What Lithium Feels Like

I remember when I dated the pharmacy technician a couple years back, he asked me what lithium does to a person. This memory was triggered when one of my bosses who is also bipolar compared taking lithium and other health meds to that of taking a Tylenol or an ibuprofen in the sense that Tylenol helps headaches, fever, and pain and slightly reduces symptoms but they never truly go all away. Same goes for lithium and other mood stabilizers.

It’s interesting to me that the particular analogy he used hit me so hard. When I was on that date with the pharmacy guy, I remember explaining a mood stabilizer like a seesaw or teeter totter. The mood stabilizer acts as the base or fulcrum to balance out between other meds in cases of bipolar or bipolar schizoaffective such as antidepressants or antipsychotics.

But in order for a normie to really relate to what I am saying, the Tylenol analogy is way more accurate. I mean, both are definitely accurate representations of psych meds but everyone learns and understands differently so it’s just more food for thought.

Taking lithium at the height of a manic or depressive state straight out the gate won’t do shit for anyone. It’s a substance that requires lots of time and lots of dose adjustments. I currently take 900 mg a day and it started out I think at 200 mg when I first started taking it back in 2018. It really wasn’t until I started taking meds consistently every day all day long that I noticed the slightest of differences in my moods.

However, when you take it as prescribed, I think it makes the difference versus me just taking one anti depressant and one antipsychotic; with those you have nothing making the highs and lows of the seesaw even out, you have no fulcrum. So it helps, taking those meds, but it’s not cohesive.

As for the Tylenol analogy I think if you have mild symptoms, mild headache, hand aches, whatever it may be, Tylenol works wonders. However, if you broke an ankle or your headache is sending you to the emergency room, I don’t think Tylenol will help much if at all.

Same goes for lithium and stabilizing moods. If you are on one end of extreme emotion or on the other, that lithium isn’t gonna help very much.. you would need something else to help stabilize you. However if you are just like a wavelength going up and down very subtle-like, the lithium will decrease the curve of the wavelength so it’s more of a flat line. When I personally am in an inbetween state, neither manic nor depressed, I often feel very monotone as in blank, or without feeling at all.

And being without feelings at all is almost worse than having too many feelings all at once to cope with. As overwhelming as multiple feelings get to be in rapid succession, being numb and emotionless detaches you from the outside world.

So what does one do? You balance with your care provider between too much and too little emotion and find a happy medium. For me, that was 900mg a day of lithium; that’s my happy medium. And even then I have monotone days and then I have overwhelming feeling and suicidal ideation days that cannot be stopped with lithium alone as well as your antidepressants and antipsychotics. Sometimes you gotta take a PRN (nursing term for an “as needed” drug). Whether you take Xanax, Lorazepam, Hydroxyzine, etc. it doesn’t really matter because it helps numb whatever is on edge but like with the Tylenol analogy, even Tylenol (or in this case, your PRN) is not a fix all.

I think, at least for me, I am often forgetful of the fact that bipolar disorder and other mental health illnesses have no cure to them. We are all doing the best we can with what we have and we need to be mindful of that when we talk to others because you never know what someone else is going through.

Anyways that’s it for me at the moment! Happy December and much love to you all.

Dani

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