Bipolar Disorder And My Experience With The Mood Stabilizer Lithium

Who Am I?
Who Am I?

Lithium, Bipolar, And A Whole Lot Of Madness

I wrote this little narrative sometime back when I was giving the wonderful mood stabilizer Lithium a second try. I wanted it to work so desperately this time. Lithium is the drug of all drugs for manic depression, what they so aptly now call bipolar disorder.

Why mess with perfection? Manic depression, the name alone says it all. Bipolar is so mediocre, a little more bewildering. There have been many people who have asked me what bipolar is. Like is it a vegetable or the name of a new candy bar or a new TV show? Try explaining it. " No it is a brain disease, a chemical in the brain that went horribly haywire, so I have these little mood episodes that go from one pole to the next, hence the bipolar."

Really not a bright idea if you ask me. But then they didn't ask me, so shut my mouth. Bipolar just sounds so scientific. "Oh what a neat analytical label." At least manic depression was more like a state of being instead of a bumper sticker. All of that is beside the point.

Lithium continues to be the most popular choice for treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder. It has the potentiality to work as a mood stabilizer, lithium is more effective in preventing mania than depression, and may reduce the risk of suicide. The only thing is the side affects can be less than serene. And wreck much havoc on your body. My body anyway. I only can speak for myself.

Than there is the less then pleasurable blood work every week, month or whenever your psychiatrist decides he/she needs to test your lithium levels. You have to make sure you have enough lithium in your body. And you do not want too much or you may have a toxic reaction, and that my friend blows the big one. It feels like you're being poisoned inside out, your whole body erupts into weakness, you become so sick, you wish you were dead. Seriously it is not a something I want to repeat.

Signs of lithium toxicity are:

Diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, muscular weakness, sweating,tremors,and a complete lack of coordination are the main symptoms of lithium toxicity. This of course is a very serious condition because I had too much lithium in my system. You can recover from lithium toxicity without any problems. Those that have had severe poisoning may have long-term problems, which are most likely in cases of acute on chronic lithium intoxication. I was hospitalized, given fluids, medication for nausea, and monitored. I presently have no long term complications.

Moods Changed So Often

Periods of darkness overwhelmed me
Periods of darkness overwhelmed me | Source
I always felt exhausted, dragging myself out of bed, just to get back in
I always felt exhausted, dragging myself out of bed, just to get back in | Source
This is what I want to feel like, but never actually got there
This is what I want to feel like, but never actually got there | Source

Eighteen Days On Lithium was Not Working

Okay I was 18 days in with the mood stabilizer lithium. I was not thrilled with the affect it was having on me. I had to go off Geodon because it made me so manic my thinking was "I think I shall panhandle so I can get enough money to go to Spain". Yes I really said that out loud! It would have been okay but my merriness was very troublesome to rebuff. It was to the point I thought I could ride my bicycle to Spain. Uh-huh! I am not kidding. So instead of adding Lithium to the Geodon my psychiatrist Miss Get Wellington advised just the lithium along with my Seroquel and Ativan. Dazzling combination !

So now my beloved mania had been purged away, and was left trying to conclude where the hell my personality went. I was lacking any kind of enthusiasm for all things. I had a casual lack of emotion, a distant attachment from everything around and about me. Imagine that, a crazy little zombie trying to pretend underneath the apathy there might be a passionate, vibrant, creative, absolutely sane human being.

I had to force myself to the computer, the words not pouring forth, I had not taken a picture in weeks, the camera stares at me, nor had drawing ideas confronted my limp wasted mind. Was I a vegetable or just a shell? A lithium zombie waiting for a...a...I don't know. I was just waiting. In a trance, hoping that was not my life.

Since there was no manic madness or insanity, and there was no bleak depression, they evidently call that maintaining. Hip-hip hurrah, munching on cow patties sounds delightful too. The equilibrating idea just was not sitting well with me. I was afraid I had to acknowledge that indifferent personality if I was to stay clear of the vicious mood cycles I had been having. How does a person live like that? I questioned who I was without the craziness of mood swings. I would rather have a crumb of a personality than that passive sludge I felt like.

