17) “Write about meeting someone you admire (real or fictional) in an empty elevator; you have 3 minutes to make conversation. What will you say? What do you want the outcome of the conversation to be? You could even write out the conversation in a script format.”
Gwen Stefani looks at me out of the corner of her eye, trying to assess if I’m going to be a crazy fan-girl. I probably will be. First I tell her that Tragic Kingdom was the first album that I learned from start to finish, that I traveled all over France with my discman listening to it. I’d explain that I decorated my walls with all the No Doubt magazine cutouts I could find. I’ve been to so many of their concerts and then her solo ones. I love collecting her memorabilia. I think she is a genius and has been such a powerful voice for women everywhere. I think the way she handled her latest obstacles is inspirational and a great example for women everywhere. She is iconic. I’d like to tell her that her music got me through some of the most difficult times, and that her music is the true soundtrack to my life. She made such a difference by demonstrating what a woman can do just by putting her mind to it (with talent to back it up). Her greatest songs are all about overcoming pain, putting difficult relationships behind. I would gush, I would want her to understand how much she meant to me, and then I would ask for an autograph, selfie, and a hug because I’m greedy.
I have never been the type to bear all for anyone. If I get close enough to someone I will share a lot, but there’s always something hidden. Sharing a journal has been the closest to true honesty that I think I’ve come. It’s very frightening, putting myself on the line. I’m afraid someone I love will be offended. I’m afraid that people I don’t know will be insulting (because this is the Internet). I’m afraid that this will get to people who don’t understand and judge me. By the same token I feel compelled to share this with people. I’m so tired of being ashamed of these things and I think so many other people have the same feeling. It’s so stigmatized to deal with and be treated for mental health problems. I couldn’t walk into a cocktail party and just start talking about it, for instance, at least not most cocktail parties. It’s gotten better in recent years but we still have a long way to go. I understand these topics are uncomfortable. Things we can’t understand are always difficult to deal with and make us nervous, it’s just how we’re programmed as a species. We can work to change what our parameters are though. The more we incorporate and understand human issues, the less things will be stigmatized and the more people can get help. I cannot tell you how many people in psych wards told me that they just didn’t know how to get help outside of the hospital before they got there because they were so afraid to talk to people and get labelled as crazy. People are ashamed to get help and that can be changed.
I am lucky to have gathered a group of people who deal with these issues and are not afraid to talk about them. I am also lucky enough to have loved ones who are always here by my side when things get rough. At rock bottom, lying in a bed virtually sedated with a broken neck and back, they were still there. They came from distances, they stayed the night, they were there every step of the way. I was never alone (both in a good and bad way). We are capable of so much love and care, we just need to spread the information. I was always spoiled and kind of mad that I had so many people who cared about me. It made it harder to leave. Eventually I lost my mind and nothing mattered but that’s another story.
I went through ECT last October, something like 20 sessions or so, and it has really made a difference in the way that my brain works. So, I lost my mind before the changes kicked in but afterwards it was like my brain had been jump started and the old pathways weren’t as active. When I get sad it’s dark but it’s nothing like the crippling heartache I had before. Some of this is just time healing wounds but I also know something is different. I have talked to several people, and read about more, who were helped by ECT. I know quite a few who didn’t feel any better afterwards, but I also didn’t follow-up with them in the long run so maybe like me it was a delayed benefit. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with seriously resistant issues. There doesn’t seem to be a long-term downside. For a while my memory was nonexistent and I just forgot everything immediately but I have improved tremendously. I think ECT still has a serious stigma. People don’t understand what modern shock treatments are like. They still have these images from old movies and books about being strapped down in white gowns and leather, biting on a depressor. I know I didn’t have thoughts far from that at first.
What actually happens is far more relaxing. You switch into hospital gowns, take off any metal (for someone with like 16 piercings that was quite a task), and lie down on a gurney in a room all set up with the gear. There are usually two psychiatrists there, an anesthesiologist, and a nurse or two. Sometimes there were students, but not often. They stick electrodes all over your body to monitor you, put a cuff on your arm, and start sticking wires to your head. Once they’re all set up, they go through “What’s your name, do you know where we are, what procedure are you having done, etc”, to make sure you are you and in your right mind (enough to say yes to the procedure). Then came my favorite part: counting back from ten. 10, 9, 8, 7, fuzzy feelings…6…….5………………..and then I was warm and fading, coming back to life suddenly in the recovery room having been wheeled out of the other room while I was still under. Then they monitor your vitals for a while, make you drink a few juice boxes to make sure your blood sugar is alright, and eventually let you go back to wherever you were, in my case either the psych ward or home. I did the treatments first inpatient and then outpatient for a while. I had to have someone with me while I was outpatient, and they wouldn’t let me take a shower for a while afterwards while I was still on the ward because of the fall risk. So in conclusion, ECT is no scarier than any procedure where you have to go under anesthesia, and the only harm I noticed was a loss of short term memory that has since mostly cleared up.