Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fisher Wallace Stimulator

I recently asked my doctor to authorize my purchase of a Fisher Wallace stimulator device, produced by Fisher Wallace Laboratories

The idea is that the device generates "a gentle electrical pulse at a patented frequency that stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and other neurochemicals required for healthy mood and sleep." Some of the back story related to this device goes as far back as the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center.
"Company cofounder, addictionologist Dr. Martin Wallace, discovered LISS Cranial Stimulator in late 2001, when trying to cope with the deep depression which he suffered after spending eight hours trapped in a building at Ground Zero on 9/11. He successfully treated his depression with the stimulator after other therapies failed."

It comes with a couple of velcro-fastening elastic bands (one for the head, the other for the back or elsewhere), dry sponge electrodes, two AA batteries, a zippered carrying case, and of course instructions. About $700 later, I received it and have been using it for a couple of weeks now. I suffer from clinical depression, so my goals in using this device included improving my overall mood, and decreasing the need for prescription medication. Other suggested uses include dealing with chronic pain and insomnia.

Thus far, my results seem promising!

For me, depression can come upon me like a shadow, usually prompted by internal ideation or external events or a combination. One recent example came in the form of a glumly cloudy, rainy day, which tends to put me in a gloomy mood and leads me to brood on things I really shouldn't be brooding upon, and from that point on other events and memories from my past and in my present dogpile and might lead to a relatively major depressive episode.

The instructions recommend using this device once or twice daily (upon activation the device turns off automatically in 20 minutes). To begin with, I decided to try using the device just at the verge, just as depressing thoughts began creeping into the forefront of my mind. 

My first experience was intriguing and rather euphoric. I found myself trying to suppress a giddy urge to grin, and if I closed my eyes I noticed a distinctive pulsing of whitish light from either side of my field of vision. Since that first time, I've used the device about half a dozen times, usually once in the morning or afternoon, then again in the evening shortly before bed. 

The only side-effect thus far seems to be that if I happen to use the device just before bed, I tend to stay awake for an hour or few and might read a book for a while before finally feeling sleepy enough to turn in. This is one of the device's documented possible side effects, so I plan to simply use the device earlier in the evening rather than later.

I found that in any case where depressing thoughts reared their ugly head, engaging the device seemed to derail these thoughts, in a way like how a railroad switch diverts a train from one track and one destination to another. Instead of drifting toward brooding on whatever happened to be bothering me, I found myself unfazed by the usual negativity and eager to pursue other activities.

Whereas the medication I take (sertraline, the generic version of Zoloft, an SSRI) at worst significantly suppresses my affect and at best keeps me on an even keel emotionally, the Fisher Wallace stimulator seems to be able to actively intervene and gently redirect my train of thought to another track to a different destination in my mind. This is definitely a good thing; whereas otherwise I might be relatively helpless to thoughts that would overshadow my happiness and motivation, the device seems to counteract those thoughts and stimulate neurochemistry in my brain which favors healthier thought.

Overall, I'm pleased so far. Now let's see whether my health insurance will be willing to reimburse at least some of the out-of-pocket cost!