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Lithium, Love and Losing My Mind: Jaime Lowe on Her Life With Bipolar Disorder & Drugs to Manage It

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: “Everyone has a brain, which plays a major role in mental illness. we consider everybody is—temporarily or not—a little mentally ill.” That’s what the next guest is told by a heading psychiatrist, whom she meets in Rome, in a query that takes her from a psychiatric sentinel in Los Angeles to Italy and Bolivia, as she tries to come to grips with the effects of lithium, the drug she’s prescribed when she’s diagnosed at the age of 16 with bipolar disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, bipolar disorders are, quote, “brain disorders that means changes in a person’s mood, appetite and ability to function.” Bipolar commotion used to be called manic depression.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, every year some 44 million Americans knowledge mental illness, of which almost 6 million are diagnosed as bipolar. In her conspicuous memoir, titled Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind, Jaime Lowe shares and investigates her knowledge with mental illness and the drugs used to fight it. She was on lithium for two decades but was forced to go off it when she gifted critical kidney problems as a outcome of the medication. She points to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show the use of remedy remedy for antidepressants among all ages increasing scarcely 400 percent over the last two decades.

To speak some-more about her knowledge with an illness that’s still compared with social tarnish despite inspiring tens of millions of Americans, we’re assimilated now by author and publisher Jaime Lowe.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jaime.


JAIME LOWE: Thank you so much for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: This is a surpassing book.


AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you start off where you first learned, where you first were diagnosed, and speak about your knowledge at the age of 16 in a Los Angeles psych ward?

JAIME LOWE: Well, it started a little bit before that, given we was cycling, and so we was flattering much—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But what does that mean, “cycling”? Explain.

JAIME LOWE: So, we was on a manic high, which meant that we was hallucinating. we suspicion we could speak to Michael Jackson. we suspicion we knew secret tunnels to Neverland. we was like devising Muppets. And some of it was very—you know, some tools of mental illness are kind of funny. Many tools are horrible. And, you know, we had accused my father of being physically abusive. He had never been physically abusive. And at this point, you know, we was using divided from him. And all of my parents—my relatives are divorced. we have like a million parents. But they all had arrange of seen this settlement of disarray, mental disarray, we guess. And they had figured out that the youth sentinel at UCLA was the best place for treatment, and had arrange of taken me to the ER. And so, that’s where we finished up. But we had to take a lot of antipsychotics. we had to go by a lot before Dr. DeAntonio, who was the conduct of youth caring there, diagnosed me. He identified it immediately, given the symptoms are so bizarre, but all similar.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how prolonged did you stay in that psychiatric ward?

JAIME LOWE: I was there for about 3 weeks, so the first 3 weeks of my comparison year.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what was your knowledge there?

JAIME LOWE: It was terrible. And it was also, you know, fantastic, given we got better. So, the commencement of it, we was very resistant to medications. we was, you know, still hallucinating. we was still delusional. we suspicion an canon was happening. we suspicion we was going to be going to fight in Nicaragua. Like there were these huge pipes outward the window, and it was just the generator of the hospital, but we had this thought that they were poison gas and that it was going to be like another Holocaust and we were all going to die. And that was the bad part. The good partial was when we kind of came to the fulfilment that we indispensable to take the medication.

AMY GOODMAN: And the remedy was lithium?


AMY GOODMAN: What was—what did it meant to you that your illness was named? And what did they tell you, at the time, that you were pang from?

JAIME LOWE: So, that was—that’s a really good question. They told me was we was manic depressive, which was what it was called in—when we was diagnosed, in ’93. It’s now called bipolar disorder. To me, it doesn’t make a difference. we am what we am, like Popeye. But the tag is just a category, and it helps to arrange of brand with other people, to know that it’s not—you’re not alone in experiencing all that’s going on, given the symptoms and what’s happening is so bizarre. we mean, there are so many things that are just over imaginable. And so, it’s good to know that those things exist in other people’s world, as well.

I mean, like, one thing is extreme religiosity. I’m not a eremite person at all. But when we was in the hospital, we was like saying, you know, the prayers. we had—the rabbis were visiting me. we was like, you know, really, really into being Jewish and Judaism and like superduper—like celebrating Shabbat. My family is totally not—they’re very Reform, and we’re not on that trip. But in the hospital, we was intensely religious. So that’s something that many people who are bipolar experience. You know, that was one of the few things in the book where we was trying to really find a reason for that, given the symptoms are so bizarre. But that one was arrange of like, nope, they just are the symptoms that they are.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, while you were in the psychiatric ward, you were kept for a duration of time in isolation.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: And despite what people may consider of that, which is that it’s very frightful or claustrophobic, it actually helped you. Explain why.

