bipolar disorder

I’m Taking Lithium Now: My Bipolar Medication Has A Song Named After It

Even though my personal life is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health, breaking the stigma, and erasing shame, I still feed into a lot of the misconceptions and stereotypes around mental illness. Today’s blog post attempt to explore one of my problematic views, which is my unease around taking the bipolar medication called lithium.

I’m so happy because today
I’ve found my friends
They’re in my head
I’m so ugly, but that’s okay, ’cause so are you

“Lithium” is so common that there is even a Nirvana song named after it. The song’s writer, the late Kurt Cobain, was never confirmed to have bipolar disorder, but his depression was well-documented.

Lithium is still one of the first lines of treatment for bipolar disorder, but ever since my diagnosis, I have lived in fear of being prescribed the drug. Why? I don’t know exactly except that I feel like it would confirm that I am truly crazy. I worry that people will be scared of me if they know that I am taking it. (Yet I still feel it is important to tell the world through this blog in order to do my part to raise awareness). I’ve also heard that it can be dangerous and that there are huge potential side effects, from everything like weight gain, memory problems, hallucinations and more. It has also been said that lithium dulls the senses and can affect your personality.

I don’t know why I am so scared of lithium. It’s just a natural salt. In fact, some studies have shown that small traces of lithium naturally found in water can possibly lead to less suicides in a given area. However, lithium does require frequent blood tests in order to ensure the levels in your blood are not toxic. I also need to be sure to stay hydrated, something I am certainly not great at. However, I need to embrace H2O quickly if I want to stay healthy.

This all sounds a little negative – but most people who take the medication, if they follow their doctor’s instructions, are just fine. In fact, it works really well to stabilize moods. Lithium can lessen the severity and frequency of mania and depression, and as I said earlier, significantly diminish the risk of suicide.

This is going to be a short and sweet blog post because today I am just all out of spoons. (What does that mean? Visit this link to find out.) I told myself that I would publish something on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays no matter what, so here we are.

Why do I have no energy? I spent the entire day lying in bed, not asleep, just lying there. Depression does that to you. I really hope that I can reduce the frequency of these bad days with the lithium. I will update you guys in a month or two on my progress.

I’m going to end this post with a question, as I usually do. Do you take  medication for your mental illness? Tell me about it in the comments below! And if you take lithium specifically, I would definitely love to hear your thoughts.

22 comments on “I’m Taking Lithium Now: My Bipolar Medication Has A Song Named After It

  1. theobserver112

    Like you, I’m scared of lithium. I’ve discussed it with my psych a few times but he’s as reluctant as I am. What seems to work for me is a combination of quetiapine and semisodium valporate. My brother has been on lithium though and it sadly wasn’t for him. I hope you have better success!

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  2. I take a combination of Latuda and Lithium Orotate. My psychiatrist recommended taking the lithium orotate since I have the very same reservations about taking prescription lithium. Seems to be working, which is nice since it’s sold as an over the counter supplement.

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  3. I had started to suspect that perhaps the depression that had plagued me for years & years was actually one of the illnesses in the bipolar spectrum. And, I hoped that if that turned out to be the case, Lithium wouldn’t be part of the treatment plan. It’s funny: I don’t have an issue with taking medication for mental illness — I’d been taking anti-depressants for a few years. I think my bias against Lithium was two-fold: First, it’s been around a long time, since the days when bipolar was mostly seen by the world as simply being crazy, unable to function in society, and so it reminds me of that mindset. Second, the side-effects & need to monitor blood levels sounded daunting. But it also has a long track record of working, so I held on to that thought. I saw a psychiatrist a few months ago, who diagnosed me with with Bipolar II. He prescribed Lamictal as a mood stabilizer, which I take in addition to the Cymbalta (anti-depressant) I was already taking. I do feel a bit more level, but also in a bit of depression dip at the moment, so not sure if that is the meds or just a “normal” part of the BPII cycle. I am experiencing side effects but luckily they aren’t too severe. I hope Lithium works for you.

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  4. I don’t take Lithium but I do take Olanzapine for my Bipolar. I find it stabilises me but the first few days on it were quite tough, I’ve just had it increased and again I am struggling the first few days. I hope you settle on Lithium quickly.

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  5. R. A. Currier

    I took it: shakes, blurred vision, acne, hair loss, …and I liked “pop” music.
    It wasn’t for me.
    I take over 4K of meds. Monthly. I think it may have dropped to about 2k because the Pharma company didn’t have to be sued for a generic of one of mine.
    I hate meds.
    Unfortunately, I am often quite “sick” and can’t function (I wish I were born into a shamanistic society) and CBD and weed is illegal here.
    So heavy metals. ^_^
    Lithium: it works: it doesn’t: DRINK SO MUCH WATER, IF YOU CHANGE YOUR EXERCISE HABITS AT ALL.
    Love you, lady.
    Thanks for the blog.

