Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Electro-Convulsive Psychotic Catatonia

Yes, you read right.
I recently resorted to ECT, or
Electro-Convulsive Therapy,
out of desperation to rid myself of the continuous desire
          to be dead.
In ECT they anesthetize you, paralyze you and then
        shock your brain.
The best I can understand is that it's similar to hitting
when your computer freezes up.
It restarts your brain, sort of.
The good news - it made me feel better about being alive.
The bad news - it mixed up and erased a lot of my memories from the surrounding days,
due to some combination of stopping one medication and
starting another,
being dehydrated from vomiting due to food poisoning, and
who knows what else, I became
psychotic and
after the third treatment.
Those words get thrown around casually,
as in
"I felt catatonic the morning after that big shin-dig" but
I was psychotic and catatonic in the
        clinical sense of the terms -

detached from reality, stuck inside my head
a little help from Wikipedia:
People experiencing psychosis may report hallucinations or delusional beliefs, and may exhibit personality changes and thought disorder... this may be accompanied by unusual or bizarre behavior, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out the daily life activities.

I suffered from the delusion that I was dreaming, and I kept
 trying to wake up.
I fell into a "distorted or nonexistent sense of objective reality." (Medical Dictionary)
Meaning that I forgot who I was, couldn't feed myself, and couldn't see clearly -
I had something like tunnel vision, and often felt I was seeing things 
                   in the dark even during the day.
They tell me I had my eyes closed or only half-open for a few days.
I had a roommate in the hospital named Alexa, but I couldn't comprehend that fact and thought I was both Alexa and Jessica, 
          or that nurses were getting my name wrong. 
 I just saw her as a shadow in the corner of my room, and I was afraid of her.

I wasn't sure I existed in the real world,
yet when my boyfriend sat me in front of a computer I
robotically typed my username and password
and checked my e-mail - 
so strange, that I was mostly out of this world and yet
I could check my e-mail,
an action sufficiently habitual that it 
broke through my psychosis.
I had a break-through some time later when I remembered the address of my web page,
and looked at it as though learning about a stranger - 

My brother took a video of my mother feeding me with a spoon and I have my eyes closed and am slurping like a little bird.
I was also holding my hands like claws in mid-air above my lap,
which is a part of catatonia called 'waxy flexibility'
My brother could put my arms in a position and I would stay stuck there.
I would stop halfway down to a chair 
or the toilet
and need to be pushed the rest of the way down.

A little more help from the online medical dictionary:
"In catatonic stupor, motor activity may be reduced to zero. Individuals avoid bathing and grooming, make little or no eye contact with others, may be mute and rigid, and initiate no social behaviors. In catatonic excitement the individual is extremely hyperactive although the activity seems to have no purpose."

I must have had aspects of stupor and of excitement, because I kept 
running my hands over my thighs, and moving as though I were
 putting on and
 taking off pants 
from a seated position.
I didn't bathe for several days and my mother finally put me in the shower to rinse me off because I stank.  At least that's what she told me -
I can't remember.
I don't remember most of what happened in the days surrounding the ECT, or my psychosis.
I thought the dream was lasting much too long and I
couldn't wake up.

I thought I had imagined the existence of the doctor who performed the ECT - 
I couldn't recall having met him, I thought he was part of my dream.
I couldn't speak - couldn't form words and say them out loud.
This doctor didn't get it, he really didn't 
get it.
"Jessica, you have to talk or I can't help you,"
he said, as though my silence was voluntary
and deliberate.