Life After Depression

Nonsurgical, drug-free therapy offers new lease on life.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Meredith and her boyfriend Jordon are now expecting a baby.

In the fall of 2014, Durant High School breaststroker Meredith Meyer missed earning a trip to the Florida High School Swimming and Diving State

Championships by less time than it takes a human to blink an eye, which is a third of a second.

“Zero point two seconds – that’s how much I missed that trip to the state championships by,” Meredith confirms with a sigh. “Zero point two seconds. When that happened, I was like, Oh, my gosh. I mean, that’s like a leg hair. That’s crazy.”

Meredith’s near-miss in the pool was part of a difficult senior year. She was diagnosed with depression the summer before – shortly after an episode during which she was suddenly overcome with emotion – and the depression wasn’t letting up.

“It started one day while I was getting ready to go out with my mom, my grandmother and my best friend,” Meredith relates. “All of a sudden, I just started to cry. I was very upset, and then I would get mad and angry, and I didn’t know how to make it go away.

“Then later, after school started again, there was all this anxiety that was mixed with it. I was crying all the time and having panic attacks. It was terrible. There were times when I would be sitting in class and I had to excuse myself and leave because of it.”

Meredith’s first attempt to resolve the problem started with a trip to her primary care physician, who recommended she see a psychiatrist. As her
struggles at school suggest, Meredith didn’t find the resolution she sought there
.

“The first psychiatrist I went to put me on medication, but it didn’t work for me,” she confides. “I was getting the side effects, but not the benefits. I went to a couple of different psychiatrists after that, but it was the same thing.

“Not only that, but I never really got the feeling they were listening to me or cared about what I was saying. It was like they were writing a
prescription just to get me out of their office and thinking that should take care of it, which it didn’t.”

Stimulating Therapy

Meredith’s struggles continued through the winter holiday break. Then, shortly after returning to school in January 2015, she spoke about her issues with a guidance counselor, who recommended she visit Charles Devine, MD, at TMS of Central Florida.

Dr. Devine is a board-certified psychiatrist who treats all mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders, including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and specializes in a nonsurgical, drug-free therapy for patients with treatment-resistant depression known as TMS, which stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008, TMS first proved effective as a treatment for depression in 1985 when a team of University of South Carolina researchers discovered that magnetic pulses can stimulate the parts of the brain that are insufficiently active in people suffering from depression.

The magnetic pulses emitted during TMS therapy are similar to those emitted during an MRI. The difference is that they are delivered through a cup-shaped device that contains a magnetic coil. During treatment, that device is placed on the prefrontal cortex while the patient rests comfortably in a chair that looks similar to a dentist’s chair.

Each TMS treatment lasts exactly 18 minutes and 45 seconds, and patients typically receive a total of 36 treatments over a period of six to eight
weeks. Patients are usually treated five times per week during the first five weeks of the program, with the length of the treatments and their number being reduced beginning in the sixth week.

Far different than electroconvulsive therapy, which uses an electric stimulus, TMS treatments are administered in the doctor’s office and are considered safe and easy on the body. The most common side effect is some mild to moderate scalp discomfort stemming from the treatment application.

“What TMS does is stimulate blood flow to the frontal lobes of the brain, which is where the emotional regulatory centers are located,” Dr. Devine educates. “By increasing that blood flow, the brain is stimulated to more effectively regulate its own blood sugar, which is what we’re trying to target with medications.

“At its core, TMS is a noninvasive, non-medicinal therapy that produces a genuine anatomical change, which in terms of regulating blood sugar is different than insulin. While insulin helps somebody regulate their blood sugar, you have to keep taking your insulin to keep it regulated. That’s not the case with TMS.

“When TMS is successful, there is a true anatomical and physiological change within the brain. The anatomical change is the increased blood flow. The physiological change is the better regulation of blood sugar and brain chemistry that produces a result where people can either come off their medication altogether or function better with it.”

The first of the 36 treatment sessions for each patient receiving TMS therapy is a mapping session in which the doctor determines exactly where the device should be placed on the patient’s forehead to obtain the best results.

“We use the mapping session to determine the actual magnetic field strength each patient requires,” Dr. Devine explains. “That part is very individualized because what one person might need is not necessarily what another person may need.”

Life-Changing Results

After first meeting and evaluating her in 2015, Dr. Devine began his treatment of Meredith by prescribing medications for both depression and anxiety. Meredith responded positively to both medications, but not enough to please her or Dr. Devine, who eventually changed her treatment protocol to TMS.

“The effects TMS had on me were very gradual,” Meredith recalls. “After a few weeks, I just started to feel better, and then one day, I remember I was in my car sitting at a traffic light when all of a sudden, I just felt good again. The windows were down, the music was playing and I just felt happy again.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that because it was a turning point for me. Ever since then, I have felt really good. And now, it’s about a year later and I’m off the medications completely and doing great. I’m expecting a baby and feeling so good, and I’m sure it’s because of the TMS. For me, it was honestly life-changing.

“That’s why I tell anyone that I meet who’s struggling like I was that they have to try this. It really worked for me. And I highly recommend Dr. Devine because he’s great. My goal was to get off medications and to get back to feeling like myself, not like a zombie, and he helped to get me there.”

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    • TMS of Central Florida

      TMS Therapy is a proven, effective treatment for debilitating depression. TMS Therapy system uses short pulses of magnetic fields to stimulate the area of the brain that is thought to function abnormally in patients with depression. ... Read More

    • Charles Devine, MD

      Charles Devine, MD, specializes in psychiatry and neurology and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He earned his medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine in 1995 and later performed his residency at the... Read More

    • Kathleen Carroll, MD

      Kathleen Carroll, MD, specializes in psychiatry and neurology and has been in practice for more than 20 years. She earned her medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine in 1997 and later completed a general psy... Read More

    • Troy Noonan, MD

      Troy Noonan, MD, specializes in general psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry. He earned his medical degree from the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago, Illinois in 1996 and has been in practice for mo... Read More