Like the previous post, Reunited, more journal entries are included in this post from my hospitalisation. These journal entries cover my first experience of ECT and my early recovery. During this time I had a short period of supervised visits with Gracie. I had an image in my head of hurting her and I was so shocked and upset I told a nurse. As a result I slept away from the mums and bubs unit for a few nights. Gracie was looked after by the nurses. You can read my fluctuating moods: loving my daughter and finding happiness in her but also feeling depressed. Again I leave the entries largely unedited so that you get a sense of my state of mind.

4th September: I’m having ECT tomorrow.

7th September (4.50am): I’m having ECT this morning for the second time. Go with the flow. So weary. But I’m slowly getting my strength back. And after ECT I will see my adorable girl again.

9th September: I have a city view from my room upstairs – but much to my delight I’ll hopefully not stay in this room and will be full-time again with Gracie from tomorrow.

Spent most of day with Gracie and really enjoyed it. It’s still hard to believe I’m a mother and that this perfect baby is my daughter!! Isn’t it strange after 3 months – I can hardly believe she has already reached this milestone. What a sorry mess this is! And yes it is hard to make that leap of faith. How do I know what to do?…
I’m eating terribly. It feels almost uncontrollable. I know it is controllable and I’m not forcing myself.

But you know what? I want to be happy (I know being a glutton isn’t going to get me there.) I want to be in love with the world. Have my own family. Understand what I am going through and never have to go through this sort of thing again.

10th September: I had another ECT session today. Forgot everything but my memory returned slowly. I’m on the brink of going down again. I’m having limited access to Gracie. Her father wants out. I might not be able to look after Blackie anymore. I don’t understand my family. After years in and out of hospital I don’t seem to be doing anything particularly well.

14th September (4.10pm): My little Gracie is sleeping soundly in the cot at the end of my bed. I had my 5th ECT session this morning. What a head start Gracie has with a bipolar mum – NOT I only became non-psychotic yesterday.

15th September: Little bubby has been up since 5am. I feel like I’ve missed out on her although I’ve been looking after her as much as I could in the state I was in. Poor Mum! Trish and Mum are coming today…Now at 6.50am she’s finally fallen asleep now. I have been awful to Mum – Satan’s sister or some such – and she’s so wonderful.

ECT has always daunted me, but it was not as distressing as I had imagined.

After one session, however, I did lose my memory and momentarily expected to see my father after I came out of the recovery ward. When I realised he had died two years ago it was almost like experiencing his initial death all over again.
But my diary entries from the time show how my grip on reality slowly returned. I think it’s telling that I didn’t say I was “well” but “non-psychotic” because in actual fact becoming well again, with my mind returned to equilibrium, would take time as I entered my everyday life once more and began my new life as a single mum.

My Experience with ECT by Natalie McKinnon discusses some of the downsides with modern ECT, such as memory loss and at times having only a short-term benefit. She also points out that ECT is often used as a last resort which makes ruling it out not possible. If you refuse treatment doctors can also enforce it, which nearly happened to me on previous occasions. For Natalie, because of the complexities she “sits on the fence” on whether or not she is for or against ECT, which corresponds with my position.

The psychiatrist convinced me to the undergo ECT because she said it is much more localised and gentle than it has been in the past.  What is your experience? Do you have concerns about ECT? Do you consider it a useful treatment?

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