Negatively Charged: ECT and the Truth I Could Never Forget

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I can’t remember the first time Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT, aka “shock treatment”) was brought up to me as a potential remedy for my “mental illness.” I just know that after a certain point I would have done anything to make the pain go away, to make life on this planet livable again.

I had no idea at the time that the most likely culprit for this despair was my own psychiatric med cocktail (at that point Lamictal, Geodon, and Wellbutrin), which was drowning my brain in a pool of alien chemicals day after day with no break, no respite, no chance of resuscitation.

ECT

I don’t really recall ever fighting the suggestion of ECT. But I do know I was scared. I was worried that the shocks would erase all my good memories. That the few meaningful moments of my life, the ones that I held so dear and clung to so tightly, would vanish forever. Watching my grandfather, listening to his deep, gentle voice as he narrated his woodworking projects to me, letting me practice carefully with some scrap on the band saw; the twilight moments contemplating the universe with my best friend, pumping our legs back and forth on the swing set in our neighborhood park, belting out the silliest words of our favorite songs; the sweet innocence of my first teenage love teaching me what it felt like to be truly and completely seen and cared for. Could I afford to risk losing those moments?

I know what my answer would be now. And I can only imagine how horrible things must have been back then for me to have responded with anything but a resounding “NO” to that question. But luckily that past anguish is only a fleeting memory, bobbing up and down in my sea of emotional flashbacks, spotted only occasionally, until I dare call it to shore. I guess I can thank the ECT for some things after all.

It was the summer of 2018. After more than 20 psychiatric med trials over almost 10 years, I had come to the end of my rope. The suggestion of ECT seemed almost merciful. I knew of ECT’s sordid past, understood the severity of the procedures (though I was assured that the field had made great strides in the technology and the humaneness of the procedure the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” trope was a thing of the past). I thought, surely, if they’re recommending this treatment, that must mean they see how severe my pain is, they must understand I’ll not be able to go on like this much longer. Looking back, I was far more grateful for that than I should have been, really.

Strange thing was, I was NOT what I would call “suicidal.” I don’t believe I ever have been. I wanted so desperately to live. Not even a happy life, just one with a modicum of peace. A moment of each day where I could find relief from that foreign, chemical pull that insisted that everything was empty and meaningless. Was that so much to ask? I perplexed psych professionals because I seemed rational, I could explain what it was about the feelings that was wrong and yet I still could not get rid of them. I wasn’t sick enough to warrant immediate emergency help, I wasn’t bleeding out (at least not anywhere other than the soul), and I could send my supports away with complete honesty when I said, “don’t worry, I won’t be killing myself tonight.” I had never had any self-injurious behavior either. None of it added up. It seems like very few professionals understand what it’s like to feel intense psychic pain without an actual overt desire to kill oneself.

Of course, it makes complete sense now these feelings didn’t come out of nowhere. One glance at the side effects of most antidepressants and the first thing you’ll see is “increased thoughts of suicide.” Why is it that we so willfully ignore these black box warnings? I understood none of that at the time, however, and I remained trapped in that agonizing limbo with no escape, one way or the other. With no other place to turn, I made the decision to go forward.

I did my research and found a hospital in the area that performed ECT and admitted myself to get an evaluation of my fitness for the treatment. This wasn’t my first inpatient stay. The original, five years earlier, had traumatized me more than the “mental illness” itself (ask anyone who’s been locked in a psych ward and you’re likely to hear the exact same sentiment, even in the “best,” not obviously abusive settings). I achieved my ECT referral with ease. I mean, who voluntarily admits themselves to a psych ward? That person must have a screw loose. Couple shocks couldn’t hurt, right?

The hospital I was staying in only performed the procedure inpatient, meaning that you had to stay on the ward in between shocks. This was unthinkable to me. I didn’t have much of a support network, but the idea of being away from my husband, my dog, and the comfort of on-demand internet browsing was too much to bear (phones are confiscated on the wards, only to be used with special supervised permission for emergency correspondence can’t have any outside interference mucking up one’s “recovery”).

