My 1st through 10th painful psychiatric incarcerations (Part 4 of 4)

depression falling down

Please consider reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this four part post series before continuing with this post, though this post can be of interest all alone.

***Some content in this post may be disturbing or triggering. This post primarily focuses on a major depressive episode of Bipolar disorder type 1***

At the end of Part 3 of this post series, I had attended my eighth out of 10 hospitalizations for mania and/or mania with mixed features, and was again in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). The remaining major depressive episode eased briefly. I had improved sufficiently enough to return back to work part-time and resume care under my private psychiatrist, Dr. Ripley.

Only two months later, the depressive episode worsened to severe, but there were no hints of mania involved. In addition to depression, I was having severe panic attacks at work, screaming and crying in my car, or hiding elsewhere away from my desk for most of the day. My mind and body wanted to sleep 14 hours a day and I couldn’t get myself to do anything. I called out sick from work so frequently that I grew concerned about my job. I also had occasional suicidal ideations, but never acted on them. Dr. Ripley recommended I return to the hospital. He strongly suggested I have electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This was the second time a doctor recommended this to me. The first time, as you may recall, I refused quite fiercely. By this time I had grown terribly weary, and completely discouraged that no medications (or anything) could help. Since I admired Dr. Ripley, he had a stronger influence than past hospital psychiatrists, so I gave in.

ECT machine
An older ECT machine

Dr. Ripley arranged a meeting between my husband and I and the head psychiatrist at the ECT center. The ECT psychiatrist interviewed me and provided a medical evaluation. He provided lots of information on the treatment, and my husband did a lot of research. At first I thought to have the ECT outpatient. In fact, my very first treatment was outpatient, but I later felt it best to have the remainder while hospitalized. First, someone would have to be with me after the treatment for a total of 24 hours, because of the anesthesia. Hubby couldn’t take off work, and my father was unwilling. Second, something terribly scary happened during my first treatment.

The ECT treatment center consisted of a very large room with several beds in a row (perhaps eight or so), with curtains separating them. It also had a “recovery” room where patients who’ve awakened from the anesthesia get vital signs taken, and are observed. My husband waited in the waiting room outside the ECT treatment area.

If you are interested in the actual ECT treatment procedure, I recommend visiting the Mayo Clinic’s description of ECT. I had a total of seven unilateral treatments administered about every other week day M-W-F.

Every patient receiving ECT receives a general anesthetic and a muscle relaxant, through an IV. The first time I received ECT, the anesthesiologist must have miscalculated the dosage of the anesthesia medication for me. Though I strongly believe I had already received the ECT treatment, my anesthesia medication wore off before my muscle relaxant. I experienced the relatively rare “anesthesia awareness”. I woke up and not only couldn’t open my eyes, move any part of my body, or speak, but I also felt like I couldn’t breathe. I remember at that moment panicking. They must have realized my situation, because I was either given more anesthesia, or I passed out. I don’t know how I was breathing. Perhaps I was intubated or they reintubated me. All I know is that when I woke up again I was brought to the recovery room. I remembered my scare, so I told the nurse. The staff took it very seriously. The next day when I entered the hospital for my remaining treatments, I was interviewed by the anesthesiologist. She apologized profusely, and promised it would never happen again. Luckily, it never did.

I remember little of my time receiving ECT. It is very common because ECT can affect your memory. By my fifth or sixth ECT treatment my depression was apparently lifting, but my memory grew worse. When released, my poor husband witnessed the extent of my memory issues; I forgot how he took his coffee, how to get to the phlebotomist office, and even where he was driving me at times. I also forgot that I had stopped drinking, but hubby let me drink a beer anyway.

The ECT psychiatrist wanted me to have maintenance ECT treatments, but my husband and I decided not to because of my memory issues. They then put me on the same lousy medications I had been on before my ECT. They didn’t help. I ended up back in the psychiatric hospital for my 10th and final hospitalization, only about three weeks later at 38 years old. I still refused the extra ECT, and would from that point on. I don’t know, maybe I should’ve gotten more treatments. Perhaps someday, if necessary, I’ll consider ECT again.

It wasn’t until I was in an IOP again that a new IOP psychiatrist changed my medications. That new mix seemed to be slightly helpful, but not 100%. At that time, I had a very scared feeling that my employer would no longer hold my job. I was right. As I started my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application I received my job termination letter. It was about five months before I would receive approval for SSDI. I was lucky. It was my first application. Many people don’t have such luck during the first round.

The many months following were rough. I was moderately to severely depressed, but not to the point of being a danger to myself. I just sort of accepted the misery, hoping that at some point the depression would finally ease. I slept all of the time, hardly did anything around the house, rarely showered, and hardly ever ran an errand. I just lay in bed and wasted away, in a sense. Dr. Ripley made no medication adjustments at first; just hoping my situation would ease with time. But it didn’t, so he started to make minor changes. He tried an antidepressant, but that inevitably caused serious mood cycling. That was stopped immediately, and he gave up on antidepressants completely. I had a history of becoming unstable on them. Instead, he tried Lamictal again (a moodstabilizer), which had caused me mood elevation in the past. Little by little my Lamictal dose was raised. When I reached 100 mg only I had some hypomania arise, which was a welcome change. He stopped there and increased one of my antipsychotics to counter the effect. Things seemed good at that point, but I found myself on two mood stabilizers, three antipsychotics, and a benzodiazepine. A six medication cocktail is pretty large.