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  6. Marijuana.
    Do some research on the availability of medical marijuana, and the treatments for depression and mental disorders.
    You are in a predicament. I can fully understand your trepidation. There are still side effects even if you do follow your doctors instructions to the T. there will be side effects if you decide to start treatment, then change your mind.
    Hugs.

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  7. I took lithium for years after breastfeeding, along with Depakote, and gained a ton of weight on it. But I do have to say that the medication saved my life, and made life worth living.

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  8. I’ve taken nearly every psychotropic known to man and woman that came out between the years 1995-2010. I would love to take lithium-alone, but it was never effectual for me. It is true it has dangerous side effects, but they can be readily monitored.

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  9. Lithium in combination with a MAOI works extremely well for me, a woman with treatment-resistant bipolar depression.

    I take 900 mg a night. Unlike my friend Cassandra, I haven’t gained any weight with lithium. (Now when I took Seroquel that was a different story…)

    This is an excellent book about lithium and its history; the co-author Dr. Gregory de Moore is a lithium expert:

    Like with any medication or other treatment, there are the positive experiences and horror stories – we’re brave to try anything when you think about it!

    ***Good luck*** I hope it helps you a lot and that you get more energy in the days to come.
    Hang in there.

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  10. Hi again Beverly, Stine is a new blogger I came across a day ago. You might know about her, but just in case you don’t, here’s her newest post – I thought of you! (I’ll let her know about your post as well.)

    https://bipolher.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/lithium-side-effects-better-than-depression/

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  11. Lithium saved my life. I have been taking it for a year and a half. I had less than pleasant experiences with other drugs.

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  12. I haven’t taken medication for my bipolar disorder in about 4 years. I’ve always looking into more ‘natural’ substances, but for the moment I am managing without any medication at all! I never really knew about lithium until nore recently.

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  13. I’ve been on prescription lithium for 6 years or so now. I find I have less side effects with the Extended Release form, so that’s something to keep in mind.
    Lithium has treated me pretty well, though we have had to adjust a few times as my natural levels have adjusted and I’ve ended up near toxicity.

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    • I forgot to check the box to be notified of replies… Hopefully if I check it with this one I’ll find out if you reply to me….

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      • Thanks Jenny for telling me about your experiences with lithium, glad you found a dosage that works. Hopefully it will for me!

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      • I sure hope it works for you! It is quite effective in those it works for.

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  14. I just wanted to say that lithium was my husband’s miracle drug. It does have side effects, but when it works it works and as one commenter has already shared, it saved his life and gave him a life worth living. There are side effects to everything and it must be so hard to weight everything there is to think about with medications these days, and while it isn’t the drug for everyone with bi-polar, it can be a huge benefit for those who are successfully treated with it. Take good care.

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  15. Thanks so much for having the courage to write about your experience with bipolar in a public forum! Lithium is still considered the gold standard for maintenance treatment and works so well for so many people that psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi called it “the closest thing to a cure for bipolar.” There are potential side effects even more serious than those you listed, such as kidney damage and hypothyroidism, and I have heard one friend describe her state of mind while taking it stable but she complained “I wanted to cry but couldn’t, wanted to laugh but couldn’t.” So, lithium is not without serious risk of various types, but it is frequently very effective and I wish you the best with it. Odds are, you’ll be fine and your symptoms will be reduced, so, fingers crossed, and good luck!
    I do want to direct your attention two ideas for consideration, though. I came across both of these ideas while reading Dr. James Phelps’s new book “Bipolar … Not So Much.” (You can find most of this info on his website too: http://psycheducation.org/. That’s how I first came across it.) I really enjoyed the book and found it to be full of useful information. He actually emphasizes non-medical treatments, may of which he was introduced to by his patients, but discusses lithium at length. One thing he covers in the Lithium section of the book is the idea of taking low-dose lithium. Although the usual dose for bipolar is 1800 milligrams a day, Dr. Phelps suggests that doses as low as 200 to 600 milligrams a day can be effective for many patients and the benefit of this regimen is that the lower dose precludes most of the nastiest side effects. It might not be as effective for bipolar type I patients as for patients who are lower on the bipolar spectrum, but it’s food for thought.
    Secondly, Dr. Phelps is a big fan of lamotrigine. (I am currently taking this medication.) Lamotrigine isn’t as good as lithium at treating the manic side of things but it is a great preventative for manic symptoms and a really good antidepressant too. The exceptional thing about lamotrigine is that it has very few side effects. There’s a potentially very serious rash you can get, but that seems to be exceedingly rare.
    Again, thanks for writing on this difficult topic, good luck, and I hope the ideas and resources I mentioned might be of some benefit to you!
    (I realize this comment ended up sounding like I am some kind of booster for Dr. Phelps, however, I have never met him and don’t have any connection to him or any of his businesses. I was only recently diagnosed with bipolar type II and found his website and book very informative. I thought the information was particularly relevant to you as you start taking lithium, so I felt compelled to let you know about this stuff, in case you can get something good out of it.

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  16. How are things going? I should probably check your blog too, but wanted to comment first, since that’s what reminded me.

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