Why are the trade-offs so screamingly displeasing? The big question that matters most is how am I going to live with this? The goal being ABLE to manage the side affects, structure out a half-way decent routine so the crazy train doesn't derail. So that is what I am doing, discovering a way to live with this so called vegetable state called stability.

Because the alternative just was not working. Miss Get Wellington psychiatrist and I were at our wit's end as what was going to happen next. "Well this is it, neither manic, nor depressed, no mixed episodes, no rapid cycling, but simply an indifferent uncaring go ahead and make my day slap me if you want nicely medicated compliant living a normal productive lifestyle ward of my own being." Simply happy, joyous, and energetic would have been just as peachy.

So lithium gets into your blood stream and renders you a witless oaf without a clue. Yes I can. I can live, but can I live like that? Is that what they call normal? Well lucky you, you are normal and I am as normal as it's going to get. Is that the productive lifestyle they were talking about when they said "you" can lead a normal productive lifestyle.

Well excuse me if I don't think my normal productive lifestyle matches someone who doesn't have that pesty little thing called bipolar, or manic depression or whatever name they are calling it these days.

Lithium the wonderful mood stabilizer can be a life saver, I will admit. But it also can take away any resemblance of a personality you might have had before you started taking it. There is no such thing as happy or sad on the wonder drug. You are in the kingdom of indifference. If you can tolerate the side affects your batting average is better than mine.

The dry mouth, hand tremors, diarrhea, and severe cramps, and believe it or not your friendly supportive medical staff will EXPECT you to get used to these nagging side affects. As if it is supposed to be a normal part of your productive lifestyle. I was scared and remember I was only 18 days in. When does the productive part start? Because I really want to know.It never showed up.

I eat right, I exercise, I don't drink. I take my medications as directed, and I still feel like eating cow patties might be a better trade off. Seriously. I put these psychotropic medications into my body not knowing what they do to my organs, now a cow patty is just gonna taste like, well you know crap. And come out the other end.

Can't say that for lithium now can I? Don't know. Either way I won't be chomping on cow patties anytime soon, and I have decided on discontinuing lithium for now. Perhaps I will find myself somewhere between the damn cow patty, the lithium, or safely hidden behind that chemical imbalance.

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I Appreciate All Comments 39 comments

crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 3 years ago from Washington MI Author

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have had good and bad experiences with Lithium. It did cause me to lose weight. i never wanted to eat. I had other side effects so I had to go off. I am happy that it is working for you. It is always a good day when you find that medication that works. Stay well :)


misslong123 profile image

misslong123 3 years ago from Edmond, Oklahoma

Excellent article on Bipolar! When I was on Geodone, I had severe side effects and became extremely sick. However, Lithium really changed my life when I got on it. I started Lithium when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar. A great side effect of Lithium is the fact that it curbs your appetite. It really changed my life. I became less stressful, and I was able to concentrate better. There were so many benefits to Lithium. Thanks for pointing them out. I hope your article really helps some people. Great job!


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 3 years ago from Washington MI Author

I had a really compassionate psych doctor for the last year. I had to move out of the area and am not so lucky this time. Having a good doctor makes all the difference. Thank you for sharing your experience.


nurseleah profile image

nurseleah 3 years ago from West Virginia

I only know one psychiatrist who listens intently to his patients when they complain of side effects, especially blunted emotions and apathy. He says, "This will not do. We will find another way," and he keeps working with the patient until the right drug and dosage are found. He is an admirable man and his patients adore him. A good practitioner knows that if a patient is unhappy on his/her meds, that patient will at some point go off the meds and the results can be fatal. I wish all practitioners could experience just for a moment what it is like to be on the other side of the desk or the other side of the locked door. It would change their practice forever.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 3 years ago from Washington MI Author

I am told that we are baffled by stability because we don't know what feeling ourselves is suppose to feel like. I always feel like I am on the outside of everything. Trying to understand all these feelings. Indifference is not exactly who I am , but it can be improved upon with time I suppose. I think we are all parts of bipolar, the good the bad and the ugly. It is hard to not have some episode defining who we are. Are we the person who is not medicated or are we the person who is. I think perhaps we are a bit of both. When I am stable I feel somewhat blunted, and I have to assume that is who I am part of. It is confusing to say the least.

