So, I just started week three of TMS today, and I have to say – I feel great!
How often do you say that? “I feel great!” If you’re anything like me, it’s not very often. But I’m here to say that it is possible, even if you don’t think so yet.
I started feeling better after only four sessions; I had number 15 this morning. Last week, I felt pretty good, but today I’m noticing an even bigger difference. I feel – dare I say – happy! 🙂
You may feel happy most of the time, or recover quickly from unanticipated events, and I consider you lucky. Some of us rarely have the pleasure of saying we actually feel happy. Most days are a struggle, to some degree.
I feel giggly in my heart. Does that make any sense? I feel giddy! It’s pretty weird, but I’ll take it. I got to see my shrink today, the awesome Dr. Nelson, and that’s always nice. Talking with him is always illuminating and validating. He just totally and wholly understands not just depression, but the way the human mind works and the way everything in life interacts to create our moods.
He’s simply a Godsend.
Every morning when I get to the clinic, I have to fill out the PHQ-9, a quick and simple depression screening test. The lower the score, the better you’re doing. The highest is 27 and the lowest, I guess, would be zero. I personally don’t see how anyone could ever get a zero, but maybe it could happen.
Today, my score was a 12, which is pretty damn good, even though it’s still considered “Moderate Depression”. At the bottom of the sheet, there’s one question: “How difficult have these problems made it for you to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people?” Your options are Not Difficult At All; Somewhat Difficult; Very Difficult; and Extremely Difficult.
Today I got to circle “Somewhat Difficult”. That’s a big deal, because I usually circle either Extremely Difficult or Very Difficult.
On the regular intake sheet I fill out every time I see Dr. Nelson, there’s the question, “Since the last time you saw [Dr.Nelson], would you say that overall things are going…” and your options are Significantly Better; Somewhat Better; Unchanged; Somewhat More Difficult, and Much More Difficult.
I got to circle “Significantly Better” today!
There must be something in the air (besides sunlight, for a change). I feel more patient, less irritable (that’s a big one), more capable of handling change, and less overwhelmed. It’s like a weight has been lifted from me that I sometimes don’t even know is there.
HOW TO FEEL BETTER
That probably seems like a strange header, “How to feel better,” but for someone whose baseline is mild-to-moderate depression or dysthymia, it’s an honest question.
Depression, among other things, robs you of the capacity to feel joy. It can last weeks, months, or years. I once went through a six-year-long depression, during which time I was very, very sick. I lost two jobs because of it, had my first relapse after more than 15 years of sobriety, and went through all kinds of treatment. You don’t know what that’s like unless you’ve been through it.
So you can imagine how foreign it is to actually feel joy or happiness or excitement. Since I had my first round of TMS three years ago, I have had some time where I’m happy – even some moments of excitement, although that’s a really uncomfortable feeling for me.
When I feel really good, of course, it’s awesome. I’ll take it for as long as it wants to stick around. However, there always comes a point – usually toward the beginning – where I question it. I think: Maybe I really am bipolar, and I’m going manic. When will the shit hit the fan again? Why can’t I feel this way all the time?
I guess I’m suspicious of the good feelings until they’ve stuck around for a while. Then I know we’re good to go.
The positive in this is that, since I’m feeling better and thinking better and my mind is clearer, those thoughts and questions don’t stay with me for long. I’m finally able to relax and let it be.
“Let it be.” Wiser words were never spoken.
THE PROCESS OF GETTING BETTER
I used to think it was impossible for me to feel good. No, really. For years, I suffered horribly at the hands of depression and anxiety and figured I’d die by suicide sooner rather than later.
TMS has saved my life and given me a future I can be positive about.
Thank you, CeAnne, for finding out about it.
At the clinic I go to, this is the drill:
- You do between 20 and 30 sessions, five days a week, at the same time every day.
- At the first session, and every Monday, my pdoc tests my motor threshold. This way, they know how strong to set the machine while minimizing any possible side effects.
- Also on Mondays, I see my pdoc either before or after my TMS session. It’s a half-hour check-in to chat, ask any questions, raise any concerns, and learn.
- They taper you off of TMS rather than cutting you off cold-turkey. For instance, I will go every weekday for the first 20 or so sessions, then discuss things with Dr. Nelson and we might decide to do three sessions next week, two the week after, and then I’m done.
- I see him once a month during the “off-season” (when I’m not getting TMS) for 30 to 45 minutes.
They really know what they’re doing at PrairieCare, and I thank the gods for that.
This might seem like a lot to someone who doesn’t live with depression, and it is. It takes enormous effort at the beginning of my treatments to even get to the clinic.
But for someone who knows the deepest depths of it, they’ll do almost anything to feel better. Hell, I would stand on my head for five hours a day if Dr. Nelson told me to! If I knew that that would make me feel good for six to eight months, fuck yeah, I’d do it.
My only wish is that my insurance would cover maintenance TMS sessions. Maybe some do, but mine doesn’t. (I have a great health insurance plan; unfortunately, Medicare Cost plans are going away at the end of the year, so both CeAnne and I have to find new ones. We both have unique, chronic, serious health conditions though, and we both need to make sure we get new plans that cover what we need. Wish us luck!)
I’ll finish this entire week of TMS and talk with Dr. Nelson at my appointment next Monday. At that time, since I’m doing so well, we’re going to talk about tapering down for the last two weeks.
I will also be starting a new kind of therapy for trauma/PTSD, called ART. No, not Art Therapy, that’s different (and also useful). I don’t know much at all about it yet, but Dr. Nelson says it’s similar to EMDR. I guess it uses eye movements and other methods for four to six sessions to change the way your brain reacts to memories. He just told me about it a couple hours ago, so I haven’t done any research on it yet. My first appointment, with Kris, whom I just love, is on Election Day. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.
From then on, I’ll keep taking my meds, see Dr. Nelson every month, keep seeing Kim (my awesome therapist), and keep in contact with my case manager. I know that I can call any of them if I’m having a rough time.
Oh, and the next time my wife suggests I start TMS again, I’ll listen to her.
IN A NUTSHELL:
- I feel significantly better 🙂
- You can, too.
- Getting better takes a lot of work and time. It’s definitely a commitment.
- Nelson fucking rocks!
- TMS has saved my life a couple times. Maybe it can save yours, too.
- I’m going to go do some research on this ART thing. I have high hopes for it.
- Thank you, CeAnne. I love you! 🙂
As always, thanks for reading. Keep on Keepin’ it Real, folks!
This post was previously published on Depression Warrior and is republished here with permission from the author.
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