Dealing With Memory Loss

Dealing With Memory Loss

I’ve been back at ECT for almost two weeks now, and it’s already messing with my memory. It’s so frustrating for and it appears to be frustrating for those around me. I do my best to remember what’s happening in my day to day life, but it doesn’t seem to matter how hard I try. I feel like it’s going to upset others in my life. I can only do my best, I just hope that my best is enough. Hopefully, the two new medications I started (which are for Alzheimer’s) will start working soon.

Two New Meds

Two New Meds

Today, I start two new medications. They are Donepezil (Aricept) and Memantine (Namenda). Both of these medications are meant to treat the memory loss that goes along with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I’m taking it because of the severe memory loss that I experienced the last time I did ECT. I’ve only been doing ECT again for the past two weeks, and I’m already experiencing some memory loss and cognitive changes. I’m trying to stay positive about starting these two new medications. I’m hopeful that they will help with the memory problems.

I’m not a fan of adding new medications to my already huge list of meds. However, if the new medications can help fix a difficult side effect of the ECT treatments,  then I am 100% willing to try them out. I’ll try the meds for a couple of months, and if they don’t help out, then I will stop them.

Medication For Memory Loss

Medication For Memory Loss

I’ve only had two ECT treatments so far and my memory is already getting worse. I’m already forgetting where I put things, what movies I’ve seen, and other normal day-to-day things. Last night, I made a to-do list for all of the things I have to do today; however, I’m looking at my list and I don’t know what everything means. I wrote Cigna on my list, but I have no clue what I’m supposed to do with that. Neither me or my husband is insured by Cigna. I’m hoping that eventually it will come to me.

My psychiatrist started me on medication for Alzheimer’s. He prescribed two medications. One is Donepezil, which I will start tonight. The other prescription is not ready yet. I’m hoping that these new meds will help with my memory loss.

Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness

I tend to forget things. It’s usually trivial stuff. For example, I put detergent in the dishwasher last night, but I forgot to start it. I keep forgetting to pick up my medication at the pharmacy.I forgot to return a DVD to someone. But it’s  not just short-term memory that’s a problem. I also forgot a lot about my life in general. The reason I have memories of my wedding is because I watched a video of it (it was a fantastic wedding). I don’t remember my honeymoon. I have very few memories of my teenage years and my twenties. I’m constantly asking my mom to clarify things for me.

Is my forgetfulness from ECT that I stopped in May? I know that used to be the cause, but is it still? My memory has improved, but it’s not what it used to be. Will my memory ever get back to what it used to be? This is why I don’t want to try ECT again, even though my psychiatrist keeps suggesting it. I’m afraid I’ll forget everything.

The Importance of Memories

The Importance of Memories

I didn’t realize how important memories are until I lost them. I used to be able to remember things very easily, and now I struggle to remember a lot of things. My memory has improved over the last few months, since I stopped doing ECTs, but it’s far from what it used to be. I have a hard time with both short-term and long-term memory.

One day, many months ago, I woke up and didn’t realize that my grandmother had passed away years ago. I forget family memories often, and I feel that those are the most important. I ask people questions all the time, forgetting that I had just recently asked that same question. I have conversations with people over and over, because I forget that I just had that same conversation.

The forgetting is hard on me. I feel as if I annoy people because I repeat myself often. I try to improve my memory, but that’s not an easy thing to do. I feel incapable, less than, and pathetic. My memory has improved a little since I stopped ECT, but will it continue to improve? Am I ever going to get back to what my memory used to be like?

Missing My Father on Father’s Day

Missing My Father on Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. I’m trying to remember any of the Father’s Days that I spent with my dad, but I can’t. I think that’s because of my memory loss from ECT. Years ago, my mom made several DVDs for everyone in the family that are all about the entire family. Maybe I could watch some of those videos today to have them help bring back some memories. However, they could make me more emotional than I am, and I really don’t want to deal with that right now.