....I am glad you are doing well on that combination of medications. It takes a long time and lots of little pills to find what we must determine is normal.


Elle 3 years ago

I'm sure you get this all the time, but I feel like you're describing my life. Right now I'm on Lithium and Wellbutrin, and it's the most stable I've been in months. Other than a few tolerable side effects like sore throat and dry mouth (I've had worse enough to know this is as good ad it gets), every psychiatrist out there would call this a rousing success. The perfect picture of the miracle of drugs and bipolar.

And yet. Am I really myself? I watch this pleasant, agreeable, unfazed person and wonder who she is and what hole she crawled out of. Granted, ranting and raving or sobbing and lying me in the midst of episodes wasn't me either. But I still have that aching sensation that the real me is still in there somewhere and I need to find her at all costs. So, as you asked, where is the balance? What do we settle for? Gain equilibrium but trade our heart and soul?

Anyway, just thought you should know that you're not alone. These are devastating, soul-wrenching questions that I don't think we were ever meant to have to make.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 4 years ago from Washington MI Author

Your very welcome :)


Escobana profile image

Escobana 4 years ago from Valencia

Thanks to you too! Really appreciate that!


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 4 years ago from Washington MI Author

I sure will, all the information about bipolar is knowledge who need information. Thank you and I am linking your hub as well.


Escobana profile image

Escobana 4 years ago from Valencia

Hi there again:-)

I had to let you know that I linked your excellent Hub to mine today. It's called: Why I love my medication? Bipolar Disorder and all of the excuses.

Linking Hubs is the perfect way to get more views on a Hub that's really worth it. I hope you'll do the same for me:-)

Have a great day Crazybeanrider!


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 4 years ago from Washington MI Author

Yes lifesaver lithium has a way of blunting emotion. I will say it is a good thing for any manic cycles that might be giving you trouble. Lithium also helped me out of a very bad depression. I take Pristiq which I hope to stop taking soon. I am glad that lithium is working well for you. It most definitely can be a life saver.


lifesaver 4 years ago

great writing. i have just started lithium for the first time. two weeks in at 600mg and now starting 900mg. i noticed the effect instantly. slowing down of sorts. no jumping out of the chair on a fleeting idea. no 125mph on the freeway. only one road rage incident lol . pretty good two weeks for me. no side effects at all yet. looking forward to 900mg .

i want to stay on low doses of lithium with 900mg max. and hope it works. i also take citalopram for my depression which i hope to go off soon.

thankyou


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

hey batshitcrazy, lithium just made me physically messed up after trying it on two separate runs. I liked that it took away thoughts I didn't like having in my head and really mellowed me out. But I take Seroquel and it continues to work for me. I have been in a serious 3 month depression without an anti depressive and am going to have to consider one as they always caused mania. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I enjoy hearing what others go through with their meds, especially lithium, as it is the miracle med.


batshitcrazy 5 years ago

hey man, sounds like you are old hat at crazy meds so I'll keep this short. Lithium was a long road for me, I started on seroquel, wellbutrin and lithium 900mg and worked my way up to 1800mg a day. I had all of the side effects you described at first. it took about 2 months for the other side effects to fade. after almost a year on lithium i now have just a mild tremor that i have grown used to.

the indifference is..............i just don't know what to think about it really. I do think about how much i used to think about death and potential comforts it might offer, i don't think of that any more and that is a good thing.

Any way, my point is, if you are really messed up (up/down), Lithium and Seroquel will do the trick.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi Escobana,

Yes lithium was great for me for some time, kept my weight down. But blunted my emotions.Seroquel was my wonder drug as well. But messed with metabolism.

I real read your hubs and thank you for the honorable comments.


Escobana profile image

Escobana 5 years ago from Valencia

Hi there crazybeanrider:-)

I'm Bipolar too and used Lithuim and Risperdal way too long. The side effects of Lithium are horrible but it kept me stable and num.

I kept talking with my psychiatrist and changed after a lot of years to Carbamazepine and Seroquel. The perfect combination for me!

I feel alive and kicking, lost the 30 kilo's because of Lithium and I am stable since a long long time.

