Earlier this month we revealed how the NHS is charging £21,000 to disclose how frequently electroconvulsive therapy is currently used to treat people detained in hospital under the mental health act (in 2014, it was used on almost 2,000 patients).
Here, Amanda shares her experience of 'ECT' and reflects on the fact that, fifty years later, she continues to live with mental illness, plus several possible side effects. This article contains themes including self-harm and drug use.
I was given six ECT "treatments" when I was about 16 years old.
I am now almost 64 and suffer from very severe depression and have a fear of going out.
I also have very bad headaches and my memory is very poor [commonly reported side affects of ECT].
I was a "difficult" patient, as I had a drug problem and back then (the 1960s) there were virtually no drug treatment centres.
I was a rebel and, with hindsight, I realise that I made it difficult for them, as I was confused and angry, I admit. I was also self harming, but only AFTER being hospitalised initially.
It reached the point where I cut my wrist area and having been taken to the local general hospital, the nurses would say "when are you going to do a proper job?"
It was before people seemed to understand the concept of self harm, I think.
They thought it was attention seeking, which, on reflection, it may have been*.
- * Editor's note: People who self harm sometimes describe doing so as a way of taking control of internal pain and regulating how and when they feel pain. They may struggle to articulate how they are feeling in words and use self-harm as a way of externally expressing emotional pain. This may be done simply for their own coping strategy, or some people may hope that others close to them will notice the self-harm and offer to help them.
I am speaking out now because ECT was so frightening and I want to help others that are against it.
It was invasive and, above all, very very frightening.
The first time I had it, I had to lie on a hospital trolley, right next to where it was administered.
There was a red partition, that’s all.
They didn’t do it in a separate room, so I had to lie on it, whilst hearing the hum of electricity, just feet away.
Also, there was a group of older ladies sitting there, reminiscing about how awful it used to be, without anaesthetic, broken bones... not exactly reassuring.
I used to wake up and not be able to remember who I was.
There would be a nurse hovering about, who would tell me who I was - then give me a cup of tea!
Consequently, my memory is bad.
However, several years of heroin addiction, plus a bad head injury have played a part in this too.
Life after ECT
After meeting my husband, also an addict, we got clean together.
I stopped self harming a long time ago.
It is no longer a problem.
I had never self-harmed before I was first hospitalised.
If it continues to be used, some kind of age limit should be demanded as the brain is probably still growing. [There is currently an age limit of 18-years-old].
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