“Virtually my whole life has been seriously affected by the ECT treatment. This has caused me to lose years off my life because my heart is so weak now, from the heartache and sadness from the loss of who I was, what I was and how I was beforehand.”
In her own words. this is an account of Jane London’s experience with ECT.
“Please forgive me if there are some bits I cannot remember very well for what happened later affected my memory badly and much of it has never come back. I also have never talked like this to anyone else before about it, it’s been too painful.
I was married, aged 21, living in England with my first husband who was a particularly violent, aggressive man when this story first started. He was violently beating me up at the drop of a hat, also belittling me and putting me down in front of others all the time.
I had, until that time, been a strong, exceedingly intelligent, healthy, talented young woman with an extraordinarily good memory. I still have an IQ in the 140’s. It was higher. I had been a full-time ballet dancer, worked in TV, always being a very hard worker and very stable.
In early 1966, I began to get stomach aches. I went to my GP called Dr. Tattersall in Worthing, Sussex, but he would not believe I had anything wrong. I kept going back begging for help. I was otherwise very healthy and working full time. My difficulties were then put down to depression.
I am not a depressive type of person. I am actually, especially now I’m older, a very determined, highly motivated, strong person who has been through a very tough life, never breaking down except a bit after this marriage.
One Saturday in mid 1966, on a Saturday when my husband was working, I was taken to a large remodelled house in Worthing but no one told me anything. I believe it was connected with the Acre, a psychiatric hospital.
The house was large with a large hallway and stairs leading up from the centre. I was told to sit down on a chair and wait. I knew a little about ECT because my mother had always bragged about the ECT treatment she had received, and I picked up on some things that were said between two people who were talking close by. I realised they intended forcing me into this place that very afternoon to give me ECT.
I waited a while longer but I was so scared. In the end, as no one came, I decided to run for it.
I ran for my life down the road, turned the corner and then knocked on a lady’s door begging to use her phone. She was glad to let me in as she could see I was very upset and let me stay there until help arrived.
I rang my husband who left work, dashed down to the house where I was, got me right away and then he set about really telling off all the doctors about their behaviour and don’t they dare touch me. I was not given shock treatment at that time, although it had definitely been their intention.
I went back to Dr. Tattersall, and when he told me time was up in the consultation, I refused to leave the chair and insisted on being given a letter to a private surgeon as there had been a whisper before it may be my appendix causing me the difficulties. He very reluctantly, after almost a fight, gave me the letter. I went to the surgeon one week later and he said he thought it was my appendix. Ten days later, he put me in Southlands Hospital on the NHS. When they opened me up, the doctors found it was my appendix that was causing the trouble and that it had a carcinoid tumour in it. It was treated and all my stomach aches went away and I was then fine.
In 1971, I moved back to Australia where we had emigrated when I was twelve-years-old. I went to see a psychiatrist in Australia, Dr. Vance Tottman, because I was having difficulties recovering from previous abuse from my ex-husband. Dr Tottman believed in psychoanalysis to help these things. My mother, who had mental health issues, didn’t like him as she knew he had worked her out for what she was like.
She then went to our GP and insisted I be sent to a doctor who would do ECT and I was, in my distressed state, forced to go to him. I was put into a private hospital whereupon I was administered around 14 lots of ECT.
I eventually ran away from the hospital, went to a telephone box and told my parents in no uncertain terms that I was leaving. I then went back to see Dr. Tottman. I had put my foot down and said I would only see him.
He helped me through the whole thing. By then however my memory was severely affected. He said very strongly indeed how disgusted he was that I had had that treatment as I was never a candidate for it. All it needed was a bit of time, talking it out, and then getting on with life. To this day he is disgusted at what happened then and what happened earlier in England.
I found my memory severely affected and some of it is still blocked to the point where memories from a lovely time before are just gone. There are serious blanks which I cannot retrieve. It took me months to get over it and I only have memories at that stage of walking around our garden trying to take everything in as it all seemed unreal, hazy, as though I wasn’t there anymore looking at life through a dirty window.
It took months and months to get to the point where I could work again and live some sort of normal life due to the treatment.
I was recently talking to someone from my old home town in Worthing, England and he mentioned many places I knew I used to know but I could not remember them. They had been blanked out of my mind even though I know I had a wonderful time. I know I should remember the places, but they’re gone.
The ECT I had has changed the course of my life damaging my previous exceedingly good memory.
The doctors played into my mother’s hands giving me treatment which I consider to be barbaric, evil, cruel and unnecessary. It seems this treatment is still used. I find it unreal to think such a wicked thing can be done to people causing them lifelong problems.
Years later in 2014 I went back to live in England as I had always wanted to go back. I kept getting sick with awful germs then in May 2015, or thereabouts, I had a heart attack. I began to get extremely bad chest pains and breathlessness after any exertion. My doctors in England however would not believe me and called me ‘neurotic.’
It was clearly on my medical records (which I now have) that they referred back to 1966 to a letter written by a Dr Lloyd George about my ‘depression’ which gave them the totally wrong idea about me. Therefore I went without any medical treatment for the heart attack for a total of two months simply because I was not believed.
In desperation, I flew back to Australia in July 2015, only to be taken from the plane to a major hospital for heart problems and then told within hours I had been “ready to drop dead from a massive heart attack at any moment”, that I had had a heart attack approximately two months before and that they couldn’t believe I had survived the flight as people usually die from what I had. Yet the doctor in England said only days before that there was nothing wrong with me and that I was fine to fly. In fact, he knew of far sicker people than me who were fit to fly. Although he did write out a note to say I ought to see a cardiologist when I got back just as a precaution and gave me heart tablets.
As soon as tests were done here I had a stent put in my right coronary artery. Within two to three days, they found that the whole lower half of my heart was not working. I was put into an intensive care unit for a week to stabilise me for open heart surgery which was done in late July 2015.
I have never fully recovered and struggle to get around at times constantly having chest pains just like a heart attack and having to be checked out as there is so much damage to my heart from the delay in treating me. So, a 1966 wrong diagnosis of ‘depression’ has had a dreadful impact on my life and continues to do so even now when I’m in my 70’s.
I am still suffering from that wrong diagnosis to this day and from the later ECT. I have had to come to a grudging acceptance of what happened to me but can never forgive the people in England and Australia for what they have done.
Virtually my whole life has been seriously affected by the ECT. This has caused me to lose years off my life because my heart is so weak now, from the heartache and sadness from the loss of who I was, what I was and how I was beforehand.
It never leaves you completely and is heartbreaking in itself. I grieve for that other Jane, for the person I was, for the person I should be now and always should have been. I grieve for all the ramifications of it all.
It’s even painful writing about this. It’s not a treatment; it’s a barbaric form of torture, evil and treacherous, used when they don’t know what else to do because they truly don’t know what they are doing.
It breaks you forever and nothing is ever quite the same again.”