To say that this has been an effective procedure would be an understatement. I have taken SSRIs for a fairly large portion of my life, and anti-anxiety alongside them. They held the proverbial line, but I always felt like I was doing only that. Any ground I ceded to depression wouldn’t be readily given back when I felt better.
When I first heard of rTMS, I immediately was interested. Uneasy, perhaps, but I had heard of it previously. It had been described as a possible option by a doctor a while ago, while I was in an outpatient clinic. That was many years ago, though, I was still a minor and my parents and I all agreed we’d try medication and therapy before something new like that.
“New” implies this is untested, but the truth is the first TMS devices were used in the mid-80s and they’ve been approved since the aughts, so it’s only new in the sense that the first people to develop it are still alive. Many years later, as I went through a particularly rough patch, I noticed Dr. Sokeye’s clinic offered a “safe, non-invasive treatment”, and figuring I had little left to lose emotionally, I took the opportunity immediately.
The first day was “Brain Mapping”. The machine needs to know where the region it needs to stimulate is. To do that, they first locate your cortical homunculus: The region of your brain where all your motor and sensory data is processed. Once that is found, they refine the search to just your right thumb. From there, they don’t need to change anything, the machine handles it automatically for the rest of the sessions. You only need to sit in the same way you did during the mapping.
It feels like a flicking sensation, though it’s also a bit more than that. The most unpleasant part I can think of is the slight ‘flash’ I would get behind my eye, like a migraine that lasted for a microsecond. Believe me when I say, though, that even a moment after it I could barely remember how it felt. Sometimes the fingers on your right hand twitch gently, since the machine’s still close to that part of your brain. It stops when the pulse stops.
Going home from it the first day, I felt a little underwhelmed until I sat down and saw the colors on my main monitor glow brighter. Or maybe it was the music playing over a rainstorm in the convenience store I went to. It might have just been seeing people walk by in the park, a million other lives and stories. I didn’t truly notice just how good things felt, but they did. For once, things felt good. Things felt, at all. I could sit in my room, working on an assignment, and just be happy in the background.
Depression dulls your emotions as a whole, happiness is just the biggest one. I still have moments where I’m sad, or angry, or afraid, but critically those are normal moments. They last as long as anyone else’s, instead of taking hours or even days to be completely cleared.
I’m at exactly the halfway point of treatment, and for once I’m excited to see where a treatment takes me. The one thing I wish is that everyone who hurts could receive this. If I had the money, I’d see to that. I’d return everyone’s life the same way this returned mine.
My regards go to Khatidja and Eliza, the two who operate the machine in day-to-day treatment, as well as my psychiatrist Dr. Sokeye, who has provided me with this opportunity and many before it.