Electro-Convulsive Reading

CW: Discussions of Mental Health, Treatment, and hypothetical death

I'm pretty open about this on the fediverse, but I have severe depression that is medication-resistant.

For the record, I still take medication, but it doesn't do nearly as much as it should, and I often feel guilty complaining about the medication's side effects, knowing I don't have a lot of options.

Okay, so we know that depression is bad for your memory, but that is actually not what I'm here to talk about.

I'm here to talk about Electro-Convulsive Therapy.

Basically: While I'm unconscious, electric shocks induce seizures, and it makes me less depressed. It might be magic!

The problem here is your normal ECT treatment involves a blocked-out time period, for simplicity's sake in assuming some things are typical, let's say one season.

You undergo this three times a week for a while, and once you see some progress, it's down to two, then down to one, and gradually reducing until you're cured. Because it's such a time-intensive option, and you need another person to drive you back-and-forth, it's considered a last resort.

Except I'm not cured. Last year I was going every three weeks, but right now I'm going every week because of the treatment time missed since August (spoiler: In Canada, just like the US, they will deny you ECT treatment if you don't have a person you know to drive you. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is full of shit. )

This is where we get to our problem: I don't know whether it's the anesthesia or the shocks to the brain, or both, but it really messes with your memory.

The only thing I remember when I first started ECTs on that schedule above. years ago? 1. It was summer. 2. I was depressed. (I distinctly remember taking a bath and hating my life) 3. My first appointment I thought I wouldn't wake up from anesthesia and they had to put oxygen on me to calm me down for a long time. 4. I gagged one time they did some gaseous anesthesia because it's extremely easy to make me cough. 5. Being interviewed by a manager at the hospital to see if I wanted to shout out any of the nurses. I couldn't because I couldn't remember anyone's names. 6. I'd bite my tongue here or there while under.

That's literally EVERYTHING I remember from that summer.

This is where I come to book-reading.

I could not read while I was undergoing that period of ECTs because I wouldn't remember what I read. That's a really fucking depressing realization! I suspect I mostly reread during that time, because despite its fruitlessness, I couldn't see myself dropping reading entirely.

I will to this day find books that I remember as a fact that I read. But I can go through them and it's almost like it's entirely new. Some part of me remembers parts of these books, and I can make predictions that I assume are my intuition, until it becomes clear I read this book.

I should have continued to reread, because I've come to a depressing realization: since January (When I returned to the US and started treatment) I can't really remember much of anything that I've read. I didn't read much when I first restarted at once a week, but I'm down to every-other week and it's not much better. I've been logging my reading, so I know I read a particular title, but then realizing I can't remember anything of note in the book, or even how much I liked it. My book journal (which I updated yesterday) has many entries from this time period that simply say “I should probably reread this”.

I had a thing here about timing your reading, but evidently that has not helped me. I assume things will get better once I'm down to every three weeks again, but I do not expect that to happen for a while, as I'm depressed from Covid-19, and everyone wants me to remain in okay mental health.

I will tell you, as you may have already guessed, writing things down does help. Except, to be honest, it's hard to get enthused about the “Shit I Want to Remember” Journal, so I recommend things like livetooting your reading to the appropriate tag.

I've been trying a lot of bookclub podcasts, (Since my podcatcher lets me search by episode title, and it will usually be titled after the book). It hasn't helped me remember, but if I listened to them again I suspect I'd remember what went on in the book.

If you ever have to undergo ECTs, you have my sympathy. It will suck, but you will get through it.