What is TMS? (a bit boring but kinda interesting)
I’m undergoing my third round of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Here's a link to a short video that explains the procedure.
TMS is slightly more effective than Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), which involves general anesthesia, usually weekly, for as long as 20 weeks.
TMS requires no anesthesia and is completely non-invasive. It consists of 36 sessions over a period of six weeks. It is covered by most insurances including Medicare and Medicaid.
TMS involves placing a large magnetic coil against the scalp. Short sharp bursts of energy are emitted which target specific parts of the brain to stimulate or “wake up” brain cells.
In a study done by Butler Hospital, roughly half of participants experienced an improvement in depression, and about one third went into complete remission.
I first tried this treatment in 2019, when I moved back to care for my mother. I went through a second series roughly one year later and am now halfway through my third.
The treatment consists of 36 sessions over a period of about six weeks. I drive to Olympia every day for treatment. The last six sessions are spaced out over more days. The coil is placed on the right side of my head for anxiety and the left side of my head for depression.
On the right side, it targets areas of the brain responsible for anxiety. Magnetic stimulation is applied for 30 seconds. Does it hurt? Yes, it does. A lot. My right eye twitches, my lip twitches, and my teeth chatter. But it only lasts 30 seconds. I have the option of starting and staying at a lower intensity, but I do not want that. I quickly achieve full therapeutic strength because I’ve been through it 72 plus times now and I know I can handle the pain for 30 seconds. What does it feel like? Like someone hammering on my head with a ball peen hammer.
On the left side, it targets areas of the brain responsible for depression. Every eight seconds, there are ten magnetic pulses. The treatment lasts three minutes. Does it hurt? Yes, it does. Not so much as the right side, though. It still feels like a ball peen hammer, but the pounding is not as hard. Again, I have the option of starting then staying at a lower intensity, but I do not want that. I ask for full therapeutic strength. The treatment is started at a lower intensity, and I tell the technician to ramp it up really quickly. I am committed to doing what I need to do to ensure I’m getting full therapeutic benefit.
I do notice some improvement with each series. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t return to repeat the treatment. Last time I went through the series, I had a period of relative stability that lasted about nine months. I still struggled and struggled mightily, but I didn’t fall so far down. Last April was when the health issues started hitting me hard and that, combined with a hundred other stressors, were enough trigger a steady decent into serious depression.
My hospitalization occurred at about the one third mark of the current series. I was in a freefall when I started treatment. I had a two week pause, and I picked back up this last week. The treatment did not cause me to be hospitalized. The freefall began several months before I started this current series. The hospitalization was a bottoming out, and now I am on an upward trend.
I am hopeful I’ll attain stability again. I doubt I’ll ever go into remission, but I probably shouldn’t say that. I do believe in the power of positive thinking. I’m just not naturally a real positive person 😊. Stability is my goal. I don’t strive to be happy; I strive to be even. I want peace of mind. That would be a miracle. I’m hoping for a miracle.
If you want to know more about my experience with TMS, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep the faith.
"Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."