An Interview with Schatzie Brunner: TMS Therapy Patient Advocate and Former CNN Anchor

If depression appears to be in control of your life, you are not alone. Over 16 million people in the United States suffer from depression. More than four million individuals are not satisfied with their current treatment of antidepressant medication. If this sounds familiar, you may be “treatment-resistant.”

Treatment–Resistant Depression (TRD) or treatment-refractory depression are terms used in clinical psychiatry to describe Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) that does not respond adequately to appropriate courses (adequate dose and duration) of two or more antidepressants. Cleared by the FDA in 2008, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is increasingly recognized by the medical community as a ‘valuable therapeutic option’ in treatment-resistant depression.

In 2010, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression added TMS. These guidelines provide recommendations for how psychiatrists should treat depression.

Below are insights and personal testimony from TMS patient advocate and former CNN anchor, Schatzie Brunner, about her treatment and experiences with TMS Therapy.

Throughout her life, Schatzie Brunner took medicine for her severe depression. However, in the last few years, she found a way to overcome the symptoms and lessen many impacts of the disease through Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

Q: Will it hurt?

Brunner: When I considered having TMS my first consideration was whether or not the magnetic pulses would hurt. Because I knew how sensitive I am to pain. In fact, I was surprised by how soft the pulses were. Once I adjusted to them, the intensity was raised each day over the course of a week or so until the intensity was at the therapeutic level. And it didn’t hurt! It is an odd feeling but nothing like what I feared.

Q: Is this confidential?

Brunner: I’m aware that Federal HIPPA laws of confidentiality are keeping peoples’ records confidential, but I still wondered if I would meet other people in the TMS offices when I came for treatments.

What I found were new friends who understood the reason we were both there, and I watched them get better over time as our treatments continued. Also, they could empathize with me and celebrate my getting well over the next few weeks.

Q: What made you decide to pursue TMS?

Bruner: I was introduced to the treatment during a presentation by a psychiatrist who would soon become my physician. My first thought was “Yay! I can get off the meds I’ve been taking for 40 plus years. But when it came down to it, I was scared. The doctor’s low-key explanations of the treatment convinced me I should try it. I was also impressed by the amount of research behind TMS which exceeded the research for some of the antidepressants on the market.

As it turned out, I am still medicated but the difference in how I see the world is not just more positive but I’ve lost the nagging anxiety I had lived with for as long as I could remember. It was a shock when I realized the anxiety was virtually gone. And it felt great!

Q: Why did I decide to write my book?

Brunner: I have spent a lifetime hiding my depression from everyone I knew and with it the shame of my “secret.” Over time I ventured to tell a friend or two a bit about the struggle I had and the surprising reaction from friends was a relief when my story didn’t cause nearly the dramatic response I feared. But even more important I found talking about my depression was healing for me.

Eventually, I decided to write my story so that those who have never been touched by depression understood what it feels like from the inside.

Watch this video to learn more about Schatzie and her experiences with TMS.

By: Dr. W. Scott West