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Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind
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Manny Schwimmer | 6 comments Everyone - as you read, consider the following, and please post your discussion responses anytime from now until 4/10!

1) Throughout the book, Jaime struggles to identify how much of her personality was unique and not defined by her bipolar disorder. Her description of this struggle on pages 86-87 stood out to me in particular. To what extent do you think that Jaime's "natural" personality was in fact bipolar?

2) To what extent would you say that lithium and, later in her life, other drug therapies suppressed her authentic self?

3) The book describes in great detail the chaos Jaime created during her manic episodes for herself, her family, friends, and acquaintances. They all found themselves scrambling to protect Jaime from herself (for example, read page 148). Do you think that people with a diagnosed bipolar disorder should feel obligated to inform friends and acquaintances about their diagnosis, the same way that people with epilepsy often wear medical bracelets to notify strangers in case of a crisis? Why or why not?

4) What were some ways in which Jaime's lifelong experience with bipolar disorder were made more difficult because she is a woman? In what ways was being a woman an advantage for her? Try to name 2-3 examples of each.

5) What are the 1-2 key points you will take away from this book?

Allie (bookbabe12) | 33 comments Mod
Hi all,

I found this to be a really interesting read and am glad that Jaime Lowe let us see a bit of her world and that she presented it with such candor. What primarily spoke to me about this book was that I have an ex with bipolar disorder. He shared a lot of Jaime's attributes (larger than life personality, unique attire, impulses such as drunkenly screaming from the theater stage after hours while naked, etc.). He would write furiously for several nights in a row without sleep and when he swung towards the depressive side he simply stayed in and avoided the world. Because of him (and some very minor interactions with others) I assumed I had a good grasp on what this illness looked like. I was wrong. I later encountered another man who was hallucinating (hearing/seeing), hyperverbal, paranoid, and just plain out of it. His diagnosis said "bipolar disorder" but I didn't possibly think that could be accurate. After a few chapters of Lowe's book, I realized that this disorder actually could fit his behavior. I didn't realize that the lack of sleep could cause a lot of these issues (not necessarily the underlying diagnosis). So to answer question#5- I learned that even though I repeatedly promote the idea that disability is not a monolithic experience, I actually had been guilty of treating certain disorders as such. I will take away from this book the idea that each person's experience with an illness can look completely different.

2) I think her restlessness, need for adventure, and love of unique music/clothes/etc. are all Jaime. A lot of times, I feel that certain mental disorders magnify who a person already is instead of making them someone they are not. Impulse control is a big issue with these kinds of diagnoses so it is hard to tell what Jaime would have said or done eventually or what she would not have, but I think she'd be a colorful character either way!

3) I do not feel that people with mental illnesses (or bipolar) should be or feel obligated to tell those around them (except for where absolutely mandated by an outside source). I also feel that if they are asked point blank about a diagnosis, they should not lie but should be honest. There are so many valid (but unfortunate reasons) why people hide their mental illness that I think taking away their choice to divulge or not would be wrong. I do think it would be a keen idea to make medical bracelets that list their disorder and that they could purchase if they wanted to (maybe this already exists?) And I do think it's highly beneficial for those with mental illnesses such as Jaime's to reveal to those closest to them (family, close friends, significant others) their issues so that they get the best possible help when it's needed and so that there is a better understanding.

Enjoyed this read!

Manny Schwimmer | 6 comments 1) I think the line between Jaime's personality and her unique presentation of bipolar disorder was blurry only because she was uniquely energetic, creative, and uninhibited at baseline.

2) Not at all. When Jaime speaks about missing the absolute self-confidence that accompanied a manic episode, she's really contrasting that manic confidence with the shattered self-image she felt afterward. In her normal state of mind, she carried herself with a high level of self-confidence, and she was always a wildly creative person. Her mania caused those parts of her personality to grow out-of-control, like a cancer. I believe that lithium, valproic acid, and other medications Jaime took kept her authentic personality in check.