But I was in luck! Our local county hospital offered ECT on an outpatient basis. What a relief. I could come in in the morning, get my zaps (as I liked to call them in those days), and be home in time for lunch. How novel! Perfect in this era of convenience, shock treatment at your fingertips, available like never before!

I had an appointment with one of the doctors who would be administering treatment and received my start date. Frequency would be high initially, three times a week, and unilateral shocks (to only one side of the brain) would be tried first with continued adjustment based on effectiveness. My anxiety began to swell alongside the anticipation. I had had surgery once in the past (gallbladder removal) and the what-ifs of being put under anesthetic sedation terrified me. What if I was put to sleep and never woke up? Well, would it really matter at this point? So, I trudged along on the journey, figuring whatever was meant to happen, would happen. I had little problem holding that deep fear in my heart, because what other options did I have? Certainly no one was offering any.

All in all, it was 17 shocks over a period of about two months.

The whole process was not unlike those first days of school. Waking up at the crack of dawn, dragging myself out of bed. “Here I am, one shock, please.” Just tell me where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do. No need to worry though soon enough, just like school, the whole process would become routine.

The ECT department occupied a couple of rooms on the second floor. On one side of the hall there was a little waiting room the place where my husband gathered with a handful of other loved ones waiting to provide rides home (though most of the patients took medicabs, likely due to their socioeconomic status and/or lack of a support system). I’ll never be able to thank my (now ex) husband enough for the support that he gave to me during this time, driving me back and forth, arranging for work flexibility. For that love and patience, I am forever grateful.

The patient area was a bit different. About 20 or so uncomfortable vinyl upholstered chairs lined the walls of the long, narrow room. Each morning I would arrive and search the rows of chairs for my name, scrawled on a post-it by one of the (likely underpaid) techs, an indication that would be my spot for the day.

We were to get ourselves “ready” and changed into the distinctive rust orange psych scrubs, if we so desired (the color being another lovely dehumanizing feature, to be sure that mental patients were easily discernible from the “healthy” folk), though we were allowed to keep our street clothes on if we chose to. My first day I was shocked (pun intended) to hear that there was a not-so-insignificant chance that I would lose control of my bladder during the seizure and changing into the scrubs was the only way to ensure I’d have clean clothes for the car ride home. I changed into the orange pants for all 17 shocks, each time cursing the fact that I had to be there worrying about whether or not I was going to suffer the degrading experience of pissing myself that day. Yet, as fate had it, or perhaps just lucky biology, it never once happened, and I was spared the humiliation of seizure-induced incontinence.

Once we were all ready, we began the trek down to the pre-op area on the first floor, the same place where the public would go to receive their regular, run-of-the-mill outpatient surgeries (the knee replacements, tonsillectomies, etc). We were herded down in groups of four or five, following our tech, navigating the public hospital hallways in our trademark orange scrubs, not unlike the way kindergarteners follow their teacher on a field trip to the park, or ducklings scurry after their mother. Even though we all seemed to be surviving in our isolated bubbles, there was something significant there in that moment that connected us all. We didn’t need a rope to grab our little hands onto, we had the crushing weight of chronic, lifelong depression to tie us all together.

At the age of 31, I was consistently one of the youngest patients there. Most were older folks, 50s and 60s probably. Many seemed to be suffering from the stereotypical Parkinsonian side effects of the antipsychotics wreaking havoc on their dopamine. It’s a strange sight to see, that paradoxical dance of rigid immobility occupying the same body right alongside frightening involuntary movements and tremors. Take a walk in any psych ward and it’ll be easy to spot. I would often wonder if, in 20 to 30 years, I would end up like these people, a mere shell of my former self. If I had believed in god, I would have been desperately praying that I would be able to find the courage to take my life before that ever happened. Nobody ever said much at treatment. Not sure if that was the 6am roll call or just the desire to get on with the discomfort of it all. No need to make friends, there would be no reminiscing about these moments.

