Dr. Wycoff, our psychologist, became interested in TMS over four years ago when her sister, Mary, underwent TMS treatment for lifelong depression that was not helped by antidepressant medication. Mary had been consistently receiving excellent psychotherapy for years. It helped her cope through difficult times and stay relatively consistent in her day to day life. But the depression was always there and much of the time Mary found life to be a burden that she dragged herself through. She wanted to find joy in life but she couldn’t, and this made her feel worse about herself. Mary felt she was a burden to her family, and this made her pain worse. Even with antidepressant medication, Mary suffered from moderate to major depression. She was experiencing an episode of major depression at the time that she underwent TMS therapy.
Because Dr. Wycoff has known her sister since childhood and witnessed her lifelong struggle with depression, she was encouraged but skeptical when Mary mentioned trying a new treatment for depression called TMS. Dr. Wycoff had never heard of it and encouraged Mary to wait until she had a chance to thoroughly research it for her sister. Dr. Wycoff’s fear was that this was a scam that preyed on depressed people. Mary went ahead with the treatment anyway.
Approximately three months after Mary completed her TMS therapy, Dr. Wycoff invited Mary and her husband over to dinner. She had forgotten that Mary underwent TMS. Part way through the dinner Dr. Wycoff suddenly blurted out, “Mary, you’re funny!” Dr. Wycoff burst into tears as she was flooded with memories of a young, lighthearted Mary making jokes at the dinner table with the family in stitches. The old Mary was back! Dr. Wycoff looked over at her brother-in-law as he nodded his head. Mary was a little surprised by all the attention but she was smiling and enjoying herself in a way Dr. Wycoff had not seen in many years. (No alcohol was served at dinner).
As the months progressed Dr. Wycoff found it was much easier to talk on the phone with her sister and spend time with her. She had always braced herself before a phone chat because Mary’s emotional heaviness made her feel helpless. Dr. Wycoff had been careful for so long in interacting with Mary that it was an awakening to realize she could relax and actually enjoy her. Mary was consistently lighter, more able to attend to a conversation, more interested in others, and the heaviness that had always been a part of their communication was gone. She noticed a significant difference in Mary’s mood, her ability to problem solve, her sense of humor, and her ability to modulate her thoughts and emotions. Mary felt she was now able to cope with life’s ups and downs. She described herself as more “even”, more interested in life, more content. She finds humor and joy in day to day life.
Dr. Wycoff felt she was finally getting to know Mary without the mask of depression obscuring her true personality. This was the Mary she remembered from childhood—funny, witty, playful, caring, sensitive to others’ feelings, warm. Mary experiences the normal range of emotion that is characteristic of a fully functioning adult. She is not superficially bright or elated. Just normal.
Dr. Wycoff talked to Dr. Hubbard and they decided together to thoroughly research TMS. They purchased their first TMS machine in 2018 and are so happy with the results for their patients that they now have five TMS machines.
It has now been four years since Mary underwent TMS treatment. We don’t know how long the effect will last, but her insurance will pay for Mary to undergo TMS again if needed. At this time, the treatment effect has been studied for one year post treatment. Further studies are expected to analyze the long term effects of TMS.