Electroconvulsive Treatment

Tracy

Female
Age at interview: 49

Brief outline: Tracy experienced postnatal depression after having a miscarriage. She then had postnatal depression after her second daughter. Although she had ECT over 20 years ago she still experiences problems with her memory of that time. She wouldn’t recommend ECT to anyone, and found it didn’t help her depression.

Background: Tracy is a charity coordinator and lives with her husband and two children in West Wales. She describes her ethnic background as White British.

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Tracy originally experienced postnatal depression following a miscarriage. At the time she didn’t think she needed help and, because of her nursing background, she felt she dealt with it in a clinical manner. After her having her second daughter, she became highly depressed. She saw a GP who she liked, and they tried ‘a million different drugs’ that didn’t have much effect on her depression. Later she took a serious overdose. Tracy was admitted to hospital as a voluntary patient but was told if she left the ward she would be sectioned. She remembers that staff didn’t want to section her as they thought it would affect her career as a nurse. Altogether she spent five months on the ward and staff struggled to give her a diagnosis. Tracy hated every minute on the ward apart from the friends that she made. There were times when she was really happy but then highly depressed soon afterwards. Tracy has been admitted to hospital a few times since then.

Tracy had trained as a nurse and saw that ECT worked for patients initially but had no long term effect. She can’t remember if the side effects of ECT were ever discussed with her because she struggles to remember that period of time more generally. When she was on the ward she can remember seeing people act differently after they had ECT – she remember one man not being able to remember where his room was. Tracy still struggles to remember the time she had ECT, and finds she cannot recall other pockets of time from before and after the ECT treatment. She is sure this is due to the ECT and not just her depression. She finds the loss of the memories of her children growing up particularly painful. Tracy thinks that she had about ten ECT treatments but is unsure and doesn’t think it helped lessen her depression.

After this time she was on ‘extreme’ levels of medication and was helped to come off her drugs with the support of her CPN. She moved to Wales and found she got a little depressed afterwards. Tracy has found that there has been a tremendous stigma about mental health problems and that people don’t see depression as a real illness.

Tracy thinks that ECT may well work for some people but she feels strongly that she would never have it again no matter how depressed she became. The pleasure in Tracy’s life comes from her job, her family, her church and her friends.

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