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Is ECT Right for Me (or my Loved One)?

  • April 05, 2018

Should I (or my wife/husband/son/daughter/friend) have ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)? This question comes my way at least once a week, so I’ve decided to collect my thoughts in a single document.  The answer is: it depends. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist nor am I someone who gets kickbacks for speaking about ECT. I speak from experience. I’ve had 4 ECT treatment series over the past 17 years, 28 treatments in total. ECT saved my life (in 2001) and deterred the onset of life-threatening depression in 2007 and 2016. ECT generally is administered in an intensive treatment period of three sessions a week, usually beginning with right unilateral electrode configuration (one electrode on the right side of the head and one near the top of the head). After the intensive period, treatments are spaced out, some continuing with maintenance ECT to maintain health. Typically, a course of ECT consists of about 8-12 treatment sessions, though sometimes more. At each session, the patient is put under anesthesia and a small pulse of electricity is passed through the brain. It takes less than a few minutes, and a brief time is needed to recover from the anesthesia. The big...

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Depression Management from the School of Hard Knocks

  • June 05, 2017

This is the talk I gave for my Notre Dame 2017 35th reunion on June 3, recounting my first depressive episode at the University of Notre Dame. The visuals are reversed - what I refer to as being on the left is on the right and vice versa. Wonderful to reconnect with my ND Classmates and see all the powerful things they are doing. Go Irish '82! I am VERY proud of both my children who have just graduated (Daniel) and are attending (Rachel) Northwestern. The "cringe" part was just a point of humor for my Notre Dame classmates, many of whom have children who have graduated from Notre Dame.

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Beating Back the January Blues

  • February 27, 2016

I suffered a major depressive episode this January, my first depressive break in eight years.  Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t written for Psychology Today in over 90 days. My pen stopped because I knew I should write about my relapse, but I was afraid of the impact my openness might have on my other work (Board Chair of the Dallas Theater Center). My silence wasn’t a conscious decision, but a slow opting out, an unwillingness to let my mental health world collide with my theater world. For those of you who are Seinfeld fans, I adhered to the George Costanza dictum of separate worlds. Why? Two reasons: I wanted one place in my life where people did not talk to me about depression and suicide. Sometimes the cumulative weight of these stories requires a safe place to refuel my spirit. For me, that place is the Dallas Theater Center. Despite all the lectures I have given about the need for openness about mental illness, I was afraid. I feared my openness might hurt this institution I love so much. Keeping my worlds separate works well when I’m healthy, but this...

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Memory and ECT

  • February 24, 2012

This recent Psychology Today blog titled Memory and ECT was inspired by an event we held at the Dallas Children's Theater. After mimosas (we were bumped from the prior week on Dr. Oz due to the orange juice fungicide situation, found some humor in that), we entered the theater and watched the segment on Oz. Then I moderated a panel with my good friends from UT Southwestern. I had asked Dr. Husain if he would come to back me up in case there were questions I could not answer and he said - "All three of us are coming!" (the lead physicians for ECT at UT Southwestern). I knew with all that brain power in one spot, we couldn't waste it. I asked if everyone would particpate in the panel and all agreed. Dr. Raza, Dr. McClintock, Dr. Husain, and me (Julie Hersh) The result was one of the most thoughtfu, informative discussions about ECT that I've ever experienced. The audience had tough questions which these men answered with patience and respect. We had some fun too. I gave away theater tickets to a few Dallas Children's Theater shows as well as to "GIANT" the production...

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Testimonial

"Great insight into the mind and life of someone struggling with this devastating illness. Enjoyable, informative and touching, Struck by Living may assist those suffering with major depressive disorders to recognize and get help for their symptoms earlier."

Harold C. Urschel
Harold C. Urschel III MD MMA, Author of New York Times Bestseller, Healing the Addicted Brain, Chief Medical Strategist, www.enterhealth.com
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About Struck By Living

In Struck by Living, Julie Hersh picks apart the irony of her life with humor and brutal honesty. Despite a loving husband, healthy children, financial security, Julie attempted suicide three times. With the help of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), Julie broke the deadly course of her disorder. Now well, Julie promotes the importance of mental health with collaborations with other artists and organizations.

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