Hi, my name is Wendy. I have treatment resistant major depression. Four years ago, I was so desperate for relief that I decided to get ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). I was on the verge of having to go on disability because my depression had become so severe that I couldn’t function much of the time. My doctors recommended ECT and assured me that it was safe. They told me I might have some memory loss, but it would only be for a time period of a few months prior to starting the ECT. They also said if I did experience memory loss, most of the lost memory would return a few months after I stopped receiving the ECT. These statements by my doctors could not be further from the truth.
ECT erased my memory of almost my entire life, all the way back to my childhood. I only remember little bits and pieces, and the memories I do have are very vague. I barely even remember my own mother, who passed away in 2007. It has now been four years since my last ECT, and none of my lost memories have returned.
I had neuropsychological testing done that showed I also have other cognitive deficits resulting from the ECT. I used to have a very high IQ. My IQ has dropped 15 points. I’m simply not as intelligent as I used to be. It takes me longer than normal to learn new information, and although I am now able to form and recall memories of things that have happened after the ECT, my short-term memory is not nearly as good as it was prior to the ECT. I have what is likely permanent brain damage.
My memory loss has been devastating for me. Losing your memories is like losing part of your identity. Our memories of our experiences shape who we are.
I had marital problems after I lost my memory, and my 13-year marriage ended in divorce five months ago. I believe our marriage would have survived if I hadn’t lost my memory of the majority of our relationship.
And of course, I still have to live with treatment resistant depression. I have found that the medication that used to work best for me but stopped working in the past is effective again after I have been off of it for a long time, but medications still don’t work as well as they used to and they always stop working eventually. So I have to rotate between different medications, and I still have frequent episodes of severe depression. On top of the depression, I have PTSD from the ECT and the loss of my memory.
The PTSD, my memory loss, and my recent divorce have all made my depression even worse. I need long-term, intensive psychotherapy to help me recover and have the ability to continue working. I just started a 30-day partial hospitalization program with five hours per day of group and individual therapy. My insurance is covering part of it, but it is still very expensive. I have to pay $10,300 out of pocket. After that, I will be continuing in outpatient therapy twice per week for another month at $90 per session, then plan to continue with one therapy session per week long-term. I work as a paralegal for the state, and being a government job, I don’t make nearly enough money to be able to afford to pay for all of this. In addition, I am taking unpaid leave from work, so I am losing one month’s salary.
After just one week of the partial hospitalization program, I am convinced that long-term therapy is going to extremely helpful for me. I believe it will be life changing. I cannot recover from my PTSD without it.
When my depression is in remission, I have a positive attitude and enjoy my life, and even with the devastating loss of my precious memories, I still have a lot to live for. I want to be able to enjoy the rest of my life without this trauma holding me back.
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