Taking Lithium

Page 29 in the series Before the Pirates Came*

Taking Lithium** was easy.

After a few months on the medication, Miranda began to feel better. Lithium did not produce a particular noticeable effect, not a buzz or a high. Instead, it was the lack of any appreciable sensation that stood out the most. Her thoughts were not racing, she wasn’t staying up all night, and the excesses that used to drive her had seemed to level out. Nor was she trapped in her blue chenille bathrobe mourning the deaths of people in the local paper— people she did not know. Taking a shower every day started to feel good again, as a balanced energy level returned.

Feeling “well”was unfamiliar to Miranda, and participating in a life with less color felt awkward. She noticed that the paintings she did in art class were no longer the most dark with drama or screaming with zeal. When she sat down to write in her journal the words were precise and mechanical. And where she used to doodle those cute little drawings down the margin of the page, there were squiggles of frustration where the pictures used to be. She told herself she would adjust.

Looking back, Miranda could see how bipolar disorder had impacted her life from the time she was very young. She recalled the trip to Walt Disney World with her family just before her tenth birthday. It was her parents, three brothers, and their precious little Schnauzer, Duchess, driving south on I-75 to Orlando.

During a brief stop to see the sights at St. Augustine, something strange happened. Instead of looking happy and excited, Miranda was morose, a happy healthy girl possessed by sadness for no reason at all. The cannons roared and the fountain of youth spit its historic venom on her, drawing her away from her happy thoughts and into a disorder the family knew nothing about. The historic landmarks ridiculed her in all her despair, and finding herself in front of the camera only made her feel worse. Somewhere there are photographs to prove it.

Miranda played with this memory over a scotch straight up at the club.  It was Mavis’s day off and it was safe to have just one.  (She promised her friend she would try to stop drinking, and she would, very soon.)  Lost in thoughts of the past, she wondered if she had ever experienced what it was like to be “normal.”   How would the new medicated Miranda ever feel at home with her new way of thinking, feeling, loving, spending (!).  She was a tourist in a foreign land who never studied the language.  She was afraid of getting lost.

In those days parents didn’t take their kids to see a doctor about mental illness. And those that did rarely came home with a bipolar diagnosis. Miranda was glad she didn’t end up a child psychiatrist’s guinea pig, sampling new drugs willy nilly.  There would be time for that later, when doctors prescribed a veritable candy store of pills to choose from.  She looked back and wondered how her younger self would have fared.

Miranda knew this was how it had to be.  With Lydia at her side, the support of her loving husband, and a bottle of  yellow pills, she was hopeful that she would fall into step.  But when Lydia asked again whether she had stopped drinking, Miranda couldn’t tell her a lie.  Although she cut back a little, Miranda was still drinking.

*        *        *

**Lithium carbonate is a salt that appears on the table of chemical elements.  It remains a commonly used medication for treating bipolar disorder.  More than 2 million Americans are affected by the disorder each year, with many more going untreated.

National Alliance on Mental Health  (NAMI)

*This story is based on some true events, however, has been fictionalized and all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

© 2012, Shoes for an Imaginary Life. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in About me, Bipolar girl, Vanity girl. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Taking Lithium

  1. Jim Travis says:

    It sounds like the Lithium was having a smoothing effect with you, smoothing things out, making like less hectic, and you returnd to your routine in life if seems. But you still have a little ways to go just yet. The great part of this story, is that I know the ends ;-)
    Love the stories, when you wast to publish this thing I want a signed copy too God Bless-JIM

    • Linda says:

      Yes, yes… there is a happy ending. But the part that kills me is how willful and unteachable Miranda is for many more pages, digging in her heels and deciding she knows best. Hope I meet a girl just like her someday so I can set her straight. Ha. ; )

  2. Jan says:

    If you’ve never been normal, feeling “normal” feels weird. Strange. Alien. Definitely *not* normal.

    • Linda says:

      Hard to imagine, but I know a handful of characters in AA who deal with various mental disorders. They’ve never been normal either, and totally get it. I think there’s more of this kind of thing going around than people realize… (?) P.S. I’m still thinking about that squirrel all curled up in his tail. Paints a sweet picture… : )

      • Jan says:

        They wrap their tails around themselves to warm their bellies, noses, and little paws. I can spend hours watching them race up and down trees and jump from one to another in an endless game of tag.

        Alcohol/drug abuse can create this kind of “what is normal” sensation too. AA is one of those groups that help people discover what is normal for *them*.

