Real Hope for Others Who Suffer From Treatment-Resistant Depression and Suicide Ideation
From Dr. Scott West:
Recently, my team at Nashville TMS has strongly encouraged me to share actual patient insights on this Psych Central blog. I agree that many people will increasingly understand TMS much better if they have the opportunity to read about how this disease (treatment-resistant major depression) affects people, and how TMS treatment actually works for them. And wouldn’t it be great if you could read it in their own words?
In this post, I offer the story of my patient, Ms. Corinne Smith, who wrote about her own experience (aided by a co-writer). She is excited to share her experiences. Corinne believes that if even just one person is helped by reading it, she will make a difference in their life, and in the world. I support her in this belief.
Image Courtesy of Neuronetics, Inc. 2012
My hope is that you will share Corinne’s story with others – as you see fit. Here it is:
For Years I Wondered if I’d Live to Tell This Story
By Corinne S. Smith, with co-writer Lisa Chapman
My name is Corinne Smith and I live in a small town on the outskirts of Knoxville Tennessee. I now have a new life after struggling with the depths and severe functional limitations of Bipolar Depression – throughout 27 years of sobriety and recovery from Alcoholism. Looking back, I never realized how much I had to steel myself to endure one psychiatric treatment after another – one day at a time – with all the side effects and roller coaster emotions of hopes raised and dashed, raised and dashed…
The Real Me
I actually have a naturally optimistic, enthusiastic and fun personality! But the ‘real me’ was mostly subdued by the changing combinations of depression, meds, and all kinds of complicating side effects and issues. At various times, these included great physical pain, psychic pain, Agoraphobia, Kidney Disease, and Heart Disease – even a brush with death due to medication reactions. I have been hospitalized 7 times for the severity and complications of my depression. I tried to cope with it all by sleeping 16 to 20 hours a day. None of this was optimistic, enthusiastic, or fun – for me or for my dear friends and family.
I was in such despair that I contemplated suicide every single day for the past two years. It was a very dark place.
During my long ordeal, I clung to one reason to stay alive – my encouraging partner of 21 years – who wouldn’t allow me to act on my suicidal ideation.
By Chance I Discovered TMS -Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
One day, with no energy to do anything but flip channels, I landed on a segment about TMS on the Dr. Oz Show. I wondered, ‘Could this new treatment possibly help me? Could I find someone, somewhere in Tennessee, who would consider ME for TMS treatment?’
These are the videos of the actual Dr. Oz Show segments that inspired me to try yet another type of treatment:
Video Part 1: “Dr. Oz investigates Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a groundbreaking therapy for depression that’s both noninvasive and FDA-approved. Could this work for you?”
Video Part 2: “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: A Cure for Depression?”
Image Courtesy of Harpo, Inc. 2015
These Dr. Oz Show videos demonstrate a TMS treatment, interview a TMS-practicing physician, and offer feedback from patients who have greatly benefitted from TMS therapy. I almost couldn’t believe what I was watching! I knew I had to try it. I thought, “This had better work, because it’s my last chance. I just can’t go on like this anymore.” So I got online and searched for a physician I could trust.
Finding a TMS Treatment Clinic
Reading website after website, one TMS physician in Tennessee seemed to be a match for me. So I asked my partner to take me to Nashville. We had an appointment for an interview with Psychiatrist Dr. Scott West, Founder and Medical Director of Nashville TMS. I was pleased to learn that Dr. West had closely followed the development of TMS technology since 1995 – 20 years! And he was the first to bring TMS to Tennessee in 2010 (after its FDA clearance in 2008.) This piece of information helped me to understand his commitment – and touched on my desire for trust.
What to Expect with TMS Treatment
During my fact-finding appointment, Dr. West clarified that Bipolar Depression is an off label use of TMS as the FDA indication is Major Depressive Disorder, but there is research and clinical experience that demonstrates TMS can be helpful with Bipolar Depression. He explained that treatment sessions are conducted in his TMS suite where patients recline comfortably and relax in the treatment chair, which somewhat resembles a dentist’s chair.
He showed us the small curved device that contains the magnetic coil and rests lightly on the patient’s head, delivering focused magnetic stimulation directly to the area of the brain believed to be involved with regulating mood. Patients hear a clicking sound and feel a tapping sensation on their head. The treatment is completely non-invasive. There are no roller coaster side effects, as with antidepressant medications.
Just like the Dr. Oz video, patients are awake and alert throughout the treatment and can speak with the clinical operator whenever they wish. After treatment, patients can immediately return to their everyday activities. Patients being treated with TMS therapy can drive themselves to and from their treatment sessions because there is no effect on their alertness or understanding.
Being the conservative practitioner that he is, Dr. West was very clear to explain that there is no guaranty – that although they’re in the minority, a small percentage of patients treated with TMS just don’t shed their depression symptoms or suicide ideation. It simply doesn’t work 100% of the time.
Image Courtesy of Neuronetics, Inc. 2012
He showed me this one minute video to demonstrate the first TMS treatment. In this four minute video, I heard what other Nashville TMS patients say about their treatment and outcomes. These videos feature actual patients, treated by the clinical team at Nashville TMS.
During that first appointment, we also met the clinical team at Nashville TMS. They are proud that the treatment and their care for their patients really does make a difference, and change lives. Their patients always come first. After meeting them, I knew I wanted TMS treatment by this team.
Starting TMS Treatment
After my first TMS treatment, I immediately started to feel ‘different’. Dr. West told me that such a quick response isn’t actually the norm. He said that most patients feel better after a couple of weeks, and are usually much improved by the end of the 4-6 week course of treatment.
Whereas I used to feel ‘free-floating anxiety’, I now get to experience ‘free-floating JOY’! And although I still feel anxiety at times, it’s not the ‘overwhelming anxiety’ that made me non-functional day after day after week.
The Results – My Life
Now, each new day is interesting – even an adventure! No more thoughts of suicide, that’s for sure. I just want to get the word out and help lift up others who are in pain and contemplate suicide every day, just like I did. They have a chance at something so much better. They don’t have to feel such darkness.
I must admit that it’s taking some time to wrap my head around the enormity of this change in the quality of my life – I was so impaired for so long. Now I have to re-introduce myself to ‘My Life’. I’m having fun with all my choices – what I can do – and deciding what I WANT to do! Thank you for reading my story.
Note from Dr. West: In order to clarify her wishes to share this story, and to abide by the physicians’ Medical Codes of Ethics, Corinne has signed a full authorization to publish this. Please join me in my appreciation of Corinne and her courage.