I met the amazing Martha Rhodes at Tara Sage Steeves’ DREAM PARTY and that week she joined my Bring Your Book to Life Program in Narragansett. At times, when Martha read her work in class, the entire group found ourselves in tears. Now Martha is reaching far beyond that sun-filled room of a dozen or so women. She’s helping to make Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)–the treatment that cured her–available around the globe. In November she traveled to several locations in the UK to educate the National Health Service about this treatment, which the UK is now making available to their patients. Soon, she’s traveling to San Francisco to raise awareness as the result of another invitation.
Lisa: What prompted you to write 3,000 Pulses Later: A Memoir of Surviving Depression without Medication?
Martha: After my full remission from Major Depressive Disorder thanks to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), I felt it was important to spread the word about this new and unknown alternative therapy for treatment resistant depression. When I decided to try TMS, there was absolutely nothing for me to read other than peer to peer review studies written by doctors, for doctors. I had so many questions and concerns as to the safety of TMS, its effectiveness, and what the treatment felt like.
Lisa: Why TMS?
Martha: According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, over 40% of patients diagnosed with depression will not respond to the traditional antidepressant medications doctors usually prescribe. Those patients either suffer with the illness living a less than quality life, or they keep trying different medications while enduring some pretty intolerable side effects. Some try Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), others check in and out of psychiatric wards as they cycle through bouts of debilitating depression, while others simply give up and commit suicide. Ninety-five percent of suicides are directly related to Major Depressive Disorder. TMS offers a highly effective cure to depression without side effects. It saved my life.
Lisa: What are some of the highlights since publication?
Martha: 3,000 Pulses Later is already in its second printing and I’ve distributed almost 3,000 copies. [2019 UPDATE: The book has now sold over 22,000 copies in ebook and print form together!]. The book and I have been featured in the Science and Health section of the New York Times and in Psychology Today in addition to several other media outlets.
Lisa: How did you receive your invitation to speak in the UK and whom did you speak to?
Martha: Several months ago I received an inquiry through my website from a woman who ordered 3,000 Pulses Later and whose job is User Experience Coordinator for a TMS device company in the UK. At that time, TMS wasn’t approved for clinical use there, but I was happy to answer her questions regarding the TMS patient experience. We developed a working relationship that culminated in her company inviting me to come to the UK to speak to the members of the National Health Service at the Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham University, as they launched their first and finally NHS-approved TMS clinic in England.
Lisa: What were your personal goals for this trip?
Martha: To share my remarkable success with TMS, how it’s improved the quality of my life, and the safety and effectiveness of TMS.
Lisa: What are some of the highlights of your UK speaking tour in terms of feedback on your book, your story and its effect on others?
Martha: I spent one day on a guided tour of the Magstim Company, observing the research and development and construction of the rTMS device they’re supplying to all the NHS clinics in the UK. I was asked to speak to the entire staff the following day, ostensibly to share my story and patient experience with TMS. What struck me as I delivered my talk, however, was how they responded to my comment, “Yesterday I walked around here and watched as you handled wires, screwdrivers, nuts and bolts and wondered if you realize that you aren’t just building widgets here at Magstim. You are, in reality, saving lives.” I truly believe those words landed on their hearts and minds because so many people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for putting what could easily be perceived as a mundane job into a much more meaningful perspective.
Coincidentally, several months ago I received an email through my website from a patient in the UK who had asked me to help her find a TMS practice. That was when I discovered there were no TMS centers in the entire country, other than a very expensive, private practice I was able to locate for her in London. This patient was so depressed she told me she had to quit her job as a police office several miles north of London. Fortunately, her family supported her to go ahead with the expensive private practice.
A second email she sent just a week before I left revealed that she was completely out of her depression, and that TMS had helped her so dramatically that she wanted me to know how grateful she was. However, she knew she needed maintenance treatments but wouldn’t be able to afford them since her family spent so much money on the initial six weeks. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to tell her that I was on my way to her country to help announce that TMS would be offered through the National Health Service clinics as of October 30, 2014 at no cost to UK residents. I was able to connect her with two practitioners I met the day of the symposium and she is now continuing her TMS therapy.
Lisa: Wow, that’s fantastic. It must feel amazing to be making such a difference for people all the time through your book.
Martha: Yes, it’s a humbling experience to say the least, and I’m only beginning to really feel the far-reaching effects of my book’s message. I regularly receive emails from throughout the US, but also from as far away as India, the Middle East, Europe, UK and South America—all patients deeply depressed and desperate for a treatment other than medications or ECT for their treatment resistant illness.
Lisa: What are some other highlights of your tour?
Martha: We filmed a lengthy interview covering all aspects of the TMS experience (pre-TMS, what it was like during the treatment weeks and post-TMS treatments) that was very gratifying. It’ll be used as a public service communication tool throughout the UK to let patients know that TMS exists, what it is, how it works, etc. We also did a still photo shoot to be used for that same messaging purpose.
