© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
I feel so good. My body is really sore and I can’t drive but I feel light. Colors are crisp and clear. They may only last a moment but I have ideas. I smile warmly for no reason. I breathe deeply without having to think.
Today I had ECT (my 1st since April). A change in anesthetic caused some problems but I am so much better. I am blessed with an amazing doctor who genuinely cares about me and a dream support team. Friends are helping with rides. I am released to rest and sleep (both from my depression & ECT).
It’s been almost a year since I was doing somewhat okay. My current therapist says he doesn’t recall ever seeing me not in crisis. Late summer I started to get worse. My repeated calls for help fell on ears that considered them my norm. I prepped to go inpatient in Sept/Oct but thanks to an amazing arsenal of coping skills and extra sessions of therapy I was able to hold off. I asked for ECT. My doc wanted DBT-IOP. I got pushed into a different program instead due to my people being in DBT, despite my multiple warnings that it was not a good idea. It was, as anticipated, a catastrophe that ended with an event appropriately described as trauma that I’ve yet to be able to process. In 1 day I went from 25+ hours of treatment/therapy per week to 2-3 hours. Not good.
Lately my suicidal ideation has been through the roof. I’m fighting for my life. I’ve also been impulsive, angry, self-harming, dark, unable to access empathy, scared, feeling alone and hopeless. Last week I called my therapist at midnight. I packed for the hospital. I cried.
They laid hands on and prayed for me at church on Sunday. It was unexpected yet utterly calming. I was surprised last week when my pdoc offered ECT. In one moment she validated and made my ongoing normalized experience true. I was confused. Even this morning I was panicked as they put me under. But Dr. M had my hand and I could feel God and see the outlines of my angel and D- and some unknown to my left. I am exhausted and sore but I am okay.
God, thank you for blessing me with family & friends and kick ass doctors. Please continue with my healing and keep using me for Your will.
My next treatment is Thursday. I wonder how long they will last – not the set but how long between treatments before the effect begins to wear off. I’m itching to do weekly. I can drive then. ;)
I enjoy resting and sleeping now. And rain
Update 1/31/17 1:46am:
I had a treatment on Thursday and another today. The weekend was really bad but I feel better now. I’m getting some rest and reminding myself to do one thing at a time, be “gentle to self,” as we say in group. I’m proud of me and grateful for my treatment team, my friends and ECT. There is hope in electricity.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2017
I feel so much better after ECT today. I had a good conversation with Dr. M and an 86 second seizure. He said I can stop the Wellbutrin to hopefully lower the anxiety. There were no students today and the IV guy, D, waited to knock me out until I was done talking. Dr. M held my hand and left me a note. I just have to change the day of my next ECT. I feel safe. I can breathe.
I was so anxious before. I practiced willing hands, straightening my arms and breathing deeply. I reached to the sky and twisted and stretched. I meditated on the chorus of our gospel song “I Love You, Lord.” It’s slow and soothing. And I prayed, A LOT.
I walked into the treatment room praying I’d die on the table. I woke up feeling happy and free. I have a slight headache and I’m tired but I’m like a totally different person. I’m so grateful.
I danced a prayer in the back yard and drew two pictures. I was too tired to color. I ignored my phone most of the day and tried to limit my computer time. I didn’t eat but I put on classical music and lit a candle. I took care of me. I even had a great conversation with my mom tonight. She pointed out that I’m actually talking. Yeah, I guess I am. :) Praise God.
I’ve really been struggling the past few weeks. Every day I have fought back the urge to self-harm or die. My anxiety has been so high that I’ve literally been afraid of everything. I’ve gone back to bingeing, purging and restricting. And the most meaningful activity of my life has been taken from me. I’m no longer a nanny. I miss the girls so much. They’re family.
I’ve also been really scared that the ECT stopped working and nothing else could help pull me out. But today God proved me wrong, reminded me not to doubt Him. I need rest but feel joy and am grateful to be alive.
Thank you for believing in me and reading. I’m going to my aunt’s tomorrow. I love her so much. Maybe we can do our nails together. And I can walk. Yard sales first. Captain’s orders.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2016
I’ve been wanting to write on ECT for awhile now. It seems everyone has their own opinion about it, even if they haven’t experienced it. I say, unless you’ve tried it shut your face. This is my experience with it.
In case you didn’t know, ECT stands for Electroconvulsive Therapy (shock treatment.) Right, like in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” only not. ECT is used for severe depression when medications and other treatments haven’t worked, suicidal depression, psychosis, severe mania or catatonia. It may seem barbaric but it’s actually quite effective. Antidepressants have about a 30% effectiveness whereas ECT is about 70%.