JAIME LOWE: I consider that that was my breaking point. we consider that, you know, in the same way that—and this sounds horrible, but the same way that you mangle a horse, like we consider that we was just so distant gone, and we had been tackled by nurses to take remedy at that point. we had been like murmur all of these, you know, swindling theories to opposite patients. we was like a threat to everybody on the ward. And they kind of just put me in this box. And we think, even yet it sounds terrible, we just let go of all and kind of collapsed and satisfied that we indispensable to kind of re-evaluate. And that was a glimpse of that; we don’t consider that we was like totally better and it was an “aha” moment, we was like “OK, great!” But we felt calmer. Like we have a graphic memory of like just a little ambience of calm.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you, given you’re a publisher and you’ve really deeply researched all of this now and you’re so deeply sensitive by your own personal experience, speak about what the clarification of bipolar commotion is? And then, also report how you changed on lithium, what kind of effects it had on you and, in your investigate and interviews with so many other people who have gifted this, what it meant to them.

JAIME LOWE: Sure. The definition, as we know it, for bipolar commotion would be that there is a duration of manic highs followed by a cycle of depression. And it can possibly be prolonged basin with one prolonged mania, or it can be like mania, depression, mania, depression. The thing about mental illness is that it’s so individual. Everybody arrange of has their own—you know, as the symptoms are very similar, but any person really—it’s the hardest thing to treat, given it’s just your own knowledge is somewhat opposite from the person next to you, which is given it’s really tough to tackle as a inhabitant issue. In terms of—I’m forgetting—

AMY GOODMAN: The medication.

JAIME LOWE: Yes, the medication—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what lithium is, and explain how—what outcome it had on you and given you eventually, after decades, had to give it up.

JAIME LOWE: So, lithium is the third component on the periodic table. So, it was benefaction in the Big Bang. It’s this kind of this extraordinary spectacle salt. It also is a metal. It’s benefaction everywhere on Earth, in the galaxy, in the bodies, for everyone.

So, the lithium, for me, when we took it, we didn’t actually feel that many side effects. A lot of people feel side effects. A lot of people, it doesn’t work for. For me, it was kind of seamless. And we consider partial of the reason it was seamless was given it had to be. we had been experiencing just so much tumult in my life that to have something that kind of evened all out was good. And we was in my comparison year, and we kind of just let go of all else and was like, “OK, this is what’s going to work for me, and this is what we have to do. And this is what, going forward, I’m going to have to take.” That year was really hard, just given we was kind of—you know, gave up on high school and friends and everything.

But then, when we went to college, all was great, and we didn’t really consider about it. Lithium was kind of in my back pocket and worked. And then we had—it worked so well, actually, that I—with my psychiatrist, once we had changed to New York after college, we motionless that we could like finish down, try life but lithium, because—

AMY GOODMAN: After how long?

JAIME LOWE: That was—I was 25, so it was about—

AMY GOODMAN: Nine years after you started it.

JAIME LOWE: Yeah. So, that was not a good idea, nonetheless who—I mean, who was to know? You know? Because it could have been an removed incident.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, so many people report wanting to knowledge the highs and lows of life, which is given they go off of it.


AMY GOODMAN: So what did it meant to, quote, “taper down” in your life?

JAIME LOWE: So, we still knowledge the highs and lows in life, in a flattering hyperbolic form, even with lithium. we still get really endangered when, you know, there’s too much work on my plate. we still am really, really like vehement about pointless things that we can’t identify. But when complacency comes, it comes, and it’s great. But when I’m not on the medication, the highs and lows are unmanageable. There are like highs that are wearing, you know, head-to-toe shine and like 18 tutus, 16 belts, 30 necklaces and like, you know, this like crazy—and we can see it like when I’m on the transport sometimes. I’ll see someone, and I’m like, “Oh, we commend that outfit.” Like, it looks a lot like something that we would have desired when we was not on my meds.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, one of the things that you indicate out—I mean, a partial of the reason that this discourse is so conspicuous is that, you know, there is still a lot of tarnish trustworthy to mental illness, so it took a lot of bravery for you to write as you did. And similarly, it’s mostly very formidable for people to accept that they need remedy for mental illness. You didn’t have those problems.

