A friend sent me a Wall Street Journal article, "A Mysterious Balm for Mania." It reviewed a book called Lithium by Walter A. Brown.
The article, a history of the curious development of lithium, showed me how lucky I was to take that drug.
In New York in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, I'd been in and out of mental hospitals, in and out of therapists' offices, but nobody knew what was wrong with me. That's because I had a long cycle; years passed between bouts of mania and depression. Therapists treated one or the other but not both.
Then, by chance, in a drug store in St. Louis I noticed a cheap yellow paperback about mental illness and I bought it. As it described what was then called manic/depression (now bipolar disorder), I recognized myself. I understood for the first time what was wrong with me. And the book stated that THE medicine for mania was lithium.
Back in New York in the fall of 1986, I showed the book to my therapist. She sent me to a pricey Park Avenue psychiatrist. He prescribed medicine, but it wasn't lithium, so I went back and demanded it.
"People don't like lithium," he told me. "You have to get blood drawn all the time."
But I insisted.
I'm glad I did, for the lithium worked. My mania is gone.
No more hallucinating on the New York city bus that I am Buddha.
No more meeting my friend Barry in a mental hospital - Barry who had "accidentally" toppled six stories out of his hotel room now alive and well.
No more being held to the floor by two burly guys so the hospital nurse could shoot me up with thorazine.
No more refusing to let the cops into my boyfriend's apartment so they had to break down his door in order to haul me to the nut house.
Etc., etc., etc.
What a blessing!