My teenage years were creative, charming, and intensely productive. My doctor’s steady stream of SSRIs ensured that my mania more than made up for the depressive periods that almost had me convinced that I should drive my shiny new 1995 Chevy Cavalier into a telephone pole. This kept me sailing through the violent surf of undiagnosed bipolar disorder until I was delusional and psychotic in Massachusetts.
Lithium came to me in the hospital. I took it gratefully, like a badge, like keys to the city.
Just barely 18, I would enter adulthood knowing who I was, with proof of my identity. That prescription was my license to be the eccentric artist, unapologetically (See, Daddy! Look!). It was citizenship.
This is why I continued to take it for almost a decade, even though it didn’t work, even though I couldn’t keep a job and the raven visited again and again. Even though I still needed to be rescued over and over. Why would I surrender my citizenship? Manic depressives take lithium. That is what we do. That is who we are. That is hardcore. Straight forward, black and white. Intensely romantic. But not true.
A bipolar person without drugs is just crazy.
She no longer has proof. She no longer has license for her eccentricity. She loses all grace extended to her.
If I take medicine, and I still get sick, we blame the disease and the medicine, maybe we even blame the doctor. But if I don’t take medicine, we just blame me.