JAIME LOWE: That’s true. we can see the stigma, and we know it, and we see it with other people. For me, we come from like—I consider we just have never really had a filter. we don’t—like we haven’t—the bravery partial didn’t really even start to me, given we don’t—I’ve always talked a lot about being bipolar. And maybe that’s given we was diagnosed when we was 16, and it’s always been kind of a partial of who we am. And describing it is not something that we feel bad about myself for. There are moments, though, when I’m like, “Please, we don’t wish to consider about remedy anymore. Like, we don’t wish to do this to rest my life. we don’t wish to have to.” And we consider that that is like a totally healthy greeting that everybody who suffers from mental illness arrange of has to understanding with.

AMY GOODMAN: I don’t consider you described that indicate where you slim off and what it meant in terms of what happened to you.


AMY GOODMAN: And then when you eventually had to go off it, which is some-more recent, given of kidney trouble.

JAIME LOWE: Right. So, the tapering off was in 2001. It was in Jan of 2001. And actually, it was progressing than that, and the manic partial that followed was that winter. And that was like, we just started working really weird. And we was actually vital only a few blocks from your studio, which was really funny, given we just walked by my old apartment. And we started—I like was—I quit my job. we was freelancing. we was getting—I had a pursuit offer. we was like, “I don’t wish to work anymore. I’m going to trade for things. I’m going to just like buy brussels sprouts and, like, squash.” And like, we was promulgation like $700 of squish to neighbors.

And one of the things that triggered the really, really bad tools of that partial is that—when we was on one of the pursuit interviews that we went on for—I consider it was Blendermagazine, which is this music repository published by Maxim and stuff, and my unit burned down. And it was like offensive and just like this thing that finished all a billion times worse. And it just triggered this really, really intense—it was substantially a good 6 months where we was back and onward between New York and L.A., given we wouldn’t stay in L.A., where my relatives were trying to like help me get better. They didn’t wish to put me into an adult psychiatric care, given it was like the resources of that are just way over getting better even. So, we then finished up in L.A. for 3 months with my family and then came back here and was like flattering vexed for 6 months. It was really, really hard.

AMY GOODMAN: And were you self-aware? we mean, given you were operative with a doctor, you knew you were tapering down. Did you know you were in a full manic phase, that this was the effect?

JAIME LOWE: No. So, we mean, I—no, we didn’t wish to know that we was in a manic phase. we was fundamentally like, “I’m fine. This is amazing. Everything that’s happening is the way it should be. And you guys are all crazy.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to mangle and then come back to this contention with Jaime Lowe. She’s an author and journalist. Her latest book is just out; it’s titled Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind. When we come back, we’ll go from that UCLA adolescent psych sentinel to the salt flats of Bolivia, where so much of lithium is. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Hungry Ghost” by Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, working here in our Democracy Now! studio. To see her full performances and interview, go to democracynow.org. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guest is Jaime Lowe, author of Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind. It’s a memoir. Nermeen?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Before we go to your outing to Bolivia, which is where most—half of the world’s lithium is found, we wanted to speak about the fact that, in your book, you lift the doubt of the two opposite traumas that you gifted that, what you say, triggered your bipolar disorder. Now, there’s a lot of discuss within the psychiatric village about to what border this disorder, which used to be famous as manic depression, is caused by a chemical imbalance and what’s caused by environmental factors. So can you contend what role you consider mishap plays in this?

JAIME LOWE: It’s a really good question, given it is controversial and totally unknowable, in some ways. we consider that it’s a cause of both sourroundings and genetics. we consider that my family unequivocally has a story of mental illness. My grandfather on my mom’s side comes from a family that has some mental illness in it, and he was arrange of late. He was—as an elder person, he arrange of had a hitch of basin that was flattering serious.

But we was molested when we was 13. And we consider that a lot of—you know, there was this extensive study of investigate from the past 40 years that fundamentally pronounced that passionate attack victims are compared with mental illness. Now, it doesn’t indispensably meant it triggers it or that it causes it, but that there is this couple between the two things. And we consider that there’s almost—you know, when we consider about my episodes, they infrequently revolve around those forms of—like that mishap is endangered in some of my hallucinations. They were endangered in some of the things that were kind of the outlandish tools of the way we was behaving, were like manifestations of having been assaulted.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In what sense, though? In what clarity would you contend that’s the case?

JAIME LOWE: I consider that, you know, identifying male total in my life, like my dad, and observant that he had abused me, and that that abuse actually was coming from somewhere else. Like, he has never abused me. He’s been a amatory father my whole life and very understanding and trying to know what all of this is, as all my relatives have always tried to do, given it’s not easy. we consider like when somebody loses their mind and loses who they are and can’t duty the way that you know them to duty on a daily basis, it’s really tough to know that that’s not who they are.

