They say not to look back. Not to pay attention to your past, to look forward. Who says?
Why after almost 50 years, do I still wonder about what happened then!?! Why was it so important for my parents to request me getting electric shock therapy when I was 17 years old with a nervous breakdown? I apologize for writing about this negative blog up front. What memories were my parents trying to eliminate from my brain? I often ask myself, what else happened to me?
There are a few names for electric shock therapy currently. Not when I had it of course; and I can tell you it wasn’t therapy!!! Now they use names like: ECT, which means electroconvulsive therapy.
I was 17 years old when I became pregnant and like many young girls, I froze, I didn’t know what to do. I knew I was in love and my boyfriend wanted to marry me; however, my father would never approve of the union because he was simply Italian. My father didn’t care how I felt, didn’t care how I felt when he forced me to have a second trimester abortion (16-20 weeks). This decision killed my spirit, my soul and my choice. At this age, it wasn’t my decision to make. I had a nervous breakdown afterwards. It was the worst thing I ever had to go through. It was after this breakdown, I moved out of my family home and lived on my own.
Here’s what you can expect during the procedure. Cervical softening and dilating is performed with medication and small dilating sticks, called laminaria that may be placed in the cervix, depending on the term of the pregnancy and your medical history. Laminaria are thin sticks made from a special seaweed material that widen as they absorb moisture from your body. The laminaria will stay in your cervix overnight and prepare your body for the next day’s surgical procedure.
Usually, you are put in a private exam room, to undergo an exam and ultrasound, and receive oral medications that may include a pain reliever and anti-anxiety medication for relaxation, if laminaria is required for overnight dilation. Having the Ultrasound and seeing my baby was a horrible thing; I knew I would be killing my own blood in a matter of hours.
During the laminaria insertion, you’ll be awake. If someone accompanies you, he or she can remain in the exam room, if you wish. The doctor will:
- Place a speculum to view inside your vagina.
- Clean the cervix with gauze soaked in soap.
- Apply numbing medication (local anesthesia) to the cervix.
- Insert laminaria into your cervix, the opening to the uterus. The laminaria insertion takes about five to 10 minutes.
After the procedure, you will rest for a few minutes. You may experience cramping and spotting. You may get dressed when you feel able. We will give you detailed instructions on how to take care of your body overnight and how to prepare for the next day’s procedure. I had to stay at the hospital due to heavy cramping and vomiting.
Medication will be administered intravenously (IV) in your arm to induce anesthesia or loss of consciousness. Most women fall asleep and don’t remember the procedure. I never lost consciousness and was awake for the whole terrifying procedure!!! After you’re well relaxed (which I never relaxed), the doctor will remove the laminaria and use suction and gynecological instruments to empty your uterus, with ultrasound guidance. I watched them take out an arm and a leg separately and the rest of Charley. I remember screaming for him; they brought him over for me to hold for one minute and then he was gone. You’ll be in the operating room for about an hour, but the procedure may take from 15 to 45 minutes. I was in the operating room for approximately 2 hours.
I’m not quite sure if the Dr. or my parents called for me to have Electrical Shock Therapy, I know I didn’t agree to such a thing; if I did, I was so drugged I didn’t know what I was agreeing to. The shock therapy eliminated bad memories of child abusive from my father and sexual abuse from my brother and cousins for many years. Those memories came back to me in adulthood during therapy in my forties. The memories of the abortion were never eliminated, they are still so fresh and painful in my memory, something I will never get over. Did you know you have to actually give birth to your baby! Being forced to have an abortion was the most tragic moment in my life! I had a baby boy, his name was Charley.
Now I will tell you that I’m a Pro-Choicer! I believe that every woman has a choice with her body; however, I don’t believe in 2nd trimester abortions. Women should always be in control of her body.
I went through a month of psychotherapy and different mediations; nothing helped me get over the abortion and forced ended relationship. I had a nervous breakdown! ECT is also used for people who require a rapid treatment response because of the severity of their condition, such as being at risk for suicide. I was suicidal.
Extensive research has found ECT to be highly effective for the relief of major depression. Clinical evidence indicates that for individuals with uncomplicated, but severe major depression, ECT will produce substantial improvement in approximately 80 percent of patients. It is also used for other severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. ECT is sometimes used in treating individuals with catatonia, a condition in which a person can become increasingly agitated and unresponsive. A person with catatonia can seriously injure themselves or develop severe dehydration from not eating or drinking.
ECT involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia. It is typically administered by a team of trained medical professionals that includes a psychiatrist, an anesthesiologist, and a nurse or physician assistant. Of course, I was so drugged up before this procedure, I didn’t fight it.
The most persistent adverse effect is retrograde amnesia. Shortly after ECT, most patients have gaps in their memory for events that occurred close in time to the course of ECT, but the amnesia may extend back several months or years.
Despite many scientific and governmental authorities having concluded that ECT does not cause brain damage, there is significant evidence that ECT has indeed caused brain damage in some patients, both historically and recently, and evidence that it always causes some form or degree of brain damage.
I conclude by stating the ECT never helped me. I suffered with depression on and off for years, mostly from the trauma of my childhood and teenage years. My father should have known, you can’t erase tragic memories with a zap of energy.