How to Let Go of Lithium and Reclaim Your Mental Health: A Guide by Mad In America

Embracing the Unbecoming Road to Mental Wellness

“Perhaps the journey is not so much about becoming anything. Perhaps it’s about unbecoming everything that really isn’t you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” —Paulo Coelho

The thought of needing psych drugs was never on my radar. I only turned to them out of desperation to escape physical ailments like headaches, brain fog, fatigue, and even asthma and chronic sinus infections. Finally, after countless doctors, I met a neurologist who, without diagnosis, prescribed Paxil because, at 17, I occasionally felt sad. Little did I know that this could spark a line of events that would change my life.

The miraculous effects of the drug seemed to elevate me into a new, confident, and energetic state, but as quickly as the high came, it crashed me into paranoia, landing me in the hospital. Later, I learned that Paxil had a side effect of triggering bipolar illness. This diagnosis —followed by harsh forecasts for my future —altered the course of my life, collapsing my dreams of stability and motherhood.

The hospital, with its dehumanizing treatments and violent experiences, fed me a constant fear, conditioning me to believe that psychosis and bipolar disorder were innate and incurable. I accepted my fate, reluctantly adhering to medications and succumbing to a life revolving around management, control, and fear.

This mental health journey was compounded by family history. Turning to psychiatry became a norm when my older sister exhibited erratic behaviors. Fearful and abandoned, I relied on psychiatry to suppress any unusual behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, knitting a good-girl persona that translated into adult life and career.

Despite the ups and downs of my bipolar diagnosis, I pushed forward with my career dreams. Yet navigating through psychiatrists’ advice and their lack of understanding, I suffered two traumatic manic episodes and hospitalizations.

Despite the physical and emotional toll, I picked up the pieces and learned to embrace my reliance on medications. I made the conscious choice to move forward while prioritizing my mental wellness and taking part in enriching experiences like traveling and teaching yoga.

Though this mental health road has been marked by turmoil, it has taught me the profound lesson — that the unbecoming path has the power to lead us to the deepest levels of mental wellness.


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