Lithium – severe reaction

Back on May 25th of 2012 after trying various medications to try to control my Bipolar disorder and after being in a manic stage for quite some time. My doctor decided he was going to try me on Lithium.  We were to start off very slow. 150 mgs for a week and then increase to 300 mgs and then go from there once I saw him again in 2 weeks from the initial start date.   We always tend to start medications slow.  My doctor believes in treating the symptoms with the lowest amount of medications needed instead of treating numbers.

Around 9:30 -10:00 pm that night I took my 150 mg dosage.  A few minutes later a friend of mine called to see if I wanted to drop over her house.  She had a few girls in for a few drinks.  I could not drink but I went anyway for the social aspect of it.  Plus this friend had been there for me through so much and was the one who gently nudged me to get help which in turn gave me my Bipolar diagnosis and got me the help and treatment that I needed.  (If she is reading this, I am forever grateful)

We were all sitting around the table chatting. Tossing around ideas for a project and having a great time.

This is where the story gets ‘fuzzy’ for me.  Some of this story will be my actual memories while some of it will be what has been filled in for me by my friend and my husband, and even my daughter.

So I had been at my friends maybe an hour.  So that was about an hour after taking the lithium pill.  I apparently got very quiet.  I was just sitting there and stopped interacting with what was going on.  I know that I started to feel really sick.  I was unsure of what exactly the problem was.  So I stood up and decided that I was going to go home.  At this point I did not know just how ‘sick’ I was.  I had planned to get into my vehicle and drive home.  Lucky for me, my friend noticed that something was wrong.

Apparently when I got up from the table to leave I was slurring my words and was staggering across my friends kitchen towards to door to leave.  She noticed and lead me to her couch and laid me back on it.  I remember a distinct sensation of not being able to swallow.

This is where the story begins to get fuzzy….

I was told that I lost all my color, I went completely white and clammy and was sort of changing colors.  This was filled in by my friend and the other girls as well as the paramedic.

The sensation of not being able to swallow was very strange and I actually felt fear.  It felt like my body “forgot” how to swallow. After a while I was able to swallow but only if I had water in my mouth.  My daughter was there and I remember her shoving a bottle of water into my hand and saying “DRINK”, she was 10 years old and during what I am sure is one of the scariest things she has ever been involved in she was able to think clearly and talk to me.

Everything from my neck down felt tingly and felt numb like dead weight.  I felt like I had no control over my body, and that my limbs were like rubber.  I felt like I could not breathe.

My neck, back and knee started to hurt, and everything felt like it was so heavy.  I was slurring my speech which then got so bad that I was only able to give one word answers.  I had trouble understanding what people were saying and my sight was really blurry.

I must have been going in and out of it because I can vaguely remember the paramedics saying “Stay with us, are you still with us?”

Our daughter was crying to break her heart, but at the same time she was being so strong.  I was actually scared to death that I was going to die in front of her.  I did not want the scene in front of her to be the last memory she had of me.

The paramedics tested my sugar and it was 16.4.  My sugar has NEVER been above 5.4 ever in my life so that was really high for me.  My blood pressure was 179/97.

I remember being really cold and my teeth were chattering.  In the ambulance they covered me in 4 blankets and gave me oxygen.

I remember my daughter climbing into the back of the ambulance crying to give me a kiss before we left for the drive to the hospital.  Its an hour drive to the nearest hospital, we got their a lot sooner then that.

I was not able to see the doctor who prescribed them and ended up seeing an ER doctor who basically said it was side effects and to keep taking them, my body would get used to them.

My husband basically said “Hell No, they are going back to the pharmacy to be disposed of, you are not ever taking them again.”

I saw my doctor a few days later and it was decided to stop the lithium (which I already had) and we made some changes and started another medication.

To this day we do not know for sure whether it was an allergic reaction or just a random reaction that my body had to lithium. But whenever I have to see a doctor or go to a hospital and they ask if I have any allergies I always reply “Lithium”. I want it on my chart just in case something happens and I end up admitted for something and they start treating me with it and I am not able to tell them.

