Mother Finds Stability from Bipolar Disorder with Lithium – Receives Kidney from Her Daughter

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Ruth Deming, award-winning writer and psychotherapist and director of New Directions of Abington, PA lives with bipolar disorder
Ruth Deming (right)

Ruth Deming is an award-winning writer and psychotherapist and director of New Directions of Abington, PA, a nonprofit organization she started in 1986 to provide help and support to people with mood disorders. People like herself. Two years before she founded New Directions, seemingly out of the blue, Ruth had a manic-psychotic episode that escalated into her assaulting her mother, knocking her to the ground, and being hauled off by the police to a psychiatric ward.

“That was my introduction to bipolar disorder,” Ruth says.

At the time, she was a 38-year-old divorced mother of an eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. On that life-altering day, she stopped off at her mother’s house and started making frantic, inappropriate phone calls to work associates. After she left to pick up her children at school, her mother, concerned and bewildered by Ruth’s behavior, followed in her car, which evoked Ruth’s anger and attack. “Thankfully,” Ruth says, “the fall didn’t hurt her.”

Of this “horrible” experience, Ruth remembers feeling “as if I had a hole in my chest. I’d never felt anything like that in my life.” She recalls also that as she stood by the side of the road before the police came “I was hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the sounds of the cars whooshing by and the swaying of the tree branches.”

In the hospital Ruth was given an antipsychotic and an appointment to see a psychiatrist. She was subsequently stabilized on lithium, for decades the drug of choice for the treatment of bipolar disorder. While its therapeutic effect was not perfect—there would be days when she would have to fight hard against her demons—she never lost her intellectual curiosity and drive.

Newly exposed to the world of psychotherapy, Ruth was inspired to study for a Master of Group Process and Group Psychotherapy (MGPGP) degree at Hahnemann University, in Philadelphia, which she received in 1992. In 1998, she won a prize for creative nonfiction from the Leeway Foundation, an organization that supports women artists in the Philadelphia area, for a series of articles about her experiences as a psychotherapist. The founding of New Directions came about when, after seeking and not finding a support group in her area, she decided to start her own.

For 16 years, Ruth took her lithium faithfully until, as has happened to others, it damaged her kidneys and she was faced with the choice of dialysis or a transplant. Luckily, her daughter, Sarah, was deemed a good transplant match and willingly donated one of her kidneys, “a gift of love,” Ruth says, “for which I am forever grateful.” In a surprising turn to this story, Ruth has found that since going off lithium, her symptoms of bipolar disorder “have appeared to vanish. I’ve had no mood swings for eight wonderful years.”

Nowadays, Ruth devotes much of her time to New Directions. “We have a fantastic team of people who lead nighttime and daytime groups. We have lectures, outings and offer counseling for a broad range of subjects.” This summer the organization will honor guest speaker Karl Rickels, M.D., founder of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Section at the University of Pennsylvania, with a donation in his name to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Ruth has been a longtime supporter of the Foundation with the hopes that better treatments, with fewer side effects, will continue to be developed for a broad range of mental illnesses.

Article comments

Thanks to Judy Schwartz for doing a terrific job writing the story! (Judy is one of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation professional science writers and has contributed greatly to this website.)

I enjoyed the article and learning about bipolar disorder

I am so relieved to hear that your bipolar symptoms vanished so does it mean it can that happen with my very beautiful daughter also.
She is 29 and has suffered since she was 18. She was sectioned only once in 10 years ago and it was then that i took a second opinion and had her seen by a private Psychiatric. He prescribed her quetipin 400 and Lmotrigin 150X2 she was also given Fish oil omega 1000. Her Psychiatric was struck off two years ago and so had to change to NHS doctor. She reduced her quetipin gradually to 200 but Natasha reduced her lamotrigin herself and infact had stopped taking them for sometime since last October, This had a bad affect and she became manic and did things out of her character,she is now an informal patient in a mental hospital since last week and should be discharged next tuesday with a plan of how to keep her better and normal.She is at present taking QUETIPN 600, 200 in the morning and 400 at night, she is having Lamotrigin 150x2 she is also taking clonozepam 0.5mg once or twce daily to stop her getting an urge to run because that was one affect she had when she got manic and had started running bare footed in the high streets talking to people. She is now an informal patient for the last week, doctors have given her lithium and they hope she will become normal.They are thinking of decreasing Lamotrigin and wean her off it in the next year.please please help and tell me of how she can recover completely from bipolar like you have, my email address is sabilone@hotmail.com

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