So. If you read here you already know that I’ve been getting stabbed in the brain by magnets every day for an hour for the last few months. (Click here to read the whole TMS story if you’re new here.) And yesterday? Was my last session.
Overall, it was uncomfortable, weird, a reminder that insurance companies are satan, expensive and time-consuming.
It was also totally worth it.
I am not one of the lucky third of people who went into full remission with transcranial magnetic stimulation. I’m also not one of the unlucky third who the treatment didn’t work for. I’m in that middle ground…better, but not perfect.
But better is so good. I’ve tracked my moods every day these last few months and (other than a short dip halfway through treatment) I’ve steadily gotten better. I even had 5 seemingly random days over the last month where I felt what I imagine most people think of as normal. I haven’t had days like that in so long I’d literally forgotten I could feel that way.
I know some of you are looking at the process yourself and every single person is different but here’s how it helped (or didn’t help) me:
Depression: When I started treatment I was in a deep and very long-lasting depression that I’ve been battling for well over a year. I didn’t even realize how bad it was until I started coming out of it. I think I was operating at 10-25% when I started treatment. I’d say I’m between 60-75% now. I’m still have depression. I’m still medicated. But this treatment was like a soft reset…like turning your phone off and on again when it gets laggy and broken.
Concentration: This is still a struggle for me but I have seen a little improvement. Not much, but a little.
Sleep: My sleep patterns changed the very first week. I still struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep but most nights I’m asleep around midnight rather than angrily tweeting about insomnia at 4am. I’m less likely to feel like I’ve been drugged and hit by a truck in the morning.
Anxiety: TMS treats depression on the left side of your brain but I also did treatment on the right side of my brain for anxiety. This isn’t always standard so ask your doctor about it if you’re having TMS. This is where I felt the most improvement. When I started TMS I was having severe anxiety and massive problems with agoraphobia. I had a hard time leaving the house and I didn’t answer my phone. I struggled with even emailing people. Right now I feel almost normal. Tomorrow I’m leaving to see Europe for the first time in my life and I would never have imagined I’d agree to on this trip if you’d asked me a few months ago. And I’m scared about traveling but I’m excited, and that’s something that I haven’t felt in a long time. My family actually noticed these changes in me before I did.
OCD and ICD: Unfortunately TMS didn’t really improve this a ton. I still feel irrational OCD and ICD thoughts but slightly less.
I don’t know if this will keep working but if I fall into the deep depression again I qualify to get follow-up treatments in the future and it’s nice to have hope. In fact, hope is the best thing that came from this treatment. This treatment is still new and strange and we don’t know exactly why it works for some or why it doesn’t for others but the fact that it does work for some people means that there’s hope for all of us…that things are getting better and slowly we’re figuring out how these wonderful and terrible engines that run us work. I have hope that I will get better. Because I did. And that’s a good reminder to keep close when things get bad again and my depression starts telling me lies.
I will get better. So will you. Each day more and more people understand the struggle and more treatments become available. One day there will be a cure. We’re getting closer every day. And I’ll be here for it.
PS. I did embroidery every day as I got treatment and a friend (Laura Bundesen) sent me a pattern that I could concentrate on while in the chair.