Lithium eaters, a moment of your time?

OK, looks like I’m gonna be changing drugs and will be having a go at Lithium.

Depression I can live without, but…the mania. I’m gonna miss it I think. A lot. I’m having trouble putting this into words but…how much or did you at all the mania miss it? Empty & dull grey at the price of fire and ecstacy to not suffer the miseries is it? I’m down right now and the thought of never trapesing the peaks again though I not wallow down here is uninspiring. Help?

Mania sucks if you look at it in hindsight. It will tear the crap out of your life. Then again, my mania sometimes felt like I was on crystal meth and had basically the same symptoms naturally. It was really uncomfortable a lot of the time and people couldn’t understand why I was so extremely wound up, nervous, agitated, creative etc. It isn’t like you won’t have times of true happiness again. Lithium doesn’t cause flat affect at least not in me. I still have the full range of emotions but now I don’t go off the deep end for a month at a time or something.

I have been on it for over 2 years and it works great. It doesn’t have nearly as many side affects as some of the other crap I tried and it basically just works like it should. I did break out in a rash for a month when I started taking it but that has never returned. It can be truly toxic so you have to have a blood test at whatever schedule your doctor says (maybe every six months) but those are uneventful as well and I haven’t had a problem. I haven’t had depression since I have been on it which is the real bonus.

New Agey people should love lithium. It is an element, a natural supplement, or a vitamin if you will. For some reason, ignorant people react much better to saying you have to take a vitamin rather than a mood-stabilizing psychopharmacological drug.

Go for it.

I take it. It is the only thing that makes me feel “normal.” I feel (almost) like I felt before I began to have manic/depressive cycles (at age 24). I’m not manic, and with Lamictal added, I am usually not depressed either. I get happy and I get sad, but at the appropriate times. I do not feel that I have “flat affect,” as some people who take lithium claim. The only side effects I have are upset stomach and hypothyroidism.

All people with bipolar disorder have to come to terms with the idea that successful treatment will take away their manic episodes. Though I sympathize–my first mania felt wonderful–it’s a matter of sucking it up and doing the responsible thing. Mania doesn’t just wreck your life–it messes with the lives of your loved ones too. They get to worry and wait and, often, pick up the pieces.

Furthermore, studies strongly suggest that manic episodes will typically get stronger with each successive mood swing. Likewise, each depressive episode becomes stronger as well. The fewer cycles you have gone through, the more likely you are to be successfully treated with lithium. What goes up, must come down. Is it worth it?

Lithium is not for everyone, but it was a lifesaver for me, and several other people I know.

I’m not bipolar, I’ve never taken lithium, never had a mania, but I have been clinically depressed for the last few years. But anyway…

Have you ever read “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jameson? It’s a memoir by a psychiatrist with bipolar disorder.

It pissed me off so much. This woman, a doctor, failed to recognize her own illness for years, and then, once she started treatment, stopped taking her pills as soon as they brought her out of a depression. I got really sick of hearing about how wonderful it was to be manic and I really got the feeling that she viewed anyone living without mania as living an incomplete life. By the end of the book I was just like, “Shut the fuck up and take your pills. Stop being so selfish, because your friends and family and coworkers have to deal with the reality of your manias while you’re enjoying the high too much to notice anything.” The hypocrisy of how she urged her patients to take the medications but thought she could deal without them just made me sick.

Your mileage may vary. This book just pushed several of my buttons in a major, major way.

This post is kind of pointless, except to say don’t be like Redfield Jameson and act like your manias are the best thing ever, because they aren’t.

There are people who do indeed choose to live as untreated bipolar people. Author Kate Millett (Sexual Politics, Sita, Fear of Flying) is one of the better-known (although she may not ascribe to the diagnostic category, many folks in the movement for mental patient rights don’t). She recounts her experiences with it in The Loony Bin Trip.

Meanwhile, though, lithium does not appear to do any brain damage; some people find it psychologically addictive (i.e., the emotional rebound if & when they quit is wilder than what they experienced before they went on it) but most people can take it and if they decide later that lithium is not for them, they just quit.

As recently as the late 80s, it was important to monitor your blood serum levels very closely, as the therapeutic dose was very close to the level at which lithium starts damaging the liver, but I’ve been told that it is compounded differently and that that isn’t as much of an issue nowadays (but don’t take my word for it).

How serious are the potential side effects? I understand that it can cause weight gain (a little or a lot?) but hypothyroidism just sounds downright scary.

Lithium doesn’t work for everybody. It didn’t work for me.

I’ve tried every mood balancing drug in the book (well not quite) and all of them failed to lift the depression. I have now been taking Lamotrigine* for 18 months. For the first 6 months of this treatment even that drug didn’t seem to be effective but I was encouraged to persevere with it by gradually increasing the dose.

Before taking Lamotrigine, and on a scale of minus 6 to plus 6 (where minus 6 is ultra depressed and plus 6 is ultra manic) my experiences ranged between plus 6 and minus 7. I am now running at approximately plus 2 and this is ideal for me. I wouldn’t want to be higher than that a) because of the problems mentioned previously in this thread and b) because of the comedown following the high. My current rating enables me to post on this board again after a long absence. Some people may not consider this a Good Thing. :slight_smile:
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*Lamotrigine was originally developed as a medication for epilipsy (which I don’t have) but tests showed that it could, in some cases, be effective as a mood balancing drug. This post is by no means a recommendation for anything or anybody. I speak of my own experiences and your mileage may vary.

Some people say they have significant weight gain with lithium. I didn’t gain weight after starting lithium, and have been able to lose it in the usual way since then (as long as I take my thyroid replacement hormone).

The hypothyroidism is a minor issue for me. I take my Synthroid and it’s fine. Manic-depression trashes lives. It’s a worthwhile trade-off.

My side-effects were mostly temporary. It really does feel just like take a vitamin (or 4 really) every day and I just feel normal. There is no other way to describe it. Other drugs had various effects but normalcy was not on the top 100 descriptors list. The side-effects can be very serious if the dose gets screwed up and you develop serious lithium toxicity but there is no reason for that to happen with any reasonably responsible doctor and patient.