Local Radio Personality Shares Private Battle with Depression

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – He’s spent years entertaining radio listeners with silly stunts and stories as “Bandy” on Charlotte’s popular “Matt and Ramona Show,” but privately, Brent Harlan battled clinical depression and anxiety. Harlan says, “Off-air, I’d get home and the world would come crashing back on me.”

Now, a machine is changing his life, one treatment at a time. 37-year-old Harlan let us document his 18th TMS session, which stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. A magnetic coil delivers electrical pulses to his brain. Harlan says, “It feels like a woodpecker is just nailing away on the top of my head.”

Inside a small treatment room at Novant Health, Harlan will get 35 treatments total. When he started, he says he was on five different anti-depressants. Now, halfway through TMS therapy, he says he’s medication-free, and depression-free. His senses are heightened. He is exercising. He’s sleeping much better. He’s feeling so good, he says he can’t stop talking about it. He says with a smile, “My wife is getting sick of my narration of my life right now!”

Harlan has also been Facebooking his journey to a growing audience of people who want daily updates about how his treatment is going.

“The research is showing is can put your depression in remission for about a year,” says Novant psychiatrist Dr. Darlene Ifill-Taylor. She says TMS therapy boosts neurotransmitters in the brain, making more activity in the part that controls mood. She says all of Novant’s TMS patients have responded positively to the treatment. Dr. Ifill-Taylor says, “Now that we know we can stimulate the brain, and get positive results, the sky’s the limit.”

Harlan’s TMS coordinator, John Winn, sits with him during each treatment, five days a week. Winn says, “It’s 37 minutes long. 37 and a half, actually.” Over the past few weeks, Winn says of Harlan’s progression, “I have seen somebody just blossom.”

When the session wraps up, Harlan says he feels energized and ready to go. He’s now gone days entirely depression-free, a feeling he treasures. He says, “Even if tomorrow, it all came crashing back, for these six days, I have lived my life depression free and you can’t put a price on that.”

Speaking of price: Harlan’s insurance does cover the treatment, and will also cover the cost to re-treat him, if he chooses to do TMS therapy again in the future.