Chilly Down Child — A Cautionary Tale

This is a story my roommate told me about the daughter of an old friend who took Lithium for Bipolar disorder. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Now I share it with you all.

Nice and Blurry as we've  all come to expect.

Nice and Blurry as we’ve all come to expect.

A young girl, we’ll call her Sue, was always smart as a whip, but just a little crazy. If she had decided to run for president, we would all be digging our own bomb shelters. She lived with her parents and baby brother.
At the age of twelve she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and prescribed a relatively high dose of Lithium; to be taken four times a day at regular intervals. Her parents were sure to keep up with her medication schedule and often had to remind her to take the pills. The Lithium made her much more sane, but did nothing to curb her absent-mindedness.

Sue was regularly bestowed with the task of keeping an eye on her baby brother. One weekend, her mother was working and her father was outside, performing some maintenance on the family truck. She had been left alone indoors for most of the day, babysitting and doing god knows what else a prepubescent girl enjoys. At some point during the afternoon, Sue realized, she hadn’t had any of her medication.
“No problem,” she thought. “I can just take all four doses now and call it even.”

Bad idea. Before too long she began to feel funny. The feeling only intensified as the minutes rolled by. She had no choice but to go outside and tell her father what she had done.

Sue’s father must have been wise enough to know he was faced with a dire emergency. He immediately told her to get in the truck, and hollered at the neighbor–who was doing yardwork at the time–to come over and watch the baby while he drove Sue to the emergency room.

Too much, too little, too late. Sue died in the passenger seat of her father’s truck, long before they made it to the hospital. This young, smart girl, who could have been anything; who was finally leading a relatively normal life thanks to the new medicine, had everything stolen from her in less than an hour. Stolen by the same substance that held so much promise for a real future and a life of relative sanity, all because of one dumb moment.


So you see, this is why my Lithium bottle is marked CAUTION, and graffitied with liberal amounts of red sharpie. I have my own dumb moments, though I don’t believe I would have taken four doses at once. Right now I’m taking six different prescriptions, and I don’t want to confuse them.
When people tell me I’m paranoid about my medication, I tell them this story. So, so easy to cause serious harm and permanent damage. I would certainly rather die than have nervous system problems the rest of my life.
At least my blood levels were low, and this small amount is enough to make a difference. At least, in my case.

–J

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