TODAY

TODAY   |  August 12, 2013

Author: I almost lost my mind

Journalist and author Simon Winchester speaks with TODAY’s David Gregory about his new e-book “The Man with the Electrified Brain,” about the electroconvulsive therapy that may have saved him from nearly losing his mind.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the best selling author and journalist, the professor and the madman , now simon winchester is opening up about nearly losing his own mind with his new e-book.

>> how are you?

>> talk about this episode. you were a perfectly happy guy going about your life. you first had an episode way back in 1965 . you were reading this book which is right here on the table. tell me what happened.

>> well, i was at oxford, second year. had just finished an essay at 2:00 in the morning, went to bed about 2:15. picked up this book, which i never read before. this was the copy i was reading. i got to page 32, bookmarked it and put it down beside the bed and went to sleep and in the morning everything had changed. everything was -- it's so difficult to explain even this removed but everything that was familiar suddenly seemed frightening. there was a picture on my wall, with the two cedar trees and the bridge, everything about it looked insane. i couldn't explain it. kept looking at this book, for instance and thinking bondage. what does that mean?

>> you were disoriented.

>> i was utterly disoriented and got out of bed and walked up -- there was no one in the house. i pelt so depressed and i went back to bed, got up and found the clock says 4:00. i thought the clocks were wrong. everything was wrong. but it wasn't. i had slept for 8 hours thinking it was ten minutes. i remembered i had to go somewhere in the car. i found the car. couldn't remember how to drive it. crashed it.

>> we're getting this picture and this happened -- you had multiple episodes of this where you're disoriented and you're afraid at certain levels. even on your wedding day this happened. as this progresses as they go away, these episodes go away you decide to have electro convulsive therapy . what did that do?

>> first of all, i didn't decide. but a doctor said you have to do this. my wife at the time who tolerated all of this for the previous four years said okay sign him into an asylum. i was then a newspaper reporter in this particular asylum in the north of england . i remember as i was wheeled in that reporter colleagues had written stories about how this was a place where patients were abused. i am hisable and disoriented and then they put these electrodes on my head. strap me down.

>> one things of jack nicholson in one flew over the coo coo 's nest.

>> yeah. there were six of them. after six i never had an episode again.

>> do you know why it worked?

>> no one does. they say these are storms of complicatio complications. it's like rebooting a computer. you don't know why it works but it does.

>> thank god the condition has not returned.

>> it's never -- it's been now 48 years.

>> why open up about this now? what are you hoping people come away with?

>> one reason why i did is my parents that both died last year had been tremendously conservative old school british people and my father thought mental illness is for sissy. if you feel mentally ill go dig the garden. pull yourself together. they died, the ridicule was over and i was able to talk about it and i thought people that suffer from this kind of a condition should be aware that electro convulsive therapy , stigmatized as it may be, actually in some cases worked.

>> it's to point out it's not for everyone. ernest hemingway had it as well.

>> yes and others. it worked for me and you should go out and tell the world that for some people it does work and should not be stigmatized.

>> but one level of superstitious, do you ever read this book?

>> i never have. i've seen the film on television. one of these days i will. but at the moment i'm keeping it at age 32.

>> the e-book is the man with the electrified brain. thank