Martha Rhodes; a TMS Success Story | Part I

TMS Therapy Blog is pleased to introduce a featured guest this week. We were recently able to conduct an e-interview with author and TMS patient Mrs. Martha Rhodes.

After battling major depressive disorder and trying countless ineffective treatments for many years, it seemed nothing could alleviate the depression Mrs. Rhodes felt on a daily basis. Finally, a relative told Rhodes about TMS therapy. Rhodes wasted no time and turned to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy in May of 2010. She has never looked back.

Rhodes, who hails TMS as her saving grace, currently resides in Danbury, CT with her husband and was kind enough to share her powerful story of struggle, survival and poignant moments.

Describe your life prior to TMS therapy:

I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) about twenty years ago and started treating it with Zoloft. The side effects were intolerable, so I took myself off of it but soon realized I couldn’t function without some form of antidepressant help. My GP doctor tried me on Lexapro and then Paxil CR. I took the medication every day over many years while she increased the dosage to the maximum. Although I had some relief, I still felt a persistent undercurrent of sadness. I assumed I was just an ungrateful person since everything else in my life seemed to be perfect—long-term marriage, great children, and successful advertising career. Unbeknownst to me, the drug had stopped working. The reality is I had what I now know is Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD).

Eventually my TRD landed me in an emergency room being saved from a self-inflicted alcohol and Xanax overdose. After my suicide attempt I tried different medications for several months and nothing helped. I actually felt worse than when I started, trying to find the one—or a combination of pills—that would alleviate my sad, dark thoughts. Either the drugs were simply ineffective or the negative side effects outweighed the minimal benefit of the medication. Adding to the depression was my frustration and fear that I’d never find relief. My will to live faded and there didn’t seem to be any point in trying to fight it.

How did you hear about TMS?

I initially heard about TMS from my sister. She knew I had taken myself off of meds because they weren’t working and the side effects were brutal, but in the meantime she (and everyone in my family) worried that I had nothing to fall back on. How I became aware of TMS is actually one of the miracles in my life:

My sister was in a dentist’s waiting room thumbing through a magazine and saw a full page ad for TMS. The copy under the headline read, “Physicians are using the newest technology to treat depression without discomfort or drugs.” She faxed me the ad and within a week I was up at Hartford Hospital Institute of Living for an evaluation with the Director of the TMS Center where she determined I was a good candidate for the treatment. Unfortunately I had to wait six months to get through the insurance external appeal process. Fortunately the insurance coverage for TMS is vastly improved nationwide since I did it three years ago.

When did you start TMS therapy?

I began TMS therapy in May 2010 after six months of going through the appeal process for pre-authorization insurance coverage that I ultimately achieved. Fortunately the insurance companies are now pre-authorizing coverage or reimbursing patients for TMS far more readily than they were three years ago.

It’s a win-win for me and the insurance company because they no longer have to pay for the monthly doctor appointment so I can get the monthly prescription for medication; they no longer have to pay for the expensive medications; and my frequent visits to my therapist have been reduced from weekly to monthly, and now to “as needed”. Furthermore, my positive mental health has prompted me to take better care of my general physical health in terms of preventive care, exercise and overall healthier living practices. Long term, I believe TMS is cheaper for the insurance company than the ongoing medication/therapy route they currently rely on.

Why did you start TMS therapy?

I pursued TMS therapy because, at the time of my crisis, the only alternatives I was aware of were psychotherapy, medications, or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I’d already tried over six different medications that didn’t relieve my symptoms and I wasn’t willing to undergo ECT because of the need for general anesthesia, muscle relaxants and the dramatic side effect of memory loss.

Initially I was cautious about TMS as a new technology, but the positive clinical trial results and the fact that the FDA cleared it in October 2008 assuaged any doubts about its safety. I also felt reassured to know that TMS’s efficacy rate was on par with ECT. And since I felt so hopeless, it was very easy to assume the attitude, “So what do I have to lose anyway?”

What did you experience during TMS therapy sessions? Was it uncomfortable?

I was pleasantly surprised to discover how simple a TMS treatment session was. I sat in a comfortable chair with music or TV available and I relaxed. The magnetic pulsing rapidly tapped for four seconds, then rested for twenty-six seconds, then on for another four seconds—on and off, on and off—in that sequence for thirty-seven minutes for a total of 3,000 pulses per session. At first I had to get used to the intense tapping on the outside of my head. It was similar to when my brother gave me a “noogie” when we were kids. I took a Tylenol about an hour before my treatment, and after about a week I got used to it and the discomfort disappeared. My TMS Coordinator also adjusted the coil a little higher on my head and that made me more comfortable.

But the best part is there were no side effects. No headache, no tummy upset, no feeling of disorientation whatsoever. There was no sedative or anesthesia (as is the case with ECT) so I didn’t feel sleepy afterwards. I drove myself to and from my appointments. An appointment lasted less than an hour–I was usually in and out in 45 minutes. A manicure/pedicure would take just as long, if not longer.

I went for treatments five days a week for six weeks. An important component of my success with TMS was my willingness to trust that it would work. Admittedly, I found myself struggling with the FUD Factor (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) wondering, “How the heck is a four second tapping on the outside of my head going to take all this sadness and misery away?!”

Stay tuned for Part II of our candid interview with Mrs. Martha Rhodes coming out next week as we discuss topics such as identifying the first signs of an improvement in mood with TMS therapy, how exactly did TMS therapy lift her depression (she’ll explain the medicine behind the treatment) and how her life changed since then.

If you would like to know more about TMS therapy or if you have any questions please feel free to contact us for a confidential consultation.

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:

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