Carol Kivler knows depression. In her early forties, "The Beast" (as she calls it) says it came on gradually, almost noticeably. Looking back, Carol thinks it started with some post-partum depression after her children were born. As she describes it, “you start to lose yourself, a little bit every day.” She felt fake, phony and more and more disconnected. With depression, Carol explains, there’s “that voice in your head, ruminating over the same thing…over and over again.”
When she was first diagnosed, she thought to herself, “I didn’t do anything to deserve this.” After all, Carol was a college professor and an active mother with three great children, married to a prominent attorney. “I was home room mom, team mom, Girl Scout leader,” and Carol describes her life "with a great home and financial security...the kind of life many women might envy."
But still, she was ashamed and embarrassed about her illness, explaining, “Depression robs you of your self-worth.”
Following doctor’s orders, Carol started on anti-depression medication. Her reaction was negative and within a week she was into full-blown psychosis. She wanted to die, wondering, “How am I going to end this hopelessness?” It didn’t get better; Carol suffered from medication-resistant depression. Doctors suggested electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), but she refused. Like many people ECT gave Carol images of Jack Nicholson from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. It frightened her.
Still, nothing was working and Carol didn’t think she could keep going the way she was. She knew ECT wasn’t an ideal choice, but she did her research. According to Carol, statistically speaking, ECT has an 80% response rate (vs. 40% response rate for medication). Even so, it was with some hesitation that she agreed to the treatments. And, by the third session, she experienced an “immense improvement”. As Carol describes it, ECT is “similar to what a defibrillator does for the heart. It jolts the neurons so they start firing in sync.” That “firing in sync” is what enables the patient to recover; that’s what happened for Carol. By the end of ten sessions, Carol was back! She resumed her life and could live normally again.
Four years later, when she had another bout of psychosis, Carol started ECT right away. Treatment was, again, successful. She did well for another four years but then an even more severe depression settled on Carol. With that episode, she had fifteen ECT treatments. Unfortunately, at the beginning of that series, the first session went badly. It was too much shock treatment, which sent her into a bipolar episode with a gran mal seizure; afterward, she was hospitalized again, and needed an additional twelve treatments. Since that last time, in 1999, Carol has been enjoying a healthy and productive recovery.
From the time when she was first diagnosed with clinical depression, Carol was hospitalized a total of four times and she received over fifty ECT treatments. Though each of Carol’s ECT sessions began while she was hospitalized, she finished them as an outpatient in a short hospital procedure; each time she went home the same day of the treatment.
In the big picture of Carol’s life, and what made all the difference for her, was that she recognized that her mental illness was going to be a life-long condition. Just as someone with diabetes or heart disease would take control by being proactive in their care, Carol took control of her mental illness. She told doctors, “give me a diagnosis, NOT a prognosis.” She refused to let them or the diagnosis define her. Instead, she decided to define it by honestly acknowledging, “I’m 5’8”, dye my hair and have clinical depression…it’s part of who I am.”
During Emotional Wellness Month, I invited Carol to The Friday Happy Hour to share her story of hope, recovery and victory. Listen to her October 18 interview at Friday Happy Hour with Annmarie Kelly.
© 2013 Annmarie Kelly. All rights reserved.
Annmarie Kelly knows how to help women in mid-life have the “power surge” that enables them to achieve success through victory! An author, speaker and radio talk show host, Annmarie helps women reinvent themselves in mid-life and successfully ramp up or start over after a life transition. Annmarie is the founder of The Victorious Woman Project, creator of The Friday Happy Hour with Annmarie Kelly and author of Victorious Woman! Shaping Life’s Challenges into Personal Victories, Victory by Design and coming in 2013, The Five Year Marriage. You can listen to Annmarie and her fabulous guests live and local every Friday at WCHE1520am or live online at www.WCHE1520.com. Sign up for her free newsletter, email tips and upcoming events at www.victoriouswoman.com.
Need a powerful speaker for your next conference or retreat, email/call Annmarie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610.738.8225