Mental Health

How Lithium Saved My Life

Please remember to consult your doctor regarding mental health, medication, and other concerns.

I remember thinking I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to go on lithium.  I had countless conversations with my psychiatrist about other options.  But the truth is, I was running out of options.  Other medications didn’t seem to be “working”.  And therapy was only doing so much at that point.  I was extremely depressed and my suicidal thoughts were out of control to the point where I was focused on them constantly. To be honest, I don’t know how I was functioning.  Why was this happening?  When and how did things get so out of control?  At that point, I decided to give in.  I needed help.  And I needed help fast.  Life was unbearable and I was sinking.

That decision would change my life forever.

Just days after I began taking lithium, the suicidal thoughts lessened.  Suddenly a torture I had lived with for so long was no longer there.  In a matter of days, I could breathe again all because of a chemical compound in a tiny silver capsule.

I honestly believe lithium was a miracle drug for me.  By no means was it a “cure-all” for my depression, but it restored a hope in me. The kind of hope that is often lost in times of depression.  A hope that I never received from any of the other seven medications I had tried. However, I couldn’t get over the stigma of taking lithium.  By taking it, a part of me was acknowledging that things had gotten so bad that I needed it. And that bothered me.   It scared me.  I didn’t know anyone on this medication, but I (ignorantly) knew it was for “crazy” people.  That kind of thinking had kept me from starting it in the first place.  Because the truth is, I should have taken lithium long before I did.  Depression and suicidal thoughts took a lot away from me.  I feel I lost years filled with countless memories and special moments to my disorder.  Time I’ll never quite get back.  Looking back, I’m angry I let the fear of the stigma dictate how I was going to treat my mental health.

I used to worry that going on lithium would make me lose myself.  That it would take a part of me away and I would never be the same.  Well, the latter was true – I would never be the same.  Because quite honestly, once the thoughts disappeared, I felt different.  I felt hopeful.  I didn’t feel like everything was caving in around me.  I enjoyed waking up every morning.  I could see a future for myself.  I could breathe again.  And it was wonderful.

So why did I chose to write this piece? When I was deciding if I should take lithium, I researched online for hours trying to find personal anecdotes or success stories of how the medication helped people.  To be honest, I didn’t come across too much, which didn’t help at all.  However, once I set aside my fear of the medication and shame of the stigma and finally put my health first, I chose to work with my psychiatrist to come up with a game plan for my depression.  And that plan involved lithium.  And that lithium saved my life.

Unfortunately, medication for mental health is extremely individualized and just because it “works” for one person doesn’t mean another will have the same benefit. And vice versa. Just because it doesn’t work for someone doesn’t mean all hope is lost for you. However, I hope if you are in a similar situation as me and search “lithium” in Google, you’ll come across this piece. It can be the success story that you read.  Because it’s from a successful woman who made it through pharmacy school and residency with the help of lithium.  A woman who is no longer ashamed to say lithium saved her life.  A woman who hopes that one day, you won’t be either. TC mark

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