Join Date: Nov 2012
ECT, head injuries - Am I worrying too much?
I am in a desperate and terrible emotional state. Basically, I am a wreck, having discovered some information that may change my life forever. Please provide me with some guidance or share with me your personal experiences, if any.
In 2005, I was in a vulnerable emotional state, having started my first year in university and juggling part-time work and for other reasons unbeknownst to me, I had a meltdown. My family was alarmed, and did not know how to handle me or deal with the situation.
Shortly, I was sent to hospital. I do not know how I got there, how it was arranged, who visited me or how I was treated. To this date, I have no recollection of what transpired during my hospitalisation. I asked everyone - the doctor, my family, friends - but none was willing or able to volunteer any information. My family is of the firm belief that the lesser I know, the lesser the pain. Subsequently, my mum passed on, my sister and brother lost contact with us and my father claimed that he was unable to recall what happened as well.
It has been approximately 7 years and I have never stopped searching for answers. I was adamant to find out what treatments/procedures had been performed on me when I was hospitalised for I knew that my amnesia was abnormal. When I returned to school, I was unable to learn and retain information as easily and performed badly in my papers and in dance (was unable to remember my steps). I believe my ability to write, interpret and analyse have been affected as well. In total, I took leave of absence for 3 semesters whenever I have a relapse. I am unable to recall months and years of my life after the episode and I believe I must have acted out of character around my friends and in school.
Recently, I managed to get hold of the hospital bills and confirmed my suspicion - I was subjected to 6 sessions of inpatient bilateral ECT (electro-convulsive treatment) every alternate day when I was warded. I am unsure if I received any more treatments (e.g. outpatient) after the period for I would not be able to remember. Over the span of 7 years, I did asked my family and doctor if I had received such treatments in hospital and they denied it whenever I asked. I have researched on this topic for years as this was my suspicion and fear. Critics of such treatments and literature online (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-peter-breggin/electroshock-treatment_b_1373619.html) highlight the complications of electric-shock therapy, alerting the dangers of cognitive and memory impairement characteristic of a brain damage (it was mentioned that each shock is akin to a moderate to severe brain injury).
After I learned of this news, I was distraught and have been crying uncontrollably as I was unable to come to terms with the fact that I was given ECT. I have not been functioning well or been to work for days. I understand that ECT was never meant to be a first-line treatment and is only administered as a last resort, e.g. if the patient does not respond well to medication or other forms of therapy. In my case, ECT was administered immediately the next day after I was admitted ( I was not put on medication and monitored for a period of time. I have not seen a doctor nor was I on medication before 2005).
I am extremely worried. In 2009, I was assaulted by a robber (hit several times in the head by a weapon) and suffered head injuries. I fear that compounded with the negative effects of ECT as well as my head injuries in 2009, my brain could be permanently affected.
I am also angry. I am angry that such treatment was prescribed immediately when I was warded and that my consent was not sought. I believe such treatments require the consent of the patient, but there is a possibility that my family member have consented on my behalf, for I definitely would not subject myself to such a treatment voluntarily.
I know my family members are anxious at the point of time to quieten and calm me down, and I know that my mum, who has anxiety issues, would have exaggerated my situation to the doctor who - in an attempt to provide them with an instant solution - offered such a treatment without clearly detailing the risks informed. I know that I cried alot back then, for my personality is as such (it should not be mistaken as mania). I believe I was conscious and in control of my faculties at that point in time, which does not warrant such a procedure. I am confident that the doctor prescribed it as a first-line treatment without ensuring all the criteria of ECT was met, i.e. the individual have tried other forms of medication and therapy to no avail.
I do not think that my family members were provided with sufficient information on the dangers of ECT to decide for me. I know I probably should not feel this way, but I am also angry that my family allowed this to happen. They may not have considered the potential repercussions of such treatments carefully and may have in the process, ruined my life.
I feel impaired, helpless and dysfunctional at the moment. I am not sure how to go about verifying if there are indeed, any permanent effects on brain function arising from the ECT and head injuries. I fear that the fact that I was unable to remember anything about my hospitalisation and the inability to learn and retain information for months after are signs of brain damage. I do not know for sure, if the brain has managed to re-wire itself and recover completely. The articles written against ECT which I found online have scared me considerably.
The brain is our master of control, and everything, be it intelligence, memory, coordination, skills, etc, are all dependent on the brain. I am unable to gauge for myself, whether I am the same person as before or performing at my optimal. Memory issues do exist but I am not sure if it is completely attributable to the ECT and head injuries, or other factors.
I fear that if I would as a result, lose all the confidence and sanity. My emotional state (I was down for the past month as I was dwelling on the assault case prior to discovering this additional information) is at its pits. I still want to lead a normal life and have a career and be able to dance and enjoy the little things in life, but I feel limited in my abilities to do so as I fear I may be truly be impaired.
I was reading some entries from old diaries of mine, and apparently I have approximately (based on what was recorded) 6 more spontaneous seizures from 2005 to 2006. I do not know if they are due to medication or post ECT seizures. I understand that ECT may lower your seizure threshold, increasing the likelihood of spontaneous seizures. Again, evidence online suggest that this is indicative of brain damage and seizures are generally, harmful to the brain.
I spoke to the doctor who administered the treatments, and he was not able to provide much advice. He did not deny there could be dysfunction. (Things he mentioned: say my IQ could be 150 at baseline. After the procedure, it may have fallen to 130. So long it did not fall to 95, there should not be a cause for concern. What he said is hardly any consolation. Literature online seems to suggest that yes, there could be a drop in IQ by 30-60 points. I am unable to ascertain this for my own condition for I did not do any cognitive testing prior to the treatments).
If I am aware of all the potential risks and consented to the treatment by my own means, I would have no reason to be upset. However, the truth of the matter is that I did not consent, and I do not think that the doctor nor my family, exercised the right judgement at that point in time. Now, as an individual, I would have to pay for the consequences.
I do not know what is my next appropriate course of action. Do I seek legal assistance to investigate the case? Even if I do, it will be huge monetary and emotional investment on my part. How do I get past the fact that my brain could be permanently damaged? How do I know for sure whether it has been damaged? How do I move on in life and not let this realisation affect me in my daily functioning?