Book review: ‘Mental,’ by Jaime Lowe
September 21, 2017
by Jaime Lowe
It happens that I worked in the mental health field for several years; and the clients that I met have been a part of me since. Mental health is a fascinating and always interesting field. Jaime Lowe presents her story of living with bipolar disorder; the triumphs and the tragedies of her mind. Bipolar is unlike any other mental health disease; it can mimic schizophrenia, depression, paranoia or any combination of symptoms.
This is Jaime Lowe's memoir of her youth into adulthood dealing with having bipolar. In 1993, at age of 16, she had been hallucinating, had written manifestos and math equations into her many journals. She was her own sun, moon, solar system and universe. She was her own God. She knew, on another level, that something was very wrong. She was hospitalized and was, at last, diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Lithium was the go-to drug back in the 1970's for manic-depressive illness; I had imagined that it had changed. But, in 1993, she was prescribed Lithium, and it was Lowe's saving grace. The drug pulled her back from the precipice of madness. It was not, by any means, a quick fix, but little by little, Lowe recognized her patterns while in a manic state, and her life was becoming more stable around her; she was recreating herself, and her life around her.
Lowe is a wonderfully creative and imaginative woman, whose manic phases reinforced her creativity and edgy self. Lithium seemed to allow her to retain her creativity without smothering her psychologically. She was able to hold down responsible jobs in photography and writing, albeit wholly disorganized. If she were not taking the lithium, her manic episodes had felt, in many ways, like spiritual inspirations rather than what they were. While on Lithium, she drank too much – organizational skills were still lacking, and bills still went unpaid.
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Through all of this, on Lithium or off it, she still believed in herself — she was still a supernova.
Eventually, the thing that had saved Lowe, turned on her body, not her soul – her kidneys started to fail, and she had to be weaned off Lithium, and was instead put on Depakote, which was disastrous for her. She sought out Lithium in other than pill form. Interestingly enough, there is very little Lithium in the universe; there is a larger concentration of it here on earth than is reasonable (who knew?). Lowe found the largest concentration of it in Bolivia, near La Paz, at the Salar de Uyumi, the largest salt flats in the world. She immersed herself in it – went into an igloo of sorts to feel its effects.
Lowe has since renounced her Lithium; it guided her through an amazing, epic time of her life, and now it is time for her to be done with it. I gather from the book that she misses it, in some ways, but is dutifully taking the Depakote once again to maintain her equilibrium. She's a fascinating woman. I admire her and her struggle; I love her honesty and her courage. Go, Jaime.
These books are available at Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path. Katie Davidson is a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path.