Wish You Were Here

Dad with Leonard Bernsteind?

My Dad with the great composer Leonard Bernstein

After hearing my father audition, Bernstein told him that he had what it took to be a world-famous concert violinist

Today would’ve been my father’s 88th birthday.  

I wish my Dad was alive to celebrate his birthday for so many reasons – mainly so his two beautiful granddaughters could get to know him and enjoy his remarkable talents as a: Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist, oil/watercolor painter, sailor, model airplane builder, expert skier, woodworker, gourmet cook, book/poetry aficionado, gardener, college professor, violin teacher, backpacker, world traveler, Spanish speaker, and Irish Setter/Golden Retriever lover! 

I’m leaving out much, much more, but that list alone explains why time spent with my father was never dull – unless he was struck by a bout of severe bipolar depression. When that occurred he’d hide away in his bedroom with its thick curtains drawn shut as if it was a sepulcher. There he slept to escape his misery.

While growing up, I saw firsthand how manic depression affected my father, and I hoped to high heaven I’d never experience it. But that’s not how things worked out, and my father felt responsible and terribly guilty that I inherited bipolar disorder.  

I called him from the psychiatric ward’s single pay phone during my first hospitalization. I was six weeks postpartum and full-blown manic. (My suicidal depression wouldn’t arrive until weeks later.) Four hundred miles away, Dad answered the telephone. I told him I had just been diagnosed with bipolar one disorder. It was the first time I ever heard him weep.

Since I was manic, as soon as the psychiatrist looked me in the eyes and told me my diagnosis, I wasn’t fazed. During my conversation with my father I tried comforting him. I urged Dad several times not to worry about me, but he knew what lay in store for his beloved daughter. He knew that the shit would hit the fan in my brain, and it did. Again, and again, and again.  Six more hospitalizations would follow, I’d ask for unilateral ECT after he died, and for bilateral ECT after I made the disastrous decision to taper off bipolar meds.  All in all, I’d try over thirty-five medications to no avail.

Despite all my suffering, with the help of my immediate family, my doctor, my therapist, the medical establishment and (gasp!) even evil Big Pharma, I’ve come through “Dyane’s Inferno”.

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I wish that my father could’ve witnessed how my bipolar disorder didn’t destroy me. Wherever he is (for I don’t believe that when die, that’s it.), maybe Dad knows I’ve reached this hard-won, relative stability.

I wish I could’ve called my father after I was offered my book contract; Dad knew I wanted to be a published author from the time I was seven-years-old.  He was a voracious reader, and at bedtime he read me The Juniper Tree stories (a tad disturbing, but fascinating nonetheless) or Edgar Alan Poe’s haunting poem Annabel Lee, one of his favorites.

In the last couple years my father was alive, I’d search the Los Angeles Public Library’s online catalogue for books I thought he’d enjoy. Using his library card number, I’d request books about the violin, sailing, and history to name a few. This memory makes me happy because I know that the books served as bibliotherapy, despite the recurrence of his bipolar depression. He always thanked me profusely for finding books he couldn’t put down.

Dad would be so proud to see me achieve my dream of having my book published by Post Hill Press. (I still think he pulled some celestial strings so that I got the deal!)

I’m beyond grateful that Dad and I had our time together.  

I’ll be dedicating my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder to my girls, Craig, my Mom, Miss Lucy,

and of course…

Dad.

Dad unshaved

Dyane & Dad 002 (1)Eight-months-pregnant Dyane & Dad, 2004

Annabel Lee

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.
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Lack of A Writing Routine Messes Me Up!

COVER
Yep, it’s true.

After two weeks out of town (during which I was sick with a hideous cold for most of it), I came home exhausted, overwhelmed, and negative.  I realized that my decision to suddenly free myself from the internet was too extreme.  A few days would have sufficed in order to give me the healthy ‘net break that I needed.  Moreover, it didn’t help that soon after our return it was the anniversary of my Dad’s death.  While fortunately that didn’t trigger a depression as it has in the past, I still felt bereft and like crap.  

I wanted to sink back into a solid writing routine to ground me and give me a sense of purpose apart from being a mother and wife.  As simple as that goal may seem, it hasn’t been the case.

I’ve been tempted to sit on my derriere and watch recorded reruns of “What Not to Wear“, “The Long Island Medium” and even, gasp, “Lotto Changed My Life“.  (I haven’t actually watched any of them yet, but the craving has surfaced.)

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I love you, Clinton & Stacy! 

This is not good.  

