On the evening of December 3, 2022, I overdosed on 400 mg of Amlodipine, a calcium channel blocker blood pressure medicine. I was in ICU for 11 days, and on a ventilator for four of those days. I’m still here, having been found the following day despite myself.
So to back way up, as a kid I was brilliant. Funny, compassionate, athletic and so much more. My IQ tested at 144. I was amazing as a young person. Then, the reality of human beings, the world, and my parents’ “War of the Roses” divorce all set in at age 11. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II at age 12 and attempted suicide at age 13.
I tried desperately to change through my teens. I read books from the library on Taoism, Buddhism, nihilism, and modern psychology. I finally found a passion in skiing, and moved to Boulder, CO at age 18. I attended the University of Colorado and studied Aerospace Engineering, and most importantly at the time, I ski raced.
I struggled despite all my efforts, struggled greatly.
A traumatic brain injury in 2002 didn’t help anything.
I tried going back to school after the brain injury, but between the bipolar disorder and the head trauma, I couldn’t handle the stress and pressure anymore.
Even though I had an A average in college at Colorado State University, I dropped out of CSU in 2013, and having tried over 20 different antidepressants and mood stabilizers since 2011, ECT was recommended to me.
I was told that only temporary, minor memory loss was possible, in rare cases, before starting ECT in 2013.
The best way to sum up extreme ECT memory loss is it’s like having Alzheimer’s, and being fully cognizant of it. What that does in effect is take away who you are as a person: your self-identity.
To those who don’t understand this, who you are, your entire sense of self, ARE YOUR MEMORIES. The way you connect with others through stories, jokes, shared memories, is gone. Socialization skills, along with countless other aspects of life, have to be relearned.
Attempting to make new friends four years after ECT, four of us, I being the new member of the group, went skiing and snowshoeing up to a remote backcountry hut. When we settled in at the hut, I was like a bump on a log. Sitting with the others, so very close in quarters, but so very disconnected. I did not get jokes, or references to famous people, places, or events. I sat with a blank mind and nothing to share. I was of course not invited out with these people again.
This is only somewhat better now, trying to socialize.
I’m NOT 46 years old! I don’t have the learned skills of a 46-year-old. No memories of 46 years’ worth of time. Say if your life is like a movie unfolded, you get to see the entire movie, I get less than a trailer’s worth of memories of my life. No movie here anymore.
I had to embarrassingly relearn that “Oriental” was a faux pas to say these days. I’m a product of the ’80s, and this was a lost memory. I’d tell you of more embarrassing moments, of not knowing socially what to do or say, if only I could remember all the times.
An old friend I do remember reintroduced me to an old boyfriend, and I didn’t know him at all: a complete stranger to me now. School days gone. Friends gone. My young mom, erased. It’s devastating at best.
We would never progress or move forward, if it were not for memories, of past successes and especially mistakes.
Regarding the bandwagon phrase “Just live in the moment,” it’s garbage. Go get ECT, get a lobotomy, a head injury, some way to lose all your memories, and then you can truly live in the moment. There is nothing to reflect back on. Nothing to share and connect to people with. There is no you left. You too can then also be lonely in the moment.
My friends are gone, I have none now. I can not seem to connect to people despite my best efforts. I get ghosted by everyone new I’ve met so far, since the ECT.
It’s taken over 10 years to speak and communicate in an articulate way again. I couldn’t word-find, and would lose track of what I had just been talking about, trying to think of a word as simple as “coffee.” As I was saying, I have an education background in Aerospace Engineering and Construction Management. I clean houses now and do senior caregiving.
New memories still don’t stick all that well. I can only say half, maybe less, of big eventful happenings I can remember a month later. Frustrating. At least I can tell you what I had for breakfast this morning now.
Emotionally I’m trying my absolute best, but not really winning on this front. My self-esteem and self-worth are virtually non-existent. It is hard to move on when every day, I am reminded of what I have lost. All it takes is for someone to say, “Remember when…”
ECT was the worst choice I ever made, in my lost life. Even not remembering all my mistakes, I’m 100% sure that this was the worst, a thousand times over.
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.
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