Thank goodness 2017 is gone!
Not one to wish away time, but 2017 has been one of the most trying years of my life.
I am a long-time sufferer of major depression, PTSD, and major anxiety disorder. In October 2013, I had a life-changing auto accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In 2016, after dealing with serious life changes and more trauma, I knew something had to give. My marriage of 25+ years was over. I couldn't work and family relationships were severely stressed.
I was in my second year of severe daily withdrawal from the hazardous prescription drug Benzodiazepine, known as Clonazepam or Klonopin. My depression became deeper and I rarely had a good day. Most days I had no motivation to do anything. I was basically existing. Side effects from the medicines included seizures, dry mouth, hoarseness, headaches, no sleep, agoraphobia, depression, earaches, restless leg syndrome, severe teeth grinding, panic, and severe anxiety. The many medical cocktails I was taking produced OVER 35 major side effects. I continued to get worse and my life was completely out of control. I was taking 14 medicines per day.
I had been a physician recruiter for 22+ years and long time health education advocate. As a physician recruiter, I worked with physician candidates and hiring managers from long time private practice clients. This included but wasn't limited to: professional background checks, personal background checks, licensing verification, working with political leaders as necessary to change medical status in underserved areas in eastern North Carolina, and numerous other daily tasks. I specialized in pediatrics, neonatology, and family practice. After 20+ years, I am very comfortable with medical terminology, patient rights, and where to research for answers. My interest in healthcare has been a life long pursuit, physically and mentally. I studied a health curriculum at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. My first job was as a Physical Director for a startup YMCA in New Bern, NC. That YMCA is well-established and a great resource to the New Bern community. I have co-ordinated numerous events, hosted health related fairs, spoken to school groups, senior citizen groups, church groups, youth groups and infant and toddler programs, appeared on television for assorted events and programs, radio guest as requested, etc. I started writing for newsletters and media when paper was the only way to share. In 2003 I started my first Facebook page. The things I wrote about were typically topics I learned about when researching hiring practices and possible physician candidates, and sarcastic humor. As I started to personally experience depression and uncontrollable anxiety, my attention and energy seemed to become focused on mental health, medicines, and understanding what was happening to me. I was frustrated and confused. The one thing I did know, I wasn’t getting the answers or results I wanted from my healthcare providers and I had no personal support system. It was now up to me, and only me, to slow down this vicious downward spiral.
I spent the next 6 months actively researching everything I could, every day. Getting my life and health back consumed me. My life kept spinning out of control, and I kept fighting for answers.
Finally, the first week of September (2016), I found the answer I was searching. While glancing thru magazines at my neurologist office for my monthly appointment. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, also known as TMS.
The treatments were 5 times a week for 7 weeks. The treatment sessions were typically 45 minutes to 1 hour in length. I drove 1 1/2–2 hours each way for treatment. Not a fun drive through the country during hurricane season. I had about 10 days of detour driving in September and October 2016. Some days travel could be 3 hours or more each way. It was a good thing I could see results from the TMS treatment. If not, I might not have handled the stressful driving conditions very well.
It was worth it, and I would do it again. I could see results within the first week of treatment.
It had been almost 3 years since I had slept more than 1 1/2 total hours per night. REM sleep was pretty much nonexistent. Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep consists of several characteristics, including low muscle tone, rapid eye movement, and dreaming. For me, sleep deprivation affected every part of my body and mind. REM sleep should account for approximately 20-25% of total sleep in healthy adults. My sleep lab results repeatedly showed I had less than 2 cycles of REM nightly. After my lack of sleep, the medicine side effects, daily road trips, the horrendous side effects of withdrawal from Klonopin, no support from family and a bad divorce, I was completely exhausted, and then, the unbelievable happened. I laid down on the night after my fifth treatment. That night I slept hard for the first time in months or maybe even years. I sleep through my morning alarm. It was all good.
Within 7 days of starting treatment, my restless leg syndrome (RLS) and my hand tremors were gone. I was sleeping good most nights.
TMS is not shock treatment commonly known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is delivered via Magnetic Pulse. It was FDA Approved as a CURE for Severe Depression in 2008.
TMS is non-invasive and there is no downtime, no side effects, no medicine. Through the course of my treatment, my daily medicines went from 14 to 3.
TMS is only FDA approved for depression. TMS is, however, being tested with positive results for Parkinson’s disease, Autism, drug addiction, postpartum depression, PTSD, alzheimer’s, dementia, and numerous other disorders and medical conditions.
Is the healthcare industry “hiding “ this treatment? Seems so as there is no money to be made from healthy people. My doctor visits went from 1-2 times a month to only every 3-6 months after TMS treatment.
TMS is covered by most private insurance. Our military is covered for TMS thru Tri-Care (May 2016). The Veteran’s Administration (VA) has had TMS treatment available since 2009. Why, then, are we still losing 22 soldiers a day to suicide? What has happened to the principles of humanity when even our government agencies and military refuse to put people before profit.
As for my depression, I just passed the one (1) year anniversary of completion of my TMS treatment (12/16). I continued to see a marked improvement for the first 6 months. The second half of 2017 was a little more challenging. In September, my mom passed and that same week my first grandchild was born. My relationships with family are still strained. I found the holidays to be very stressful. It’s a new year and I’m not sure how my story will end, but nowhere will it say I gave up.
I am a survivor!