Once in the pre-op area, we would be directed to a gurney to lay on while we waited for one of the nurses to come set up the IVs that would allow the anesthetic to be administered. Waiting for the IV was my favorite time of the morning. It was a quiet 15-20 minutes where my incessant pondering of what had gotten me into this mess could be punctuated with observations of the staff drama and hospital goings-on. My own personal Grey’s Anatomy or ER unfolding in front of me. From my perch on the back wall, I got to watch the pre-op providers rush around and prepare for the day. It was as though us psych patients were invisible, or maybe they just never saw us as human enough to care about how we could see and hear everything they were doing.

It often seemed as though us headcases were just a task to be completed before the “real” work of the day began and the actual surgery commenced. There were definitely some providers that treated us like a chore — I’d imagine many of those most likely had only a single lecture’s worth of “How to Deal with a Crazy Person” during their time at school. Sure, there were some kindhearted nurses and doctors, but most of them were on a power trip or trying to get through as many of us as possible as quickly as possible. Not nearly the “heroes” they’re typically made out to be, at least in my experience.

One side of the pre-op area consisted of four little rooms, with curtains and glass doors that allowed what was going on inside to be hidden from view. We would be wheeled to these rooms when it was our turn, and the doctor would come to us one by one, often accompanied by a group of fresh-faced young students eager to observe. It was hard to maintain any sense of dignity when feeling so much like an animal in a zoo (and to this day, I refuse to let students sit in on my health appointments). These procedures were lightning fast. The doctors couldn’t have been in the room for more than 10 minutes at a time before it was on to the next, a sort of round-robin choreographed spectacle. By the time the doctor was done with the patient in room 4, room 1 would be all set again with the next subject, prepped and ready for their zap. Another name and face to be forgotten before the postictal state has a chance to subside.

Occasionally the providers would be careless and wouldn’t take the time or effort to make sure the curtains were closed all the way and I’d be allowed a peek into what happened to us patients after we closed our eyes. Wasn’t much, honestly. Seems unfair that such a seemingly boring, innocuous event can cause such devastating side effects and radical changes to one’s thoughts and feelings, one’s sense of personhood.

Now depending on who you ask, you’re likely to get very different answers regarding what effects ECT has on a person’s memory. Like much else in psychiatry, there doesn’t seem to be any real consensus. Either it’s “there’s been no evidence of any lasting effects on memory” or “well of course there are effects, but they must be weighed against the patient’s suffering.”

What to believe?

I don’t need to believe, I know. I live with the changes every day, even now, four years later. Not only has my once mildly impressive ability for rote memorization vanished completely, but my working memory is totally shot as well. I often explain to people who haven’t studied it, that we can think of working memory like a sort of “mental desk.” Some of us have mental desks that are clean and orderly, some messy but workable. Some big, with ample space to organize, and some pitifully small. We pick our tasks, thoughts or feelings up off these desks when necessary, engaging with them, moving them around, putting them back down as appropriate. Since the ECT, not only do I NO LONGER have any desk at all, but it often feels as though the shocks have rendered me one-handed, only ever capable of dealing with one thing at a time. It’s been incredibly frustrating and disabling, in a way I could have never imagined.

As an added insult, these struggles are “non-apparent,” and if you interact with me there’s little outward evidence of the mental effort I must put forth to stay afloat in our conversation. This is my real, personal, daily experience, my “anecdote.” But anecdotes have no place in psychiatry. I wonder what would happen if we actually listened to the real experiences of psychiatric survivors if we valued the “subjective” instead of some imagined “objective” farce. I mean, the truth is that we’ll never really know what’s going on in someone else’s mind, will we? At least not in our lifetime.

But this had been my choice. Had I asked for this “trauma”? Only I could be to blame, right?

How is the mental healthcare system accountable? How had my trust been violated, and what responsibility do they have to answer for this?

In a physical sense, our brain’s lack of pain receptors means that we can’t feel what’s happening to it. This is how they can perform neurosurgery on people who are completely awake, skull cracked open, brain laid bare as the patient keeps on talking as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on. Psychotherapy and psychiatry seem to operate in much the same way, we often don’t feel the impact as it’s happening. Well-intentioned words from even the most caring and competent therapists can cut like scalpels on our minds, excising our thoughts willy-nilly. And if the provider has no awareness or no openness about the ways in which they can do harm, the destruction can be massive and unending. There’s rarely an understanding of how those thoughts and feelings have really shaped our identities. Cut those out and what are we left with? Zap those out and what do I become? Replace one emptiness with another, a more palatable version. One less demanding on the lives of others.

