If I Had A Hammer: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
It was the last thing I would have expected; yet it came to me in a wave. Like its metaphoric oceanic counterpart it dragged me under momentarily, as I calmly embraced it. All the while I felt this intermittent jackhammering at my skull. Two or three seconds of jaw-clenching, brain-shakingly-intense hammering, and then 20 seconds of calm. This repeated cycle lasted for some twenty minutes. And somewhere in that stretch of time — it washed over me — this undeniable wave of sadness.
What exactly brought on this cascade of dark emotion in this comfortable, modern day, well lit, air-conditioned, chamber of healing torture? My brain. Its chemistry. Its inability to be assisted by other modalities of healing. As I was pulled under — by that wave of darkness — I also realized the absurdity of my situation. No longer would exercise be enough. No longer would Wellbutrin, or other drugs be enough. Not even microdosing LSD! (Yeah. I went there!) I had tried all I could try up to this point, and this was the next thing on the list — deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS). Like using differential diagnosis, sometimes one has to go through a list of healing modalities until you find one that works. So there I sat; strapped in and ready for whatever electronic torture this machine might throw at me.
Monday trough Friday, for the next 4 weeks, I will go to the Clinical Research Department at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, NJ for 20 minute dTMS treatments. Monday, September 18th was my first treatment & “brain mapping”. Before “The Healing” could begin, I was handed a pair of foam ear plugs to attenuate the noise the magnet(s) would generate. Then Dr Muhammad Abbas could do the initial skull measuring, marking, skull cap placement, and subsequent brain mapping to find the exact placement, and magnetic intensity to achieve optimal results.
Sitting in a comfortably padded, reclining chair, feet and legs slightly kicked out, relaxed, pillow on my lap, hands spread apart, palms slightly rotated and facing upward, Dr Abbas, started the process of increasing the magnetic energy to a point where — almost imperceptibly — the fingers on my right hand would vibrate. This was the “sweet spot”. A few more adjustments, a few more zaps, and he was done with the mapping. Went rather quickly, I thought. Then Dr Abass asked, “… would you like to continue and have your first full treatment now?” I was there, strapped in, and ready to rock! How could I refuse? I really needed to get on down, to Funky Town — ASAP! “Keep me groovin’ with some energy!” Sure! Let the healing begin!
It’s already Wednesday. I’ve now had three treatments. It’s still a new and VERY odd ritual I have undertaken. I wake up around 8 AM, feed the kitties, I don’t eat anything (I felt nauseous after the first treatment — though that may have just been first day jitters), I shower, take care of business, and get ready to be at the hospital by 9:30 AM; where the doctor’s assistant, Anissa, is waiting with a big smile and warm greeting. She asks if there were any side effects from the last treatment, and we get right down to business.
It’s almost feeling normal; as normal as repetitive and agreed to bouts of controlled bodily assault and head trauma can be. I’m still working on an explanation or a paradigm I can mentally and spiritually “live with”. Every cycle of having my head and brain magnetically hammered, leaves an indelible mark — both figuratively and literally. Just look at the photo to the left. Each day I’m left with the mark of the magnetic beast. I have to tell myself: “Yes, Joe, there is a reason”. There in lies the conundrum: how much can one endure for only a possible cure? You’d be surprised! At least I am!
I’m still not sure if it will work. How could I be? It’s a crapshoot. Though statistically the odds are in my favor. But I MUST finish the full round — at least four weeks — to see if there will be any benefit for me. So I will continue — like it or not. Ready or not. Oh … and tomorrow they up the voltage/energy! Yikes!
All I can do is talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it & keep me groovin’ with some (magnetic) energy!