Your Sanity or Your Kidneys | WBEZ
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Only Human

Your Sanity or Your Kidneys

Jaime Lowe started taking lithium when she was 17, after a manic episode landed her in a psychiatric ward. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and for more than 20 years, the drug has been her near-constant companion. She's taken it for so long that she can't say for sure where she ends and lithium begins.

“It’s hard to know if lithium is actually — like, if it dampens my personality, or if it normalizes my personality, or if it allows me to just sort of be who I am,” she says.

Jaime has tried to go off of lithium only once, in her mid-20s, and the result was not good.

She developed grand delusions. She would start an organization to defend the First Amendment. She would marry a friend she only recently met. She would change the world. She sent wild emails to would-be employers, adorned herself with glitter and stacks of necklaces, and barely slept.

When she finally pulled herself back together again, Jaime made a resolution. She’d stick with lithium. And that worked — until she learned last year that her long-term lithium use has taken a physical toll. It’s damaged her kidneys. Now, she faces a choice that’s not much of choice at all: an eventual kidney transplant, or going off the drug that has kept her sane all these years.

 

Have your mental and physical health ever collided? Tell us. Comment below, send an email to health@wnyc.org, or leave us a voicemail at (803) 820-WNYC (9692). 

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