I am utterly constipated, literarily-speaking.  I keep telling myself “I’ll start writing again tomorrow” and then SHAZAM!  Something happens to prevent my writerly aspirations from becoming more than just lip service.  Last week it was one of my kids staying home sick.  This week? Well, nothing happened except for total laziness and writing blockage.  Yuck.

It occurred to me that I needed a dose of Greg Archer wisdom.  Greg Archer is one of the most prolific, gifted, real writers I know.  I met him while writing freelance articles for our local weekly, the Good Times.  Greg was Good Times’ uber-popular editor-in-chief for fourteen whopping years.  Not only did he write hundreds of excellent articles, but he was in charge of overseeing a staff of impressive writers – talk about pressure!  :0

Greg’s second book Grace Revealed: A Memoir was just published, and it’s getting fantastic reviews.  As you may have noticed, the cover alone is spellbinding.

Check out his book trailer video – it’s awesome:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbxpaZiDod4

On Monday I emailed Greg for advice about about my writer’s block rearing its ugly, pus-filled head.  I confessed that I’ve felt like throwing in the towel on the whole damn project, despite almost 80,000 words being written to date.  More importantly, despite feeling in my gut that I NEED to write this book.  It’s not an option!

He sent me back some words of wisdom that were from his heart and potent:

“I want to encourage you to

LET GO MORE

You can only do what you can do…truly…
Show up…give the book some time each day…and that’s THAT.

 OH___ ADVICE>>>> WRITE THREE PAGES OF WHATEVER…. every morning… and then go to the real WORK… get something out of your head.

And then… comes the sending it OFF…. and then comes to LETTING GO… and then comes the LETTING GO MORE… because we want a kind of validation … that what the hell we went through meant something/will touch people//but what I am seeing now… is that… yeah, that’s normal to focus on…but if we can direct our energy to something more creative… other work; other expressions… it’s probably much healthier…We’re so complex

And beautiful

KEEP GOING..."

So I'm going to do just what Greg suggests that I do, especially the
  
"Keep going!" part.

Do any of you have advice to share about your own writing blocks?  
I'd love to know the gory details!  As always, please comment to your 
heart's content.

And have a GOOD weekend!!!

love,
Dyane

p.s. for more information about my extraordinary friend, please visit 
www.gregarcher.com

 

 

Lucy Puppy Visits My Psychiatrist!

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Greetings and happy Friday everyone!

Today I planned to write about my Dad, as it’s his birthday.  My father died in 2009, and I’ve written about him in this blog before.  I considered him to be one of my best friends, and he also had bipolar one disorder.  The link to my post about Dad is here:

https://dyaneharwood.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/dad/

I’ve always been into birthdays, and today I can’t help but feel down about the fact that Dad isn’t here with us to celebrate another one.  However, I’ve been comforting myself with the thought that he’d get a big kick out of what happened this morning.

I had my monthly check-in appointment with the best psychiatrist I’ve ever had: Dr. D.  Apart from being the most helpful pdoc I’ve seen over a span of two decades, Dr. D. is also the first dog-friendly psychiatrist I’ve consulted.  With all due respect, from now on I shall refer to him here as “Dr. Dog”.  (Ruff, ruff!)

A few weeks ago, when I emailed Dr. Dog about a med refill, I mentioned that the glorious puppy Lucy had joined our family.  I didn’t know if he liked dogs, but I attached a photo of her anyway since she was so damn cute.  Dr. Dog wrote back remarking on Lucy’s sweet face, and he said it would be perfectly fine to bring her to my next appointment at his-dog-friendly office complex.  I thought that was the coolest thing, and I knew that having Lucy with me would lessen my anxiety.  I was a little stressed about her going potty in his office, but I didn’t let that stop me from bringing her along.

To prevent a puppy accident from occurring, I packed doggy pads, spray cleaner, a roll of paper towels, a couple baggies, a dog toy, and a little container of water!  I’m sure I left something out.  (Just kidding!)  Honest-to-God, I felt like a mom with her a newborn going on an errand, carrying a plethora of baby objects in tow. While Lucy’s accoutrements were much easier to pack compared to infant gear (and infant), I found the task challenging all the same.

When Lucy met Dr. Dog, they hit it off right away.  I was the uber-proud mama of a fur baby!  Dr. Dog told me he was impressed my bringing my array of clean-up items, etc.  It turns out that he used to have a Sheltie who passed away few years ago.  (Lucy is part Sheltie, so of course I took that as a good sign.)

