I am reposting content from the beginning of The Cheeky Genova because I think some of us just need this right now. I know I certainly appreciate the reminder: it does get better, even when it feels impossible.
I believe in miracles and I believe miracles have the profound capacity to touch people universally. I want to share real-life inspiring stories: scientific and faith-based, as big as life-changing events/people, and as small or practical as getting a job/positive reinforcement. Miracles come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who your story might be helping. And in these days, we all need some positivity and hope. As Princess Diaries taught us, “Miracles happen once in awhile when you believe.”
Today, My Miracle: TMS
It is a holiday here in the U.S. so I won’t take up too much of everyone’s time, but I felt it only fitting to kick-off my “Miracle Monday” series with the medical miracle that saved my life, Transcranial Magnetic Stiumlation (TMS).
As defined by the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, TMS is “a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective…This treatment for depression involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses, so it’s called repetitive TMS or rTMS.
During an rTMS session, an electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control and depression. It’s thought to activate regions of the brain that have decreased activity in depression.”
TMS is used to help patients with mental health disabilities including bipolar disorder (yours truly), and continues to be explored to manage and treat a range of other diseases.
To learn more about TMS, click here.
My TMS Journey
I was introduced to TMS in March of 2016 when my depression had become treatment-resistant by medication. I had been in a depressive state for some time by then (let’s say a year and a half) and we needed to start looking into the ‘scary’ options on the table: Ketamine, Electroshock therapy (ECT), and TMS.
We landed on TMS as it seemed to be more effective than ketamine with longer-lasting results, but significantly less invasive than ECT.
Honestly, I started my TMS treatments – which I received at a specialized clinic in southern NJ – kicking and screaming. TMS was not covered by my insurance and was/is very costly. At the time, I didn’t think my life was worth the cost of the treatments. I was so negative and coming from an incredibly dark, numb place. I looked at TMS as another opportunity to be disappointed. What if this didn’t work? The unfortunate reality is that TMS does not always work. What next? Do I fade away until all that remains is just a shell of who I used to be?
I guess I hadn’t realized I was already the shell.
I had nothing to lose.
How TMS Worked
After meeting with my brilliant doctor, Dr. Baruch, I quickly learned TMS was my path forward. I didn’t want to get better at that point, but I knew I had to. TMS was my shot. If I wanted to live, take it.
5 times a week for 6 consecutive weeks I went to Baruch’s office, sat in his chair, and received treatment. I was in school full-time, working in a restaurant almost full-time, training for a marathon…it was A LOT, but it would change everything.
Despite the Mayo Clinic description, TMS has different effects on everyone. As I understand, those who are larger in stature OR have been on medications for an extended period of time tend to experience the most pain during treatments. Having been on medications for years, I remember TMS hurting A LOT the first few treatments. For 40+ minutes I sat in that chair and it felt as though a woodpecker was tapping on my skull, but like, with a hammer and an ice pick. And, again, I didn’t know if it would work. I was so afraid, will I ever be “me” again? Will I ever achieve what I want to in this life? Those lofty goals I had set for myself one year prior (see my bio and landing page for more info on why 2015 was the year that changed everything), would they ever come to fruition?
The Miracle At Treatment 9
When we experience a profound change, good or bad, we don’t always accept it right off the bat. We’re skeptical. It’s like we can’t give in to the actuality that something miraculous and amazing may be happening to US. To other people, sure. But to US? In this case, if I started feeling “different,” or dare I say “better,” “happier,” “lighter,” as a result of the TMS treatments, was it real? Or did I just want it to be real, and when I left treatment would it all go away, leaving me back in the depression?
So after about two weeks I said to my mom and dad, do you guys think this is working? And through misty eyes and exalting voices it was a resounding YES!
It was treatment 9. Astounding even to my doctors as the effect of treatment can take 3-4 weeks if at all, I started showing signs early that TMS was working. Apparently no one, not my parents, not my friends, not my doctors REALLY wanted to say anything to each other yet, because we were unsure as to what was going on. Again, did we see “results” because we all wanted this to work, or was this the real deal?
As it turns out, it was the real deal, I was getting better. Every treatment I recovered just a little. I remember my best friend who was living in D.C. at the time had noticed a difference in how I was texting and the tone of my voice. I seemed, “different.” And with depression, sometimes that’s all it is. You just feel “different” one day, and realize, you’re a bit better than you were the day before.
TMS changed my life. As my depression lifted, I became alive again. I applied for internships, took on school, and got brave enough to move to D.C., alone. Did TMS cure me? I don’t know. I still suffer from bipolar swings, but nothing compared to my pre-TMS state. It certainly brought me back to life. I was no longer the shell person or numb. I had a whole host of emotions and feelings that made me feel like a much more WHOLE human.
I cared about life again.
And I learned an important lesson from TMS, which is that you’ve gotta save yourself. Never lose hope, and if you do, fight like hell. Do what you gotta do to survive. Tooth and nail. Although I went kicking and screaming to Baruch’s office, I fought, really.freaking.hard to climb out of that rabbit hole.
Any turn along the way and I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have my parents and my friends. I wouldn’t have met my husband and his wonderful family. I wouldn’t have gotten a career and found my passion. I wouldn’t have my little house in Bethesda with my crazy pup. I do owe so much of this life to my medical miracle, TMS.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health illness please reach out and get help from an accredited organization like NAMI.
To learn more about my experience with TMS, please feel free to reach out!
Share your miracle!
If you would be willing, consider sharing your “miracle.” It doesn’t have to be perfectly written or long. Again, it doesn’t have to be a “big” thing. The smallest gestures sometimes have the largest impact. If you’ve experienced a miracle in your life I would love to feature your story one “Miracle Monday.” I can bill you by name or keep it anonymous. But I am very positive that someone will be moved by your message. If you’ve got questions, concerns, reservations, do reach out through the contact page.