I am curious to know what your experiences with Lithium are.  Good or bad experiences.  Comment and let me know.

19 thoughts on “Lithium – severe reaction

  1. This story scared me prior to taking lithium myself, but I gave them a shot that first night. I passed out without any recollection of doing so and slept for nearly 14 hours. When I woke up I felt groggy, confused, and my head felt “funny”. I flushed them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was by far one of the scariest medical things I have ever had to deal with in my life that dealt with me. I have been through a couple of scary things with my husband but that is a whole other story.

      I remember sharing this with you, and was almost between minds weather or not to share what happened before you started the med or not. Because I did not want to scare you, because as we know everyone has a different reaction to the same medications. It could have been something that you would have taken and it work perfect. But it could have been something that you too had a reaction to.

      So after a short deliberation in my mind, and knowing you were suppose to take it before bed, I made the decision to share it because I was afraid you would take it and go to sleep and something happen and no one would know.


  2. Lithium and I got on fine together up till and including the 1000mg dose; my levels were all absolutely fine too. At 1250mg I began a month of puking and … ahem, other stomach problems. Stopped it – pdoc said that it was an odd reaction considering my levels were fine, but that I definitely shouldn’t take it again, because those final reactions indicated I’d have problems again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow I cannot even imagine taking a dosage that big. I sometimes wonder if I had taken it and went to bed if I would have just slept and felt okay in the morning. Or if something worst would have happened and no one would have known to have helped me. So it is a scary fine line either way.

      I am glad to hear that your doctor recognized that it was causing a problem and switched you to something else. I hope the new drug worked well for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I started taking Lithium about five days ago. I’d actually been wanting to give it a shot for a long time since I’ve had no success with every other medication I’ve been on (except Tegretol, but that didn’t last long), and my father has actually had decent success with Lithium. We’ll see how it goes. I’m always frightened to try new medications – you never know what could happen. Your experience sounds terrifying and I’m glad nothing even more serious happened because of the drug.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope that the lithium does well for you. I have had issues with meds before causing different problems but never to that magnitude.

      For example Valproic Acid sedated me so bad I would sleep hours and hours but could not wake up. Albeit it took me out of the mania faster then anything I had ever taken previously or since. Even if I had to get up to be somewhere my husband would be trying to wake me and it would be like I was swimming deep under the surface of some ocean and couldn’t get to the surface to wake. With kids I had to stop that one, figured it wasn’t safe for their mom to be always sedated. I gave it weeks to see if it would simmer down but it never did.

      I was never really afraid of trying new things until that experience because I had never had a reaction to anything that was so severe, sure I had side effects that were strange or caused me to stop something but nothing serious.

      I am currently taking Tegertol a low dosage as my mood stabilizer as well as wellbutrin and cholormoprazine which was just added to try to advert the mania I am currently experiencing….so far….no dice.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. wow! that’s just awful, never heard of anything like that. it’s amazing that you thought first of your daughter’s feelings when thought you might die. i’ve had a lot of weird reactions to meds. (when i first started taking wellbutrin i had convulsions and had the whole ambulance hospital thing happen.)but nothing like that! thank goodness you were with people.

    i have taken lithium and had a bad experience with it, though nothing of that magnitude.
    i took my first day’s dose and it seemed ok, but on the next day, a couple of hours of taking that day’s dose i had incredible fiery feeling in my stomach, there were sharp pains too. i threw up a lot and never took it again. my doctor said it was because i had acid reflux but holy crap, i don’t think they meant that what i went through was tolerable!



    1. It was scary. Wow convulsions on wellbutrin is scary too I take that med now. I used to take it but when manic and in hospital for 3-4 days I was taken off it and I stayed off it for a while but then started it back up in a depressed period. So its been over a year now with taking it again. The friend that I was with has been one amazing strong force in my life right now I know I can always talk to her and bounce things off her and she will be completely honest. I am very glad that she noticed that I was slurring and staggering off balance or I would have got aboard my car. It was winter so either I would have passed out before my car or probably had some sort of accident on the way home. That scares me that I could have hurt someone else by driving or something.