We reviewed my blood test paperwork, and then I brought up the two topics on my mind: my high anxiety, and my sugar & caffeine addictions.  Dr. Dog also considers my sugar and caffeine problems as bona fide addictions. He’s a longtime addiction psychiatrist and he knows what he’s talking about! I’ve become so discouraged with my lack of progress in these two areas in my life.  Diet and anxiety are strongly connected, and I’m perpetuating a self-sabotaging cycle in which the more sugar and caffeine I ingest, the worse my anxiety becomes.  Dr. Dog said he felt a “sadness” for me because these issues continue to bring me down and prevent me from being my best, happiest self.  I don’t foresee any quick fixes here, and I’m working on them with my therapists.  (My human therapist and my puppy therapist.  I’m joking once again – I smelled Lucy’s furry little head a few minutes ago, and I’m high on puppy.  It truly smelled amazing and not “wt doggy” yet. )

At the close of our appointment Dr. Dog remarked that I was doing “very well” despite my self-confessed challenges, which was music to my ears.  He said I could bring Lucy to my next appointment – more music to my ears indeed.  It was lovely to have her at my side in his office today, as she definitely helped me ratchet down my angst.  Lucy was so good and mellow, and she didn’t even go potty on his carpet! 🙂

Along with the bipolar gene, I inherited a great love for hounds from my father.  My Dad adored dogs and he filled our home with his beloved Irish Setters.  (Note to you dog experts out there – I believe that Irish Setters are much smarter than they get credit for!)  It was fitting that today on my Dad’s birthday I saw my psychiatrist with Lucy  by my side.  I know he’d completely approve of the arrangement and perhaps he even had an otherworldly hand in making it happen.  Who knows?

In any case, it’s fun to write about my joyful, vivacious puppy  today instead of dwelling upon Dad’s pain, suffering and death like I had initially planned to expound on.  I’ve “been there, done that” numerous times. This past week I wrote an essay about grieving my Dad for the upcoming issue of “Anchor” magazine.  I didn’t choose the topic; the upcoming issue’s theme is grief.  That assignment drained me, and I feel like I’ve met a “grief theme writing quota” that should last me quite a while.

I hope that my Dad is having fun in the Afterlife; perhaps he’s with his Irish Setters.  I see him in my mind’s eye playing the Tchaikovsky pieces he loved on his favorite Guadagnini violin.  His audience consists in part of Tanya and Amber, his mild-mannered setters.  Dad would understand my decision to blog mostly about Lucy instead of about him and my grieving his loss, especially since he couldn’t stand to talk about death in any way, shape or form!

I miss him.

 

 

 

The Real Heroes, Heroines & The Reality Check

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When it comes down to it, everything is relative.

Yesterday I wrote about my friend Anna who died from breast cancer; she left behind her two children and her husband.

I drive by Anna’s home every day, and my glimpse of her front door serves as a constant, profound reminder of her death.  Anna’s house gives me a much-needed reality check, for in the ten seconds it takes to drive past her door, I more fully appreciate the people and other blessings in my life.   It’s a fleeting perception, however.

Yes, my glass-half-full perspective fades so damn quickly.

This morning I fixated on negative things rather than upon the good stuff.  Throughout the night I had vivid nightmares and woke up to cold, overcast weather that didn’t inspire much of anything.  However, when I sat down to drink some coffee, I appreciated my Sunbox’s bright, cheerful light.  I sat in front of the light for twenty peaceful minutes of quiet before everyone else woke up.

Then the school day preparations began: the girls were woke up, I helped them find their shoes, got them some breakfast, and so on.  While I’m still a notorious enabler, Avonlea and Marilla are starting to do more and more tasks by themselves.

But there are other kids their age who will never get their shoes on, or stand up to find a shirt, or run.  They attend the same public school as my children.  When I reach the elementary school, I park in the lot and I walk the girls toward their classrooms. That’s when I spot the other kids.  Like my view of Anna’s house, I see these students five days a week.

One boy is driven in a minivan to school that parks in the handicapped spot next to the cafeteria.  I see his caregiver first take a wheelchair off the rear door and he cleans it thoroughly with antiseptic wipes.  He places a brightly colored kid’s backpack on the wheelchair handles.  Then he transfers the boy to the wheelchair, as the young student is quadriplegic and he’s paralyzed from the neck down.  There are also two small school buses that transport other students who appear to be quadriplegic as well.

Whatever I write here won’t convey how heartbroken I feel when I see these kids.  In an instant I know that any problem I have, including bipolar disorder, is nothing compared to what these students endure day in and day out for a lifetime.  There are no remissions from quadriplegia.