Lisa: So, you’re the UK poster child/video star for TMS therapy! Any other highlights?
Martha: The day I delivered my speech to an audience of doctors, healthcare givers and some patients at the University of Nottingham’s Institute of Mental Health. I felt intimidated as the three speakers preceding me were braniac doctors from Nottingham, Oxford and Cambridge Universities who presented dozens of slides with important research results, graphs and charts. Mine was the last speech before the lunch break, and I had only one simple, but dramatic slide: the HAM-D results from my eight weeks of TMS that showed how seriously depressed I was in week one, to full remission by week eight. Other than that, I was just another depressed patient with a story to tell about how serious the illness is, and how important it is for patients to be responsible and find a treatment to manage it. When the lunch break started immediately following my speech, I was overwhelmed with how many people in the audience related to what I had to say, some on a personal level, others professionally.
I also felt happy to be asked to join several of the doctors on a Q&A panel following the lunch break. The facilitator directed a question to me from the audience that I felt was my strongest moment in the entire symposium: “How can we, as researchers, better communicate with patients?” I shared how difficult it was for me to find any information about TMS when I first considered doing it five years ago, and if there was anything available, I either had to be a professional to get at it (and had to pay a fee for the study), or if it was free, I couldn’t understand the medical language as a layperson. I acknowledged the researchers on the panel and in the audience for their brilliant minds and valuable findings, but informed them that if patients can’t understand what the researchers are communicating, their findings weren’t serving the ultimate purpose.
I suggested a glossary of terms be offered to patients, and then I put my “advertising career” hat on and recommended they use a headline with bite-size, bulleted information. I referred to this as information that could be “mentally metabolized” and processed so that patients would have a better understanding of their illness and what they can do to help themselves by being involved, informed and responsible for their condition. When I looked out I could see heads nodding throughout the auditorium. I knew I’d hit a home run with my answer.
Lisa: I love that. I often see with authors how the things they did “in a previous life” or other career feed the book and the work around getting their message to potential readers (and anyone who can benefit). Yours is a great example. Did anything surprise you about the trip?
Martha: I wouldn’t say surprised, but what delighted me was how kindly, respectfully and accommodating the British people treated me. I had never been to Wales where I spent three days in a beautiful little hotel situated on the southern coastline in a room with an ocean view. I felt my hosts were always cognizant of the amount of stress I might feel and they were careful to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it. It was a full week of meetings and professional activity with no time for sightseeing or shopping, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
Lisa: When you were writing 3,000 Pulses Later, did you envision speaking internationally?
Martha: I had no idea what I would do once it was completed, other than promote a vehicle to inform people about the existence of TMS. Once I got the book written, I realized I would need to spread the word verbally, so I began including visualization in my daily meditation. I saw myself speaking in front of small groups at first, but eventually my imagination pictured me standing in front of large ballrooms filled with hundreds of people wanting to know more about Treatment Resistant Depression and TMS. The idea of speaking Internationally, however, was never in my sights. This has come as a complete surprise which I now feel confident and compelled to pursue.
Lisa: So you’re becoming an international spokesperson and advocate! Wow. Any other speaking invitations since you returned home a couple of weeks ago?
Martha: I’ll be speaking to a group of doctors, members of the press and venture capitalists in San Francisco in early January 2015. I’ll also do some local education presentations for TMS practices in the Northeast. Oh, and I’m working with Emory University’s Research Department to do a video in order to gain more government research funding.
Lisa: What advice do you have to someone starting out to write their book?
Martha: Go to the deepest part of your heart, find the kernel of truth that resonates for you as an author (and as a fellow human being) and expand on it—always staying mindful of your ideal reader. Keep it uncomplicated and authentic so that your book will carry your mission’s truth through to anyone who reads it.
I was only able to do this by joining your Bring Your Book To Life class. Until I started sharing my writing with fellow authors, I didn’t have a sense of my book’s powerful message. The feedback, encouragement, education, and support I received from you and the other class members is what showed me that I could write, that my book mattered, and that writing a book was no longer just a dream. It has become a life-altering reality. In light of this, I highly recommend taking your class and also joining a writers’ group once your class is completed for ongoing support.
Lisa: Anything else you’d like to share?
Martha: What started out as a quiet, personal story of depression and survival has become a new career for me. Actually, the term “career” doesn’t do it justice. I feel that I’ve been given the privilege to pursue a necessary mission for this ever-increasing chronic illness of Treatment Resistant Depression. I’m only beginning to realize how important being a Patient Advocate is, and how committed I really am to helping others as I have been helped.
Lisa: I hope readers are inspired about what can happen when you write a book from the heart and a sense of mission. Readers can read more about 3,000 Pulses Later, TMS and Treatment Resistant Depression—or purchase the book—at www.3000pulseslater.com.
Martha Rhodes wrote 3,000 Pulses Later in Lisa Tener’s award winning Bring Your Book to Life® Program, a program that is enrolling now for early 2015. Feel free to e-mail Lisa with questions about the program.