      Sounds like you did have a reaction to lithium, I have heard or rather read about other people who have had similar experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s great that you have someone who understands. What a good thing you with responsible caring people!

        I’ve been taking wellbutrin for many years and it helps a lot. Who knows why that happened.

        It sure is good there are other med to choose from!!! Glad to hear that all is well now! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s the drug they wanted to start me on back on 2008 when I was first diagnosed and I never ever took it. I protect my kidneys more than my life and I wasn’t willing to put that into my body. I know it works for many people but I am not comfortable with any aspect of that drug. I hope you can find the right cocktail. You have the advantage of a doctor who doesn’t want to zombify you and morph you into someone else entirely in order to “treat” the symptoms. That’s a huge benefit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for replying. This Lithium experience was back in 2012. I have changed drugs several times over I am not even sure if I can count on two hands the different meds I have taken and dosage changes I have had. But for the most part I haven’t been manic since December 2013 at least not bad. Until now. And this is still not as bad as then. The depression has been manageable when I have had it and the balanced times…well they are balanced.

      I love my doctor he is great and I do love that he starts so low with dosages and we work until it is managed.


  6. Wow. I am so glad you’re OK! I have never been on Lithium before and I’ll be honest if my p-doc ever tries to prescribe it, I think I’ll pass!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I would never try it again unless for some reason I was in a hospital setting and nothing was working and they wanted to try it under very strict and close watch of a doctor. I am not even sure if I would then to be completely honest.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lithium is great for me if and only if I am manic. I tried taking it once in one of my deeper depressions when I didn’t have access to my regular cocktail. BAD idea. I turned into a complete zombie, sitting on the couch all day staring into space. I couldn’t feel or care about anything, which sounds preferable to being depressed but is infinitely worse. I gave it a few days to see if I would level out, but the zombification only intensified. So I gave up. It’s something I hate ever having to take, but it does help the mania when my antipsychotic isn’t enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems the stories I hear about Lithium it either works beautifully, or it causes some sort of reaction. I think this was the first time I heard of someone say it worked while manic but not otherwise. That is really neat actually. I bet is is really good to get off that med when you do not need to take it.

      I am curious once you go back off the lithium do you continue to be balanced?

      When I tried it hypomanic/manic for well over a month, probably closer to 8 weeks. My meds kept being increased but nothing happened, I continued to get worst and worst until my doctor finally tried the lithium.

      The experience was so scary for me. I told him the only time I would ever take it to ‘try again’ would be in a hospital setting or sitting in his office. (his practice is in the hospital).


      1. To answer your question, yes – I’m fine once I go off the lithium. Of course, mania is a once-a-year problem for me, most of the time my battle is with depression (yAy Bipolar2). So once I come down from the high, the issue is more trying to keep from going too low, which my regular cocktail (zoloft + abilify) does splendidly. My pdoc told me that I was going about everything backward – that lithium should be my everyday drug and use the other two for the mood swings, but I put my foot down – I don’t like lithium, it’s just a scary drug. Same goes for Depakote. My system may be unusual, but it works for me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was just over a year since my last mania as well as med change. I knew it was a matter of time before it reared its head again. I almost always deal with depression from November-December until around February-March almost every year. This year wasn’t too too bad, but it was there.

        I am so glad that you were able to stand up for you and tell your pdoc what you thought and mange the meds the way that was best for you.

        I haven’t taken actual Depakote brand but my husband does for Epilepsy. I have however taken Valproic Acid. It was terrible. It literally sedated me. It was the drug I took right after the lithium episode and it took me right out of the mania really fast because it sedated me so bad it felt like I was swimming under the surface all the time. My husband would try to wake me and I wouldn’t wake easily, I could hardly pull my eyes open and it was like he was calling me from across some dark deep room or something. I took it for about 6 weeks just to see if my body would get used to it. It did not. I would take it and within the hour I was falling asleep, struggling to keep my eyes open. I have children so that was something I was not able to deal with and we had to switch the med again. I believe that was when we switched to Tegertol.

        Liked by 1 person

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