Sophia is 54 years old and lives in Maryland. She completed Greenbrook TMS Therapy at our Tyson's Center. We spoke with her to learn more about how she found her way to Greenbrook TMS and what life has been like since completing treatment.
When did depression first start for you?
I’d had it my whole life. It was in the days before children were diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or other conditions but that’s what it was. I’d had some traumatic events happen in my life when I was younger. At school I’d be sitting in the corner in a stupor, not talking with the other children. My parents would have to come pick me up. When my father died when I was a teenager, it really turned into full-blown depression. And over the years I had different life events that made it a lot worse. When I was working, I remember many times driving to work and parking as far away as I could from my coworkers so that I could call my mother on the phone and bawl, asking How am I going to get through this day? How am I going to do this? Nobody would have known about my depression at work, because I was always happy, but I’d come home and crash and burn.
When did you first start taking antidepressants?
The first medication I took was when Prozac came out when I was in college, around 1985. It helped a little bit but I never felt great. I always worked really hard in school because I was constantly stressed out and had a lot of anxiety. I ended up graduating as valedictorian and commencement speaker because I was a big perfectionist and studied so hard. I had such bad anxiety and depression, so it was a really big achievement for me. A lot of the time I put on a happy face because I don’t want to burden people with my problems or tell them about my depression most of the time. Even when I was in inpatient programs, I had other patients ask me why I was there because I don’t “act like a depressed person.” I always keep it very private.
Over the years, I saw different psychiatrists and therapists, and over the years I’ve tried 52 different medications. I felt like I was spending my life at the pharmacy. I’m very medication resistant. I even had a consultation with one of the head people over at the National Institutes of Health who created some of these medications. I’ve tried every avenue, including Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). After a while, you just lose hope.
Not only am I resistant to medications, it also takes me longer than most people to see any benefits from the medication. So for me, they end up working either very little or not at all. I’m always on the far end of effectiveness. I did 11 ECT treatments but ended up stopping it because I felt like I was getting worse, believe it or not. I felt like I was getting more depressed and it messed with my memory for a while. I didn’t feel like I was making positive progression, so I stopped.
How did you first learn about TMS Therapy?
I happened upon TMS Therapy by chance online, just while looking into other depression treatments. The first thing that happened was I found the book 3,000 Pulses Later, a memoir about depression and TMS Therapy. I started learning more about the treatment and did more research. I was desperate to try anything that had a half a chance of working. After you’ve been on so many medications, you really start losing hope. I was really losing hope but I was trying to keep an open mind.
When did TMS Therapy start working for you?
When I started treatment with Greenbrook TMS, knowing myself, I thought it would be two months before I noticed any difference. But I honestly could tell the difference after the first treatment, with my anxiety. I get treated for both anxiety and depression. For years, I would open my eyes in the morning and I would have heart palpitations, frozen in my bed. Throughout the day the anxiety would snowball and the depression would twist in there too. And the next day after my first TMS Therapy treatment, the anxiety was better when I woke up.
Now, I’m not quite as overwhelmed by everyday activities and I’m more able to do activities, like family events. Before, I’d feel too depressed to do them, but I noticed that I’m able to get to them more easily and to be happier. The few people that knew I was doing treatment could tell the difference in my personality. My internist even said I seemed so happy and smiley, that there was a big difference.
How do you handle stressors now?
The other day I was supposed to meet someone for lunch but I was feeling kind of down and I didn’t want to go. But I ended up going, and I noticed that it was a little easier to persevere and push through. And once I went, of course I was fine and I had fun. But I’ve just becoming more self-aware of things like that, that I’m able to push myself a little bit harder to get through to the other side. Being more self-aware of bad habits where a routine problem would get me overwhelmed, I’d feel like I’m so dumb that I can’t get through this silly problem. Now I’m more self-aware and can tell myself that I can get through it, that it happens to everyone and not just me. I’m becoming more aware of my not-great habits and trying to turn them around. That was a big problem I would have, where I’d ask myself, Why me? Why does this happen to me? And now I’m trying to get out of that.
What would you say to someone considering TMS?
I believe in TMS Therapy so much. If anyone could be a testimonial for TMS, I feel like I could.
I’ve had depression and anxiety, I’ve been on medication and ECT, I’ve met with the top people at NIH, I’ve been inpatient, I’ve done group therapy, private therapy. I’ve done everything and nothing really helped. And Greenbrook TMS helped. If that can work for me, I think it can work for other people because I’ve tried it all.
You can drive yourself to your treatments and it’s not like when you get ECT and someone needs to drive you there. You can go during lunch or after work and it doesn’t interfere the way an outpatient procedure does. There’s no real side effects, maybe you might get a headache. Nothing bad can come from it. Only good.
If Covid-19 and social isolation are heightening your symptoms of depression, Greenbrook TMS therapy may be able to help. At Greenbrook, we specialize in TMS therapy — an FDA-cleared, non-invasive treatment for treatment-resistant depression and OCD without harmful side effects. See if TMS therapy is right for you by clicking here to take a brief assessment: