Life after lithium

I’ve been meaning to post about how I’ve managed since I came off lithium for a few weeks now. It’s about four months since I posted saying that I’d decided to stop taking it and that I knew it was a gamble.

The relapse rate of people with bipolar disorder who stop lithium is high. If you stop it too quickly there is a marked risk of mania and the chances of a major depressive episode within the first 12 months is high but sometimes you have to ignore statistics and just go with it.

I took my final dose at the end of March and waited a little anxiously to see what would happen. Nothing happened. There was no mania and no depression and that has given me hope. I have remained stable though my stability is a subdued chaos; instability with an almost predictable edge but it’s mine and I’m sort of used to it now.

I’m enjoying not having to drink gallons of liquid just because I’m obeying a thirst induced by medication and I no longer have to remember where every public toilet in town is. Bonus.

I’m thoroughly enjoying not having to have those monotonously regular blood tests though I still have one post stopping lithium check to go on my major organs. So far so good and it seems my kidney function has improved a little. Bonus.

I’m really enjoying having a decent amount of energy and being able to get back to a regular sleep pattern again. Insomnia is not a thing of the past but it is back to a manageable state. Bonus.

I haven’t had the major manic episode that it was feared that I would have which is a relief. I’m not good with mania and I’m more likely to become suicidal during a manic phase than a depressive one. I’ve beaten the odds on that one. Bonus.

The next eight months are the ones to watch. If I don’t succumb to a major episode of either kind then we can say that it has been successful and that, after 20 long years, I’m lithium free.

I’m not cured, I’m not more well than I was and I still remain unstable but I’m doing it all without the thing I feared taking and feared living without. I’m not more organised or less weird but I am me and not a flattened down by lithium me.

I’m still taking lamotrigine because even I’m not foolish enough to think that I can go without medication totally but, for the first time, I live in hope.

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