I started ECT mid-November after 15 years of med changes and 13 hospitalizations. I wish someone had offered it to me sooner. 5 of my doctors worked together to make it happen. Here’s how it happened. I was given the option and information that I could sign only after having it for 24 hours. My doctors made sure my labs were good and I passed my EKG. I was evaluated by 2 doctors and then scheduled for my first session. I opted not to view the ECT video. I’ve seen it before. I’ve had many friends who’ve had ECT so I knew a bit of what to expect and considering I’d rather have been dead the outcome really didn’t matter.
I started ECT inpatient 3 times a week. The night before they give you a red wristband that means you can’t eat or drink after midnight until they take the band off (because of the anesthesia.) I got lucky for my first ECT and had my favorite nurse assigned to me. She came to get me super early in the morning when the ECT dept was ready for me and walked me down there. The nurse there greeted me with a smile and took my vitals. The nurse from my unit stayed with me until it was my turn. Then they took me back to meet my doctor in the treatment room. As soon as I go in, I sit down on the gurney (which is ridiculously soft.) The nurse on my left starts an IV in my left arm, the nurse on my right covers me with a warm blanket, the anesthesiologist is above my head and my doctor is either sitting at a computer on my right or standing at my feet talking to me. Someone puts electrodes on my forehead and right temple. I try to stay conscious as long as possible but inevitably mid-sentence my doctor grabs my right hand, smiles at me and says I’m going to get sleepy. The world gets a bit blurry, shakes back and forth two or three times and all goes black. The next thing I know I wake up in the recovery area. I still have no idea how I get there. When I wake up I feel happy and healthy, they take my vitals and someone gives me apple juice.
While I’m asleep they shock me on the right side and top of my head (unilateral), causing a seizure. In the IV they give me meds to paralyze my body so I don’t shake. Because of this, they breathe for me. They tape my eyes shut and put a mouthpiece in so I don’t grind my teeth. I don’t suggest keeping contacts in if you wear them. I did the first time and somehow lost one when they pulled the tape off. Don’t worry. They do it before you wake up and it doesn’t hurt at all or leave a mark. I have longer seizures than most people. Last week I had my longest yet – 148 seconds. The length of the seizure doesn’t seem to matter as long as it’s at least 20 seconds. Some people have bilateral ECT, which means they get shocked on both sides. That kind of ECT has more memory loss and side effects. They don’t seem to know how or why ECT works. I read an article last year that said it slightly damages the part of the brain that’s overactive in depression. Other sources say it basically jumpstarts the brain or changes the chemistry. Either way, it works.
My first ECT was the worst. They didn’t give me any extra meds because they didn’t know what I’d need. I had no idea where I was or who the people on my unit were. I was crawling on the floor nauseous with a HORRIBLE headache. I did at least remember my nurse, who I’ve known for years. My legs hurt SO bad for several days, which they told me was because they were super muscular and adjusted the anesthesia. They “stacked” my first two treatments – two days in a row. After the first one they started giving me Toradol and Zofran in the IV and I’ve had much less difficulty with pain and nausea. After the first treatment I felt joy, which confused but elated me. I didn’t know it was possible. I had 5 treatments inpatient and was doing so well that they discharged me without a plan for maintenance treatment. Then my therapist fired me and some other shit happened and I took a hard and fast dive towards death. So I decided to go back to ECT. Now I’m getting treatments once a week.
ECT has not been without side effects. After doing treatments three times a week I couldn’t drive for 2 weeks. Now that I’m doing it weekly I just can’t drive the day of or the day after treatment. About an hour after I wake up I get a headache and feel very nauseous. Sometimes I can stay up and work on the computer or write. Other days I just sleep. I have Tigan to take PO for the nausea. My memory is spotty and my cognition is definitely impaired. I have trouble remembering names, passwords, how to get places. My mind, which is usually chock full of thoughts and ideas, is often pretty blank. This is new for me but I don’t altogether hate it. There are certain things I don’t remember at all. I’ve gotten into arguments with people about things I apparently did but have no memory of. This is frustrating for me. Thankfully at least one of those people understands why. My mind is usually a steel trap. If I don’t remember it, it didn’t happen. But I guess now it might have. I’m learning. It’s like ECT as ERP. I’m learning to accept not knowing or remembering. I so often now hear myself saying, “I don’t know.” I also get very sore muscles for a few days after my treatment – sometimes my neck or shoulders, tongue, back. The soreness seems to travel but doesn’t show up until the second day.
