So….who are you?

One of the major side effects of ECT is short term memory loss. And, boy, did it affect me.

I underwent ECT thrice weekly for ten sessions in the locked ward. Which, incidentally, reminds me. Recently I was considering my time in hospital and found it remarkable that when you are first involuntarily frog marched to a locked ward it is a major crush to the soul. You’re all “let me out of here! I’m being held against my will!” you pound your fists on the air lock doors and almost inevitably get told that you are going to be given something to “calm down”, which actually sounds quite pleasant until you are stabbed with a hypodermic needle. Then a few weeks later, after you have settled in, you’re all “Welcome to my crib. Bitch.” Institutionalization at its finest. Clearly a topic for another time.

Anyway, back to my terrible memory.

While I was in treatment people often tried to make me feel better about my increasing forgetfulness by relating comical instances of their own forgetfulness or stating that they have a terrible memory too. While I appreciated their kindness, they really didn’t understand the extent of my memory problems.

I forgot where I was, why I was there. Which room was mine. What foods I wasn’t supposed to eat (a major problem as the nurses wouldn’t always be informed of my diet, and I would cheerfully tuck into the cheese toasty they brought me after treatment…) how old my son was, the fact that my grandmother had died, major family events, what my PhD was on.

Even worse, I started to forget the names of objects, words for things and feelings. On my homecoming found that I sent my doctoral supervisor, like ten million emails, all basically saying the same thing. I had to restart the book I was reading every few days as I would forget. Perhaps, most weirdly of all, I started to like foods that I used to dislike. Like honey (or bee vomit, as I used to call it.) Thats right. I had forgotten my food preferences.

I knew things were bad, but i don’t think i realized how bad until one day (over a month after the completion of my ECT) when there was a knock on the door. My registrar (who, incidentally was the splitting image of Gok from “How to look good Naked”. A resemblance so uncanny I had to wonder what the hell was going on when I first met him.) and a middle aged woman. They said hello and sat down and then there was this awkward silence, while I waited for the woman to introduce herself.

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Eventually I cleared my throat, and since she looked too professional to be a student, said “So…are you a doctor?”

She and Gok looked vaguely surprised and then she asked if I remembered her.

It turned out that she had been my treating psychiatrist for some time. I had absolutely no recollection of her. Of course then I had to complete a number of ridiculous memory tests which I miserably failed, because, sheesh, who does know who the current prime minister is?!

I was then informed that, while most people’s memory improves fairly rapidly after ECT, I most likely had a rare side effect of severe memory loss due to taking Lithium during ECT…WHICH YOU ARE TOTALLY NOT SUPPOSED TO DO. Thank you, State Psychiatric Facility.

Luckily for me, with some rehabilitation (aka crossword puzzles and my Book of Things to Remember) my memory eventually returned to normal. There are still a few things that I don’t remember about my hospitalization….

But I think some things are best forgotten.

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10 thoughts on “So….who are you?

  1. Reblogged this on Kitt O'Malley and commented:
    As I begin my training as a Hearing Advocate for those involuntarily hospitalized, I found this post timely. Finding My Sunshine is a mother, wife and PhD student living with Bipolar disorder. In this post, she describes her experience with involuntary hospitalization and multiple ECT sessions administered while prescribed Lithium, resulting in severe memory loss. Through rehabilitation much of her memory is returning, but she does not recall everything about her hospitalization.

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  2. Like you, I am a highly educated mother and wife who lives with bipolar disorder. As I am training to become a volunteer Hearing Advocate for those involuntarily hospitalized, I found this post timely and reblogged it. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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  3. What an awful thing to have happen! I’m bipolar II, and have never been hospitalized, so I can’t relate in that regard. I did have a bad reaction to Lithium, though; I was in this fog and my body didn’t feel like mine anymore. At the gym, I tried to run on the treadmill and I felt like I was attempting to use someone else’s legs. Someone else who isn’t a runner, at that. I’d heard other people talk about the “bipolar fog” before, but I assumed that their dosage wasn’t correct. Thank God my psychiatrist let me stop taking it.

    I hope you continue to recover and stay stable. Best wishes.

    P.S. I found you through Kitt’s reblog.

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    • Hi Laura,

      I’m sorry to hear about your reaction to Lithium, sounds horrible! Drugs and Treatments can sometimes be as bad as the disease itself! Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best πŸ™‚ xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for posting this and following nutsrok or I’d never have found your excellent sensitive and informational blog. I never heard the aftermath of ECT described so eloquently. Thanks to both of you. Patients most certainly need an advocate.

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