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Henryian
Casual Contributor

Bipolar and ect

Hi 

Has anyone had any experience with ECT for bipolar? 

My wife has been hospitalised for nearly 9 months now because of a serious episode of mania then depression.  It has been hell coping with it all but we were slowly getting through it.  The psychiatrist believed none of the drugs were working so he started her on ECT. She is now on her 10th one and has suddenly decided she no longer wants to be married and has lost most of her memories of our 30 + years together.  It is as if she has changed overnight. I am devastated all over again and i dont know if things will ever get back to normal?  Up until last week (approximately 7 sessions of ECT) she was very loving and caring and looking forward to our future when she gets home but then almost like a switch went off she now has huge doubts about our future?  Has anyone had any experience like this? Thanks

11 REPLIES 11

Re: Bipolar and ect

Hi, I have personally tried ECT to manage my bipolar. I went through 3 sessions one a week for 12 weeks and found it worked to control my symptoms whilst doing it. However the memory issues were to much to take and have since stopped it. I've been advised my memory will come back but this is proving to be a long slow drawn out process which is very frustrating. For me the treatment to have or not is a personal one for each individual and i know people who have continued with it and have no issues with there memory but for me it was to much to risk in the end and I've had to stop it. I don't know if my experience is of help to you but you aren't alone.

Re: Bipolar and ect

Thanks for your response.  Any response helps as i have no idea how to deal with this. I want to help fix my partner but i am powerless to do anything and feel she is getting worse. Im sorry to hear you have bipolar and i know how devastating it can be.

Re: Bipolar and ect

Thanks for sharing. I know people who have experienced ECT for bipolar, different experiences, some more traumatic than others. 

Re: Bipolar and ect

Hi Henryian,

 

I imagine this all must feel very out of control and that you are worried that you may lose your wife because of this treatment. I haven't had experience with this exact situation, but I have learnt that you can't 'fix' your loved one and you often can't get the outcome that you would like. It sounds like you love your wife very much. All you can do is be calm, supportive and gentle, accepting of where she is at, at any point in time. Can you talk to the doctors about your concerns / the suddenness of the change in her feelings? Give your wife time, keep talking calmly, validate how she is feeling and simply note that you feel this is a sudden change.Things may change up again - hang in there.

Re: Bipolar and ect

Thanks for the reply. I am hanging in there and trying to be supportive but its tough sometimes. Just have to hope and pray she will get better soon

Re: Bipolar and ect

Hi @Henryian 

I'm sorry for what you and your wife are going through. I know ECT is often considered a 'last resort' so I know you both must have been really struggling and at your wit's end to consider it as an option for her treatment.

To my understanding, although the effects can be longterm in terms of memory and mood changes, often there is a kind of increased efect at the start and then it sort of decreases. So I hope for your sake, that this is just an extreme initial reaction that will hopefully settle with time.

I know our tempation can be to want to make everything go away for our loved ones. I know when supporting my partner I can often go into 'problem-solver' mode when really they just need a supportive ear. I know it is tough right now but I think being there is the biggest thing you can do. 

Sending you strength 
- periwinklepixie

Re: Bipolar and ect

Hi @Henryian if my H was still alive he would be able to offer his experience being at the brunt of my moods after ECT.

 

I regret to say that I wasn't always kind to him during my early mental health journey. If I'm truthful I was downright cruel to him and he only ever responded with love. Your wife sounds very distressed and, in turn you are carrying the load of her illness. I don't have bipolar but I have had ECT for depression. It did help and eventually our marriage settled and I remain grateful that my H did not walk out on me.

 

Unfortunately, my H has since passed away and my biggest regret was how I treated him.when all he ever did was show me love and acceptance. Hang in there, it's a hard road that you and your wife are walking. I hope you have support for you.

Re: Bipolar and ect

@Henryian 

 

I'm very sorry to hear your about the difficulties you are experiencing with your partner after ECT. 

 

ECT is one of those hit or miss therapies, and it is a treatment of last resort when medication and therapy has failed.


I have had ECT, as a last resort, and was warned about memory loss - of course I dont remember the warning.

 

Everybody responds differently to ECT - in my case, I lost 2 years on either side of the ECT. Meaning I also didn't put down new memories - well very few at first. That's 7 years ago now and there is sort of a black hole around the ECT period in 2014.


Sadly, there is no quantifiable outcome with individuals regarding memory loss. For some, there is little change to memory and they also get better very quickly from severe depression. For others, it can erase past memories permanently and there is no way around it, except to rebuild new ones. For others, memories do return over time.

 

There is an interesting story about an architect with treatment-resistant depression who underwent ECT. He dramatically recovered from severe depression, and remembered everything about his family and children, but lost all memory of how to be an architect....a decade of being a decent architect, but he could no longer work as he'd lost all his knowledge and expertise.

 

The point of this story is that ECT affects people differently, and nobody can really predict how much,if any, memory is lost or which types of memory. All you can really do is support your partner as they stabilise, and be patient.


Curiously while memory maybe lost, personality traits aren't. There is a lot of discussion and disagreement about memory loss with ECT in scientific literature, but there is nothing to suggest a person's fundamental personality changes - a normally kind person doesn't become permanently nasty after ECT.


Maybe disorientation and trauma from memory loss could be why she doesn't seem the person she was. You may just have to give her time (a lot of time), and there may also be other factors involved, such as simply ageing and neural damage from mental illness itself. Bipolar disorder plus a long term hospitalisation could also exacerbate her problems with memory and feeling connected to the real world or to you and her family.

 

Patience may be the catchall term for now.

 

🙏

 

Re: Bipolar and ect

The brain is interesting and i can't imagine what the organ is going through, let alone the stress on the brain itself. One thing that connects deep into memories is smell (hence smelling salts)

 

Are they any smells that you can associate with your marriage.. good smells such as roses, a certain meal? Would this be worth a try for you, @Henryian ?

 

 

 

 

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