Electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT, probably conjures images of patients strapped down to beds in mental institutions, but that’s not really the case. The procedure is quite different now, but it’s still intense. One of the side effects of my treatment was severe acute memory loss while I was receiving it. This meant that among other things, I can’t remember any of the dates I went on during that time in my life.
ECT is a mental health treatment. According to WebMD, “During the process, an electric stimulation is delivered to the brain and causes a seizure.” It’s a painless procedure, as I was under anesthesia the whole time. My body also remained still due to the muscle relaxants given to me. It’s used to treat conditions like bipolar and depression, and symptoms of mania and suicidality in particular. I was getting it for all of those reasons. It was a last resort because meds weren’t working.
It messed with my memory badly. Memory loss is a normal side effect of the treatment. It’s supposed to only happen during the acute time around the procedures, but mine was worse and lasted longer. I lost the whole period of time when I was getting ECT. Even during the actual treatment, I would forget what had happened the day before. This had grave effects on my dating life.
Why was I dating during this time? I don’t know. I guess this is one of the real questions—why the heck was I dating when my mental health was at rock bottom? One will never know. I just love dating and have a hard time ever giving it up, apparently even when I probably should. I guess I minimized what the consequences would be.
One time, I hit up a guy not knowing we’d already gone out. I messaged a guy on OKCupid saying something like, “Hey, what’s up? That thing on your profile is really cool” His response was, “Um, this is awkward but we went on a date over the summer.” I had absolutely no recollection of it. It was as if the memory never existed in my mind. I couldn’t have recalled it if you paid me. This left me wondering what the heck else I had forgotten.
I’ve seen people on Tinder that I know I’ve dated but can’t remember. I was scrolling through Tinder when I happened upon a familiar face. I couldn’t place where I knew him from, but my gut had told me that something romantic had happened between us. Maybe we just went on a date, maybe we had sex, I couldn’t remember. That actually freaked me out a whole lot. I wanted to match with him to ask him what had happened but I was embarrassed!
I have no idea how the dates went. For all I know, the dates could have been total disasters. Horrible things could have happened and I wouldn’t know. On the other hand, they could have been totally normal too. There’s a better chance that’s the case, but I like to think I can be grateful I forgot if they were unpleasant experiences. Plus, the dates couldn’t have been that good if I stopped seeing the people.
I have to just trust that I was myself and everything went OK. Even though it felt like a blackout drunk feeling in that I lost time, I was conscious and myself. So I have to trust that I just showed up as my authentic self, whatever that looked like at the time. It’s not like I was some crazy version of myself or that I did anything too stupid (at least I hope not). It’s good for my sanity to have faith that I acted normally.
I still have a crappy memory as a result. As I said, I was told that I’d only lose my memory for the period of time when I was getting ECT, but it’s been stretched much further than that. My long-term and short-term memory are both affected, and I still struggle to remember names, faces, and details. I often forget what happened when I meet someone if it wasn’t too significant. It’s freaky.
They recommend I use a journal but I didn’t listen. You know, it would have been a whole lot easier if I had a record of everything I did during the time of my treatments. Guess what? I was repeatedly told to keep a journal to record the important things. I didn’t listen, of course, so I’m stuck with only what other people tell me.
I don’t plan on doing ECT ever again. It’s debatable whether or not ECT was helpful to me. It did assist in bumping me out of a suicidal depression with manic moments, but it also brought with it some pretty grave consequences. The memory loss was so devastating that I never want to do it again, but the treatment also could have had a hand in saving my life. Regardless of whether it worked or not, I’m not jumping for more treatments.
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