I think I’ll keep myself busy today by cleaning. Staying busying keeps my mind from wandering sometimes. It gives me something to focus on, which can be helpful. A memory of my father just came to me, and I’ll try to write about it, but I am tearing up a bit. I would practice playing the piano just about every day. My dad would come in and sit in the big white leather swivel chair. He would sit there, listening to me, and he would put his arms up as if he was a conductor, conducting an entire orchestra. He would do that all the time. He loved it when I would play Fur Elise and Flight of The Bumblebee. He’s probably the reason why I love classical music.

My dad and I used to go skiing together. He would even fly me out to mountains that were a couple of hours away, such as Sugarloaf, Sugarbush, Whiteface, etc. I remember one day he woke me up very early and asked me if I wanted to go skiing. He made sure I didn’t have any tests that day in school, and then we got dressed and went to his airport (where he kept his plane). I can’t remember which mountain we went to that day, but I do remember skiing and having lunch together in the ski lodge.

I also remember that any time my mom would go away for the day, my dad would have us clean the house so it was clean when she got home. The funniest part of it is that he would sit in the family room reading the newspaper while my brother, my sister, and I would clean. Then, when my mom got home, he would say, “I cleaned the house for you.” That used to annoy me, but now it makes me smile.

I used to hang out with my dad in the break room of his pharmacy. He always wore a white shirt at the store and a pocket protector. Everyone knew my dad, and he was friends with everyone. His employees and his friends would hang out in the break room drinking coffee and telling jokes. I never understood what they were saying because I was so young, but I had a great time simply being there with my dad.

So I do have some memories of my dad; ECT didn’t wipe them all out. I still don’t remember any specific Father’s Day, but that’s okay. As long as I can still hold onto the wonderful memories that I do have, I will be happy. Happy Father’s Day.

Side Effects or Underlying Issues?

Side Effects or Underlying Issues?

I have so many different struggles that it makes me wonder which difficulties have been there all along, and which ones are side effects of medication or ECT. Something has to change. Whatever it is, I really need to see some improvement. Hopefully I don’t have to wait too long. The three biggest struggles that come to my mind are memory loss, trouble finding the right words when talking (aphasia), and trouble making decisions. I mentioned these issues to my psychiatrist the other day. He told me that the aphasia is most likely caused by the Lithium. High levels of Lithium can cause aphasia in some individuals. Even though my Lithium level is low, it can still cause aphasia. I chose not to make any changes to my Lithium because we are already making a couple big changes such as increasing my Clozapine dose and stopping ECT treatments. It’s not a good idea to make too many changes at once. If something does happen (positive or negative), I wouldn’t know which medication change caused the new effect.

The memory loss is definitely from ECT. Since I have decided to stop doing ECT treatments, I’m wondering if my memory will get better and how long it will take for it to improve. Part of me is curious if my memory will get back to what it used to be; I’ve done 33 treatments and I’m not sure if there are any long-term side effects. Some of my medications, such as Lithium and Tegretol, can also cause memory loss. There is a possibility that some of my memory issues are from the medications, which means it’s possible that my memory won’t return to what it used to be. I guess I just have to wait and see about this issue. I hate waiting.

Problems making decisions is another issue I’m dealing with at this time. This is known to be a difficulty with depression. The only problem is that I still have the same issue when I’m manic or even hypomanic. The problem isn’t going away. I have difficulty making small and large decisions. Sometimes I can’t even figure out what to eat when I’m in my own house. My husband will ask if I want to go do something, like go bowling. I don’t know what I want to do, so I just tell him that I’ll do whatever he wants to do. I think that’s frustrating for him, at least I imagine it would be frustrating. Sometimes, he will ask me if I want something. For example, he will ask if I want ice cream. I respond to him by saying that I don’t need any. Then he tells me that he didn’t ask if I needed any, he asked if I want any. I don’t know how to answer that because I don’t know what I want. I wish this was less difficult to deal with, maybe one day it will get easier.

Feeling Tired and Useless

Feeling Tired and Useless

I still feel messed up today; as if something isn’t right. I’m dealing with physical pain and being emotional distraught. Normally, when I wake up, words flow from my fingertips. Today, when I woke up, I felt empty. I have felt empty since I woke up from my last ECT treatment; it happens after every treatment, but this one is lasting much longer. This past ECT was the hardest that I’ve ever done. My husband told me that I say that every time. I told him that every time it gets harder. I have been doing this for more than a year. I can’t keep this up. I can’t continue. I’ve said that so many times; however, I think I’m serious about it this time. The memory loss, emptiness, confusion, and the chaos are too much for me anymore. I’m tired and I don’t think I can keep doing this to myself.

