The basis for the scientific method and in many respects for common sense lies in the gathering of data that confirms or denies a hypothesis under question. Carol A. Kivler, in her book Will I Ever Be the Same Again?: Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy) provides us with such data gathered from her own difficult and disabling experience of major depressive disorder. She offers hope to drug-resistant sufferers of depression through the story of her own successful use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
In the first part of her book she tells the story of her battle against “The Beast:” of her first acute depressive episode, the trying times undergoing many failed drug treatments and her own journey of recovery through her successful use of ECT. The second part offers advice to those suffering from depression, their loved ones and their health care providers in understanding major depressive disorder and ECT.
Kivler’s book is valuable in that it offers hope to consumers by removing the stigma of both depression and ECT. Her “Courageous Recovery Wellness Model,” developed through her years of experience with those affected by depression, provides a valuable basic tool for the depressed, their loved ones and their health care providers as a means for a return to emotional health.
Kivler’s book stands out in two essential ways. It provides first-hand data that goes against the widely held misconceptions of ECT’s danger and ineffectiveness. It also offers a personally developed path toward health and empowerment.
Kivler’s personal story of living with major depression gives much credence to the rest of her book. She removes the unjust stigma surrounding depression and electroconvulsive therapy. She differentiates between situational depression, caused by loss or difficulty in one’s life, and clinical depression, a mental disorder. She shows that clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is distinguished from normality by altered levels of neurotransmitters as well as by differences shown using brain scans. Kivler clears away many stereotypes held by people after they hear that a person is depressed:
Major depression is not an attitude. It is not a personality dysfunction. It is not a flaw in character. It is not laziness or a call for attention. … Depression is not something that can be brought on or fought off by self-will. Depression is not something to be ashamed of. And most importantly, it is something that should not be ignored.
Through this she clears away self-doubt and opens the path for depressed readers toward the treatment they require. She demystifies ECT, contrasting its use in the 1930s and 1940s, when its use first began, with its current use today. As she points out, “Like all medical treatments, time and science has brought major advancements to the treatment.” She notes that while images of patients grimacing in pain sell movies, current-day use of ECT in no way resembles the portrayals as given in such movies as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By removing these misconceptions, her writing opens up hope and offers possibilities for drug-resistant patients beset with major depression.
Kivler bases her “Courageous Recovery Wellness Model” on awareness, acceptance and commitment, which she feels will greatly support one’s path to recovery. She details her model in individual chapters for depressives, loved ones and health care providers. At the end of her book she provides an appendix of resources for information and help surrounding mental illness, depression and ECT.
While the scope of Kivler’s personal discovery is, as she notes, limited to medication-resistant patients with major depressive disorder, her results may eventually point the way to broadening this scope. Further studies in the electrical stimulation of the brain may offer dramatic help with those suffering from other disorders as well. TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) has been successfully used to treat chronic pain and is now being developed for epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and other disorders of the nervous system. Kivler’s presentation of data on ECT as well as clarification of currently held myths is thus fruitful to the search for therapy by leaving open the doors to ECT, as well as possibly many other disorders that will be treated with other types of electrical nerve stimulation.
Will I Ever Be The Same Again?: Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy)
By Carol A. Kivler, MS, CSP
Three Gem Publishing/Kivler Communications: May 2010
Paperback, 126 pages