Milwaukee man rediscovers joy after transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment

Thomas D. Ilic, MD, Psychiatrist at Ascension Medical Group Wisconsin, treats Milwaukee man’s depression through transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Living with anxiety and depression can prevent you from enjoying things you once loved.

For Paul,44, living with anxiety was something he had grown accustomed to.

He first noticed he had anxiety when he was in his late teens. His anxiety would flare up from time to time, especially during moments of high stress, but it was usually self-manageable.

As an entrepreneur and a father of four children between the ages of 2 and 11, Paul is no stranger to stress. 

However, when Paul found himself under extreme stress in January 2023, something felt different, and he soon started experiencing symptoms of depression. 

Paul slowly started to lose interest in the things that once brought him joy: playing with his children, going for walks and visiting his favorite coffee shops were becoming more and more difficult to do. 

“The combined years I was under increased stress had really gotten to me,” said Paul. “It left me in a place where I was caught in a doom cycle. I was more or less bedridden. I could get up during the day, but I never wanted to.” 

After accepting that he was not going to start feeling better on his own, Paul decided to reach out for support and seek treatment at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital - Ozaukee Campus.

Mental health specialists at Ascension offer compassionate care and support

The first step Paul took to treat his anxiety and depression was meeting with a psychologist. After learning more about Paul’s symptoms, his psychologist recommended that Paul participate in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital - Milwaukee Campus.

Participating in the intensive outpatient program connected Paul to a wide array of people and resources to help treat his anxiety and depression and get him on the road to feeling better. 

While in the IOP, Paul met with a psychiatrist who prescribed him medication to help manage his depression. The medication mildly helped alleviate symptoms, but was not as effective as he had hoped. He also started experiencing side effects from the medication. After giving the medication a fair try, Paul wanted to find a different treatment option that would more effectively treat his depression without the unwanted side effects. 

Choosing transcranial magnetic stimulation 

Shortly after starting the intensive outpatient program, Paul learned about transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) - a noninvasive procedure that uses repetitive magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, helping to alleviate the symptoms of depression and other mental and emotional health conditions.

Ready to try something new to treat his depression, Paul met with psychiatrist, Thomas D. Ilic, MD, who would administer the transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy. 

"Since the mechanism of treatment with TMS is completely different from that of medications TMS is a great option for patients who have experienced only a partial response or no response at all to standard antidepressants, or people who cannot tolerate standard antidepressants due to side effects,” shared Dr. Ilic.

As part of his treatment plan, Paul visited Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s five days a week for six weeks to undergo treatment. During TMS treatment, Paul sat in a reclined position for 20 minutes while magnetic pulses were used to stimulate his brain.

After four weeks of treatment, Paul started noticing a clear difference in how he was feeling and soon experienced an increased sense of productivity and ease, slowly returning to doing the things that once brought him joy. 

“What really made the difference for me was having a whole suite of resources available to me within the behavioral health center at Ascension because there I was able to see the psychiatrist, participate in the intensive outpatient program and receive TMS therapy,” said Paul. “Having my whole care team talking to each other and being in the same place really moved the needle for me.”

Rediscovering joy after transcranial magnetic stimulation 

Since undergoing TMS, Paul has experienced an increased sense of ease. Paul credits TMS for bringing more balance and stability to his life. The treatment helped eliminate pessimistic thoughts in his head that told him he had to be doing more, and he now regularly practices living in the moment and being present. 

“As I reflect now, I can’t even remember how I felt mentally before starting the TMS treatment. I can remember, but I can’t empathize with my own experience because my brain is so different now in terms of how it processes things. Life still has plenty of stress, but TMS helped take me out of that constant fight-or-flight cycle.”

Start a conversation about your mental health

Caring for your mental and emotional health can help you more easily handle the stressors that can impact your overall health. If you or your child is feeling sad, overwhelmed or anxious, or struggles with substance use or addiction, start a conversation with your primary care doctor at Ascension Wisconsin sites of care. They will listen to you and work with you on a care plan that’s right for you or your child.

If you or a loved one are experiencing an immediate life-threatening emergency, go directly to the ER or call 911.