Can’t Not Talk About Shock Therapy (Electroconvulsive Therapy, ECT)

I hadn’t planned on discussing my electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) experience with many people. I found it terrible, scarring, not to mention futile and immensely embarrassing; those aren’t generally feelings I like to talk about. I still find the idea of shock therapy, well, shocking. Incomprehensible. Absolutely impossible.

[Note: I am running a survey on real patients’ experiences with, and perspectives on, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If you’ve had ECT and want your voice heard, please take the survey here. More detailed information on the ECT survey can be found here.]

Write About What You Know — I Know ECT

The problem with being a writer is that you write what you know, and you’re driven to write what plagues you most. At least I am. I can’t write about fluffy bunnies and sparkling rainbows, because these aren’t the things that occupy my conscious mind. But ECT. Ironically it erased pieces of my brain only to seemingly permanently occupy others. I’m acutely aware of its happening and yet find it completely unbelievable.

Failure of ECT Seems Worth Writing About

Almost before I realized it I had written seven pages about my ECT experience for my non-fiction class. Six hours flew by as I tried to find the best words to express the anguish that I didn’t want to talk about. I was scared of every syllable. I was terrified the truth would hurt me even more than it already has. Accuracy seems so sharp.

For me there’s a dual issue. At least. There’s the ECT, and all that implies, then there’s the failure of the treatment, and the fact that going through the treatment with me seems to have caused someone I love to abandon me. I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the brain, told it was my fault, and stabbed in the heart. It’s hard for me to forget about her. Now I live in her town. Too many things remind me of the loss.

I suppose it’s because I went through ECT only a few months ago and I don’t have enough distance and perspective on the experience. Intellectually I can say that it really wasn’t that bad, but somehow I can’t convince my intestines of that. I can’t convince my hind brain that I’m fine and I’m over it. It doesn’t matter.

Compulsion to Write About Shock Therapy

Compulsion. I had to write it. I couldn’t write anything else. Even now, it seems so difficult for anything else to enter my consciousness. It’s obsessive. I’ve written for six hours about it today and I’m here, writing about it still. Sick little graphomanic mind of mine.

And then the seven pages and I made it to English class. I realized I had to give copies of the story to other people and I had to hear their comments on it. The story’s so sad. The tragedy is so clear when its echoed in the faces of other people. My life so deeply painful. I know. I try not to think about it. And now strangers are thinking about it. I read a story about a guy who loved stuffed animals. And he read about a girl whose brain was electrocuted. It’s an embarrassment of riches I have to talk about.

Screaming ECT Voice

The voice in my head is screaming to be heard. It defies logic, reason, and common sense. And tone. It’s screeching. It’s making my brain vibrate.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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