Kyile Moore speaking about her expereince with ECT on SBS's Insight.
I was taken aback the first time electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was offered to me. I didn’t believe that I was unwell enough to need it – I thought I would have to be catatonic or even manic to warrant ECT. I later realised that wasn’t the case at all and I would choose ECT after more than a decade of fighting major depression. Nothing I tried worked (medications and therapy) and suicide became a very real and valid option.
I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager, but was only diagnosed in 1999 when my first child was born.
It was during my second pregnancy in 2001/2002 that I became severely mentally unwell and suicidal. I would cry every day for reasons I couldn’t explain, I’d refuse to get out of bed and I wouldn’t take care of my personal appearance. I hated myself and anybody that tried to help. I didn’t think I was a good enough Mum, I wouldn’t go to work, and I constantly suffered from insomnia.
Kyile Moore and her husband.
My psychiatrist at the time suggested ECT. The decision back then was simple – no. My husband was not prepared to take the risk. As it was, we didn’t know the full effects of anti-depressants on unborn babies. I spent months of my pregnancy in a psychiatric hospital, including Christmas, which was especially difficult for my two and a half year old child.
ECT was again considered in early 2010, I’d got a point in my life where my negative thoughts about myself and life were getting too powerful and I wasn’t functioning in my day to day life but I strongly rejected the idea, determined that I could get better with medication and therapy. I wanted one more chance. Over the next 12 months my anxiety that I’d spent years denying, grew stronger and more debilitating to the point where I couldn’t leave the house on my own or answer the phone.
The one positive in this otherwise negative period was that I did start to believe people when they told me that my children were not better off without a Mum and that my husband loved me. With that in mind, I decided to have ECT, as much for my children as for me and my marriage. I was admitted into a psychiatric hospital in February 2011.
The preparation and assessments were extensive and took almost two weeks as I needed to be deemed medically fit to have ECT. I had blood tests, ECG’s, CT scans of my head and chest, consultations with psychiatrists, an anaesthetist, a psychologist and my husband, and my medical history was thoroughly reviewed. I then had six bilateral ECT treatments (three a week for two weeks) in March 2011.
During this time I became disorientated, erratic, angry and confused as a result of the treatments. Timeframes and sequence of events became distorted. I suffered extreme and distressing memory loss - I forgot my birthday, the birth of my niece, my son breaking his arm the year before.
The terror I felt waking up in my room after my first treatment utterly disorientated and crying was distressing. I saw a phone next to me and a number suddenly came to me, so I dialled it. A man answered. In between my sobs I asked him “who are you?” to which he answered “it’s me, Peter, your husband”.
I somehow managed to then ask him “who am I?” By then we were both crying. I think we must have cried together on the phone for a while as he slowly explained what was happening. Even though I didn’t know what was happening I trusted this man’s words and I’m glad I did. Although I knew ECT wasn’t a quick fix, I became impatient and wanted it to work instantly.
Due to the distress of my memory loss, I decided to try right unilateral ECT instead. This form of the therapy is known to have less effect of memory loss. And in fact after two weeks my memory and general well being improved enough for me to be discharged home, and I continued to have ECT as an outpatient for approximately another three weeks.
Throughout the ECT process I kept a journal, which helped with the memory loss. I’d put reminder notes about my life on my wall and when I would read them they felt like nothing more than random facts.
The only emotion I felt was hurt and embarrassment for not remembering. However, I was often comforted by my favourite music and during ECT I discovered art therapy. I was pleasantly surprised to find I was able to express myself in various art forms.
When I decided to cease ECT it was due to the side effects of the general anaesthetics rather than the treatment itself.
I was no longer having new memory loss and my mental health had clearly improved. ECT was one of the most traumatic events I’ve ever experienced, yet despite this trauma and the difficult months that followed it was worth it. Since ECT I have finally been able to fully commit and persevere with group therapy and couples counselling. I’ve never been one to make goals but I made one in 2012 and that was to stay out of hospital. I achieved this and it is also my goal this year.
Years after first refusing it, ECT gave me a chance at life. I grasped this opportunity and I continually try to make the most of it. I will always have dark days, weeks or maybe months but I feel stronger than I have ever felt. My confidence and self-esteem has slowly developed but I still have a long way to go. My self-doubt always manages to show through, but I try to fight it.
Kylie is a guest on SBS's Insight program tonight at 8.30pm on SBS ONE which brings together psychiatrists, researchers, and patients who’ve had Electroshock therapy – some voluntarily, some against their will – to ask how effective the therapy is in the long term and whether there are better alternatives to treat depression.
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* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.