Over the course of seven weeks, I went through TMS treatments for anxiety, depression, and OCD. What is it? Google says it best: “Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective.”
Essentially, I’ve been medicated to death and still have no real relief from mental illness. My doctor recommended I give this a shot and of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, this has got to be in the top three best ones, right up there with marrying my husband.
I was approved by the insurance for 36 sessions. The first session was an intro session and lasted five minutes on each of the three sides of my brain. Each session after that lasted around 50 minutes total. 18 minutes on the left, 15 minutes on the right, and 15 minutes on the front.
As you can see and hear in the video, a machine is put up against my head and taps (what’s been explained to me as) magnetic pulses into my brain. I won’t lie and tell you it was like going to the spa because it was more like having a small baby woodpecker take a jackhammer to my head every day for 50 minutes. I named him Charlie.
Charlie and I became friends eventually as I got used to the increasing pulses and the daily visits. My techs were amazing and welcomed me every day by asking about my day, plans for the weekend, and checking in on how I was feeling. They always made sure that Charlie was not banging on my head too hard each time they had to increase the pulsing. Only once did they have to step it down half a notch because it stung too much for me to handle. For the most part, it was tolerable pain. I rarely walked out with a migraine or a headache after my treatments.
I walked into this a skeptic. I wasn’t sure how some machine could essentially reprogram my brain waves to not experience depression, anxiety, and/or OCD. I’ve lived with these three for so long, I felt at a loss that I’d ever be without them. Five days. That’s all it took for me to become a believer. Five days.
It might have even been three days but on the fifth day, I was sure it wasn’t a fluke. I was actually feeling better. These daily sessions were making me feel less anxious and I wasn’t slipping into fits of depression as often, if at all. I was stunned.
Some days it felt like the session would never end. Other days I couldn’t believe how fast it went.
What made it easier to do was the office was about 15 minutes from my house and 20 minutes from work. Since I had to go every day, Monday through Friday, the short commute made the commitment easier to handle. They offered for me to come in on Saturdays, but I knew that was asking too much of my body.
During the sessions, I was allowed to listen to music or audiobooks with wired headphones (nothing wireless) or watch meditative sessions on Netflix. I could also read a book (that would have been awkward though). I listened to over 27 hours of audiobooks by the time I was done.
Today, after completing all my sessions I’m almost afraid to say that I think I might be in remission from mental illness. I still get sad days and I still get anxious and have thoughts that won’t leave me alone but I’m stronger and can handle them more like what I imagine normal people can.
Normal. That’s a word I never thought I would use in the same sentence as myself. Is this lack of sadness and anxiety over life in general what normal people feel? Genuine anger or sadness over life events without the depression and anxiety hanging over it like a tent?
Now, instead of dealing with depression and anxiety, I’m having to learn to deal with real human emotions that the mental illness was covering up and making me feel worse than I would have otherwise. I’m answering my phone. Helping people at work. Drinking less caffeine and falling asleep less at work. I’m more confident when dealing with people and more assertive in my resolve. I don’t walk around the house not knowing what to do with myself and instead I’m completing projects! I’m reading books. So much that I never did because mental illness claimed all my energy and took the desire to do these things away from me. I knew I was missing out on a lot but I had no idea it was this much or feel this good to be able to do.
My husband, friends, family, and coworkers have all said they see a difference in me. I’ve been told I look better (to which I always replied “It’s not a facial.” That would get some laughs). And I feel better. No. I don’t feel better. I feel like a new person. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but I genuinely feel like someone took the old me and tossed them out the window and replaced me with someone new. I’m learning a lot about this new me and I think they’re pretty cool.
I’ve been told that the effects from TMS don’t last forever with everyone. That’s fine. I’ll take what I can get. If I get a few months of lack of depression or anxiety over every move I make, I’ll take it as a win. I plan on using this time to live the fullest of my life now that I finally feel like I can live it.