My Journey with Depression + TMS - Week 1
After learning about TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) from the incredibly hysterical, talented and intelligent writer and comedian, Neal Brennan during his stand-up show called, ‘3 Mics’ on Netflix, I decided it was something I wanted to try for depression. No side-effects, non-invasive and perfect for someone that can’t take pharmaceuticals.
After Googling and then visiting with the TMS Dr., she thought I would be a good candidate. We had to go over all of the RX I've ever been prescribed for depression. Apparently in order to get TMS approved by insurance - you have to prove that you've unsuccessfully tried medication. If you haven't failed enough times with depression RX - you'll have some prescribed and then reevaluated. Call me crazy but isn't it nuts that people who are looking for a natural alternative to meds have to take meds to get treated naturally? I haven't had anti-depressant meds in 12 years so insurance wanted me to try one. Oh yeah sure. Call it in. Not happening. Medicine, for the most part makes me feel terrible and I get every side-effect plus some. I had to follow up my initial appointment with a Psychiatric appointment, which I just had on Monday. She too, thinks I'll be a good candidate for the TMS, but we had to make sure insurance agreed. Turns out they did because I was just approved! They're paying for 100% of my treatment, minus my $20 per visit copay. My first appointment is in a week!
Day 1 of Treatment:
I had my first TMS Session today. I was a little nervous, just because...you know...even though my brain is a pain in the ass, I really like Brian and I don’t want him to change...other than the whole sadness thing. Anyway, they started the session off by testing my ‘threshold’ which means they put the magnetic coil on the left area of my brain and sent magnetic pulses, increasing the strength until my right thumb started twitching. Then, they took it up a few more notches. That’s the threshold and my starting point. Each appointment going forward will increase in intensity the magnetic pulses going into my brain. It didn’t hurt - It felt like a woodpecker going at my head, but I actually felt relaxed by it! I was even a little disappointed when it was over, but I have to have at least 36 appointments - every Monday through Friday for the next 7-8 weeks so I’ll be getting my fill. They said I might get a headache or have a tender head but I didn’t get either - I did however, get incredibly tired about an hour after my appointment and was tired all night, which they said could happen, especially the first four or five days. So far, so good!
Day 2 of Treatment:
I’m not going to lie, Day 2 was not as ‘relaxing’ as Day 1 - the intensity was definitely there as we tried a different machine. They have 4 types of TMS machines that do the same thing so they encourage you to find the one you vibe with. Well, I did not vibe with today’s machine. While getting it set up in the correct place on my brain, it hit a nerve that went through my left eye socket, nose, ear and jaw. It happened about 6 times before we found the sweet spot but before that it felt like a pack of wild woodpeckers were having at my face every 5 seconds. When we did find the sweet spot, it was not as painful - definitely intense but I relaxed through it and they were able to turn up the juice after 10 minutes. I’m still not at the intensity level I need to be but they said we’ll work up to it by hopefully tomorrow. I do have a dull ache today where the magnet was pulsing my brain (Brian) and when I came home from the session I was so EXHAUSTED I took a 2 hour nap which is not something I ever do. They said the tiredness should go away in the next couple of days. Apparently Brian is getting a major workout up there. All I know is he’d better have some serious abs after all of this.
Day 3 of Treatment:
Brains are crazy - today they showed me (the pic above) how suppressed a depressed brain is. No wonder we don’t feel like doing sh*t!
Today was a better day. I went back to the OG TMS machine I initially vibed with and had no issues with my face getting pecked. Today was the day I needed to reach my target for the intensity level, which I’ll keep for the duration of the treatment. I was still 8 numbers away when she started me out this morning so as soon as I settled in and got used to the sensation, I had her keep turning it up until we got to the target number. It’s not comfortable but the magnet pulses for 4 seconds and then it’s off for 12 seconds so you have time to rest in between. My jaw was twitching for the last 10 minutes of the treatment but it wasn’t uncomfortable - I was just trying not to laugh. Because it hurts to laugh! When the pulses are going in, it’s hard to think or talk so I wanted to test to see if my brain (Brian) actually worked during the pulses or if he just hit the pause button. I decided to count during the pulse phase. Brian was all about it - 1,2,3,4 just fine. P.S. - I wasn’t tired after the treatment today and dare I say I even felt a little “chipper”!
Day 4 of Treatment:
Today was a good day - I feel hopeful. We started the pulses right at my target number, which is a little jarring when it first gets going but then I just settled in and zoned out. I had some great energy today and I was feeling good - they say it takes about 4 weeks to feel results so maybe PMS is just over but I feel better than I have in a while. They said your mood can shift as you’re going through treatment but, still I can tell I’m starting to feel like myself again.
Day 5 of Treatment:
Today was another great day. The treatment was easy-peasy and I met with the meditation specialist - I’ll start working with him once a week starting next week. Apparently as your neurons are getting excited, meditation and mindfulness can give the neurons a boost to do their job creating new pathways for the neurotransmitters, so they highly recommend a meditation practice. Though I already practice meditation, I’m excited to learn some new things. We’ll meditate together for 45 minutes a week and then he’s going to give me homework every night so I’m structured and disciplined in helping these TMS treatments be as successful as possible.
Now, I give my brain a break for two days over the weekend and back at it on Monday!