My name is Kenny Fleischman. I am currently 30 years old. I underwent ECT, also known as electroconvulsive therapy, at the age of 21. I had a total of 30 rounds of electroshock at that time. What compels me to tell my experience is that I would never want anyone to go through what I have as a result of shock. What happened to me could be what happens to you, so I’m just trying to warn the public of a possible outcome.
I have experienced permanent mental and physical problems from electroshock that still, to this day, 9 years later, have not resolved.
At age 13, I was experiencing multiple issues that were not going away. Extreme fatigue, coldness, anxiety and depression. My parents suggested I see our family doctor for some tests. Through blood tests, it was finally discovered I was suffering from hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone in the blood). My doctor advised me to take a thyroid replacement hormone the rest of my life. I started it that day.
Unfortunately, my symptoms were not resolving so my family doctor added an antidepressant to help “boost” the effects of the hormones I was taking. Sometime after that I was getting worse so he then suggested I see a psychiatrist. I took his word for it and from that day my life forever changed.
The psychiatrist found I was obviously not responding well to the antidepressants. He began a process of taking one drug away and adding another, then adding more. This back and forth of drugs was really driving my brain and body to go haywire. He then diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and added mood stabilizers on top of the antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. The cocktail of drugs and adding and re-adding drugs was obviously not going well for me, especially being that I was very young — just a teen still growing into a young man.
This continued to go on from the age of 13 to 21. Throughout those years, it was such a struggle to get through school with the fatigue, cognitive, and overall physical side effects of these drugs. Despite the cocktail of drugs, in high school I was still an honor roll student.
After seeing more doctors and psychiatrists and being put on multiple more drugs, I was diagnosed by one psychiatrist, at the age of 21, as “treatment resistant.” He suggested I needed to undergo ECT or electroshock therapy as a last resort for my condition. Keep in mind that at the time I saw this psychiatrist, I was on over 5 or 6 different drugs! It’s clear, looking back now, no wonder I was in such a bad way on so many different drugs!
The psychiatrist said I would experience only temporary side effects of memory loss, confusion, and headaches, but he said they would go away after a few weeks. I trusted them and figured they knew best. Unfortunately, I took the psychiatrist’s advice and started the procedure as a last resort.
We started off with 6 to 12 treatments and then he wanted me to continue to do them until I was feeling better. At 30 rounds or so my memory and cognition were getting so bad I couldn’t do much of anything for myself anymore. One day I was at the bottom of the staircase at home and my father had to reteach me how to tie my shoes! I was the one that had to put a stop to this ECT. My psychiatrist wanted me to keep going, but I couldn’t take it anymore and was getting very scared I may have dementia. I had to put a stop to it. The psychiatrist reluctantly agreed to a break. I never went back.
ECT wiped out all my memories of high school, graduation, and my childhood. I literally had almost my whole past wiped out due to this procedure! It’s a constant identity crisis for me every day to this day! The psychiatrists said the side effects were temporary (they weren’t) and my memories would come back (they didn’t).
I had to see 2 neurologists after ECT because my cognition was so bad. I got neurocognitive testing done 6 months after ECT and found my IQ was measured at 88 — 85 is mentally retarded. I had to relearn how to do basic things like read and write.
The shocks also caused many physical problems. I was referred to a cardiologist because I was dealing with heart palpitations and arrhythmias that weren’t going away. I had severe headaches for years after that would not go away. The shock doctors prescribed me Vicodine. I also dealt with spontaneous seizures as a result of the shock. The only things the neurologist offered me was more drugs for the pain and symptoms I was dealing with, which I declined.
Several years ago, I started developing night terrors every night in my sleep due to the shock. I’m assuming because of the trauma done to me and the neurological issues shock caused in me.
My life is a living nightmare since shock and I would never ever recommend this to any human being, not even an animal. I consider shock a “rape of the soul” because I will never fully remember who that young boy was prior to having this done to me. I will never know what type of human being I could have become. I was an honor student in high school. Now I am stuck with permanent memory loss that makes me feel like I don’t know who I am, constant cognition problems, ongoing night terrors every night from the trauma, feeling constantly anxious and sad, heart problems ongoing, problems remembering from day to day, the list goes and on and on.
I have a severe hard time trusting people due to the betrayal by the psychiatrists.
Please take my story as a warning. I hope I can help even one person feel validated in their experience, after they have been invalidated by a psychiatrist telling them that the damage they have from shock is not from shock, but is their mental illness. If I could prevent this from happening to another human being, it was all worth speaking out. Life is very short and don’t waste your time like I have. It can take you years and years just to recover to some degree from ECT and you will most likely end up with a lot of permanent effects like me.
About the Author
Kenny Fleischman is a 30-year-old activist dedicated to protecting others from the damage of electroshock. At age 21, he had 30 rounds of electroshock. After partially recovering from the damage, he found his voice to tell his story, hoping to prevent others from going through what he did.