The Help I Found for Treatment-Resistant Depression: TMS
I want to share my personal experience about struggling with “treatment-resistant” depression on-and-off for the last 14 years, and to tell you about the treatment that took me from my most recent episode, which was well into its thirteenth month, to 100% remission, gradually, over a six-week period. Since completing my series of 32 TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) therapy treatments, one every week day, for a bit over 6 weeks, I have been totally depression-free. I’m not saying this will be the answer for you, if you have severe, “treatment-resistant depression,” as I did, I’m merely relating my story.
What really scared me was the fact that, over the last few years, the episodes of 100% disabling illness were growing longer and coming closer together. It appeared to me that I was looking at spending, maybe, the rest of my life in a state of major depression. That was unacceptable to me, so despite my being told that “everything that can be done has been done, and I’d just have to live with it,” I kept looking and asking different doctors until I found something that appeared to offer hope—at that point, I had nothing left to lose and was willing to try anything that might even have a chance of working.
My current psychiatrist suggested TMS therapy treatments, but he cautioned me that I’d probably have to travel a good distance to get them and have a prolonged battle with my insurance company to get coverage. Both turned-out to be true, but after a series of denials and appeals, letters of medical necessity from two different psychiatrists, and an arm-twisting phone call by one of them directly to my insurance company, they approved coverage at 80% (the maximum my policy allowed). This made it possible for me to proceed. (At the time, there were only about 14 centers in the U.S. offering TMS. I have read that, since then, that number has mushroomed to 145.)
I’ve had 3 ECT or “shock treatments, been prescribed a virtual pharmacy of antidepressants and even, in desperation, some “off-label” prescriptions for antipsychotics! None of these things worked, although I tried for years.
TMS was approved by the FDA in 2008 for the treatment of depression, the first non-surgical, non-drug treatment for depression that the FDA has approved since “shock” treatments were approved in the 30s.
The sole manufacturer of the TMS machine in the U.S. quoted these statistics to me: that 1 out of 3 patients experience COMPLETE REMISSION, and that 1 out of 2 experience SIGNIFICANT RELIEF. Maybe I was just one of the lucky ones who got completely better, but that’s what happened to me.
The basic principle behind it is this discovery: just as they have identified which physical parts of the brain control finger movement, the sense of hearing, smell, speech, and so on, they have now identified the little part of the brain that seems to control mood and depression. It's only a 2.5 inch formation called the left prefrontal cortex, on the left side of your brain near the front. They shoot electromagnetic pulses through your skull to that target area only, and they've found that it stimulates that part to work again. When that happens, the depression goes away—it sure did for me, anyway, when NOTHING else worked. By the way, I had no memory-loss or other side effects. Unlike ECT, which shocks the whole brain, causes a seizure, unconsciousness, and, in all to many cases, memory loss, during TMS treatments you are fully awake, can talk or even sleep, they don’t hurt, and they have no side-effects, that I experienced, at least.
ANSWER: Thanks for sharing Louis. I have to say I didn't have to go this route and so I haven't done research on this. So, I read up on it from the Mayo Clinic and our readers can learn more here along with the risks...
Thanks for the personal story. We will keep our ears and eyes open on this method before we officially recommend it. :) We certainly hope your health continues down the right path!