Woody and Me

By Lisa Huddleston

A few of you have expressed a desire to hear about my experience with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) so here it is. Last Thursday was my final session of 65, and although I enjoyed my time with the staff at my psychiatrist’s office, I was glad to see it end. I am not a patient patient.

Let’s see … here are some of the questions I’ve been asked

What was it like? Well, it felt a lot like I would imagine having a woodpecker imagespeck on your head for 30-40 minutes, 5 days a week feels like. Okay, maybe not that bad, but I was startled by the experience especially for the first few days. My head was awkwardly strapped against a chair, and my eye on the side that was being stimulated ran tears down my face. The nerves that run from my left eye to my upper teeth on that side jumped with every jolt, and I was asked to play a video game called “Text Twist” throughout each session. It was uncomfortable, but definitely not unbearable, and I decided right away that it was better to do what was required without too much complaining–I just wanted to get the most benefit from it that I could. I would not be afraid to do it again.

Did it help? My answer at this point would have to be yes–but really not as I had hoped it would. Right before beginning TMS, I was struggling through a severe episode of depression. My energy level was extremely low:  I was spending most of my time sleeping either in bed or on the couch, Mom and Chuck had taken over all of the cooking, and I was pretty much just breathing in and out. Since TMS, my energy level is up. I am cooking dinner, cleaning house (as much as ever–wink, wink), going to yoga, weaving, and contemplating the arrival of two new pets–a couple of recently-born Toggenburg goats. So, yes, it helped. However, my attitude is still pretty negative. During the past several months to a year, I have withdrawn from many if not all of the limited involvement I still had with people. So now, I have more energy, but not any real sense of a direction in which to expend it. This time my “recovery” is not like dark clouds lifting to reveal a clear blue sky (the way I have described the end of a depressive episode in the past). Rather it is a physical invigoration without the sensation of a dramatic emotional “lift.” Hard to describe, but hopefully somewhat understandable.

Would you recommend TMS? Yes, I would. I am better off than I was (although not as dramatically as I’d hoped). I had little hope for improvement without it. None of the medications I’d tried were doing much good, and the side effects they brought with them were wearing me out. TMS has been a good thing for me.

How are you now? For nearly 7 weeks, I have had a daily 3-hour job to do: get up, get dressed, drive 50-60 minutes to the clinic, spend 40 mins with “Woody,” and drive 50-60 minutes back to the farm. TMS literally has been my whole life. Without it, I am at loose ends. I met with my counselor a couple of weeks ago, because I knew that I was going to feel like this when TMS ended. I had nothing waiting for me to do. She gave me this advice, “Follow your enthusiasms.” And that is what I’m trying intentionally to do–follow not lead. And life is going okay. There is still the hope of more progress over the next couple of weeks, but this may be it. I think I can live with that. I am not sure I could have before.

Thanks for asking.