Last year I walked around the high school track in the mornings.  I observed school staff wheeling children with quadriplegia around the track for a few minutes so they could get some fresh air and sunlight.  The kids could barely lift up their heads and they missed seeing the beautiful redwood trees surrounding the track.  Some of the kids moaned loudly.  When I passed by them, at first I was so depressed, I didn’t have the guts to look at them.  When I began feeling a little better, I tried making eye contact with the kids to say hello, to acknowledge their presence, but their heads turned downwards and they couldn’t see me.

Now, after I drive away from the school each morning, I do something very selfish.  I curse myself.  It’s weird, because I believe in the power of affirmations and frankly I should know way better than to put myself down.  It happens in a flash and in all honesty, it feels involuntary.  My thought process goes something like this: I feel guilty for obsessing about my problems when there are young people handed a situation in life that I can’t begin to imagine.  To me, the way they must live makes having bipolar disorder look like…I just deleted what I wrote because words fail me here.  Bipolar disorder is hell; I don’t mean to minimize it.  But it’s also largely an invisible disability.  These kids live with one of the most apparent disabilities there is. Imagine the stigma they must face.

I am well aware that in creating my pity party, I’m not doing these kids any favors.  Obviously, I need to cut out this self-recrimination crap. But it’s hard as hell to do it.  Some people would advise me that if I feel so sorry for these kids, I should volunteer to help them out in some way.  To that I answer: I’m a coward.  I’m lazy.  I don’t feel up to the task.

There’s no way to tie up this post neatly with a smug adage or axiom.  We are always going to see others in worse dilemmas than our own.  Have you encountered a similar situation?  How do you feel?  What do you do?

 

 

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Driving By Anna’s House

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I drive by her house at least once every day.

I never fail to turn my head while passing her driveway on the busy road.  I glance at her front door and porch.

I say her name under my breath.

She died four years ago, on my youngest daughter’s birthday.

She was my age.  She had two children the same ages as my own, and we met at our kids’ preschool.

Her husband loved her…his love for her was beautiful, loyal and strong.  He didn’t leave when she started her decline.  When traditional methods failed, he took her to an alternative clinic.  They couldn’t afford that, but he asked others for financial help.  He wanted her to live so badly; she was his life.

She was beautiful, even when she shaved her head during chemotherapy.  After the breast cancer had ravaged her body, she kept volunteering at the preschool despite growing weaker from the disease and the treatment.

She fought cancer tooth and nail – she really did.  If anyone could have “beat it”, it would have been her.

When I had a scare with breast cancer, I had biopsy surgery.  Then I waited for the results.  I felt so terrified.  Anna invited me over to her house to hang out.  I wasn’t good company; my bipolar depression was in full force, but she didn’t care about that.

I didn’t want to complain to her; she needed my complaints like she needed a hole in her head!  Nevertheless, she knew what I was worried about, and she gave me support in the midst of her own fight.  Not many people could do that.  She was extraordinary.

These days, I see her lovely little girl each week at my daughter’s dance class.  While I know appearances can be deceiving, her child smiles, dances joyfully and she looks happy.  She has a devoted father, and she has a circle of friends around her.

Still, the loss of a mother is an incalculable loss.  No child should lose her mom.  Our girls repeatedly ask us if we’ll die – it’s one of their greatest fears.  Now that I’m a mother, I view the death of a parent so differently than I did before I had children.

As long as I live I’ll never forget Anna.  If you met her you’d never forget her resilience, her fighting spirit, or her compassion. There’s the trite phrase “only the good die young”, but it really is true in Anna’s case.  She affected a lot of people in positive ways, not just me.  Our world lost someone special when she left it

I’ll be passing by her house this afternoon around 4:15 p.m. At that time, I’ll be thinking of Anna and wishing her well, wherever her spirit has soared to, and I’ll be thinking of her family too.  I know they can’t ever get over her death, but I hope they will find as much peace as is possible living without her.  I know she would want that for them.

 

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The Sweetest Birthday Yet…

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“We want to welcome you to this world, and yes there will be days and nights, when  you’ll wonder is the world right?  We want to welcome you to this world, and yes, there will be days and nights when you’ll know the world is alright!”  Toni Childs, “Welcome to the World”

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Chillin’ like a villan!

Ever since my Dad died in 2009, my birthdays have been bittersweet.  I wish he was here to call me and sing “Happy Birthday” the way he used to do.  A friend wrote on my Facebook wall this morning that he is always with me, and I know he is.   I’ll still have fun on my special day, and I know he’d want me to do just that – he’d also want me to treat myself to gourmet chocolate and that is definitely happening!

