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The BookBrowse Review

Published September 20, 2017

ISSN: 1930-0018

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  • Blog:
    6 Books That Help You Talk About Death and End-of-Life Care
  • Notable:
    Recycle Book Club
  • Wordplay:
    Y Can't M A S P O O A S E
  • Book Giveaway:
    If the Creek Don't Rise
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    The only completely consistent people are the dead
Book Jacket

Mental
Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind
by Jaime Lowe
3 Oct 2017
320 pages
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
ISBN-13: 9780399574498
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A riveting memoir and a fascinating investigation of the history, uses, and controversies behind lithium, an essential medication for millions of people struggling with bipolar disorder.

It began in Los Angeles in 1993, when Jaime Lowe was just sixteen. She stopped sleeping and eating, and began to hallucinate - demonically cackling Muppets, faces lurking in windows, Michael Jackson delivering messages from the Neverland Underground. Lowe wrote manifestos and math equations in her diary, and drew infographics on her bedroom wall. Eventu­ally, hospitalized and diagnosed as bipolar, she was prescribed a medication that came in the form of three pink pills - lithium.

In Mental, Lowe shares and investigates her story of episodic madness, as well as the stabil­ity she found while on lithium. She interviews scientists, psychiatrists, and patients to examine how effective lithium really is and how its side effects can be dangerous for long-term users - including Lowe, who after twenty years on the medication suffers from severe kidney damage. Mental is eye-opening and powerful, tackling an illness and drug that has touched millions of lives and yet remains shrouded in social stigma.

Now, while she adjusts to a new drug, her pur­suit of a stable life continues as does her curiosity about the history and science of the mysterious element that shaped the way she sees the world and allowed her decades of sanity. Lowe travels to the Bolivian salt flats that hold more than half of the world's lithium reserves, rural America where lithium is mined for batteries, and tolithium spas that are still touted as a tonic to cure all ills. With unflinching honesty and humor, Lowe allows a clear-eyed view into her life, and an arresting inquiry into one of mankind's oldest medical mysteries.

"[Jaime Lowe's] often chaotic chronicle operates as an earnest memoir of personal triumph and an illuminating exposé of a type of medication that continues to be a source of great debate. A moving exploration of mental health and the efficacy of available treatment." - Kirkus

"With clear-eyed candor, wicked wit, and edgy tenderness, Lowe's story defies the streamlined trajectory of an easy recovery narrative - offering proof that the story of getting better is always more ragged than we imagine." - Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

"Mental is brave, honest, disturbing—all that you would expect from a memoir of mental illness. But it gives you something rare and unexpected: writing that is pellucid, forceful, and often beautiful, that sometimes grabs you by the throat and sometimes whispers in your ear, but always moves you." - Gary Greenberg, author of The Book of Woe

"Mental is a harrowing memoir on the topic of bipolar illness, full of Jaime Lowe's top-notch reporting. It is also very funny. And if that's the highest compliment from a comedian; the highest compliment from a fellow person with mental illness is I wish the book had been around twenty-five years ago, so I could have read it." - Maria Bamford, star and executive producer of Lady Dynamite

"Jaime Lowe's fiery, poetic prose conveys the rhythms of her mania and the loosening of connections that fuel creativity. In search of an understanding of lithium, she takes us on a personal journey that extends to the outer reaches of primordial stardust. Mental engenders the empathy that helps to erase the stigma, and the blurry line, between mentally ill and sane." - Julie Holland, MD, author of Moody Bitches and Weekends at Bellevue

"Jaime Lowe's honesty and insight run deep. This book brims with her humanity - you'll root for her on every page - and also with the quality of her thinking and writing. Like Mary Karr and Kay Redfield Jamison, she has taken her own darkest experiences and turned them into art that has the power to heal." - Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones

Jaime Lowe is a writer living in Brooklyn. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and her work has appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Maxim, Gawker, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and on ESPN.com. Lowe is the author of Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB, a biography of Ol' Dirty Bastard, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan.

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