Lifting the Fog of Depression
Photo by Jordan Pysz.

TMS has helped Mishelle enjoy life again

Nonsurgical, drug-free therapy restores passion for life.

To say that Mishelle Delfrate was once a fitness fanatic would be a bit of an understatement. For this 54-year-old native of El Paso, Texas, fitness was never just a pastime or even a passion. It was a way of life.

“It pretty much encompassed my life,” Mishelle confirms. “I was a Zumba® instructor and a yoga instructor, and for years, that was where I drew most of my friends from and where a lot of the excitement in my life came from. It was my identity.”

Mishelle’s passion for fitness instruction didn’t come without consequences. From simple wear and tear, she twice tore her left rotator cuff so badly that she needed surgery to repair it. However, it was a non-work-related shoulder injury that robbed her of her identity.

“I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment one day in 2011 when I got rear-ended,” Mishelle explains. “The person who hit me never stopped and hit me so hard that as my car spun around, the seat belt cut into my shoulder and severed all the nerves.”

Mishelle’s third shoulder injury in two years required yet another surgery, but this time, the damage was so great that full range of motion could not be restored to the shoulder, which she can no longer lift over her head.

That limited mobility ended Mishelle’s career as a fitness instructor, which so devastated her that over the course of the next year, she fell into a deep depression during which she all but cut herself off from the rest of the world.

“Prior to becoming a fitness instructor, I was very introverted,” Mishelle reveals. “Being a fitness instructor changed that. But after the accident, I went back to the way I was before, only worse. I literally went into a tailspin.

“Because I didn’t know what to do with my life anymore, it was all I could do most days just to get out of bed. And when I did, I didn’t want to talk or visit with anyone. And if someone did talk to me, I didn’t have the energy to respond.”

Mishelle’s lack of energy took a toll on her general health as well. Within a year of losing her job, she gained 40 pounds and sat idly while her blood pressure soared. Thankfully, the doctor she had long seen for help with attention-deficit disorder took notice.

“He started asking if I was okay, and I’d always say, I’m fine or just really tired, but he could see I was declining,” Mishelle says regarding Charles Devine, MD, of TMS of Central Florida. “Finally, he suggested I try an antidepressant.”

Mishelle says that over the course of a couple of years, she tried a number of antidepressants, but none of them effectively pulled her out of her depression. Eventually, Dr. Devine suggested she try TMS therapy.

The TMS Era

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for people with treatment-resistant depression, TMS therapy uses magnetic pulses to stimulate the parts of the brain that are insufficiently active in people suffering from depression.

“It’s been great for me . . . I believe in TMS therapy so much that I even recommended my son try it . . .” – Mishelle

The magnetic pulses are similar to those emitted during an MRI, the difference being they are delivered through a cup-shaped device that is placed on the prefrontal cortex of the patient while he or she rests comfortably in a chair similar to a dentist’s chair.

TMS treatments last for 18 minutes and 45 seconds, and patients typically receive a total of 36 treatments over a six-to-eight-week period. Patients are usually treated five times per week for the first five weeks of the program, with the length of 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.”

Life-Changing Results

The amount of time it takes for patients to begin realizing results from TMS therapy treatments varies. Some don’t notice a difference in their mood for a few weeks. Others, such as Mishelle, notice a change after only a few days.

“Within a week of starting the treatments, I could tell I was coming out of the fog,” she says. “Then I started to get up and actually had a desire to clean up around the house and do other things. I remember saying to myself one day, I actually feel good.

“The biggest difference was when people would call. I was no longer looking for an excuse not to talk to them. And when somebody asked me if I wanted to go to lunch or something, instead of saying no, I would say yes and actually go.

“After that, I started going outside more, and I have to say, once I got out into the garden, it was like a light bulb went on. All of a sudden, I loved being outside in the sun, working in the garden. Now, I can spend all day out there. I just love it.”

Along with gardening, Mishelle has found another new passion in photography. She has even served as the photographer for a couple of weddings. She doubts she’d be doing that or much else were it not for Dr. Devine and TMS therapy.

“It’s been great for me, and with the exception of a few short treatments about six months after I had the first series, I haven’t had to have it since,” Mishelle exudes. “I believe in TMS therapy so much that I even recommended my son try it because he’s a lot like me.

“And of course, I recommended that he see Dr. Devine. I really think the world of him. I’m extremely fortunate that he’s in my life and so happy that he recommended TMS therapy for me. I probably wouldn’t feel as good as I do today without it.”

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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

    • 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