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I am currently undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Yes, the famously controversial treatment that everyone seems to fear, even people on here. Well, I have recently come to a conclusion that is quite big for me.
First, some background. It's no secret that I suffer from a somewhat considerable list of mental illnesses. One of the main ones is major depressive disorder with psychosis. I also have borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and so on. Across the years, I have tried innumerable cocktails consisting of SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. I have been hospitalized more times than I can count, and my current tally of suicide attempts is at five.
That being said, for the past ten years, any time I encountered stress, my go-to response was to kill myself. I cannot remember ever desiring to live. I felt like I was here by accident, against my will, being forced to choose some kind of scholarly and career path that I had to complete. In fact, most of my suicide attempts have been immediately following the completion of a major life event. I have always felt like I have to live until I achieve the current goal I was working on (high school, undergrad, whatever), and when I finished something, I felt like my life was over. I never WANTED to go further. I'm in grad school now—why? Because I have a big future goal of teaching that I want to get to? Hell no. I'm in grad school now because it was the logical next step. It was what was expected of me.
A few months ago, I tried to kill myself for the fourth time. I failed. Like all the other times, I got placed in a mental health hospital. Now, San Antonio is much larger than the Alabama towns I used to live in, so naturally, there are more advanced treatment options here. When I was in the hospital, my doctor mentioned electroconvulsive therapy. She wanted me to begin treatments while inpatient, then continue them on an outpatient basis. Since I had exhausted all my options with medications, I figured I would try it. In my mind, this was either going to work or I was going to jump from an overpass. So, I said yes. However, my insurance denied this plan, and instead insisted that I come in only on an outpatient basis. So I served my time while inpatient, then began coming two times a week for ECT.
Electroconvulsive therapy is used to treat major depression, manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, and catatonia associated with schizophrenia, among other things. With ECT, the patient is given a muscle relaxer, pain medication, and nausea medication, then is put under general anesthesia. Then, a seizure is carefully induced, while the patient's vitals are monitored. Then they are woken up, and a friend or family member drives them home.
Anyway, after 18 ECT treatments, I came to a realization. I realized not only that my go-to response to stress is and has always been to kill myself, but also that I am not okay with this being my response. The fact that I hate having this response is huge. It means that somewhere, deep down within me, there is a tiny shred of my being that actually WANTS to live. This has not happened in at least fifteen years. I only say fifteen because I cannot really remember my core life principles before the age of ten; honestly, I cannot remember EVER having a desire to live.
Until now, at the age of 25. Thank you, electroconvulsive therapy, for giving me a desire to be alive. If you have any questions or concerns about ECT, please feel free to reach out to me, and I will answer them the best way I can. If you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts and have tried tons of medications and nothing is working for you, please give ECT a try. I never thought anything could touch my depression. Today, I feel like an entirely different person.