And we consider that the—so, we consider the passionate attack actually is partial of it. And we consider that then any partial is also a mishap in itself, given they’re really, really intense, really, really kind of—they arrange of change the way your life moves, and it’s like a opposite account then. You know, as if there was a together one, what would have happened? Like, we have no idea. Like, this is who we am. This is the way that my life played out. But we consider like any time something happens, there’s like a little bit—a partial of you kind of shifts with it.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you speak about what happened after 20 years, when your kidneys were influenced and you had to totally go off of lithium? Your fears at the time?


AMY GOODMAN: And what you went on to?

JAIME LOWE: So, I—that was what fundamentally brought on this book, is that we had satisfied that we had this almost adore event with lithium, like this attribute with lithium, that it really helped me duty for two decades in a way that we never would have had, and that the notation that we had this earthy like sign that it wasn’t actually 100 percent good for me or that it was, you know, eating divided at my kidneys—which is not a technical term—that we had to know some-more about it. Like, we didn’t know some-more about it. we didn’t know anything about it as a medication. we didn’t really know much about it in its place in the world. And the notation we started questioning it, it was like this spectacle drug. Nobody really still knows how it works. And it’s been used for millennia. How it felt, for me, personally, was like zero but distraught and just like finish fear that we would finish up manic again, given another remedy wouldn’t work.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did they give you?

JAIME LOWE: So, the first time we tried Depakote, it was just—the side effects were really, really intense, and we like was great all the time, and it was a mess. And this was like the thing we had not gifted with lithium when we was first prescribed it. A lot of people don’t conflict good to medications. It’s given mental illness is really tough to provide also. It’s given it’s tough to get mentally ill people to stay on medications, as the side effects can be really severe. So, we was on Depakote. It was really, really hard. we got off of it given we just couldn’t understanding with it. And we finished up holding another medication, Tegretol, which then, it incited out, was poisonous for my liver, which was a like arrange of a pointless thing that my ubiquitous practitioner found at a slight physical, appreciate goodness, or not, whatever.

Then, we was arrange of out of the really good drugs for mania. The rest of the drugs are some-more for depression, and we humour some-more from mania. So, my psychiatrist and we motionless that we would try Depakote again. And we tried it, and it was actually like way better. It worked out way better. we was feeling fine. It was OK. And all of the side effects we had felt primarily were like there, but way less. So we just arrange of insincere they were psychosomatic.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go, we wanted to speak about Bolivia just for a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: We only have two minutes. So, can you speak about the tour you took to the place, the land of lithium—

JAIME LOWE: The Salar.

AMY GOODMAN: —where half of lithium is found in?

JAIME LOWE: Yes. The journey, we mean, it’s like—it’s a enchanting place, for me, like I—and, we think, for anyone who’s there, given it has this kind of moonscape. It feels like you’re in a totally opposite universe, where all is kind of this bright immature and you can kind of feel the salt crawling up your physique and arrange of immersing itself in your pores. And it was like we wanted to just hurl around in it and kind of compensate loyalty to this thing that had helped me for so long. They have these little salt hotels. You can stay in the center of the Salar. And they’re not really hotels. They’re like a cot where you stay nearby springs that you can soak in, and the water is like really brimful with lithium, and you can just lay there with like the steam rising up. And it’s a really kind of enchanting place, we guess, for miss of—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, one of the things that you say, in terms of the border to which lithium is prescribed, is that it’s not a law drug.


AMY GOODMAN: So what does that meant in terms of people’s entrance to lithium?

JAIME LOWE: So it’s really cheap. People aren’t—like, psychiatrists don’t allot it as much, given it’s not as marketed by curative companies. But lithium is—the problem is, is that there aren’t some-more tests finished on lithium for other applications, given there isn’t a marketplace for it. Like there’s no income to be made.

AMY GOODMAN: Because it’s generic.

JAIME LOWE: Right. So, there are studies that have pronounced that it’s good for Parkinson’s, it’s good for ALS, that it’s good in a lot of opposite ways for brain function, besides just treating bipolar disorder.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 20 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: With the millions of people approaching to tumble off healthcare, are you endangered about the mentally ill in this country?

JAIME LOWE: I’m always endangered about the mentally ill in this country, given the medical doesn’t even cover adequate mental illness coverage. Like, it’s just there are—you know, 30 percent of people in homeless shelters are mentally ill. Twenty-four percent of people in state prisons are mentally ill. You know, there’s a lot of—there are a lot of people to be endangered about.

AMY GOODMAN: We wish to appreciate you for being with us, Jaime—

JAIME LOWE: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: —and for essay this book, Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind.

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