Electroshock, Bookshelves and Tears

I’m crying. Some days my cognition is dismal and I feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark.

Today is one of those days. I can’t assemble my new bookshelf. There are several factors in play; for starters I can’t read the instructions. Scratch that- I can read them, I just can’t retain anything long enough to work out what they mean. So I feel my way around and try and match it up with the pictures. Fail. Disassemble. Try again. This time I get it right but I damage one of the screws. No spares. I Can’t call customer service because I don’t know the name of the screw. Sure, it says what it is in the instructions but it’s unfamiliar and I can’t hold it in my head long enough to tell them while simultaneously talking to them. Nor can I form adequate sentences to explain my dilemma. I could script but if customer service takes the convo in a different direction, I’m screwed. Anyways, dealing with people on confused days is a toss up; people are more likely to be condescending or rude when I don’t get the obvious things I should. People can’t help you if you can’t communicate what you need in the exact way they need to hear it. I don’t feel like taking my chances on the game of kind or impatient jerk roulette.

I’d consult with my handy man dad- but he’s out of town for the week.

I can’t return the shelf to the store, because I don’t have a drivers license and therefor, can’t go to the store. Even if I did it wouldn’t matter- I’m not coherent enough to drive, anyways. I’d also have to disassemble the and repack the shelf, explain what’s wrong with it to a clerk and ask if they would you take it back cause I can’t remember where I put the receipt.
So I move the partially assembled shelves out of my room. My blood sugar tanked about an hour ago and I’m approaching the danger zone, so I go to the kitchen to cook dinner. Problem is, the kitchen’s a mess. More sequential tasks that are way over my head today.

More crying. Frustrating as all these inconveniences are, none of this upset is really over uncooperative furniture, or dirty dishes.

I’m crying over the loss of my voice; not the sound but the ability to use it effectively and strongly communicate my needs.

I’m crying over the loss of my working memory, the masterpiece of neural mechanics that allows a person to hold and manipulate information in their head –something I could really use right now to make sense of instructions. Or to talk with customer service. Some other working memory activities I miss? To not have to DO EVERYTHING THIS SECOND before I forget. The ability to walk from my room to the kitchen and REMEMBER why. The ability to hold and process what a person says and respond and connect with them meaningfully, instead of guessing and stalling to give myself time to figure out what they said and meant, and what I’m supposed to say.

I’m crying over the constant state of confusion that rules every aspect of my life following electroshock. The fact few people recognize my struggle, insist I sound fine, even those who know my dismal neuro-test scores, and those who flat out deny my reality and dismiss me as neurotic. Cause, ya know, I sound fine. Talking and would you that is writing? A brain damaged person couldn’t do these things. You’re being ridiculous.

I’m crying over the isolation my circumstance creates. Few believe it. Fewer get it.

I’m crying over my dependence on others; not knowing what’s going to happen to me, how I’m gonna deal with the difficult doctors. Jump through bureaucratic hoops with out my dad to back me up in the future. How will I get from point a to point b when I’m too confused to drive. How will I fill out complicated paper work when it makes no sense and I can’t explain my problem to a potential helper, who probably won’t believe I need assistance, anyways. Throw in all the other musts of adulthood. I would LOVE to do this all my own but as of now, that’s not an option. Especially on days like this.

I’m confused. I need help. Reaching out is almost always painful, embarrassing, inconvenient, degrading and more often then not, useless.

This painful moment in my life was made possible by electroshock, denial and dismissal by the entire medical and mental health establishment and a society woefully unaware/indifferent of hidden disabilities.

If you or someone you love is considering ECT, or are mid-way through a course, I encourage you to connect with shock survivors, and/or read critical literature about this (rightly) controversial procedure first. You/they could become like me. One might chose to inaccurately and tactlessly point out that my experience is not typical, and doesn’t really apply, but I assure you, I’m not an anomaly; experiences like mine are the rule, not the exception.

Read up:

Doctors of Deception

Peter Breggin’s excellent collections of articles and studies of electroshock

Electroshock as a Head Injury 

Proof of Shock’s Lasting Impact on Brain structure

Connect with survivors

Search Facebook for:

Electro shock survivors (“ECT”) support group 

Surviving electroshock– Global support group for ECT survivors 

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