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Dana's Story — Bipolar and Schizoaffective Disorder

Dana Askalis - Bipolar and Schizoaffective Disorder Patient Story

The Challenge

While an art student at a major university, Dana was bitten by the travel bug. She packed up, moved to California, and started working for an airline. But at 23, she joined her parents in Arizona (where they had relocated from Pittsburgh), planning to get married and pursue a career as an artist.

“I found the perfect job and just loved going to work every day,” she recalls.

But one morning, Dana walked out of her job and into the Arizona desert.

“That’s when I was first diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder, which causes me to hear voices,” she explains.

Fast-forward 16 years, and Dana is back in her hometown, happily married and the proud mother of two. There’s sweet gratitude in her voice when she says,

“My husband is just incredible. He’s been with me through every one of my ups and downs.”

The Solution: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Over the years, Dana periodically has sought medical treatment for her disorders, including hospitalization in summer 2015 at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. While there, she received electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), followed by twice weekly treatments after returning home.

“I was in my own reality and just couldn’t get the right combination of medications to deal with it. ECT is definitely the solution for me. It helps calm the voices down and reduces my depression,” she says.

She praises her in-laws and other family members for their support in getting her to the ECT treatments at Western Psychiatric.

“I check in at 6:15 in the morning, get a light sedation, have 20 minutes or so of treatment, then go right into recovery. I’m ready to go home by 8:30,” she says. “The staff is awesome. They make me laugh and feel special.”

Dana acknowledges that she doesn’t look forward to getting ECT; she’s experienced some short-term memory loss, and sometimes can feel dizzy or nauseous following treatment.

“But once I get there, the staff immediately makes me feel at ease and I’m okay. I know that it’s making a major difference in my life. It’s enabling me to raise my family.”

Yoga, meditation, and staying active also help her after treatment.

Dana also reports an unexpected benefit to her ECT treatments.

“After my initial diagnosis in Arizona, I found myself steadily losing my creativity,” says Dana. “But amazingly, this past year, I’ve started painting and drawing again, and working on the computer. My creativity is slowly coming back — and that’s been a real source of happiness.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment with the Center for Interventional Psychiatry, please call 412-246-5063.