Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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
"From the salt flats of Bolivia to a boxing gym in Brooklyn, the baths of Bad Kissingen, and the harrowing corridors of an adolescent psych ward, Jaime Lowe’s Mental is an odyssey in every sense — across the terrain of her own manic episodes and the surprising, varied geographies of possible solutions. 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. Jaime Lowe is a keen and generous observer who uses her experiences to bear witness for you — not just to bipolar disorder, but to the normal vexations of life." Gary Greenberg, author of The Book of Woe
"[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 Reviews
About the Author
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.