A Statement by Kate

I first started taking an anti-depressant several years ago to deal with the stress and anxiety of coping with cancer.  The Celexa that was prescribed worked for me in adjusting to treatment and helped me to live a more normal life.  When I recovered, I still had challenges in balancing the requirements of my work.  I found that a regular regimen of Qi Gong, exercise at the gym, seeing a therapist regularly, and Celexa kept me healthy and reasonably balanced.

About five years later I began to feel unwell:  overtired, nauseous in the morning, and frequent anxiety attacks.  The psychiatrist I was seeing for medication monitoring suggested that I experiment with other meds to treat my symptoms.  That was the beginning of a struggle with symptoms and reactions that went on for several months.  To summarize that period, I was on various combinations (“cocktails”) of medication, all of which seemed to make me sicker. Finally after having the reaction called “serotonin syndrome”, I experienced a serious negative reaction similar to withdrawal, when I was taken off medication too suddenly.  For several months I just became sicker, I could not socialize or communicate with others, I felt very nauseous and fearful every day, could not be left alone, and with sleeplessness and lack of appetite, I lost weight rapidly and was down to 96 pounds when I was finally hospitalized, as my husband feared for my life. During this time I could not continue in my work, which though stressful at times, was a key component of normalcy and satisfaction in my life.

In the hospital I was introduced to ECT and had a series of treatments during the 20 days I was there. With this treatment, I was soon feeling substantially better:  eating, sleeping, conversing rationally, and physically and emotionally so much more positive.   When I was released my husband, family, and friends found my recovery remarkable, compared to the dire situation I had been in not long before.  I was sleeping normally, eating well and gaining weight, and socializing with others as I used to do, being generally a very sociable person. Although I still needed support to combat worry, I essentially was restored to nearly normal life.

One ongoing disappointment is the sudden activation of retirement.  Having been absent from my job for five and a half months, the position was re-defined and relocated so I did not have a position to return to.  Those who are close to me think I may not have functioned well if I had had the opportunity to return to work, and I acknowledge that this is possible.  In any case, I am currently on long-term disability and my challenge is to adapt to the sudden and radical change in my daily schedule, after having worked as a professional for nearly 48 years.

With the help of my husband, friends, and therapist I have begun to restructure my life to include volunteering and self-development.  I volunteer twice a week at a local elementary school and also at a community  organization that sponsors a computer center for seniors.  During the winter I took two classes, one in figure drawing and one in beekeeping.  This spring I will continue the figure drawing class and try to do more art work at home.  Twice a month my husband and I meet with a close friend and teacher who tutors us in Italian. For meditation and relaxation I practice Qi Gong daily and work out at a gym about 4 or 5 times a week.

While we acknowledge that ECT is not a “cure”, it is a treatment that allows sufficient recovery from major depression so that the person can have the stamina, motivation, and physical/psychic strength to follow a successful treatment program.  That program for me includes “maintenance” ECT treatments currently at monthly intervals.

My husband and I are convinced that without ECT I would have died.  My profound depression and overall mental distress with related physical decline was so serious I could not have survived for very long. Nothing else we had tried worked to bring relief and there seemed to be no other options.  I owe my recovery and my life to the wonderful impact of ECT.

Play Frank Maroney's song, "A Light in the Darkness."