Finally, Some Good News!

So, as many of you may already know, I have been pursuing ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) Treatment for about the past month or so. I am very pleased to announce that tomorrow is my very first treatment! I will be undergoing treatment for about a month, maybe less, maybe more, 3 times a week. I know, that probably sounds like a lot, and don’t worry it sounds like a lot to me too. Yet, I am basically giving the steering wheel of my life to these doctors for the time being, in the hopes that when I get it back, I will be on a much brighter path. So in case you didn’t know, I will be chronicling my treatment with posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on my personal blog The Smiles We Bear. I will be writing everything and everything about my treatment, from side effects, to progress. I am very hopeful that this treatment will succeed with me, as it has a 90% success rate with treatment resistant depression. However, my therapist has told me to proceed with caution when it comes to my expectations for this treatment. In her words, “I won’t wake up from the anesthesia and be a new happier person.” But then again, she has no experience with ECT, like myself, so we cannot honestly say that that won’t happen. Of course there are also the extreme side effects that I will have to wade through during the course of my treatment, like confusion, nausea, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, etc. On top of all that, even if it is successful, there is no telling for how long. Yes, I CAN relapse into depression after going through all of this. The silver lining is that not only can the treatment last decades, but if it worked once, it can work again. Meaning IF I do relapse, I can just go in for another round of ECT. Not to mention that I will be continuing my meds throughout and after the treatment. So to say the least, I have really high expectations for this treatment, exactly the opposite of what my therapist is advising me to have. How can I help it though? I mean there is a chance that I could be depression FREE when all is said and done. Why would I not be excited after 10 grueling years of non-stop fighting. I could finally have a, somewhat, normal life! So, I don’t want to take any more of your time, but if you want to read my entire ECT Journey series, follow my blog The Smiles We Bear.

 

Yours,

Wolfgang

PTSD is Like the Overdraft Fee in My Memory Bank

Memories—some I cherish and want to remember forever and some I want to forget.

A memory is the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. I wish we could pick and choose our memories. Some memories are there forever and easily retrieved. Some memories are gone forever—vanished into thin air. Poof.

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My memory bank is much like my bank account – I don’t have a lot in it. Sometimes it feels empty, so I can’t retrieve or recall what I want or need. I lost a lot of memories due to the many electroconvulsive therapy treatments (ECTs) I had and also from being on a high doses of Klonopin (Benzodiazepine) for over twenty years.

I wish when I had my ECTs that I could have picked and chose what memories to erase and which memories to keep. Wouldn’t that be nice? That of course is not possible, but if it were there would be many more people having ECTs. That is for sure.

My memory bank and bank account are similar in other ways, as well. Sometimes they both punish me. For example, if I spend more money in my bank account than I actually have, I get charged overdraft fees. I don’t want them. They are a waste of money and that makes me angry. These unwanted and unplanned fees interfere with my budget and my ability to pay other bills and expenses.

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Flashbacks are similar to overdraft fees. Flashbacks are not planned and are definitely not wanted. Flashbacks come back to haunt me and seemingly punish me. Flashbacks can sometimes interfere with my daily activities and even the quality of my life.

A flashback is a sudden and disturbing vivid memory of an event in the past, typically as the result of psychological trauma or taking LSD.  Strong feelings are attached to my memories as if I am eight years old again. I return to being that scared, hurt and shamed little girl, as if it were today.

A flashback can feel as though you are actually being drawn back into the traumatic experience, like it is still happening or happening all over again. They can occur uninvited, stirring up images, sensations and emotions of the original event. A flashback can be so overwhelming to one’s sense of reality, that many who suffer from them believe they are reliving or re-experiencing their trauma. A flashback is able to mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time (Rothschild, 2010).

As I have mentioned in some recent posts, my PTSD symptoms have been worse lately since I stopped taking psychotropic medications. Without psychotropic  medications, my memory is slowly improving and becoming clearer. I can focus better. However, my brain is now more exposed to some painful memories and wounds from past childhood abuse. With a clearer mind and better memory, old memories have resurfaced in an unwanted stronger and bolder way. Psychotropic medications can act like a band-aid and inhibit brain activity in both good and bad ways. I no longer have a band-aid for my brain to cover and hide my painful memory wounds.

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As the years of my life progressed, memories from my childhood abuse increased and feelings associated from those painful memories increased in time. The older I became it seemed the more intense the feelings associated with my past memories became. It took many years before I understood what was going on with my feelings and dissociative symptoms. After I understood it better, I had a better grasp on it and could learn to counterattack it. I am still working on it and will most likely need to for the rest of my life.

After something or someone triggers my memory, I return to a memory from the past and/or flashbacks occur. I feel like I did when I was a child. I return to that time. I believe as a child my brain protected me so I could survive. Now I am living them again and feeling all the emotions that went them.

Two nights ago, I was awakened from my sleep and had flashbacks. I couldn’t get them to stop and I couldn’t fall back to sleep.  Lately more memories of my basement from my childhood keep entering my mind. It is strange and kind of scary at the same time. I can’t explain it.

I never lived this life before. This is my first time and I am doing the best I can. It seems when you live with mental illness, each day continues to be a new learning experience. There is never a dull moment inside my mind and brain. I guess that is a good thing. Who wants to be bored? It never happens for me as I continue to learn and grow more every day. I must

Now that symptoms from my bipolar have dissipated and improved lately and PTSD is rearing its ugly head more often, it is time for me to research and learn more about PTSD. I researched bipolar disorder and learned everything I could after I was first diagnosed with it and for many years after. Now I am going to focus more on PTSD. I find it all fascinating. The brain can be an organ that causes a lot of pain and destruction for a person living with mental illness, but you have to admit it is absolutely amazing and fascinating at the same time.

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So much to learn. The college of life is never over. Happy first day of school again and again and again…

By the way I am going to continue to work on improving my memory bank and bank account. I wish they were both bigger and had endless happy funds I could retrieve.


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