I wrote some Hubs about Bipolar Disorder and me kicking it's ass. You might like to read them:-)

Will be following you, voted you up and interesting!


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi Concerned Girlfriend, I have a Psychiatrist and a therapist. The psychiatrist prescribes medication, and my therapist helps me through the rough periods, like dealing with the cycles, and how to handle emotions I can't deal with on my own.

You might consider see someone so you could deal better with what is happening in your relationship. It is a lot to carry on your own. Especially when he won't acknowledge a problem. A therapist might be able to help you deal with your concerns and emotions.


Concerned girlfriend 5 years ago

Thank you so much for the reply ! Yeah its definitely hard to make him understand when he is in those moods where he feels like talking to no one. At the present time he is like that and its so difficult to get him to understand anything. I really think he does kind of know he might have a disorder but he does not want to accept it. When he is in a better mood he usually avoids talking about his mood swings and a lot of the times it seems like he forgets a lot of the things that he said or happened when he was moody. Its really taking a toll on me because I just don't know what to do anymore because he really doesn't seem to be wanting to get help. Like you said it's a two party deal and I just cant do this alone. What kind of therapist or counselors do u think work best for people with bipolar disorder?


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi concerned girlfriend, First thank you for reading. I would print some material out so he could read it, perhaps if he could see it in writing instead of hearing it he may recognize some of the symptoms and seek help. But if he is unwilling to even recognize he has a problem it is going to be hard to get treatment for him.

Perhaps when he is in a better mood try to have a conversation about bipolar, letting him know that you see signs in his behaviors that he may be bipolar, and maybe seeing a therapist or even a family doctor who can recommend a psychiatrist.

Let him know you are concerned for him and yourself. That it affects you when he cycles, and your only motive is for him to be well. I know living with someone who is bipolar must be difficult. I have been through enough relationships to know I am not the easiest person to live with.

It takes a willing person to stick around and go through the hard times, but it is a two party deal. He has to work as hard as you, or it is just not fair.

Check out the bipolar sites and see if you can order brochures, and print out relevant information and for him to read on his own. I hope he will see that perhaps he needs to at least have a check up. Hang in there and keep yourself healthy :)


Concerned girlfriend 5 years ago

Hello , I really found the information on here very useful. I have been with this guy for over 6 years but for the past two he has changed dramatically. I often question if he is Bipolar, and after reading and doing lots of research I think there's a high chance he might be. Ive tried my best at convincing him to seek help but he refuses and pretty much pushes me away every time I try to help him. This usually happens when he gets in his very irritable moods, when he feels like talking or being around no one. These moods can last for 2-3 weeks and then he suddenly breaks down n becomes depressed and gets very anxious. At times hes in a very good mood but it usually doesn't last too long. He becomes a total different person when he becomes irritable and he acts like he has no heart or cares for anyone's feelings. What do you suggest I can do to try to convince him to get help? Ive tried so many times but he says there's absolutely nothing wrong with him and he needs no help. I wonder if Lithium would work for his case? Any feedback is greatly appreciated,I just don't know what to do anymore and at times I feel like its going to drive me off the edge. Thank u for your time.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi sodenmary-Lithium seems to have a love hate relationship with me. It works for a time, but side effects take a toll. And only you can decide what is best for you. What you are willing to put up with. To much lithium will most definitely make you sick. I was toxic on more than one occasion. It isn't a fun place to be. But I thought it was helping me, in essence it was, but my body just couldn't take it, nor my personality. In honesty I wanted it to work so badly, but it didn't. I am still looking for myself, but outside the cloud of lithium. I hope you can find what works for you. Perhaps the reduction will be just what you need. Trying is the only way to find out. Do let me know.


