Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind

Lithium makes fireworks red, makes batteries charge and makes music journalist Jaime Lowe lead a normal life. In her memoir, Mental, Lowe recounts living with bipolar disorder and examines the enigmatic medication that saved her. At 16, after a manic episode during which she received messages from Michael Jackson and the Muppets, she was hospitalized and given lithium, the favored element of Kurt Cobain, ancient Romans and worldwide spa-goers. As she grows up, moves to New York and works in media, the little pink pills are a constant in her life--until she stops taking them, descends back into mania and is forced to rebuild her relationships and career after she (literally) burns them down. When Lowe later learns that the drug that keeps her mind in check is harming her body, she goes on a journey to hot springs, salt flats and academic conferences to learn more about her psychotropic savior.

Lowe researches her own life through her journal, her therapist's notes and interviews with friends and family, in a way that's reminiscent of David Carr's The Night of the Gun. With humor and rapid-fire prose, she brings the reader into the bliss and grandiosity of a psychotic episode, an experience more intense than drugs. Then, she explains the aftershock: how it feels not to be trusted and not trust yourself, and the guilt of somewhat missing her fearless, thrilled, manic self. Mental is fascinating, shocking, heartbreaking and fun to read. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and publicist

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