These therapies and treatments which we have made easy and accessible must not be mistaken as harmless. Us psychiatric survivors are whole people, not a malleable playdough to be molded, manipulated and tossed aside when it’s time to play with the next toy, the next client. We are certainly not subjects to be experimented on. The assumed inevitability of it all, the way in which psychiatry is happy to follow these casual routines, to tread the same well-worn paths with no regard for the damage that their inept, clumsy steps cause to our mental environments.

I’m so lucky to have somehow woken up, to have felt that suspicion and with my characteristic stubborn obstinance slogged forward through the muck of “mental healthcare” with a steadfast commitment to myself and my experiences only. To be able to tell myself and everyone else that THIS. IS. NOT. RIGHT. I desperately want the same for those still stuck in their nightmares.

Time to set the alarm.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Kathleen,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with ECT and what led up to it. I also had the “treatment” after years of psych drug trials and receiving a treatment-resistant depression label (The label was changed again, this time to borderline personality disorder, after I didn’t “respond to” the ECT); I also experienced significant memory and other cognitive problems as a result. Congratulations on waking up from the nightmare and sharing your truth eloquently. It’s so important to hear from people who have actually gone through the experience of ECT rather than just more “studies showing it is safe and effective”.

    In regard to the black box warnings on psych drugs, you ask, “Why is it that we so willfully ignore these black box warnings?” I just want to interject that for many, these warnings didn’t exist yet when we were first prescribed the drugs. I became curious as to when the warnings were added, and found this NY times article from 2004 announcing the FDA decision to require the warnings:

    F.D.A. Toughens Warning on Antidepressant Drugs https://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/16/politics/fda-toughens-warning-on-antidepressant-drugs.html

    Here’s a little gem from the article:

    “For its part, the American Psychiatric Association, the specialty’s medical society, issued a statement repeating its ‘deep concern that a black-box warning on antidepressants may have a chilling effect on appropriate prescribing for patients.’

    ‘This,’ the statement continued, “would put seriously ill patients at grave risk.”

    Gotta love the APA, always looking out for patients.

    • Dear Kathleen, After my own experience with ECT (“Committed at 16: State Hospital Memories,” MIA, Jan.23, 2000), I was very interested in what you had to say. You mentioned that you were initially apprehensive about losing previous memories. The fact is a goodly number of people do have serious post-ECT memory difficulties. Some are so seriously damaged that they cannot ever resume their former education or employment. Unfortunately, there has never been a valid determination of what proportion of ECT patients have serious long-term memory difficulties. If that were known, prospective ECT patients would know the risk they’re taking. But the way things are it is hard to know even that—something like playing the crap tables at Las Vegas or even Russian Roulette. For the short-term relief ECT provides, it just doesn’t seem worth it. You said that even now, four years later, your capacity for rote learning and memory are “completely shot.” You ask why isn’t the Psychiatric care system more responsible? You, like so many of the rest of us who have suffered, deserve answers, not more misinformation and false promises. Here is the bottom line: The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) warns that “…When used as intended… [an ECT device]… provides short-term relief of symptoms. The long-term safety and effectiveness of ECT treatment has not been demonstrated.” (21 CFR 882.5940 (b)(1)(ix)(G)).

    • KateL quotes the APA: ‘This (the black box warning) would put seriously ill patients at grave risk’ –
      To which Kate aptly responds, “Gotta love the APA, always looking out for patients.”

      Typical statement from the APA, or any other paternalistic, politically motivated organization. But what else can you expect from a group of power-hungry, drug-happy buffoons?

      What’s most important to the APA is maintaining their power—to hell with people’s health—and keeping their hold on power is what the APA is all about.

