My ECT Journey: Part 1
As many of you know, I’ve decided to pursue ECT treatment in the hopes that it will work for my medication resistant depression. What many of you don’t know, and neither did I, is that in the US there are many hoops to jump through in order to become a candidate for ECT. This will be the first of many posts about my experience with ECT from beginning to end. I will chronicle as much of it as I can, as honestly as I can, in case some of you out there are on the fence about maybe trying ECT. Firstly, let me say that ECT is not for everyone, as it is a rather extreme treatment for depression. Back in the day electroshock therapy was pretty much used on everyone that had, what was believed to be, mental health issues. This ranged from the clinically insane all the way to homosexuals. Needless to say, not only the procedure has evolved over the decades, but so too have the patients treated with it. As it stands, ECT is not used for just your run of the mill depression, and is even less likely to be the first treatment. Though, ECT is listed as an option for those who have had no success with medication, like myself, or deal with very severe depression, bipolar, bpd, etc.
So, once you and your doctor have decided that ECT might be the best route for your treatment to take, what’s next? Well let me tell you, it’s not as easy as just going to an ECT provider and saying I want this procedure, no, it is far more difficult to obtain than other treatments. Firstly, your doctor will have to send over all the information they have on you, your demographics, psychiatric evaluation, past and current medications and the medical necessity confirmation. Basically it’s to prove that this is an essential treatment for you, and that you’ve tried other methods first. I mean I don’t know why anybody would want ECT if they didn’t need it, but I suppose that they have to make sure. Next, you will need some blood work panels done to check your physical health, as well as an ekg to do the same. They want to make sure that you’re not only healthy enough for anesthesia, but also for controlled seizures. There may also be something to do with the medical necessity with this, but I’m uncertain. You’ll also need spinal X-rays if you’re older than 65, because they don’t want you convulsing and throwing out a disk in your back. Once you’ve cleared the medical and bureaucratic aspects of beginning treatment, which is where I am now, you will finally get an entrance exam with your ECT provider. There, although I haven’t had mine yet, you will undergo another psych evaluation from their on staff psychiatrist, as well as an overview on your lab results and paperwork. Once this is complete, only then will they schedule you to begin treatment.
As I’ve stated I’m still in the middle of getting all the lab work and paperwork done, and I’m only about half way after a few weeks. I called it bureaucratic because it feels like there are so many hoops to jump through just to get this treatment rolling. I myself had a few extra steps in the process because I don’t have a record of all the medications I’ve been on through the years, and had to go to my last IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) to get an accurate medical history. However, that itself wasn’t easy either, as my IOP stores all their medical records with the local hospital. So I had to fumble around for days trying to get this medical history released. Until I quit my job that is, and was able to go to the hospital and get the paperwork printed out for me as I sat there. Then I had to call my insurance to make sure that the ECT would be covered, because I would never be able to afford something like this out of pocket. Now I’m just waiting on the blood work and ekg, which I’m having done tomorrow, and the ball should finally start rolling.
As I said, I want to document every step through my ECT treatment so that people know what they’re getting into if it’s something they considered. So I’ll be making sort of a written documentary on my process and the following treatment for all of you to read. Hopefully, it goes as well as I’m hoping it does.