That was my lithium level last week. Not quite enough to count, but enough if you are of the “low-dose” school of thought, which, of course, my doc is not.

From my point of view, I may as well have had a lobotomy. My personality is gone. And wherever it went, it took my brain and my creativity along too. And my ability to say words without slurring. I am a true psych patient now – the blank stare, the slow reactions.

Funnily, today I was at this work seminar and I went in the bathroom and all the sudden in the mirror, I see this goth chick staring back at me. I got the Eurotrash look without even trying. It was funny a little bit, and surprising.

Even worse than how I feel is that I am afraid that the psychiatrist will see this as an improvement. I am calm. But maybe stoned is a better word. I can’t tell if I am depressed, or just drugged. Is this a side effect or the effect?

I wish I were dead, not in the same way as in the past, when I have wished that just to have fucking quiet in my head for a few minutes, but in a duller, more sinister way. I see another 50 years ahead of me in which everything is washed out, there is no pleasure, there is nothing I want to do. What happened to the me who couldn’t wait to fly around the world and see its wonders? All of my dreams have become onerous.

And yet lithium is the one, probably only, drug that drastically reduces suicide rates. I think this must be because it makes suicide redundant. Why bother going through all the mess of killing myself if I’m walking around dead anyway?

Strangely, the time most like this one in my life was right before my first episode (described here). I think I felt like this then. I haven’t been this slow for, well, must be 18 years now.

Before, when I got depressed, there was a welcome side to it, at least in the early stages. I knew a downturn was coming because I became more sensitive to the beauty of art, and I would head into bed with my favorite books around me, tangibly comforting, and read something I loved, maybe the part in Lolita when Humbert sees her fat and pregnant, the ultimate anti-nymphet, and knows he still loves her and has ruined her forever. Or the world to come, where even Gimpel the Fool cannot be deceived, or the tragedy of the Witch, who is ugly and strange, and therefore gets no ever after. Perhaps the secret mannequin city under the streets of Istanbul.

I read these things and feel them and love them and cry when I get depressed. This is part of the cycle of my life and even though it is sad, I miss it;  once in a dream, my father asked me why I have no true love, and my answer was to show him my books and tell him, “But don’t you understand, these are my love.”

Now, the words that meant so much to me for so long mean nothing. I am not even sad enough to love them. I would rather be sad than be nothing.

When I can concentrate enough to form a thought, I see my life as a ruin. I went into this serious, respectable field with the one goal of not being like my family. I was the best girl in the world. And it got me anyway. Now, since I failed to beat this, I am stuck in a field that is very unsuited to my spirit (today I got the criticism – twice – that I needed to be more authoritarian). I am basically a selfish person, as narcissistic as anyone in my family, and now I am in a service to others position. The one thing that does redeem my family members who are all crazy and selfish is that they make beautiful art, things that can help others, inspire others, comfort. I should be doing that as well. In the theater and the arts, you are allowed, if not expected, to be selfish and crazy. Here, I am surrounded by uptight, rule-book types. And that didn’t save me from being crazy. I couldn’t morph into one of them.

My writing is very scattered now, I see. No steady thread of thought. So maybe I should stop.

If nothing else, at least now I will be able to sardonically say, “You haven’t really lived unless you’ve woken up with the taste of lithium salt on your tongue…” Which is a pretty good line, I guess.

Here’s another question I’ll toss out to the readership: it seems like the more and more I read, sooner or later, anyone on lithium eventually has an episode of levels rising with dehydration or something. Is this something I need to prepare for? Say, tell my boyfriend what I take?



  1. I am sorry to hear that the lithium washes you out–I have no experience with lithium, so I can offer no words of advice, no words of comfort. I have no idea if it will get better or worse, but I can say that I am thinking of you. Not in a prayer way, necessarily, or some great beam of energy pointed in your direction–I just think of you, every once and a while, and I hope you are doing ok.

    I also felt compelled to comment, because i noticed another glaring similarity in us: a certain IB Singer. You have seriously good taste. 🙂

  2. I, too, am sorry to hear about your experience with Lithium. I’m on Lamictal and it is a wonderful drug for me. I would hope that your drugged feeling is not the goal of your doctor. No one should have to go through life like that. There are too many other options.

    I will be praying for you. Especially since you feel the need to by anonymous about this part of your life. So, just know that your readers care even though we can’t be there physically, we are out here.

    I do have to admit that I am disappointed at what I’ve found will be limitations on my abilities to take on certain things, apparently forever. But, I will accept that in exchange for the craziness that was my world beforehand.

  3. quality of life is everything. Dont be afraid to settle for less in a career if it will alow you to be happier overall. You may find out that the REAL you doesnt have the same needs and goals as the rest of the mainstream population.
    I made the same mistakes you did, trying to excel in academics and a career simply because I had this need to be ‘okay’ and prove to everyone I was not like my family.
    It sucks, and its a lot of work being unique because the things that work for most folks dont work for us.
    eventually you will get stability, inner peace and the ability to stand up to your demons.
    When the change comes it will be like a shamanic experience. Was for me anyhow. =)

  4. I hate that this is happening to you. Lithium was the first drug I ever took. I was high as a kite and it brought me straight down, a good thing at the time. Later I had all the symptoms you describe. The worst, I lost the ability to follow a book and no interest in anything. I had to go off it. I hope this ends up working for you, I’m still looking for the right drug but I’ll tell you I need to fly sometimes. Just not too high. Best wishes

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