      The only thing that scares the APA more than losing power is being seen as useless, but come to think of it, being seen as useless is one of the quickest ways to lose power. And power in psychiatry is all about ego, the psychiatrist’s ego, from start to finish. But most psychiatrists can’t see this because their egos have grown so big that they block out the light.

        • Yes, but admitting to anything like that puts psychiatric industry’s power at risk, which is the only thing that really matters to them. And the truth is they really don’t need to care, as long as they have enough malpractice insurance. But little do they know that being power-grabby doesn’t hide the fact that most psychiatrists are lily-livered Chicken Littles who don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

          The truth is, psychiatry’s a shell game, and if they don’t know it they sense it, which is enough to scare them shitless whenever someone calls their bluff, as most psychiatrists are a bunch of dim-witted cowards who get off on power. Tsk, tsk…

        • “Doesn’t NOT telling the patient of the risks of suicidal behavior from antidepressants put them at risk of death?”

          Not like they’re going to make a complaint if it does happen right? Anybody who wants to make a complaint, hands in the air………. Nope, no-one.

          And it’s simply a matter of “editing” the documents before any legal representative gets to take a look and ‘nothing to see here’ is always the case…..

          Fraud, and the ability to slander anyone attempting to make a complaint by unlawfully releasing their medical records.

          All those juicy personal details they have been hiding and only told to the ‘therapist’ in good faith now being gossiped about by staff and everyone else? And don’t for a minute think i’m kidding about this….. I’ve got the proof. And it isn’t their fault if the documents they “edit” are misinterpreted in the way they would be expected to? removing significant facts and inserting others to make it look bad for the target of the slander is just standard operating proceedure.

          Let me count the deaths which have resulted from that sort of conduct, and the ‘families’ who think it was the ‘illness’ that put the rope around their necks, or that made them walk in front of a car, or……….

          Positively vicious, and to then hear the families calling for earlier interventions by these gaslighting violent thugs who have contributed significantly to their family members death? Makes me sick to even think about it, and the support they receive from Police to ensure their ‘work’ is not examined. “you can’t listen to them, they’re mental patients”….. and if they aren’t mental patients, give us a minute to “edit” the legal narrative…. and they are now.

          Sign here and we will have your property delivered to a Funeral Director of your choosing….. can I recommend a friend of mine? I get a ‘spotters fee’ if you use him, so mention my name would you?

  2. Hi Kathleen,

    thanks for your article. You write;

    “At the age of 31, I was consistently one of the youngest patients there. Most were older folks, 50s and 60s probably.”

    My State opened up the possibility of providing this’ treatment’ to teenagers’ without the need for parental consent (14). I heard it reported that this resulted in an increase of 195% in the administration of the ‘treatments’ over a period…….. these were called the “added protections” of our new Mental Health Act by politicians…..that is, the Shock Docs were no longer afraid of being held accountable for the damage they may do to these kids (not that it was likely anyway given the carte blanche model and “editing” of legal narratives/denial of access to legal representation for anyone harmed, afforded by the State to ‘doctors’/ mental health professionals)

    Given this ‘enabling’ act by our government (and exposing the community to potential harms and claiming that they were receiving “added protections”) one would expect a ‘targeting’ of ‘potential clients’ (do they have the money? And if so, how can the Mental Health Act provisions be used to gain control over their ‘healthcare’? Easily, in fact VERY easily when you simply call police and have them deliver (arbitrarily detain) your “outpatient” (documents forged and uttered with post ‘treatment’) to a ‘facility of your choosing despite the legal protections afforded the community).

    So positioning ‘spotters’ (eg a psychology student with a Masters Degree) in places such as Private Clinics or University ‘Counselling Services’ would be a good way of Shang Hai-ing anyone who met the criteria above (full wallet/good insurance and a slanderous label [unlawfully obtained breaching the Privacy Act] that would mean the community would turn a blind eye while the damage to their brain was done without their consent).