sodenmary 5 years ago

Hi! You and I have a lot in common. I have been on lithium for at least 5 years. I take 1200 mg. a day. Like other comments - I am terrified to alter any of my med's, like who wants to go back to that dark place and to think I caused it myself by not taking or missing a medication - - Eeeeee Gad. Anyway, my time with lithium seems to have run out, by level of 1.7 has concerned my Dr. and he thinks I should reduce by 300mg. I do not want to and wondered what would happen to me if I did keep creeping up on the lithium level in my blood, am I going to explode? You seem to know because you wrote about lithium toxicity. I truly enjoy the first picture, but mostly the words "Who am I". That is my question, and at 52, you'd think I'd have some clue. Not. Anyway, you impressed me. Thank you.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi Lisa, I have tried many bipolar medications and do fairly well on the ones I am on now. Lithium is a great mod stabilizer, it just numbs your senses. And that makes it hard to live a full life. There is no way I could go the no-med route ever again. I did that so many times, and it proved to be almost deadly in my case. Others manage to do it, I know people who use natural methods and succeed. But it depends on the individual and the depth of your illness. I do hope you can find something that gives you peace, and a way to live life that works well for you :)

Hi Anne- Not bad, thank you.


Anne 5 years ago

Hi crazybeanrider, how is it going? God bless you!


Lisacheckm8 5 years ago

Hi,

Like your piece on lithium, I found it after typing in lithium and indifference into my search engine.... like you I lack what used to be a personality now nothing touches me I just feel dead!!!!!!!!! I am thinking now that I am willing to play Russian roulette with my moods and quit the lithium feeling anything (even mania or depression) has got to be better than this constant emotional void I experience at present. Once again good bit of writing and I understand where you're at. Take care


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

My levels varied between 1.5-1.7 That was the normal range for me. I have more of a mixed/manic edge than depression, so was on a dose of 1800-2100mgs. When my levels went lower than 0.8 I became manic and on occasion depressed.

I have read very little about GSK3-beta inhibitor, I know they have done clinical trials for treating Alzheimer's. How do you do on lithium?

I just couldn't take it anymore. I was so exhausted and physically worn out.


Tarin profile image

Tarin 5 years ago from San Diego

What's your lithium blood levels? I'm taking Lithium as a GSK3-beta inhibitor.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Thank you Brittney for your kind words. I find your blog fascinating. I will have to spend some time going through it. I will look for your article on bipolar.


Brittney Fournier 5 years ago

I find this topic to be very interesting. Very well written. I recently wrote a blog on this topic you can read it at this link

http://costaricabrittneyf.blogspot.com

Thanks so much!


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 6 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi atienza-Hopefully your doc can give you something that works well. Lithium really is a great drug if you can tolerate it. It takes some getting use to that is for sure. Thank you for reading and commenting :)


atienza profile image

atienza 6 years ago from Northern California

Oh, no...I had muscle weakness with lithium orotate (that stuff you can get OTC, trying to deal with it on my own, not working). I will be going back to my doc soon for a new Rx and I sure hope I don't have to play med go 'round. This hub is hilarious and I'm glad you're doing better.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 6 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi jasper420,

Thank you :) It is good to hear that lithium works for you. I wish it had worked for me. I had really liked it at one point. I am doing well on Topamax, Seroquel and Zoloft. I have OCD as well. The reason for three meds. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate greatly.


jasper420 6 years ago

great info i myself am bipolar and i take liithuim three times a day i don't know what i would do with out it


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 6 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hey TwinkleBabe- yes keep me posted, I hope which ever one you chose it works well for you. Trying is half the battle.

Good luck and let me know :)


TwinkleBabe 6 years ago

hello again.. yeh im worried about the hair falling out lol but i still not sure what one i will go on yet but will keep u informed thanks for the advice sweetie :) x


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 6 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hey TwinkleBabe,

I have been on both, and they both worked okay for me at different times. I preferred the lithium, but after awhile I wasn't able to tolerate it. The sodium valproate (Depakote) was okay, but I did experience a bit of hair loss. However it has fewer side affects than lithium. It isn't as hard on the gut. I would go with your doctor's recommendation, If you can tolerate lithium you can do very well on it. I did for awhile, but eventually needed to stop taking it. Give it a try, perhaps it will be a good drug for you.


TwinkleBabe 6 years ago

hey i have been told i have got bipolar and they talking about putting me on lituim or soduim valaporate seriously not sure what one to go on!! x


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 6 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hey Sandyspider, Thank you for commenting. I know it is daunting the side affects these medications cause, just trying to find some stability. There is always (or almost always) a trade-off, unfortunately.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

I always hear the side effects of these drugs. It scares me to take any, even if it might help with depression.

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