Sitting in the doctor’s room, I felt frightened. He’d just suggested a terrifying treatment for my depression.
‘So,’ I said, ‘You want to electrocute my brain?’ It was a lot to take in, but it felt like a last resort. The journey to this point had been terrible.
When I was pregnant with my second son, Payton, I’d gotten very down and been given antidepressants. After his birth I began suffering from post-natal depression.
For months, I hid it, crying in the shower. Exhausted – I couldn’t even play with my kids. ‘I’m worried about you,’ said my husband Wayne, 32.
More pills and a psychologist didn’t cure me, and although I loved my job as a nurse, I began calling in sick. Then, when Payton was one, I found myself thinking of ways to end my life.
Before I could do it, another nurse asked if I was all right. ‘I’m not,’ I confessed, and broke down. I spent 10 days in a mental health ward but after three weeks at home I was back feeling down.
‘She’s no better,’ Wayne said. ‘She needs help.’ That’s when the doctor suggested electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT.
‘It should change your brain chemistry. I know it sounds scary,’ he said. Scary? It sounded terrifying! I thought of a movie, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, where a character writhes in agony.
Thankfully, the reality wasn’t as bad.
I forgot how I'd got to the hospital
‘You’ll be unconscious,’ the doctor assured me. ‘So you won’t feel a thing.’
There was a chance my memory could be affected, but digesting the news, I decided to go for it.
I can’t go on like this, I realised. So they put me under, applied electrodes to my temples, and shocked my brain.
When I came to I felt exhausted and for a while, I forgot how I’d got to the hospital.
After 17 sessions over several weeks, I felt much better. ‘You’re smiling again,’ Wayne said, stunned. ‘I feel happy!’ I said.
I even laughed again.
In fact, I was so thrilled I raised $7500 for beyondblue, a non-profit organisation which helps those with depression and anxiety.
Now I’m fully recovered, back at work, and love playing with my sons, Slater, eight, and Payton, 14 months.
I feel blessed. ECT is a last resort, but I wouldn’t be here without it. ●
If you or someone you know is struggling, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
What is ECT?
■ (ECT) is used to treat certain psychiatric conditions.
■ An electric current is passed through the brain to change activity.
■ It can relieve symptoms of severe depression and psychosis.
■ Although it is safe, it should only be used if absolutely necessary.