Mental Illness: The Last Stigma

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Relieved Her Depression

After years of therapy, drugs, and psychiatric hospitals, Beth Jerman, 40, of Huntsville, Ala., had given up hope. But her husband never did. He successfully lobbied their insurer to cover the $70,000 cost of a controversial treatment for severe depression. Now Jerman is back to being "a normal mom."

A controversial treatment saved her life.
At 29, I took to my bed and—except for five to seven visits to a mental hospital per year—basically didn't get up for 10 years.

I have three children and a wonderful husband, but depression runs in my family, and I have it big time.

I can't complain about the care I got during my worst years. I was on 10 to 12 medications at a time, but I couldn't function with them or without them. I gained weight and went on disability. I never once made my children breakfast or sent them off to school. While I never thought my husband would leave me, I did fear he would have me committed to a state institution.

There wasn't anything out there that could help me, so we considered electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), but I saw the people who had it in the hospital. They would come back from treatment and could not remember anything. They would sit there and repeat the same thing over and over again. I didn't want that.

About 2-1/2 years ago I tried to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of Benadryl. My husband said, "That's it," and told my psychiatrist he wanted me to try vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which had never been attempted in our state. My psychiatrist was like, "What have you got to lose?" I was desperate to get better.

12 Next
Last Updated: May 02, 2008

De–stress your life, sleep better, and conquer depression with the latest news and insights on mood management, plus special offers.

More Ways to Connect with Health