Apart from missing my father, I’m thinking a lot about the music I love that lifts my spirits.  Toni Childs is one of my favorite singers.  She’s also a humanitarian and fellow dolphin lover.  Any birthday or birth reminds me of Toni Childs’ powerful song “Welcome to the World”, which I’ve listened to literally hundreds of times.  I didn’t think there was an accompanying video since it wasn’t one of her big hits such as “Don’t Walk Away”, “Zimbabwe”, or her duet with Peter Gabriel “I Met A Man”.  Luckily I was wrong!  Yesterday, on impulse, I checked YouTube and I was so excited to find Toni’s video of “Welcome to the World”.  I watched it and found it to be very beautiful and moving. Here’s the link:

Right now, despite rough days and anxious moments, I’m finding the world “alright” as Toni sings in her song.  I’m especially grateful to hit 44 as a woman who has reached a hard-won recovery with bipolar disorder.

I know that inevitably hard rains are gonna fall down once again.

All I can do to deal better with deaths of loved ones, or serious illness of those I love (or God forbid, myself)  is to take my meds, exercise, eat (much) better, get enough sleep, see my pdoc & counselor, and stay productive.  Meditating would be nice, but I’m still not there yet! 😉

There’s more…there’s always more I can do, but that laundry list is a good foundation.

I already woke up this morning with the best birthday gifts.  I know it sounds corny, and I’m sure you’ve already guessed what these gifts are – my two daughters and my husband. It doesn’t get any better than that.

When it’s your next birthday, I hope your wildest dreams come true!

Dy twoDyane & Dad, the dynamic duo

Are You Shocked That I Got Shocked?

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I’m still shocked…

that I had the guts to request ECT, otherwise known as electroconvulsive therapy or electroshock.  (Yeah, I like the term “electroshock” best…NOT!)  There was nothing other than pure desperation that drove me to do something so frightening and controversial.

It was January of 2009.  I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years earlier, and I was teetering on the edge of sanity.  Then my father died.  If you read the previous post “Stigma – Part Two” you know that my relationship with my father was a close one, and I loved him unreservedly.  His health had been failing for several years before he passed away, but each time it seemed that when he reached his end, he’d make a miraculous recovery.  No matter how many remarkable recoveries Dad made, I knew that it was inevitable that I’d lose him forever.  I had been dreading his death every day since he became frail in his seventies.

Dad never liked to talk about death, unlike me.  I enjoyed discussing death, generally speaking, that is, and especially the afterlife.  I considered Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a pioneer in near-death studies (On Death and Dying) and Dr. Raymond Moody (Life After Life which has sold 12 million copies to date) to be among my favorite authors.  Dad, an avid reader, wouldn’t allow me to discuss either of those books in his presence.

When I got the phone call that Dad died exactly the way he had feared: alone in a mediocre assisted living center, I became catatonic.  My depression plummeted into depths it had never reached before.

Before Dad died and before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I faced the death of another very close relative, my Granny. I fell into a clinical depression after she died, but I was able to function more or less.  Not so with my father.  When he died I asked to go to C.H.O.M.P., the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. C.H.O.M.P. had a locked-down mental health unit euphemistically called the “Garden Pavilion”.  When I was hospitalized there, my depression was so severe that I experienced suicidal ideations – I had no specific plan, but I felt utterly devoid of hope.

Prior to this hospitalization, I demonstrated that I was medication-resistant, meaning I tried a plethora of mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, and anti-depressants and none of those medications helped lift my depression.

At C.H.O.M.P. I was given the option which psychiatrists offer to their medication-resistant patients: electroconvulsive treatments, a.k.a. E.C.T., in which seizures are electrically induced in patients who are given anesthesia and a muscle relaxant.

My first association with E.C.T., along with many in our society, was a photo of Jack Nicholson’s character receiving it in the Academy Award-winning film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.  I never read Ken Kesey’s book or saw Milos Forman’s entire movie, but I had a very negative impression from viewing that disturbing image of Nicholson’s grimace while undergoing E.C.T.

In my late twenties after Granny died and I suffered clinical depression, I found a beautifully written book titled Undercurrents in which the author, psychologist Dr. Martha Manning, fell into a depression so deep that she opted for E.C.T.  The treatments helped her enormously, and while she struggled after the procedures with fatigue and short-term memory loss, she made it clear that it was the right, lifesaving choice for her.

