Let’s talk about Lithium

And I don’t mean the Nirvana song.  (Though I’ve put it on just for this occasion.)

Lithium comes up a lot because it is still widely prescribed and doesn’t act quite like the rest of the drugs in the mood stabilizer and antimanic categories.

Lithium is an alkaline metal ion.  They turn it into a salt for consumption.  It got bit in the 1950s as a treatment for gout, but then they started using it for *everything*.

It is unique in the effects it has on the brain, as it has been found to have a ‘neuroprotective’ effect.  Lithium causes a specific neurochemical to stick around that stimulates nerve growth.  I found this interesting because severe stress has the opposite effect.

Lithium takes 5 days to build up in the body.  They do blood tests because you need to get to between 0.4 and 1.0 because less is not effective, and more has side effects.  Beyond 1.5 you are at risk of toxicity.

When taking Lithium you must stay hydrated.  Lithium in essence is fulfilling the Na (table salt) role in the body.  So dehydration is dangerous because you risk the buildup on Lithium in the system instead of it being flushed out naturally.

We’ll talk more about tremors when we talk about the other drugs, but when it comes to Lithium, fine tremors (fast, small ones) in the hands are quite common, but coarse tremors (slow and more pronounced) can be a sign of toxicity and need to be looked out for.

It’s not a *&#@ spider.

No matter what anyone tells you, it’s not a “spider.”  It’s a neuron.

detail of neuron and synapse

Borrowed from Coastal Carolina University’s website.

I found this image and decided it was one of the best for my needs.  We’ll be referring to this often when it comes to discussing drug treatments for bipolar disorder, because my group (I do love them) opted to go for the more “sciency” approach and had the psychiatrist talk us through how the actually work, and I took a lot of notes.

If you’re not interested in getting a grounding in brain chemistry and how neurons talk to each other, you can skip over those posts and just read the handouts.  🙂

For the moment, what you need to know is that tree looking thing on the left is actually repeated on the right, but you can only see the edge of it.  Same goes for the other side.  Think of it like a big daisy chain, this thing is repeated over and over again but you can only see the edges of the repeat.

Anyway, that big bit is the dendron, the little hairy bits coming off it are dendrites, the long tail is the axon, and most importantly for us… that inset is a closer look at the synapse.

You can kind of see that they were trying to show that it is a ‘lock and key’ kind of functionality, where receptors will only accept certain kinds of neurotransmitters.  I think of it like Tetris.  😛

My games of Tetris never go this well.  :P (image from http://tetrisaxis.nintendo.com/)

My games of Tetris never go this well. =P


Week 8 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

week 8 handout  page 1

Drug Treatment: Antidepressants – Page 1

week 8 handout page 2

Drug Treatment: Antidepressants – Page 2

week 8 homework 1


Week 8 homework 2

More Homework!

Pithy Sayings #1

There is a person in our group that has a lot of these fantastic little sayings.  We’ve only had a shared history with one, and that was the first one, so I’ll start with that.

This too shall pass.

Week 7 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

week 7 handout page 1

Drug Treatment: Antimanics – Page 1

week 7 handout page 2

Drug Treatment: Antimanics – Page 2

week 7 handouts page 3

Drug Treatment: Antimanics – Page 3

week 7 homework



Week 6 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

week 6 handout page 1

Drug Treatment: Mood Stabilizers – page 1

week 6 handout page 2

Drug Treatment: Mood Stabilizers – page 2

week 6 handout page 3

Drug Treatment: Mood Stabilizers – page 3

week 6 homework




Do you have predictable swings?

For me,  it’s my birthday and Christmas.   And Thanksgiving.  Living over here I try to take those days off and stay home, claiming it’s my birthright as an American.  (I do hope the humor in that statement comes through in text.)  I’ve never been a big fan of my birthday, somehow it always felt like a sign of failure that I’d managed to survive another year.  The lowest I’ve ever been was on my birthday in my 20s.  These days I just kind of accept that it’s going to happen, even though my feelings about it have changed.   I’ll be 29 (again?!) this year and honestly half the time I can’t remember exactly how old I am.  😛

Christmas… well, I’d love to blame that one on my family, they have an amazing sense of timing for dropping emotional bombs on the holiday, but the most traumatic one for me wasn’t… deserved, but I understand why it happened, and why it has stayed with me over the years.  I was a desperately unhappy bipolar girl, and I wasn’t a very good sister.  I can see that now, and that is what I think about around that time more than the things that have happened or been said.  I try to live life without regrets (only learning experiences) but I wish I could have done more to make her see how much she means to me.

Even though I know that at those two times of the year I’m going to swing down, I am still often surprised by it.  I think some part of me believes that since I know it’s coming, I should be able to ward it off or something.  Like, ‘I know there’s a pothole in this road, so I will plan to swerve around it.’  *crunch*  ‘Wait, what?!’

I do think it helps to be aware of times or triggers, even if it feels like you can’t stop them, at least you can do some preparation.  Honestly, I’m up and down so often in the course of a year that it took a while for me to recognize it was happening at the same time of year, no matter what.  And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  That you feel your mood shifting in ways that don’t match any external stimulus.

Anyway, I still need to think more on the LIFE CHART.  I can see the value it can bring, but I am just not sure how it fits into my BP journey.  I’ve been like this nearly since I can remember, but what I AM finding is that the more I accept it, the more I gain ‘bandwidth’ on how far we can go in either direction and still feel okay about it, the less afraid I am of it, the less bad it seems to get on either end.  I intend to explore this topic a lot more in the coming weeks.  It hit me like an epiphany.

Week 5 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

(I apologize that they’re a little off kilter, I used our office scanner and it came out a little wonky.  I may revisit this after the next week’s handouts and rescan them.  [edit] And now I have.)

week 5 handout page 1

Evolution of bipolar disorder and the future – page 1

week 5 handout page 2

Evolution of bipolar disorder and the future – page 2

week 5 handout page 3

Evolution of bipolar disorder and the future – page 3

Week 5 homework


Depression week.

This week was quite bad for me.  While I got a lot out of the discussion it took me back to places I really didn’t want to think about, and I was already sinking, so it acted as another little push.  I’m still not back to normal, which is why I haven’t posted much.

Anyway, I thought I should share some of the things that helped me this week.

From Portal 2, the Cave Johnson Lemons Rant.

And from far left field, a country music song (give it a chance, you might be surprised).