    The psychologist earning about $200 per session for the Private Clinic obtains a ‘referral’ and the ‘doctor’ then makes approximately $56,000 for the ‘sessions’ (6) you speak of? Well worth the effort of ‘directing’ someone into the hands of the ‘treatment provider’? And imagine when a husband and wife ‘team’ can effect such entrapments with a little bit of ‘grooming’? (do the math but it’s about 7 weeks pay for 6 hours work…… yet I note you claim the ‘treatment’ was administered in 10 minutes?)

    My refusal to pay for the ‘treatment’ because as I explained to the psychologist (with a Masters degree) I could do the same damage with a ball peen hammer resulted in some ‘alternative arrangements’ (unlawful) needing to be made. Arbitrary detention and torture using the services of the State who then have a need to conceal their involvement in human rights abuses and have the perfect ‘weapon’ available, if they just look the other way while it occurs….. Police happy to retrieve the documented proof of the crimes, while the hospital and the Law Centre does a cover up by forging and uttering with a letter from the Chief Psychiatrist…… a response to the complaint they lodged on behalf of their ‘client’…… I know, “they wouldn’t do that” ….. and I guess they didn’t if the victim no longer had a heart beat to complain?)

    Your assumption that this is primarily about ‘care’ of the ‘patients’ is far from the facts where I live…… the economic benefit, and ability to weaponise the ‘treatment’ for various purposes, a benefit to numerous ‘parties’ (politicians, doctors, insurance providers[interesting that mental health records are being released as a result of a ‘hack’], organised criminals……..) and cause a detriment to people who may approach police with documented proof of the misconduct of their colleagues, and before anyone notices that they have failed to report under mandatory reporting laws to the relevant authorities. Mental health services more than willing to accept ‘referrals’ from police and with post hoc due process, the victims can be dribbling in a cell within the hour (try blowing your whistle now).

    You write;

    “And if the provider has no awareness or no openness about the ways in which they can do harm, the destruction can be massive and unending”

    I understand the need to take this approach, and assume ‘good faith’, but it is fairly common knowledge of the damage that is being done…… it hardly takes an ‘expert’ to put the two and two together and realise ‘how it works’. Why wait until the victims of abuse have the chance to possibly complain when you can ‘wipe’ their memory early (14) and call their complaining a ‘symptom’ of an imaginary illness? For a fee of course……..

    The trauma of being subjected to arbitrary detention and torture, justification for ‘treatments’ that they know works? And with a little bit of ‘verballing’ and the removal of the documents showing their human rights abuses and criminal conduct, and replacing them with others showing the ‘illness’ of the ‘Outpatient” before uttering with them to ‘human rights lawyers’ whose gross criminal negligence (conspiring to pervert the course of justice) would hardly be expected? Unless of course you still have the documents they thought police had retrieved before their ‘little bit of mischief’……

    James Hall comments about ECT in another article here at MiA;

    “You have concluded correctly about electroshock treatments, the treatment cognitively impairs the patient so they can no longer ruminate, which eliminates most forms of both anxiety and depression. This is why they produce efficacy, along with endocrine responses that may make you feel euphoric. But as we all know the cost is horrible, it is self evident in the benefit that it is only possible through harm to the brain and central nervous system which is a one way street and also not disclosed to or described to patients.”

    [good point James makes about the ECT machine of Frantz Fanon being appropriated by French ‘administrators’ for use in interrogations in Algeria. Free healthcare? Fanon recognising the absurdity of treating Police for the trauma they suffered as a result of the amount of torturing they were doing (the screams from the use of electricity. Perhaps the use of ear muff by our police may be considered as an occupational necessity when using their tazers to torture? I won’t post the video, but it’s available on Youtube. It’s okay though, we’re ‘sportwashing’ our human rights abuses), and getting them back to work as quickly as possible.]

    Though I think this does not recognise the way in which this ‘treatment’ can be weaponized to silence truths not preferred by the State. There are many famous examples of this being done, though making mention of such examples can then be called a ‘symptom’ and used to justify the ‘treatment’ (see for example the way my documents were “edited” to remove the proof that I had been ‘spiked’ with date rape drugs, and my claim that I had been drugged without my knowledge then became a ‘paranoid delusion’ and used for police to make a ‘referral’ for ‘treatment’ to conceal their misconduct ie interrogations of people they have drugged without their knowledge with psychotropics. Later to become their “Regular Medications” with a fraudulent prescription uttered with by a Senior Medical Officer, concealing acts of torture for his ‘colleagues’).