I was affected profoundly by Undercurrents and when I began my freelance writing career, I contacted Dr. Manning for an interview.  I included her quote in my article “Shades of Gray” which examined the connection between depression, women and exercise for Fit magazine.  It was an honor to interview her. I kept our topics to exercise and depression only, for at that point I never imagined I would need, let alone demand, E.C.T.

When E.C.T. was presented to me as a viable way to recover, I vaguely remembered Dr. Manning’s book. Without any hesitation I told the psychiatrist on duty, “Do it.”  I didn’t care about its risks; I didn’t care about anything. To say I felt desperate was a massive understatement.  I was told by my psychiatrist Dr. C. that I would have unilateral rather than bilateral E.C.T., which meant that the electrodes used to stimulate my brain would be placed on one side of my head instead of both sides (bilateral).  This meant fewer side effects, most notably less memory loss.

The E.C.T. treatments started promptly at the grisly hour of 6:00 a.m. in the Short Stay Unit which used for outpatient procedures and E.C.T.  I was rolled up to the floor above the Garden Pavilion in a padded gurney by B., a compassionate longtime hospital aide.  If I had to be taken up to E.C.T. by anyone, B. had the perfect kind of personality for the job.

After B. dropped me off in a small, curtained room, I was prepped by a friendly nurse who immediately saw how down and scared I was and she did her best to set me at ease.  She started the I.V. line that would be used to inject me with general anesthesia.  I’ve never had a problem with needles or injections, so that didn’t faze me one bit.  I was looking forward to oblivion very much, thank you.

At 6:10 a.m. in walked Dr. C. holding a big coffee mug, accompanied by an extremely handsome anesthesiologist.  (Even though I was in a depression-induced stupor, I was able to notice physical beauty.)  Dr. C. gently placed several electrodes on my scalp and temple….it was no big deal.  A small, clear gas mask was placed over my nose and I remember finally being able to relax.

I wasn’t scared at that point; I felt like I was being taken care of and because I genuinely liked the staff surrounding me that went a long way in diminishing my anxiety.  The anesthesiologist said “Okay, Dyane. I want you to count backwards from 10”, which I started to do and when I reached “5”, boom!  I was fast-asleep.  I didn’t feel a thing. There was no pain.  Not during, and not afterwards.

When I woke up within the hour, I was a little groggy, but then I was completely coherent within about ten minutes. That surprised me. I was fed a hot breakfast I had selected beforehand, and I had the appetite to eat most of it. My short-term memory loss was minimal. While I was still heartbroken over the loss of my father, I definitely felt better than I had before I went under, and with each treatment I felt a little better.  After my week at the hospital I had additional treatments as an outpatient.

I firmly believe that E.C.T. saved my life, and it was completely worth it.  I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would also recommend it to others who feel suicidal, who have been medication-resistant, and who need to function as quickly as possible, i.e. a mother with young children or the breadwinner of the family.  My health insurance covered most of the procedures’ cost, and I was able to arrange an extended payment plan for the remaining balance.

Since I had the treatments in 2009, I have learned of another procedure used to treat major depression called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or T.M.S. Wikipedia defines T.M.S. as a “noninvasive method to cause depolarization in the neurons of the brain. T.M.S. uses electromagnetic induction to induce weak electric currents” and no anesthesia is required.  Last month I read an entire book about a woman experience with T.M.S. healing her depression after she had made a suicide attempt, been hospitalized and tried many medications to no avail.  (3000 Pulses Later by Martha Rhodes); I’ll be reviewing this book soon. I liked her memoir very much, but I disagreed with the one-sided depiction of E.C.T.

One important distinction between T.M.S. and E.C.T. (which have comparable success rates) is that with T.M.S. one must commit to almost daily procedures for up to six weeks.  The good news  is that the patient can drive back and forth to treatment unlike with E.C.T., in which a ride must be arranged due to the anesthesia  However, T.M.S. does not usually start working until midway through the four-to-six-week series.  E.C.T. can cause the depression to remit much sooner than that timeframe,  like it did with me.

Depending on one’s situation, it would be most worthwhile to closely examine both E.C.T. and T.M.S. pros and cons before undertaking either treatment.  E.C.T. is an enormous commitment and it requires a major leap of faith.  It’s expensive, even with health insurance.  (T.M.S. can be costly as well.) Moreover, there are risks when undergoing any kind of anesthesia, or when subjecting oneself to potential memory loss.  But if it’s between life or death, I can unequivocally state that doing E.C.T. was the best decision I ever made.