April 29, 2004


My chaplain friend says I am courageous to dread ECT as much as I do and yet submit to it, but I�m going to disappoint her in that, because despite being court-ordered to treatment sessions, I�m quitting any but the most forced participation and even that I shall do my best to sabotage. I can�t tolerate it any longer; it is a torment going to sleep and an even greater one waking up in enormous if amorphous distress and confusion, and it later fills my days with nausea, headache and olfactory hallucinations. I simply cannot see how unlimited once-monthly sessions can benefit me, at least not any more than they supposedly already have. And the dread discolors my days for weeks in advance. I don�t care that it�s the best they can offer me right now: I don�t want it and don�t feel I need it or that the benefits outweigh the costs and/or uncertainties. And if they try to send the police after me (since I shall neither arrange a ride nor the required daily companion) I shall simply eat a large breakfast, effectively sabotaging any efforts on their part since I know they cannot give me anesthesia on a full stomach. That is how I thwarted them in the hospital when I wanted to refuse: I�d simply grab some food from the kitchen and quickly down it before they could stop me, and that short-circuited the day�s treatment session.

If I have to, if things start breaking down seriously, I can take a low dose of Zyprexa, which though it induces weight gain, is preferable to ECT�s horrors. And there�s no proof that I shall need that at all, since I am quite compliant on my Geodon and several mood stabilizers. I just can no longer live in this constant state of dread and fear, not when I know how to alleviate them and when I see little use in allowing such a state to continue.

Let me describe a session for you, just in case there are those of you who have never experienced it before.

First all of all, no food or drink after midnight (effectively after dinner) and no anti-convulsants the night before, no medications on the morning the treatment is scheduled. Nothing by mouth at all. Then you arrive at the clinic and the first thing they do is give you a shot of Robinal to dry up any oral or bodily secretions that might interfere with the ECT session in some way. If you�re lucky, they can take you in a half hour later. Then you get up on the stretcher and lie down with your head on this little pillow and they start searching for an appropriate vein into which they will direct the anesthesia. Meanwhile, they squeeze some electrical jelly onto a headstrap and tighten that around your forehead. They place some electrical detection pads and leads on your chest as well and once the IV is inserted tell you you�ll be going off to sleep soon. Then you smell/taste something awful as the anesthesia briefly registers before you lose consciousness. Nothingness follows, until the nurse shakes you awake telling you it�s all over, the treatment has been done and you�re almost ready to go home. You�re moaning, half asleep still, and uncertain the worst is past, and it takes you some time before you�re conscious enough and steady enough on your feet to get down off the treatment table and toddle on through to where your companion is waiting for you. Several times I�ve retched immediately, though not every time. I know I�m never quite sure I�ve actually had the treatment or if they are still making me wait for it, interminably and cruelly. The anesthesia smell follows you for quite a while, and though they counsel one to eat a light breakfast, eating is the last thing on my mind. All I want to do is lie down and sleep off my headache and queasy stomach. I don�t feel immediately better as they claim I look (I think that is wishful thinking on their parts) and in fact I�m not sure I�ve felt better at all after session #13 or so. I�m not convinced I wouldn�t have gotten just as much better with some closer nursing contacts and some kinder people to talk to during the last 3 months.

Anyhow, that�s my brief synopsis of an ECT treatment session. I know it doesn�t sound so terrible, but to me it is frightening in the extreme and I want no more part of it. If EP-MRI�s were available I�d jump to use them as they�ve been shown to be far less invasive and just as effective (at least according to a Scientific American article last month.) But so far no one�s offering them. So I�m stuck with either accepting or rejecting ECT and my choice is now to reject the treatment as not worth the cost/benefit ratio. I know some people will disagree strenuously, but they are they and can tolerate what has become intolerable to me, and of little obvious benefit. God bless �em. They are perhaps better people than I am, but I�ve reached the end of my rope and the end of believing that this is something worthwhile doing.

Here endeth my 16th blog entry.

Posted by pamwagg at April 29, 2004 08:18 AM | TrackBack


I hope that will be other ways to treat your sickness and not ECT. I have seen some and I dont like them. I am a swedish familydoctor.

Posted by: Arne Postonen at June 10, 2004 01:53 PM

if it is of any assistance and support to you and you are not already aware of it or the resources listed upon it either, you might want to visit Norsehorse's Home Turf Alternative Mental Health Resource Page:
(or click on my initials to be linked to the above page)
-- This is a resource (or links) page concerning information about alternatives to the traditional, medical model-based, mental health system.

for more information about this page, including warnings, disclaimers and much more, go here:

in support & in peace,

Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier, Vermont

Posted by: mwb at April 29, 2004 03:00 PM

To be an active participant in the decisions affecting my health care is of utmost importance to me.
Although I realize that at times Pam is unable to speak on her own behalf, making it necessary for others to determine the course of her treatment, I firmly support her right to the governance of her own mind and body when she is able to verbalize her wishes.
In addition, I must emphatically state that to treat a patient without respect for his or her dignity as a human being is not only unacceptable; it is immoral.

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at April 29, 2004 02:27 PM

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