I don’t have much to do today, but I’m still wondering if I can get it done. The only thing I must do is get my blood work done at 2pm today. Hopefully I don’t run into that rude phlebotomist. I also want to clean the house today. It has been on my to-do list for a while now, but I can’t seem to get it done. It’s the ECT that’s holding me back from getting things done. I’m so tired; I feel useless. I hope that will change today.

After ECT

After ECT

ECT went well today. I’ve done it more than 30 times; it’s become normal for me. When I woke up from anesthesia, I felt fine, no pain. By the time I got home, the pain set it, so I had to take a Percocet. I have a pounding headache and my jaw hurts terribly. I’m just waiting for the pain meds to kick in.  I wish I could go to sleep, but for some reason, I can’t, I’m just not tired. If I could sleep, it would probably make me feel even a little bit better.

My memory is back to being crappy. I can’t remember where my husband is, although I know I knew his plans before the ECT treatment today. I looked in my calendar and saw that I recently went to visit my family in Connecticut, but I don’t remember any of it. I can’t remember my wedding, that one really bothers me. I went through my wedding album; it brought back some of the memories. That was helpful, but still not enough. I’ll probably watch my wedding video later today. I hate the memory loss. Every time it finally starts to improve, it’s time for another treatment that causes memory loss again. It’s a vicious cycle.

I don’t want to continue (I think I’ve mentioned that many times), but I just do what I’m told to do. One of these days, I’m going to stop being so compliant. I know that my being compliant regarding my psychiatric treatment is extremely helpful, but it’s also exhausting. I’m afraid that one day I’m just going to do what I want to do instead of what I’m told to do. Following my bipolar treatments is overwhelming. I’m going to rest today, or I’m going to clean the house and go play cards with my family. I know I should rest, but I doubt that will happen.

ECT – Electroconvulsive Therapy

ECT – Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy, ECT, is one way to treat severe depression and mania. The treatments are done under general anesthesia, allowing the doctor to induce a seizure by passing small electrical currents to the brain. ECT is known to be controversial because of how it was administered many years ago and the serious side effects it used to cause, but it is now much less dangerous.

I started ECT in February 2015 because no other treatments were working and I was desperate for something to help. In the beginning, I was doing the treatments 3 times a week for 4 weeks, then once a week for 4 weeks, then every other week for 8 weeks, and finally once a month. It has been a successful treatment for me. It has not solved all my problems or completely removed my depression, but it did get me out of a major depression when every other treatment failed. At this point, I want to stop the treatments, but I remind myself how beneficial they have been for me.

ECT is physically demanding the day of the treatments. I’m groggy (I assume from the anesthesia), I have confusion, my jaw hurts badly from the seizure clenching, and my body is overall exhausted. All of these symptoms go away within at least 24 hours. The only lasting effect I have is memory loss. Supposedly, the memory loss for most patients is temporary and only goes back a couple weeks or months at the most. Memories generally comes back shortly after treatment ends. However, my memory loss goes back years. I had even forgotten that my grandmother passed away, so I had to deal with her death all over again. Since I’m still doing monthly treatments, my memory does not improve. The cost is also a difficult aspect to handle, but all of the side effects and aspects are still easier to deal with than many months of a major depression with no relief.

Today was my 33rd treatment. It’s a lot on my body and mind. I don’t know how much longer I can handle these treatments. I know that my psychiatrist and my mother want me to continue with the therapy because they have been mostly successful. They are concerned about what will happen if and when I stop because of the success. This I understand, but I wish they would put themselves in my shoes. I feel that if ECT got rid of my depression and made me stable, then I would be happy to continue. However, I still take 7 different psych medications every day and an additional 2 medications as needed. In addition to all of that, we are going to be adding another psych medication within the next couple weeks. I also have to take 3 other medications for some medical conditions. I hope I get to stop ECT at some point, but I fear that if I do, I will regress to a horrible depression or mania.