    Most people I have spoken to about the enabling act of my State government (allowing children of 14 years old to access the ‘treatment’) weren’t even aware that this barbaric practice was still occurring. And I suppose that given the way our Minister for Health responds to any questions regarding the legal protections afforded the community by our laws (“Get Treated”…. ie anyone questioning his interpretation of the law is a mental patient requiring treatments) it might be best those within his scope of influence keep their mouths shut.

    • As with most situations there is always the other side of the coin.

      I sat with a man who had been quite the domestic abuser, who was only capable of staring at the sky wondering what his name was, and remembering that he could remember before the ‘treatment’.

      Though without any real checks and balances to ensure that the allegations made about him were factual (as opposed to the method used by public officers of ‘verballing’ the facts, and then others uttering with known fraudulent documents) i’d be most concerned about the abuses possible. Eg drugging citizens without their knowledge with date rape drugs and then setting police thugs on them after calling them an “outpatient” and planting a weapon on them for police to justify their brutality? ‘Spiked’ with date rape drugs, and then cause an “acute stress reaction” by putting a gun to their head after jumping them in bed to force them into an interrogation? It’s called torture not ‘healthcare’, well, unless you have the ability to change the meaning of words……..

      I guess after speaking to the man I mention above whose name I at least remember, I think people being forced into ‘treatment’ should at least be allowed some form of legal defense before their brain is made mush by someone with an interest in their healthcare outcomes. Not these Law Centre lawyers who are acting as informants for the State, and who then throw ‘clients’ under a bus once the documented proof has been retrieved, and their conspiring to conceal human rights abuses can be seen as providing ‘access to the law’ (they will take their oaths as a cover, and the suckers just keep walking into their offices)

      Though I also recognise the cost savings that can be made by having victims of Institutional sexual and physical abuses ‘treated’ for their memories of being abused. Hence the reason the Senior Medical Officer doing the forging of documents was also a Catholic Priest? (‘head em off at the pass’ always worked in the cowboy movies). Once being treated the complaining becomes a symptom, and “you can’t listen to them, they’re mental patients” to quote the Minister for Mental Health.

      Yeah, yeah, I know, they wouldn’t do that….. and even if you have the proof the authorities would sit on their hands for the next 40 years anyway because of the ‘joint enterprise’ nature of the offending. Police refuse to take the documented proof and claim “insufficient evidence” …… and subverting the Rule of Law in the process.

      Got to love their bare faced lies to the public who think they elected them.

  3. Kathleen says, “Us psychiatric survivors are whole people, not a malleable playdough to be molded, manipulated and tossed aside when it’s time to play with the next toy, the next client. We are certainly not subjects to be experimented on.”
    Thank you, Kathleen, for saying this.

    Although I did not experience ECT, that’s EXACTLY how I felt as a psychiatric patient, because that’s EXACTLY how (most) psychiatrists view “patients”, as OBJECTS, though most would never admit it.

    “The assumed inevitability of it all, the way in which psychiatry is happy to follow these casual routines, to tread the same well-worn paths with no regard for the damage that their inept, clumsy steps cause to our mental environments.”

    YES! I find it annoying that so many people talk on and on about the trashing of our natural environment, yet are totally unaware of the trashing of our mental environment from psychiatry’s stigmatizing “diagnoses” and its physically and psychologically polluting “drugs”, not to mention the barbaric practice of ECT. And most allied professionals aren’t much better, as most are too stupid to do anything other than follow in psychiatry’s well-worn, clumsy, and COMPLETELY inept “psychotherapeutic” footsteps.

    • “yet are totally unaware of the trashing of our mental environment from psychiatry’s stigmatizing “diagnoses” and its physically and psychologically polluting “drugs””

      I’m still struggling to comprehend the significance of the release of the ‘hacked’ confidential medical records from Medibank. It certainly seems that many are becoming aware of the ‘trashing’ that has been done by mental health services…….. and if not, they’re certainly about to. Opportunities galore for those with the stomach for it.