3) It would be an infringement on the rights of anyone with bipolar disorder to force them to reveal their diagnoses to the general public. On the other hand, they would be best served by letting the family and friends closest to them know about their condition. If they experience a manic or depressive episode, family and friends would have to step in to keep them and others safe.

4) Jaime was very fortunate because as a woman, she had an inherently greater risk of being victimized, sexually or otherwise, during her manic episodes. She somehow avoided that fate. Her roommates, friends, acquaintances, and family were amazingly supportive and protective, and they played a key role in keeping her safe.

5) I learned that a person's experience of bipolar disorder could include psychotic symptoms in large part because of the sleep deprivation that accompanies manic episodes. Also, Jaime's struggle to recover in the wake of her manic episodes was eye-opening for me; it's clearer to me how difficult it is for other people with bipolar to feel self-confident again after wrecking their lives like she did several times.

message 4: by Andy (new) - added it

Andy | 13 comments Well, I have to write that first off, I really enjoyed this book compared to the last one. Now, to the questions:

1) I don't think it's safe to write that her personality was bipolar. People don't normally enjoy being defined by their disabilities. It's a part of them whether they like it or not. Some (probably most with mental illnesses) honestly don't like to admit they have a mental illness like Jaime in the beginning. I think a better question is whether she was more herself manic or not manic. Her manic episodes were extreme and I believe she became more unlike herself when she was manic. When she was not manic, she was in a calmer state. For someone who is bipolar, I will write that mania makes you commit extreme actions with no caring of consequences. Some might argue that it brings out the creative side of you, but it also makes you reckless. Jaime proved that with her rapping and her constant focused attention on her self. Also, the less you sleep the more manic you become. So do I believe that Jamie's "natural" personality is bipolar? No, but I do believe that bipolar is a part of her.

2) Well, I think it sucks that she experienced all those side effects like loss of hair, bowel movements, and vomiting. It just made the life for Jaime more difficult. Of course, like any of the drugs, she got through it. I don't think it suppressed her authentic self except when she was in major depressive episodes. But the fact that she kept soldiering through despite the side effects proves her confidence in the medication. In other words, she wanted to get better even if the medication was possibly hurting her.

3) No, because bipolar is not like epilepsy or diabetes. Problems with the brain are vastly more complicated than other organs. The only reason anyone would wear a bracelet to inform people of their bipolar disorder is that they are warning others of their constant manic episodes. The bracelets are to protect the patient and not the passerbys. Honestly, I don't see why bipolar patients would wear such bracelets as a manic episode is not like turning on a tap. What would a non-manic person do when a bipolar patient experiences mania? It's not like they can just jam some needle into their brain and have them stop. Like, I wrote above, the brain is a whole different issue. The only way for a manic person to stop "seizing" is to realize they are manic and stop. But they have to WANT to stop. When someone goes into epileptic shock or requires more insulin, the bracelet they are wearing informs the one reading what needs to be done. There is no list of how to calm down a manic person. If anything, the person dealing with the one in the manic episode should go along with the mania and then shut it all down. Bring the one stuck out of reality back to reality. For example, if the one with the manic episode says that they believe pigs can fly, the non-manic would notify the manic person why that is not possible. I think the problem with Jamie's mania, in the beginning, is people went along with it like the rapping and so forth. If they had shut it down, Jaime might have seen the error of her ways sooner.

4) Well, she didn't get her period for a while because of Depakote. I don't know how bipolar as a woman was an advantage for her because it seemed from her writing that it took doctors a lot longer to understand women's trifles with bipolar than men's. But I agree with Manny that being a woman could have had her more victimized if it was not for her safety net of friends.

5) What I take away from this book is the fact that Jaime told her story and it makes me more comfortable to explain mine. Also, some of the manic episodes Jamie experienced I can relate to so it might make me think twice before I have a manic episode and how it has affected other people such as my friends and family and myself.

With writes,

-Andy Ruffett

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