“About two years ago, I became very unwell very quickly.

“I had just returned to my job as a teacher, following a year’s maternity leave plus a six-month career break. My youngest child was only 18 months old and woke frequently during the night, so I was sleep-deprived and exhausted. 

“I had experienced depression and anxiety for many years but it had never been this bad before.

“My first port of call was my GP, who increased my medication. A few weeks passed with no improvement, so, in desperation one weekend, I phoned NHS24. They made me an appointment at the local psychiatric hospital that day, where I went, terrified of being admitted and separated from my children. 

“Luckily, that did not happen. I was sent home with a referral to the intensive home treatment team. Initially, the team of psychiatrists and nurses visited me daily and supported me through medication changes. 

“Unfortunately, because my depression was so severe and I was barely eating, the psychiatrist suggested I have Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I was distraught. The stigma around this treatment made me absolutely terrified. However, after lots of research and reassurance from various people, I decided to go ahead with it. I had 12 treatments as an outpatient. I went to hospital twice a week where I had a general anaesthetic and they induced a seizure. Obviously, it wasn’t a pleasant experience but the staff were incredibly nice and it was nothing like how it’s depicted in the movies! 

“Amazingly, after the 12 treatments, I felt like my old self again. The depression had lifted. Yes, I had some side effects of ECT to deal with for a few weeks but I was able to live my life again, enjoy things again. 

“Sadly, the effects of the ECT began to wear off after a couple of months and it wasn’t long before I found myself back in the depths of severe depression. I was terrified. If ECT didn’t work, then what else was there? 

“After a lot of discussions, my psychiatrist recommended another course of ECT. I felt it was my best chance of feeling better and decided to go ahead with it. I had 14 treatments this time and, whilst it helped a bit, it didn’t have quite the same transformative effect as before. I also found the side effects difficult, particularly the memory loss, difficult to deal with. However, it did get me to a point where I was able to function again and so I pushed on through another lockdown with three kids!

“I was able to do this with more medication changes, Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Compassion Focused Group Therapy, yoga, reading lots of books about mental health and mindfulness.

“In nine months since I finished ECT, have been incredibly up and down. Even when the depression has lifted I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety. However, I feel as though I am now finally on the right medication and I am learning how to look after myself better. 

“The support I have had from my husband and my family has been incredible - it is no exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be here without them.

“They got me through the toughest of times and for that, I am so grateful. Experiencing a mental health problem is extremely difficult for the person but also it can be really challenging for the people around them. However, even when it feels like there is no way things will ever get better, the value of having someone there telling you that it absolutely will is immeasurable.”

 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) should only be considered a treatment option for depression in extreme circumstances. As with any treatment option, it is important that people are given full information about potential benefits as well as potential side effects.

Find out more in our Understanding Depression resource and what we’re calling for in our SAMH’s View on Treatment and Support.