        • Linda says:

          I was wondering if your squirrels are brown or black? We have black squirrels in northern Michigan and they look like wildlife movie stars! Silky with gorgeous eyes… so much fun…

          I’ve been a member of AA for a while now… 10 years this coming June 23. It’s all been good. We have alot of folks who are what society might label not-normal, but when you get to know them there just right the way they are. Thanks for making a good observation. ; )

          • Jan says:

            Our squirrels are brown. I’d love to see the black ones–I’m thinking they look as if they are wearing little mink coats!
            We were in an AA-affiliated Bridge group during a particularly rough time with a child. I’d say *most* of our fellow members, including us, were somewhat other than what society would consider “half a bubble off plumb.” I highly recommend both organizations.

          • Linda says:

            I’m also a grateful member of that AA-affiliated group. Normal or half-a-bubble-off, everyone would benefit from practicing the principles of that program. Reminds me again that I’m really blessed. : )

  3. “…Feeling “well”was unfamiliar to Miranda…”

    How sad are these words to see written about anyone, especially a young woman just beginning life. Okay, I ready for more.

    • Linda says:

      The figures are staggering. But because people with a mental disorder look perfectly normal, you’ll never know how many “un-well” people are all around you. It amazes me still…

  4. Theresa says:

    Reading this makes me sad for Miranda, but also interested in learning more about bipolar disorder and some other conditions that impact mood and perspective. Thank you for sharing this.


    • Linda says:

      I’m no expert, but I’ve got 25 years of hands-on experience! There’s a pill for everything today, bad ones as well as good. For the most part, Miranda will show you all the wrong things to do to stay well, so follow along… :)

  5. Debbie says:

    I’m with Theresa and am so thankful for you teaching us about bi-polar, even as you tell the story of Miranda. I was a little sad though that the lithium took away some of what made Miranda, Miranda. . .leaving her feeling so lost. My friends and I would joke. I’d call myself Abby-Normal. :)
    God bless you as you write out these stories, page by page. What a blessing!
    love and prayers!

    • Linda says:

      While Miranda was writing and painting her creepy paintings, I was working as creative director at a radio station. It was complete bliss for someone with creative energy to burn. I noticed a change within the first two months… that I couldn’t crank out big promotions or write the same quality ads as I was used to.

      It really was devestating to me, but my co-workers seemed not to notice. On a day when I felt good, I quit taking the medication. Uh oh.

  6. Elvirah says:

    I am glad that the medication realled helped Miranda to come back to her normal state and happy life. Its really sad for a young girl to face something which is killing her inside to turn her into a lifeless beauty. Thats really nice Miranda could get the help of Lydia right on time and she also had the support of her dear husband, holding her hand when she really needed it. I never would have known about this sad killer disease called Biopolar disorder if i hadn’t stopped by yours and read the story of Miranda. Thanks for throwing some light on it to explain how Lithium works to cure this disorder. I just hope Miranda would pick up and get more better and also get rid of her drinking habit soon.

    • Linda says:

      I’m so glad you learned about bipolar disorder by reading this story. More people have it than you probably know. You sound very compassionate, a good friend, I’ll bet.

      Even though it’s not an excuse, the disorder brings about some very damaging behavior and Miranda’s symptoms haven’t left her for good. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better… like with her drinking. More on that soon… : )

  7. Linda, I just nominated you for two blogging awards. You can check it out and collect your awards here: http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/receiving-and-giving/
    Peace, Linda

    • Linda says:

      I was SO EXCITED to see your comment! : ) I liked your list very much. I’m 5’8″, too. And there were lots of other things we have in common. P.S. I think Roman is a very cool dog name. ; )

      Thanks so much!

    • Hollie says:

      You’re on top of the game. Thanks for shaginr.

  8. nelsonRN says:

    Touching story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Linda says:

      Hi Nelson… hope all is well with you! ; ) As you know from being a medical professional, lithium is a complicated thing… much more than I described in my post. I’ve taken it for 25 years now with amazing results. I know some people aren’t that lucky. : )

  9. Ann says:

    Thank you, Linda

    I am learning so much here. Thank you for sharing. So many walk around in pain, afraid and ashamed of what they did not bring upon themselves.

    Words fail at times…


    • Linda says:

      There were times when I really did feel that way… “afraid and ashamed.” But it is so true that when we become a new creature in Christ, everything changes. I can’t tell you how dramatic and complete that was for me, but I look forward to trying in Part Two of Miranda’s tale… : )

  10. Ferd says:

    Nothing is perfect, but for people like Miranda with bipolar disorder, Lithium is a blessing. Hopefully Miranda sees it that way. I know of many bipolar sufferers who would rather not lose the “energy, color, drive and drama,” with disastrous effects on their lives and that of their families.

    Allowing Lithium to exert its blessing, accepting a life that is more “leveled,” opens the doors to wellness and opportunity. Perhaps it’s not perfect, but what is? Despite potential side effects, cost and nuisance, there is a certain comfort to peace, and order, and stable relationships, and being able to stick to a project to completion.

    I admire Miranda and what she has so bravely endured! Wow!

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