When I was in the first grade my little brother, a toddler, died on the way to the hospital. He had been ill his entire little life. https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/27/little-blue-bird/
That loss brought about many changes in our family. The most profound change was in my father. Fortunately, perhaps, I do not remember details about the absences, but my father was often missing from our family after Phillip died. I learned many years later that he was hospitalized for a mental illness. In those days depression was called “involutional melancholia” and if the condition was severe the patient spent time in a mental hospital.
In researching my father’s condition and medical records (this was before HIPAA) and eventually meeting with his psychiatrist many years later I learned that he underwent two types of shock treatments. In the late forties and early fifties, he was repeatedly given massive doses of insulin which caused a coma. The coma was then treated with glucose to save the patient from death. When insulin coma/shock therapy fell into disfavor as dangerous electroshock (electroconvulsive) therapy became the treatment of choice for depression and some other mental illnesses. EST (also called ECT) is initiated by applying an electrical current to the anesthetized patient causing a grand mal seizure (convulsion). The intended result of these repeated treatments was the improvement of depression.
Both of these methods of treatment seem cruel and bizarre and although insulin shock was discontinued many decades ago, EST remains an accepted, although infrequent, mode of treatment for depression. The side effects include loss of memory, learning problems, muscle aches, and upset stomach. In my father’s case, I believe a loss of his personality (or at least a significant change) was also an effect of the numerous treatments he underwent.
He was a good man. He was intelligent and managed to work again, but was never quite the same person. He had to fight hard to participate in life, but he did so for many years. He died of a heart attack at age sixty-nine.
Major depression, also known as unipolar or major depressive disorder, is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness or a lack of interest in outside stimuli. It is generally treated today by medications and talk therapy.
Graphic by Pixabay