Day 2: asdfjkl;

Image: Merriam-Webster screenshot (should we tell them about the typo??)

Here is an incomplete list of interesting physical experiences I have successfully described to other people.

  • Falling down a flight of stairs at a party (while sober).
  • Eating a plate of delicious homemade pulled pork after a decade of vegetarianism.
  • Getting sick to my stomach from eating too much delicious homemade pulled pork after a decade of vegetarianism.
  • Having a severe panic attack and collapsing at Logan airport.
  • Climbing a large mountain by myself.
  • Trying, and failing, to waterski.
  • Hiding under a creepy old boat hull while playing Manhunt with my cousins.
  • Going through the last stages of labor in the back seat of a taxi on the FDR.
  • Tap dancing.
  • Having an asthma attack.
  • Napping on a horse.

And yet I’m having a hell of a time describing the experience of having my brain zapped by the TMS machine. In yesterday’s entry, I likened it to a woodpecker, but that was neither original nor particularly accurate. I’m not even sure which verbs I should use. The doctor calls the machine’s actions “pulses,” which I assume is scientifically correct, but “pulses” or “pulsing” doesn’t come close to conveying the actual sensation. It’s something along the lines of snap plus tap plus zap. Tzsnap? Sztap? (Apologies if these are, like, obscenities in Polish.)

I can’t even tell you if the treatment hurts. I can tell you that it doesn’t not hurt. It also doesn’t hurt, exactly. It’s a feeling that both hurts and doesn’t hurt. At my initial assessment, the doctor told me that it can be “uncomfortable” for the first week or so. Discomfort works, I guess, but it’s a pretty vague word. Discomfort can mean almost anything, and this is a very, very specific feeling.

Strangest of all, I am struggling to understand where I feel whatever it is I feel when the pulses are sztapping me. It’s highly localized, I know that much. It’s limited to one area of my head. But I can’t tell if it’s inside or outside my head. It is directional, in that there’s a sense of something coming from somewhere and moving somewhere else. The problem is, I don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. (Do this test: tap your forearm with one finger. You can feel the pressure going down into a single area of your skin and flesh, maybe hitting a bone in your arm. You could describe this as pressure going “down.” Now imagine you felt the exact same thing, but without the down-ness. Does that make sense? OF COURSE IT FUCKING DOESN’T.)

At my second treatment, we got the machine up to 100% intensity — the goal, remember, is 120%. By the end of the session, I was able to tolerate 100% pretty well. Today we’ll see if we can go up even more. I’m nervous about that, but I’m even more nervous that I’ll get sensitized to it before I can figure out a better way to describe what it is.