      I know that journalists have been accessing the ‘dark web’ to view the records that are being drip fed (so it can’t be illegal to have them?) ……though the media has gone silent on what is occurring for some reason. Maybe like Margaret Thatcher doing a ‘deal’ with the IRA without the public being aware? Has the Insurance company paid the ransom and not told us?

      I’m sure there are many ‘professionals’ who would prefer their ‘patients’ are not aware of the ‘billing codes’ used to obtain payment from their insurance. Didn’t even know I had that ‘illness’? A bit like my medical records being released from the Private Clinic without me providing my consent (how could I, I had been ‘spiked’ with date rape drugs and arbitrarily detained and tortured to remove my right to liberty and consent? And the documents ‘backdated’ to make me an “outpatient” and the drugs my “Regular Medications”. Anything is possible when frauds are enabled by the State)……. and this being the motive for attempting to have me ‘unintentionally negatively outcomed’?

      No need for ‘that’ (someone doesn’t have the stomach for it) if we all get together and conspire to pervert the course of justice, but nice try. Police have ensured they will refuse to take the proof, and will make a ‘referral’ should the victim even try to access the protection of the law. (never mind the Convention against the use of Torture which we only signed to create the appearance that we don’t torture. Turkey returns citizen knowing Australia is engaging in acts of torture? Breach of the Convention Article 3? “the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights”. Just don’t ask the Aboriginal population, while the Socceroos complain about Qatar.)

  4. HI Kathleen, Thanks for sharing your story, and I’m so very sorry to hear about the harm ECT has done to you. You’re so right–that the very drugs you were taking numbed you out and even likely caused suicidal thoughts and feelings. The willfull blindness of doctors to their patients’ stories and their refusal to consider other ways of treatment lead them to rely on the brutality of running electrical currents through the brain. Just once, I’d be so grateful if instead of labeling a patient as “treatment resistant”, the doctor would say “Maybe we’re using the wrong treatment.” Yes, the drugs and the brutal treatments like ECT, TMS, and ketamine infusions are the problem. Keep speaking out and thank you for your thoughtful essay and for your clear voice as a psych survivor.

  5. With experience of a parents’ friend who was severely damaged by ECT in “the bad old days,” I have never trusted the claim that “it’s so much better now.” I did also read psychiatrist Daniel Carlatt’s account (I think his book might be called “Unhinged”) in which he would see patients lining up for their ECT treatments, and would reflect that there must be something wrong with that picture.

    I had not read an account of actually going through ECT. Really it was the other comments on your article that helped me find courage to read your entire account, Kathleen. ECT has always seemed so totally awful it was hard to bear to look!! Thank you for letting us walk through your memory of what you went through.

    It is my belief, also, that psychiatric drugs and ECT are being over-prescribed. And, in the ‘age of the brain,’ IMO we may lose track of wisdom and skills for navigating — call them the vicissitudes of living.

    In my own case, my brain has recovered some from the effects of medication. I hope, slowly on, you could regain some of the function that you lost.

    Sometimes, or always, it can be necessary to take one day, one step, one breath at a time.

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience with such accuracy to the barbarism that is ECT.

    The resultant physical trauma is severe, sinister, and has no viable path of remediation I can find.

    There is nothing more inhumane than what I experienced in mental hospitals, prescribers, and clinics at many many many many various points from 2004-2018.

    I have a loving and uninsured wife with a bunch of animals, aquaria, and plants to fight to be alive with, yet the trauma eats away the best of me in most moments, and they see it but still hope, as do I with them. 🙁

  7. Kathleen,

    I’m so sorry that you endured such harms. And to call such things ‘harms’ is such an understatement… You’re a powerful writer and thinker and reading your story was immensely moving. I hope you recover, and I’m really happy that you have grown to trust yourself and your experiences. It takes immense strength to do that within any context, but within psychiatric abuse it’s that much harder.