Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

“T” is for TMS (Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy)

TMS, short for Trans-Cranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy, is a fairly new treatment for those who live with depression and have had an issue with medication where they either did not work, or the side effects were too great.  TMS is also used with medication to help diminish the depression symptoms.  Still in it infancy, as a treatment for depression, TMS is already being used widely and with great results. 

TMS works by generating high magnetic fields that turn off and on very rapidly, the same strength used by MRI (magnetic resonance imagining) machines.  A treatment coil is placed on the head above the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates mood.  This procedure does not affect the entire brain, reaching only 2-3 centimeters beneath the coil.  Small electrical currents activate cells within the brain that are thought to release serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  Depression is believed to be a imbalance of these chemicals, TMS restores the balance, in turn relieving depression.  

To read the description of what it is and how it works may sound more like something out of a Frankenstein movie, but the reality is it works and the wonder of modern medicine is giving hope to many to suffer with depression and no medication seems to work.  The treatment, however, is far from barbaric.  I began TMS 4 weeks ago, the normal course runs for six weeks with 30 treatments done over that period of time, with results normally being seen by week 3 or 4.  I can say first hand, it works; but, mine was not a simple case,  I managed to confuse my doctor, and we had to adjust things.  The treatment coil is placed on the left side of my head, as is normal for most people, however, for me after only a week I became manic, it had taken away the depression but left a mess in its wake.  To balance things out, we moved the coil to the right side and hoped for the best.  By week 3, I was feeling better and the fog that had covered me was lifting; I was smiling and felt alive for the first time in a long time.  I have 8 more treatments to go, after which I will return for what are called maintenance visits once or twice a month.  It’s a small price to pay to feel well and function normally. 

As with any treatment, it may not work for everyone, but I am thankful for it.  I had, ECT (electro-convulsive treatment) done in January, a series of eight treatments done in the hospital; it helped but left depression in its wake, leading us to today and TMS.  I am thankful for my psychiatrist, the only one where I live who uses this and the fact I had the opportunity to be part of this new way of treating depression.   We turned to these procedures because I am medication resistant, and I was tired of trying an endless list of medications.  For me it was worth trying and am thankful I did.  Is this something you would try?   

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