THE ITALIC TEXT IS TO GORY DETAIL. FOR A LESS RANKLING TAKE ON MY EXPERIENCE OF ECT AND MY DEVELOPMENT OF GASTROPARESIS, PLEASE READ BELOW THE ITALICS.
I am sitting in the psychiatrist's office for round two of eating disorder treatment, newly an "adult" having turned 18 years old 40 days prior of that day. I had just had an MRI done in radiology and he wished to discuss the results which he described as "troubling".
I am barely there in spirit. My voice barely audible. I am unable to meet his gaze. I am terrified of the food, the people, of a mind bent on eating me alive...
He lay the MRI results and his own arrogance on the table for me to see. I cannot recognize either. He blathers on of new research that was showing in restricting anorexia the reptilian brain never shows a moment of not being lit afire in red as opposed to someone with bulimia or someone who is "NORMAL". There are words and words and his own grandiosity causes me to turn my ears off and instead study the carpet. I think I would fancy to bury beneath and escape my surroundings.
When the vibration of his voice ceases I pull my head up (it is so, so heavy...) to find eyes intent on me.
"What do you think about that?"
I am stonfaced. I ask him to repeat the question.
"I said how would you think of starting electro-convulsive therapy? I believe that your mania would be much more manageable and these lows wouldn't be nearly like you are...now".
Disdain. That I recognize full well.
I ask if that is the same as shock therapy in the movies...and he replies it isn't nearly as barbaric as it once was. Throughout the two and a half months I was there he asked over and over if I would consent and each time I told him that I would never allow that. Something within me told me that whatever was happening to me now, ECT would be the end of who I am.
I am discharged...but am made to return 14 months later. In those 14 months I have climbed the ceiling catapulted by mania and plunged to the depths of Hades. I enter in the midst of the rowboat in Hell. Starved, crazed, homeless (literally homeless) I am much more susceptible to this man who insists that ECT is the only ticket I have to come back to Life.
Like a good girl a nod my head and he smiles broadly. I am handed a VHS tape and he tells me the principals are outlined there. I go and watch it. I come back out, and am transferred to Children's hospital at University Hospital Columbia Missouri and the Head of Neuropyschiatry meets me at bedside. I sign a paper without reading. I cannot read. I cannot think.
Then they drop another NG tube, because they already know that I will not have the will to eat. What no one counted on...was far worse.
I am prepped just as I would for surgery. I am wheeled to a room of blindingly white light and I hyperventilate. It is too white! The lights are too loud! I want to scream but my voice...my voice is taken from me. They help to lay me on the narrow table. This is not a normal OR. There is the Head, a nurse who is busy putting this sickening gel-glue substance and the neuropsychiatrist sticks the electrodes on my temples and a few other places. I was already on telemetry on the unit but they hook it to the bedside monitor. My vein burns and I watch the tele scream that the heart is slowing, my breath is slowing, and I know I am going to die.
I know I am going to die...and I am not all too sure that I even care.
....I wake up back in recovery. My head is roaring with the sound of the Furies. I know my shoulder must have rolled out of socket while I was under because I am bruised. In fact, I am mottled purple all over. It is painful to breathe and Dr. R (the neuropsychiatrist) asks me how I am. I merely nod but when I am wheeled back to the unit Doc Rob (my primary at the time...one of the greatest men to ever be in my life even to this day now) notices I am off. Notices that I am even further away than I once was. I vomit without mercy and I KNOW my heart will explode. So much Ativan that I am swimming in the river of chaos which is my newly fried brain.
I fall asleep in time to wake up and repeat the process for two horrible weeks. This is November 2006 at the age of 19. I sign out against medical advice as my treatment is incomplete and I must make follow up appointments to be zapped twice a week for the next twelve weeks. I pull out my own NG and am scaling the walls and shrug. I am as manic as I have ever been in my life! They put me on enough psychotropic medication to kill a 200 pound man and I, a slight girl, tip them back obediently -- unfazed. I move in with my former boyfriend's parents and then overdose on anything I can get my hands on since there is nothing that can help me sleep. I am certifiable! I am admitted this time to adult psych and am discharged to live again with my mom. I refuse all of my medicine, maintaining they were poisoning me.
I am again readmitted to Children's following a life threatening weightloss. It is assumed I have started purging. Even though by history that hasn't been all that possible for me. I state more lucidly (since I stopped poisoning myself with those horrible drugs and stopped letting them fry my brain) that the vomiting is not of my own volition. I panic as I choke on tubes, vomit hours old Jevity onto the floor and loose ENORMOUS amounts of weight.
A month later I am wheeled to radiology ("hello again...") and eat a single egg spiked with radioactive isotope. Two days later I am again being prepped for surgery, but this time to the OR to have a feeding tube placed surgically in my small intestine.
January 2007, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis...with large suspicion that was result from the thing that was to bring me back to life.
I write this today, a bit tired and in a fair amount of pain, dizzy with exhaustion and with purpose. I am still hooked to a tube with a machine dropping small amounts of predigested formula now into my stomach as my lower motility is completely trashed.
Electro-Convulsive Therapy (E.C.T.) is based in the idea that those who suffer epilepsy are incapable of psychiatric disease. This is still, in October 2013, the REASONING behind the treatment. E.C.T. induces a grand-mal (now called tonic clonic) seizure, but first they literally paralyze you with another drug to keep you from thrashing about. Long ago when this for of "treatment" was pioneered by
To this day I now deal with complex-partial seizure disorder. The severity of the gastroparesis can very well be traced back to the E.C.T., as the brain has massive involvement of all bodily systems, including the GI system.
It should be well noted that I was in a semi-catatonic state. It should be well noted that I was only 19 years old having made the choice that wasn't explained to me well. I just wanted to feel ok again.
Instead, it has played a major role of the instability of both my medical and psychiatric conditions. In a way I feel cheated, and deceived in multiple ways.
This is part of a short series that I have felt led to do regarding psychiatric healthcare, what it is comprised of, what it is severely lacking, and WHY YOU SHOULD CARE at least a little bit about "crazy people"
Insanity is present only to the witness to odd behavior...in essence, diagnoses are only observations made by psychiatrists. From there, psychiatric patients are dosed, doped, duped, and taken advantage of. They are stigmatized, humiliated, shoved to the ground, treated like mere pests.
Then there are some of us who have regained enough of our awareness to share with anyone willing to learn the horrors that are made to go on behind locked doors, or in the eye of the public.
The best way to scare a patient and those who love them is to tell them they have a behavioral problem. It is known once slapped with that label it will stick like glue and weigh them down...when if treated right isn't horrible at all.
You just have to be made aware...which is why I am sharing this part of my life.
This part I don't write about nearly enough.
But you need to know. You need to be made aware that people who deal with mental illness aren't dangerous or broken. They are not hopeless causes. They aren't evil and they did nothing wrong to be treated by doctors, society, maybe even by YOU the way that they are.
In three days, my brother Philip would have turned 25 years old. But his life was cut short in January 5, 2009 because he also suffered a misunderstood psychiatric condition. He was jailed many times as result and it robbed him of his life at the age of 20.
My hope is you will hang with me long enough to learn about something new...a different idea of what it means to be "mentally ill".
This facet of what it means to be Thriving Anyway.