I feel offended when people tell me I shouldn’t be doing ECT or when they hassle me about how many treatments I’m having. They say they’re concerned about my mind or the side effects. They fail to take into consideration that it’s saving my life. I KNOW I’m not the same. I’m aware that my mind is different. I’ve seen how it can ruin people’s minds. It’s not ruining mine. I trust my doctors and God has given me ECT. Maybe not for forever, but definitely for now. I finally found something that actually helps me. I do feel sad more often than usual, but I believe that’s because I’m actually feeling. I’m dissociating less, actually living in the moment. It’s new for me. I think it’s good. I intend to keep doing ECT until my doctors and I agree on stopping. Please don’t try to dissuade me.
If you’d like to talk about ECT, feel free to leave me a comment here or contact me personally if you know me. I’m not up for philosophical arguments but I’m willing to answer questions or help you out. It’s not as scary as it seems. I promise.
This is the Mayo Clinic article about ECT. Mayo Clinic – ECT
© Michelle Routhieaux 2015
© Michelle Routhieaux 2015
© Michelle Routhieaux 2015
Homework: Imagine a life built on happiness…
Imagine a life built on happiness…
I would have energy and motivation. I would take chances and try new things. I would take better care of myself and spend more time with friends. I would DANCE and maybe have the guts to try musical theater again. I could tolerate spending more time with the girls. I would spend less time in darkness crying.
I would probably do more fun things like bowling and Zumba. I would be stronger, more able to handle others’ crises without crashing myself. I would have more art parties and probably shower more often. I might even be able to start brushing my teeth regularly. What a concept.
If I had a life built on happiness I’d paint my nails more often. I’d probably answer my phone and my self-esteem would improve. I could move on to DBT Level 2 and spend less time in appointments and therapy. Maybe my health could improve and I could have less random physical and neuro symptoms. That would be nice.
A life built on happiness would probably be filled with hope and possibility, art and writing, LOTS of music and dancing and yoga and movement. And maybe I could learn how to do nothing. That would be nice. I could find peace. Learn boundaries. Set limits. Take risks. Breathe. Be.
I just asked my nurse how long my seizure was today – 79 seconds. I wonder why they’re getting shorter (105, 97, 79.) I hope it’s not a trend.
I almost lost my room today. I’m thankful I got to keep it. I wonder how my life would be different if I had discovered ECT works for me before now… I’m glad I’m brave.
I was right. Something did die with ECT – the intense need to die, the voice telling me I need to die somewhat constantly. It is almost absent. I feel a sense of wonder and joy. I do get heavy waves of sadness but not deathly despair. I feel happy to be alive.
Dr. H is letting me go to DBT on Thursday. Armando is going to take me and bring me back. I’m so glad I’m not dead. It’s a new feeling. This is a chance to reinvent myself, build a “life worth living” like they say in DBT. I’ve never been healthy before. Life starts now.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2015
My soul is filled with the joy of the Lord. JESUS!
(deep breath) I am happy.
I am happy.
Last night I sang a solo at my choir concert. I am so proud! I was so nervous. I started learning it around 3pm. 2 hours in the car with Whitney Houston, 20 minutes with a karaoke track from iTunes and a lot of prayer. The devil fought me telling me I couldn’t do it, that I was worthless and needed to die. Not today, sir. Get out of my house. JESUS!
My head hurts so bad.
There were only 16 people in the audience – all family of the choir and a few church members. None of my friends showed up. I was so thankful to have my mom.
I read from Proverbs and prayed that God would sing through me and to me, that He would give me the courage to open my mouth and use me as a vessel for His word, keeping my focus only on Him. This song is a vocal dance for Jesus. JESUS!
My whole body trembled. An hour or so before, I hit a wall – weak, dizzy, close to tears, barely able to eat. I sat down a few times during the concert but decided not to take my PRN for my heart that I sometimes do during concerts. I didn’t want to interfere with the Spirit. My head and mouth hurt all day. I had decompensated to confusion, yelling at cars, then not moving. But I did it. Just for God. No practice with the choir. A lick and a prayer. All for God. Only for God.
The look on Ken’s face as I sang was priceless. He exchanged looks with Janet. I smiled genuinely. He didn’t know I could do that. Neither did I. :) I got so many compliments after, the best in an email from another choir member. He said:
I listened to the recording of the concert tonight on the way home and I am almost speechless regarding your rendition of “I Love the Lord.” I couldn’t really hear it when we did it, or I would have said something afterwards. I am just floored by the range, the intensity, and the emotion that you put into that solo. Wow. Just magnificent. Thanks for making tonight one of the best nights I have ever spent performing music. Those 16 people in the audience were definitely in the right place at the right time.”
