It’s Been a Decade: A Poem on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Note from the author: ECT stands for Electroconvulsive Therapy; a form of medicalized intervention where a person is subjected to external electric stimulation on their adjacent temples/front-back of their brain. The electric waves (70 to 120 volts) pass directly through their brain, typically for 100 milliseconds to 8 seconds. Specifically, in severe cases of psychiatric illnesses, it is considered as a brief, cost-effective and a ‘quick-fix’ medical intervention; with and without anaesthesia. In India, Section 94 and 95 of the Mental Health Care Act (2017) particularly suspends its usage as an emergency treatment, proscribes its use without muscle relaxants and anaesthesia, and prohibits ECT administration on minors (Grover et al. 2019). However, the usage of ECT in South Asia continues to be surrounded by secrecy, lack of the individual’s informed consent, absence of information on its side-effects and high perceived benefits across the medical fraternity (Rajkumar et al. 2007).


           It’s been a decade,
Timid, immature and Fragile, 
With a rural flare of speech,
The city of unfinished dreams; Mumbai,
Clenched to my soul as tightly as a leech,  
So here I am…
Telling you a tale of a parasite called Madness,
They call it Mental Illness!

           It’s been a decade,
The bloodsucker still flows in the bloodstream, 
Remembering the battle,  
Noticing my scream,
My body still creates hymns,
As loud as a train steam,
Courage of speaking out,
I make efforts to beam.

           It’s been a decade,
Their voices are still fresh,
‘She is too young for this responsibility’,
‘We need a mature person’, 
My ears heard it all,
As a cigarette lights after meeting a string of fire…
I had reasons to prove,
Madness eventually became my tool!

           It’s been a decade,
A challenge to let go,
I rotate like pendulum,
Between the ‘me’ and the ‘woh’ (they),
Between the ‘I’ and the ‘not so I’,
Between the ‘pals’ and the ‘ally’,
They stare and glare,
As I switch from ‘meticulous’ to ‘Mad’
Exactly, I don’t know why?

           It’s been a decade,
Hard to calculate the loss and the gains,
Outside and within me,
As exhausted as mothers experiencing labour pain,
An immensely saturated brain,
Blasted one day,
Making me a Maniac!

           It’s been a decade,
The world has changed,
Two years of Prozac and Lithosun,
My Body stood still,
Like a highway of chemicals,
Blood flew in the memory of those pills,
As an immovable Mountain, I forgot to dance,
Movement was no longer my friend,
Hence, lying on the bed was the wildest chance. 

           It’s been a decade,
Life turned into a moment of despair!
Bleakly recalled, 
The veins were injected somewhere, 
A vague taste of those two weeks…
A dark room, a spectacled Male figure,
A huge bag of the weapons,
Only nausea and sickness could breathe!

           It’s been a decade,
I am yet to forget,
My mother holding the body tight!
Full of confusion and collapse,
I saw her face in the dim light. 
A syringe into my right arm,
And my temples under 100 Volts lapse!

           It’s been a decade,
Nerves recreate the exact scene,
Mouth turns pale,
Shiver after seeing that machine,
Ears tremble deep, 
To hear the hiss of the deadly steam,
Fingers wiggle like dog-tail,
And I am asked to not even beep!

           It’s been a decade,
A few months back,  
She cursed the doctor for all the wrong,
Dearest mother finally revealed the sack.
Body had received a shock thrice, 
Hello! what about the soul?
It was thrashed before a while!  

           It’s been a decade,
And I have changed as you are.
Writing this piece,
Led me back to that Avatar.
Now a transformed self,
‘Normal’ as they call,
I refuse to dilute, 
The season of my soulful fall.

           It’s been a decade,
I have realized,
Emotions interact,
They scream,
They shout,
They are timid and they can be loud,
Let’s say that Emotions Can Talk [ECT]
This is my ECT!

Let us create one for all. 


Vaidehi Chilwarwar is currently engaged as a resilience researcher (pursuing PhD) at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. As a self-employed clinical psychologist and arts-based therapist, she is involved with individuals and groups on therapeutic platforms both offline and online. An amateur painter and reader, she finds solace in the company of plants. A firm believer in the values of kindness and generosity, she wishes to offer her services to the field of mental healing as deeply as humanly possible (in whichever form).