultimately still plague me. After a few treatments, I basically progressed into a rapid-cycling, delusional, completely unaware, and even at times clinically psychotic haze. The psychosis was a very strange, oddly curious experience, honestly. I was hallucinating, full-blown hallucinations.
The background being that I have had very mild tactile (affecting the sense of touch) and olfactory (related to the sense of smell) hallucinations for years, but literally so mild that the first few times I startled and looked around (tactile), or asked anyone near me if they smelled what I did, usually food or smoke (olfactory). After that, the disconnects didn’t bother me, which probably seems very strange. . . And still, to this day, if I smell something and there is someone in the vicinity, I’ll ask them if they smell it, too. Honestly, I do it completely out of curiosity and an attempt to be aware and monitor the things that go wonky with me (much in the same vein as the plea above).
But the ECT hallucinations. . . I was seeing things (visual), hearing very distinct noises as well as voices – not in-my-head telling me things voices, but someone calling to me from another room (auditory). And of course the tactile and olfactory increased. What makes this very odd and interesting to me, is that while in one part of my brain these were absolutely real occurrences. . . It was almost as though my mind was split. As real as they were, and as gone as I was (and believe me, I was gone), I knew as I experienced them, with a very faint but absolute certainty, that they weren’t actually real, external stimuli that existed. They were strictly a product of my wildly out-of-whack mind. I knew that no one else could see/hear/feel/smell what I did.
It’s. . . I don’t know, I guess unfortunate is the word I will choose, in retrospect. I was still semi-cognizant of reality, but not quite enough so to make the connection of, Hey, if this kind of shit it going on, maybe it’s a signal that it’s fucking my brain up instead helping it. The hallucinations were fairly early on, but as I’ve written about in previous posts, by the time I even consented to the shocks, I was so psychologically and emotionally worn down, desperate, and in my doctors’ thrall. . . Add to that repeated shocks to my brain. . .
I can honestly say that is the only time in my life that I ever “let” anyone force me to do anything. I researched the treatment very thoroughly, considered it very carefully, made an informed decision, and said to my doctors (vociferously, and without doubt or hesitation), “No, never, absolutely not, under no circumstances.” I expressed this determination explicitly to five doctors. Repeatedly, for three solid years. I have a written report from one of them who had suggested electroconvulsive therapy as an option for me, more than two years prior to my “consenting” to it. I know this isn’t important to anyone but me, but it is so important to me. Please be kind and indulge me.
The psychiatrist in question is regarded as the best of the best, the doctor for bipolar in the whole of my state. I won’t detail his credentials, due to my rule of not disclosing identifying details about anyone in this forum, but they are extremely impressive. He doesn’t even have a regular practice, he is one time consultation, and by referral only. Translation: He is the doctor to whom the utterly confounding, seemingly hopeless, inarguably treatment-resistant patients are sent. A few months ago I was granted a second consult with him. I say “granted” not in a snide manner, but because to my understanding, anything more than one visit is nearly unheard of, and it took some string-pulling, as well as genuine kindness and sympathy for me on his part.
His relevant assessments on my “Mental Status Exam,” (direct quotes).
- “-cooperative, insightful, thoughtful”
- THOUGHT PROCESS: ”Logical Directed”
- COGNITION: ”Normal Cognition”
- INTELLIGENCE: ”Above Average”
- JUDGMENT: ”Intact”
- INSIGHT: ”Good”
Direct quote regarding ECT: ”-Consider ECT. Ms. ~ and I discussed this. She is currently not in favor of this strategy, though it has proven remarkably effective for many patients. She is aware of the primary side effects, cost and commitment to 6-8 weeks of intensive treatment.”
Psych speak for, ‘She’s intelligent, she lacks neither judgment nor insight, her thought process is ideal, she understands concepts without any distortion, she takes her time and considers things carefully,’ (Mental Status Exam). After doing some research on the Mental Status Exam and the terms psychiatrists use to complete, or “score it,” if you will, I can put it much more concisely: I passed with flying colors.
Next, ‘As far as ECT as a treatment, she has researched the shit out of it and refuses outright to even put this on the table as an option,’ (quote about ECT).
Couple the two, and what you get is, ‘She is cognitively flawless, and has made an informed decision about which her position is absolutely unyielding.’
How did I deteriorate from a lifetime of being that woman to one who was helpless, easily manipulated, and so drugged that I ceased to think at all – I just listened to what my doctor declared was best and regurgitated it as my own idea. To guild the lily, I’ll point out the period that ends the previous sentence is deliberate, no error, because that is a question for which an answer does not exist. Thinking back, I feel as though I was living my life in Brave New World. Close to three decades of an exceptionally strong will and independent mind occluded in two-and-a-half years.
As I said, it’s the one time in my life when I was so broken and desperate that I allowed someone else to make my decisions for me, if you honestly believe that in such a state I was capable of doing so. The word “allow” implies that one has thought about something and given their consent. Two of the Merriam-Webster definitions, “permit; to give consideration to circumstances or contingencies.”
Of everything that I have lived through, it is the one and only thing that I would ever go back and undo, if I could.
Moral of the story: Don’t ever let someone decide things for you. If five professionals are telling you one thing, all the same thing, but your instincts are telling you something else, listen to your instincts, damn it. If you can manage to hear your mind over the sound of their insistence, there’s a reason for that: You know what’s best for you, because despite the combined 160 million years of training and experience of these people, you are the only person in the entire world who has lived your entire life in your body.
And immediately after came Holy. . . What The. . . HOW??? ~
Something just blew my mind completely, and it pertains directly to my last post. I was so hyper-focused on that thing -
You all know the expression ‘Can’t see the forest for the trees.’ With me it’s reversed, I usually ‘Can’t see the trees for the forest.’ As in I miss things that are directly under my nose because I’m looking at everything at one time, even when I look at the object or whatever I’m looking for repeatedly. Apparently I was especially good at not seeing exactly what I was looking for pertaining to my post, or more correctly not seeing it accurately.
I made reference in my last post to a psychiatric consultation I had. The report was all typed up nicely, in a binder in my lap. I went looking for the date of the appointment. I read the year as 2007. I was flawless with everything else I saw in the lovely Outpatient Evaluation, and got everything right, except for the date. I was spot-on with the month and day, but I screwed up the year – and I honestly looked at the date, specifically, at least three times.
This consult was in 2009.
That isn’t what shocks me, actually. I had a moment when I noticed it, but I have this sort of issue fairly regularly. Even if I didn’t, something like that would pale by comparison to the actual impetus for what I still feel resonating through to my core.
I also discussed my severe mental decline in the original post. And while I couldn’t answer what caused my disintegration, not specifically, I could almost “get” the progression and generalization of a severe decline over two-and-a-half years, because I lived through it.
Six months. In six effing months, I went from confident, independent, thoughtful, and resolute, to. . . Well mush is all I can come up with because of the degree of the shock. Mush-brain, mush-decisions, mush-me. In every way that mattered.
How the hell? I wouldn’t believe it if it weren’t right in front of me. Six months. . .
This could be really bad for me right now.
Moral of the story: If you find yourself on a ledge, where you’re already teetering, and something comes along and does everything to push you into the abyss, you fight, you claw, you scratch, you kick, you cling for dear life, but you resolve that you will not let that motherfucker push you in. Fight with everything you have, but don’t let yourself fall. Don’t even consider it a possible outcome.
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