Understanding the highs and lows of your behavior – San Bernardino Sun

November 9, 2019 in San Bernandino


By Dr. Thomas LaGrelius

Contributing writer

Psychiatric illness can devastate individuals and families, but sometimes a tragic story can also have elements of humor. Many have happy endings. Here’s one.

Four decades ago, when I was seeing anyone who walked in the clinic door, a dapper, middle-aged man in an expensive Armani suit appeared asking for a prescription. He needed his lithium refilled.

Dr. Thomas W. LaGrelius

Lithium is used to stabilize mood, usually in patients with bipolar disease, also called manic depression. This serious disorder is characterized by elated highs and profound, depressed lows and can include disturbing delusions and bizarre behaviors. This gentleman was about to run out of his medication.

I asked him to tell me his story.

He was a business entrepreneur. One of the many businesses he owned was a large dairy farm. A few years before, he decided on a whim that he should breed cattle on this farm. However, he didn’t have a bull.

The best place to get a bull, he figured, was Kansas City, so he drove non-stop from the West Coast to Missouri to buy himself a bull. There, in the stock yards, he found a prize bull, bought it, along with a cattle trailer, and drove home. He did the whole trip without sleeping.  Three days.

He told me not sleeping for days and working constantly was common for him, when he was “up.” That was when he was happiest and most productive. He also had times when he rarely got out of bed for days or weeks and almost wanted to die. All this had resulted in a failed marriage and alienation from his family. But as compensation, he was rather wealthy.

When he got near home, a West Coast city close to his farm, he needed sleep. He pulled into the most prestigious hotel in town, rather like the Bonaventure in downtown L.A., with his bull and trailer. The bull was bellowing and needed food and water.

He got out of the car and handed the keys to the parking attendant saying, “Take care of my bull.” He strolled into the hotel and commenced checking in.



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