Warning About the Devastating Effects of ECT

I’m writing this story because I feel compelled to help others with my story. I don’t want to see others go through the unnecessary torture and pain I have endured throughout the last ten years of my life or more.

My name is Jane Ellis. I am an electroshock survivor. I am now 32 years old. I had a pretty normal upbringing. I was raised on the coast. My father was a navy veteran. I was one of five children.

When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder and severe anxiety. I was placed on mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anxiety medications. A cocktail that only grew over time.

For years after being put on these drugs, I suffered from major depression, suicidal thinking, and even attempted suicide more than once. I told the psychiatrists for years that I didn’t think the drugs were working and I felt like they were actually making me worse. The common answer however was to take more.

When I turned 21, I began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) on a neurotrauma unit at a local hospital. My life really started getting better. I had a good job that I loved. My outlook on life was better. I found a sense of purpose to my life and it was helping others. I worked at the hospital for 7 years and I was going to college for nursing.

When I turned 26, my life started to change for the worst. I had numerous personal losses and tragedies. I worked a lot not only at the hospital but also doing homehealth. I was over worked and tired. My mental and physical state wasn’t very good and had been deteriorating over time. I had numerous health problems that continued to complicate things. I had severe endometriosis and polycystic ovaries which resulted in 5 laproscopies (abdominal surgeries). I also had an ankle repaired and had hardware put in my right leg, as well as chronic back issues.

To further complicate things I dealt with the nasty side effects of psychotropic drugs such as chronic fatigue, persistent nausea, thyroid problems, and heart irregularities. I lived in excruciating pain most days. Doctors called it fibromyalgia. They seemed more concerned however with my mental state than my actual physical condition. I know it is hard for people to understand ones pain and to understand what it does to a person’s mind set but it has a great impact on your everyday life.

By the time I was 28 I gave up my career as a CNA after more than ten years of doing it and fought to receive social security disability. I was devastated. It was really hard on me. I felt like I lost a big piece of me.

In 2016, 3 years ago, I was put through electroshock therapy. The psychiatrist said I was medication resistant. I was told this however after undergoing an unintentional withdrawal from all my psychiatric drugs and then a lithium overdose. I had over 52 electroshock treatments spanning over 7 months.

I was finally released from treatment in December of 2016. I remember feeling so relieved. I wanted the treatments to stop. After the treatments I had an amnesia of sorts that lasted over the next two years. I struggled to remember events or people from the past and my connections with them. My short term memory was greatly impacted as well.

Over time, memories started to flood my mind and it felt very overwhelming. People and places triggered memories for me. Sometimes they were pleasant memories and some were quite the opposite. I struggled with flashbacks, night terrors, panic attacks and lots of anxiety and though its gotten better over time, I still experience them. I became very detached. I had major trust issues with people after that. I suffered from even more pain after treatment than before. I had severe muscle spasms, severe headaches, back aches, arthritis, neurological changes and I was confused about my identity.

I am writing this article to warn people of the devastating effects of ECT. My life was forever changed as a result of electroshock. I’m also writing this however as a message of hope to those who have had similar experiences or have had a loved one undergo treatment. Electroshock is not a solution but rather complicates ones mental and physical condition for the worse.

I think my saving grace was when I finally gave up on psychiatrists having all the answers. I was blessed with some really amazing people that helped me recover. I feel really blessed to have supportive, positive, loving people in my life that never gave up on me. People who helped me through my recovery and that continue to offer their support.

I discontinued all of my psychiatric drugs over a year ago under the careful supervision of a good doctor and I tapered off of them very slowly. The withdrawals were terrible and at times I feared for my life. I found it well worth it after getting off all of them however. I feel clearer now and even happier. I believe now that it was the drugs really driving me mad the whole time.

I have now sought out holistic and integrative doctors and healers to help me. I found acupuncture, chiropractic work, and integrative medicine to be helpful for me. I have also started making healthier lifestyle choices such as eating well, drinking plenty of water, and making sure I get all of the vitamins I need through eating a good assortment of fruits and vegetables. I also use herbs such as tumeric, lavender, as well as others. Exercise and physical therapy are another big one for me.

I stopped seeing a psychiatrist and instead found a sense of spirituality and hope. I feel like I’ve been fortunate to have been given a second chance and I don’t intend on wasting it.

Most of us struggle emotionally at different times in our life and sometimes all a person really needs is someone to listen and offer support. I don’t believe people need psychiatrists telling them they are screwed up and giving them diagnoses that make them feel worse about themselves and further destroy one’s already frail self esteem; all in the effort to sell more drugs.

I hope and pray everyday for a change in healthcare and in the treatment of mental illness that is really affecting a lot of people now. If you are considering electroshock therapy; or your going through it; or a loved one is considering treatment, I urge you or them to seek out other options. Brain damage is no joke. And although I am a survivor and I’m glad to say I’m doing a little better now, there are unfortunate others with much worse outcomes.

Also remember: healing is a process and it takes time. One day at a time. Be patient, every day gets a little bit easier. Small steps, small victories.

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