Since then, my moods have been far from stable, despite brief reprieves. Luckily, Dr. Ripley has managed to extinguish them. I’ve tried many times to progress back to long-term stability, but it has been difficult. When I think I’m almost there, I take steps back. It’s frustrating, and I’ve had to learn extreme patience.  Not only have my bipolar moods been an issue for me, but several other weird brain quirks arose, as well. I wrote about them two months ago in my post Unraveling the mystery of my past brain quirks.

I am hopeful about the future. Yes, it’s been a very long rough ride for me, but I have learned so many great coping skills along the way. I think my current medication mix is the best of them all. Right now I’m using my blog as a place to practice writing. Every day I spend hours reading and writing to build up my endurance for brain work. I think this will help prepare me for an eventual new job (at first part-time) in the future. I’ll admit that I do need to get out of my house more. I’ve become a bit of a hermit. The trauma of bipolar episodes, extreme anxiety and other strange mental happenings can do that to some people.

Thank you for following this story!




22 thoughts on “My 1st through 10th painful psychiatric incarcerations (Part 4 of 4)

  1. michellesmultifariousmusings May 17, 2017 / 3:13 pm

    Thank you for posting this. It gives insight to a world many may not know. Perhaps you may find this useful, many recent studies are showing that certain things we used to think were caused mentally within the brain actually are turning out to be the bacteria in our gut (newly considered a brain). I have had minor mental issues in the past and through changing my diet, taking probiotics and meditating regularly I am able to calm the issues that arise within me from time to time within me. Best of luck in your recovery and blessing to you and your husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight May 17, 2017 / 3:33 pm

      Thank you, michellesmultifariousmusings. Actually, I do plan to finally get back to healthier eating and more exercise. I’m on the precipice of doing so 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nel May 17, 2017 / 7:23 pm

    As others said, thanks for sharing. You’ve taught me a lot throughout your series and again, your husband is amazing. I’m glad things are looking up even with the slip ups here and there. You write so well that if you didn’t share this story, I never would have guessed you had such an experience. Keep your head up! I’m, and I’m sure many of your followers, are cheering you on! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight May 17, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      You’re so nice, Nel! I was glad to share my experience. Also, sometimes it’s good to look back (briefly) to remember what I’ve gone through. Having been a bit more stable for quite a long while I don’t want to forget how bad it can get.

      I learn so much from others, too. Many people on WordPress have taught me a lot about their struggles. Not just people with mental illnesses, but even people without who have emotional challenges.


  3. Joanna Maguire May 17, 2017 / 7:50 pm

    Brave and fascinating writing as usual, I sat here and read each part one after another. Step backs are so frustrating – the strength you show is amazing. Looking forward to sharing your onward journey with you ❤


    • updownflight May 17, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      Joanna, I’m touched that you spent the time reading my whole series about my hospitalizations. Thank you! I know it was a long read.

      I do hope to share my continuing journey. It has gotten a lot better since. Really, the hardest part of my journey will be finally feeling well enough to work again. I’m getting very close. My writing here shows that to me and my family. I just have to be strong, practice lots of coping and wellness skills, and take the big step forward. Of course that won’t be the end of it. We all know that even “back in the saddle” doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing. I know recovery is a life-long job for people with mental illness. Actually, I know everyone has their challenge of maintaining wellness.


      • Joanna Maguire May 19, 2017 / 8:31 am

        You tell your experiences so well and offer such a valuable insight into a world that many of us will never thankfully have to live in. By sharing you help yourself and help others understand bipolar more. Thank YOU for sharing.
        That big step back to work will happen when you are ready for it. We will all be cheering you on to achieve it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight May 19, 2017 / 11:33 am

        Thank you, Joanna. I do hope to help others understand mental illness a bit better. As I mentioned in one of my posts, bipolar disorder experiences vary. Mine were on the slightly more severe side, especially the mania portions.

        I appreciate the cheering on. I really need it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Jessica Bakkers May 18, 2017 / 12:01 am

    Wow. I’m overwhelmed at your courage to share all this and the struggles you’ve endured with your disorders in the first place. I have extremely mild (in comparison) depression and generalised anxiety and I know how bad I can feel with those on my bad days. I cannot begin to fathom how you must have felt when your depression and down bipolar days kicked in. Congratulations for sticking with life my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sharon2011 May 19, 2017 / 12:00 am

    Your story is heart wrenching. I read all 4 parts. You have so much strength and courage. I love your positive attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight May 19, 2017 / 2:56 am

      You’re so nice to have read my full series, and thank you, Sharon, for your kind words. I hope everyone can develop a positive attitude, though I know it can really be hard during the course of serious episodes.


  6. My Valley of Baca September 19, 2017 / 2:15 am

    I found your blog after searching for others who had undergone ECT like me. I recently got home after my 2nd hospitalization for severe depression. While in the hospital, my husband and I decided to move forward with ECT since I was not improving. I got 6 treatments (4 inpatient and 2 outpatient). Combined with medication and tons of prayer, we have seen a dramatic improvements! I was so grateful to have found this blog because I don’t know anyone who has been suicidal or gone through ECT (or hospitalizations) like me. Although I don’t have bipolar, I could really relate to a lot of the things you said (I read all 4 parts and they were really captivating!) You are a really great writer, very inspiring, and, again, thanks for sharing. I hope you will venture over to my blog, too. So glad that things are going a little better for you now. Take care, Brittany

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 19, 2017 / 5:29 am

      Brittany, I am so glad your depression has eased so much. May it be gone forever, or at least a very long time. It’s such a relief when you finally find the key(s) to ending such agony. I hope you didn’t experience any, or major, side effects from the ECT.

      You are so kind to have read all four parts of my “1st through 10th painful incarcerations” series. I look forward to reading your posts.


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