Shock Therapy

| July 15, 2002 Issue

Shock Therapy, Susan Mahler, Threepenny Review
No one ever guaranteed that psychiatrists were immune to psychological troubles themselves. After testing a veritable pharmaceutical stockpile of antidepressants with little to no success, psychiatrist Susan Mahler's own psychiatrist finally recommended ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) as a possible solution to her depression. Reluctantly, Mahler agreed. In Threepenny Review, she recounts her struggle against depression and her willingness to subject her brain to "several hundred volts of electrical current." Following each session of electric jolts to "re-set" her brain, she struggles with concepts of memory and the brain's constructions of self, taking stock to make sure none have been erased. When she awakes from her first treatment, she is surprised and overwhelmed by her khaki pants, but for the first time takes notice of the flowering blossoms near her home. What she had at first considered to be nothing more than a "barbaric therapy, a rather embarrassing relic from the sadistic archives of my chosen profession," turns out to bring her (at least temporarily) closer to a healthier self.
--Rebecca Wienbar
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