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November 2007

"on the inside" The real life story of my fourth mental hospitalization. the truth about ECT

 

 "Me at 23, the same age I was admitted to Methodist hospital in Memphis for a month"
 


In my life, I want to tell THE TRUTH about mental hospitalization. I have been hospitalized 4 times in total and I am 39 now.. This is the short story of the most dramatic which occurred when I was 23.. at least 20 years ago.. but its the truth.. lets get to the truth!

 

On the inside

I do not remember being admitted to the 14th floor of the Methodist Central psychiatric center. I have no recollection of the usual intake process. However, almost immediately I felt somewhat comfortable here in my new home. Our ward was certainly a much nicer place than I was used to. Everyone had a phone in their room.

 There were very little rules for an adult ward as long as we behaved. Most all of the patients had a great deal of freedom; we were allowed to walk around the hospital grounds without supervision. Sadly, I was so anxious when I first arrived that I had to sike myself up just to go downstairs to the gift shop. My mother actually was in the same hospital with me at the same time, but she was on the oncology ward. We did not visit much.

The hospital routine was very similar to my previous admittance, we all woke up around 7 a.m. and went to bed at 10 pm.

When I first arrived, I had no idea that I was about to be introduced to 

my main problem even now, psychiatric drugs.

During breakfast, the nurses and the patients would all gather in the "day room" and wait for the "drug cart" We did this both morning and night.

I remember being very nervous as I stood in line for my individual cup of multicolored poison's. This was the first time that I had ever taken any drug at all. During the first week of my stay, I met my psychiatrist, Dr. Jackson. He was a jovial black man who had decided to treat me with any and all drug combination that he could imagine. I certainly felt like a human psychiatric guinea pig running around and around on my own little wheel.

After breakfast we all went to group therapy. Sadly we didn't have any individual therapy here and I don't believe that I ever said a word in any of my groups; all I did was listen. During group, I met a very inspirational black woman who had tried to slash her wrist. The injury was so severe that she needed a great amount of stitches. I seemed to identify with the things that she said in group. Sadly, I don't remember this woman's name but she made me feel more at ease and comfortable when the occasional uprising occurred.

As time went on, all of the patients mostly behaved because of their fear of the 12th floor. I was not aware of this now, but I would soon be going to the "dreaded" 12th floor, myself. The 12th floor was where the hospital housed the "severely mentally ill" for example those who could not take care of themselves, severe schizophrenics, etc.

One day, in group we all witnessed a terrible uprising and broken rule by a woman who was talking about past sexual abuse. It was traumatic on everyone

 

One to see a patient taken by force downstairs. to the 12th floor (a reason I never spoke up in group, is because I never felt that I had it bad enough)

Anyway, as the women in group spoke she became more and more irate. The doctor in charge tried to calm her down but to no affect. She was beginning to pose a threat to the group.

When threatened with the 12th floor she still did not calm down, so the only choice was for the staff to come and get her. They literally dragged her out of group kicking and screaming and pleading not to take her downstairs. I cannot remember if they put her in some kind of restraints or gave her tranquilizers, but she soon disappeared from the 14th floor. I don't know what happened to her downstairs.

There were times on the ward when things were rather tolerable. I made a few friends and we would chat about our different experiences. A nice lady named "Lisa" even bought me a flower upon her departure and told me to remember that, "I would bloom again." As had occurred with my former hospitalization when my insurance ran out, my doctors decided that I was not any better. So unlike my previous experience they had an idea.

"ECT" or according to Wikopedia, "Electroconvulsive therapy also known as electroshock, is a controversial psychiatric treatment in which seizures are induced with electricity for therapeutic effect. Today, ECT is most often used as a treatment for severe major depression which has not responded to other treatment, and is also used in the treatment of mania, catatonia, schizophrenia and other disorders".

My Ect was a doctor's idea. A much older doctor than my own, Dr. Harris. He approached me as well as an elderly woman about undergoing the procedure.

I read books about the procedure and my stepmother (who is NO LONGER in my life) took me to visit a man who had had the procedure done and had his depression cured or lessened. Unfortunately, this man was in his forties and I was in my twenties, there has been and still is controversy about ECT being a good choice for the young. For some reason it works much better on older adults or the elderly.

Even though I had done a fair amount of research on what I was about to endure, it seemed that there was really nothing very conclusive that had been gathered about ECTs effectiveness, what I was doing was basically a shot in the dark.

My memory is foggy when it comes to each treatment; it was certainly an extremely difficult decision to make. According to Wikopedia, "ECT first gained widespread use as a form of treatment in the 1940s and 50s; today, and estimated 1 million people worldwide receive ECT every year; usually in a course of 6-12 treatments administered 2 or 3 times a week."

I cannot remember but I assume that I received about 10 treatments which were done a few times a week. ECT was given ONLY on the dreaded 12th floor; during treatment I learned why the "back ward" was such a scary place. Upon my first visit to the 12th floor I was literally horrified. This ward was nothing like the 14th floor with our comfortable schedule, TV time, socialization and phones in our rooms; it was much more like a holding cell for those who were completely incapacitated.

The floor was very small and it honestly had a distinct odor in the air of urine. Most patients roamed the halls dressed like the mental patients that my father had preached to back in 1983; they wore hospital gowns, some of them weren't even able to dress themselves and the gowns were always falling off in some sort of manner. There was no routine here; there was only a small "day room" with a Television that only got about two channels. There was nothing else.

I was literally amazed and terrified that human beings could be treated the way that everyone who was receiving ECT here was treated. Here I was in the United States (the greatest country in the world) and people were being looked at almost as animals rather than humans.

The morning of a treatment, I would arrive at the 12 floor and then go to the small "day room" I happened to notice that stretchers were lined all against the wall with people in them, like a cow awaiting a slaughter. Once, someone's treatment was over, they pushed them back out into the cattle line and came for the next person.

When it was my turn, I would slip into a hospital gown lie on a stretcher and wait to be wheeled inside. According to wikopedia, "the aim of ECT is to induce a therapeutic clonic seizure (a seizure where the person loses consciousness and has convulsions) lasting for at least 15 seconds".

The most frightening thing to me was going under the anestisia. Since the procedure only took about 30 minutes, the amount of anestisia administered was much more concentrated than it is in a usual surgery.

It felt like nothing I had ever experienced before. As soon as Dr Harris filled my IV with the medication I would have almost 60 seconds until I went under. It is hard to explain this feeling, but I believe it felt something like dying will feel. I was fully awake one second and then suddenly my head and extremities would tingle, then everything would go black. I would go into a little tunnel as If the medication was squeezing the life out of me, then I wake up with a terrible headache.

After all the treatments were completed, I knew that I had done the wrong thing. The ECT did nothing for my depression, it seemed to help my anxiety but otherwise it was more of a terrifying experience than anything else. I believe that ECT is a barbaric and dangerous approach to treating depression. Now days, I still have memory loss as well as confusion from this ordeal. . Fortunately, research has found that ECT causes no permanent brain damage,

 When I got out, things where no different, I was put into outpatient aftercare for a month which was basically therapy that you had to drive yourself to. The ect did nothing to help my anxiety or depression, so for me the month long hospitalization accomplished nothing.

 

THE truth is, maybe it helps some people, but it did not help me. At 39, I am still basically in the same position I was in back then. Except I have a boyfriend to take care of me.

 

I hope this shed some light on month long hospitalizations. Decide for yourself or with your own experience if they are worth it or not.. 

 

 

 
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