I watched the video when I got home. It is the first time I’ve been proud of my work, didn’t hate the sound of my voice. I felt free.
Today I am still proud. My head and mouth hurt a lot. I feel nauseous. I’m eating kettle corn on the couch. Not the best idea after serious mouth surgery but I’m afraid to make oatmeal. I feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to settle, breathe. My doctor and therapist are both out of town so it’s me and God. He’s got this. (wink)
Thanks for listening.
May you be blessed.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2014
It’s official. I got my driver’s license. What a trip. Exhausting. I’m sitting now in the quiet of our mechanic’s waiting room, letting myself settle to the ticks of a clock. (Eyes closed…) In here it is cool. I can begin to relax.
I believe that I failed my driving test. God passed for me. Praise God I had a nice examiner. I almost hit a truck and had to try backing up 3 times. I was terrified, fighting to stay in the moment and ignore or combat the automatic negative thoughts and keep driving through the flashbacks.
When we pulled in I was shaking, fighting off tears. I didn’t believe her when she said I passed. All she said was, “Ok.” Odd. I held it together long enough to get through the line and to the bathroom to cry. These voices were screaming in my head, “You FAILED. AGAIN. You are NOTHING. I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! You’re right back where you started. DIE!” I pulled myself together enough to go out to Mom and then lost it again. I was crying so hard. All the stress from this month all came out in tears and sobs. She held me, pouring out reassurance about driving, which had nothing to do with my crying. It was nice just me and her. I finally calmed down after some Jamba Juice. Now I’m exhausted.
I didn’t expect that reaction. I couldn’t forsee, nor would I want to. It helped a lot that I went to the gym this morning and wore my new outfit. I had a pep talk with God, felt empowered. I met my goal today – to take the drive test. I faced one of my demons. I didn’t back down. I did it. I just happen to have gotten a license in the process.
(deep quiet breaths…)
To new beginnings.
To spiral journals.
To taking back ME.
To new beginnings.
To starting over.
To cleaning house.
To owning my behavior.
To life transparency.
To new beginnings.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2013
I am waiting for the trolley. I feel joy. I breathe in the cool night air. I breathe. I breathe… I feel calm. I listen intently to crickets and the sound of car tires over rail tracks and the wind. German discussions drift…
My hair blows softly over my face.
I’M FREE! (sigh)
I can’t explain the joy sitting here brings me. Folding laundry. Listening instead of just hearing. The deep appreciation of rising from the ashes, of being released from pain. I see colors. I taste. I feel God again.
19 days of pain have led to this beauty. I am set free. I savor the feeling. I know it is just for a time but this time is mine.
(break to talk with Ringo on the trolley)
(zap) I look forward to projects. I eat colors, swallow time. I am pink and the whole world sings. Of joy, of deliverance, of me. My face smiles without me. I watch. She is beautiful when she’s happy.
This week I realistically contemplated going in. Today I don’t need to. When I see my doctor tomorrow the pain will be a story. I will be able to talk, unlike last time, and to think. I think. Anyway, there is such a difference. Like flipping a switch. I am glad to be on this side.
I could not appreciate gift without loss. Now I take it in, prepare and wait. Rest. Thank you, God. Weepin’ may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. Amen.
My whole body tingles.
Joy comes in the morning.
(sing Brett Michaels’ song “Joy Comin’.”)
As my muscles being to hurt again, remember this feeling.
I used all my energy today.
Now I’m melting.
At least I can poop.
7 If I can feel such joy on Earth, can you imagine what it’s like in heaven?
FG I don’t know.
Probly pretty awesome.
3 Sparkles and unicorns!
13 Dragons & fire.
25 Peace & quiet.
7 And angels.
13 I want to paint the sky with a dance and pour out the rain.
FG And for things to be okay.
3 Jesus will like my unicorn.
7 And I want to ride a sunset.
3 Jesus loves me.
FG I know, baby. He does.
Jesus loves me.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2012
In writing tonight about sadness and pain I am reminded of joy. I felt such joy singing today. I sang with my choir at a nursing home and for a few moments all of it was gone. God sang through me and I was filled with hope. My director said he’s going to call me Merry now because I’m so joyful. It’s true. Singing brings me such joy, especially gospel. I need to remember and do it more often.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2012