I stayed up late the last few nights reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, engrossed in large part by the subplot involving Leonard Bankhead, who suffers from bipolar disorder and what might be called a typically complicated relationship with both his manic phases and his medication.
The book is set in the early 1980s, which gives Leonard few viable options for pharmaceutical treatment. Now doctors often prescribe anticonvulsants such as Tegretol and Depakote, and atypical antipsychotics, but back then lithium was more or less the only choice.
Leonard began to experience depressions early in high school but wasn’t diagnosed or treated until his freshman year of college, when he began taking a low dose of lithium apparently without incident.
But as college graduation nears, he begins to chafe at the idea of taking the medication at all, which sets him on a terrible merry-go-round of breakdowns, high doses to get him back on track, side effects from the high doses and then rebellions against the side effects, followed by more breakdowns.