Shock Therapy

It started with pain. Out of the blue, my hands, feet and butt started hurting a few years ago. I couldn’t sit without cushions. I bought padding for our car’s steering wheel and special inserts for my shoes. I had to lay on the couch at the therapist’s office. The source of the pain remained mysterious though it followed three operations in one year – two hip replacements and vein surgery.

The pain was soon followed by severe anxiety and depression.

In the past year, I’ve been hospitalized three times for psychiatric-related problems. At one point, I also fell and had to have stitches below my eyebrow. I hardly remember any of these hospital visits. Indeed, the last three years are hazy, hard to recall except as a vague nightmare.


In that time, I’ve tried one medication after another and gone to several therapists and psychiatrists, most of whom haven’t been very helpful. I’m still struggling and spent two days last week crying uncontrollably. Normally happy, centered and grounded, no one has been more surprised by this state of affairs than me.

I’d about given up hope when I discovered electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, a few months ago.

ECT is a surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia in which electric currents are passed through the brain causing a brief seizure. Stimulating the brain this way can help reverse symptoms of mental illness, and that has been my case.

I’ve had more than 20 ECT treatments, and my state has improved. Some days I even feel like my old self, a self I never knew I valued so much until it became impossible to access. I’m also currently taking three medications: Trintellix, Risperidone and Clonazepam, though my current psychiatrist and I agree that the meds probably aren’t doing much. When they recently cut back the frequency of my ECT treatments and my state deteriorated, my psychiatrist recommended more.

At first I received electroconvulsive therapy several times a week. I’m now getting it weekly and at some point will be put on a monthly “maintenance” schedule. I just had an ECT treatment this morning.

The procedure has its downsides, the main one being memory loss. ECT made me active enough to vacation with my family in Colorado this summer, but I don’t remember any of the trip. At one point, I couldn’t find our local grocery store.

However, the treatment seems to have helped me when all else has failed, providing real hope in the midst of a living nightmare. And electroconvulsive therapy is much safer than it used to be.

Electric shock! Who would have imagined?

Dealing with psychological challenges? Share by commenting below!


Want to learn more about ECT? Read Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy by Kitty Dukakis and Larry Tye.


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  • Scott

    November 21, 2016 at 2:22 am

    So very powerful and touching--and a wonderful reminder of your gifts as a writer and precious human being.

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About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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