Lithium is not just the anthem of millions of angst-ridden teens circa 1992 — it’s also a pretty wild mineral! As one key element of electric cars and Tesla’s new mega-batteries, it’s been touted by some as the “new oil.” And occasionally it happens that things that can save the planet can also save our wildly complicated, unpredictable brains from themselves: Lithium is also a potentially life-changing treatment for bipolar disorder.

This weekend’s issue of the New York Times Magazine features Jaime Lowe’s beautiful, in-depth exploration of her decades-long battle with bipolar disorder, and how the material that can make a less fossil fuel-dependent lifestyle possible also allows people diagnosed with manic depression to have normal, functional lives.

Reader support makes our work possible. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations TRIPLED!

Lowe writes:

The lithium we have on Earth now — part stardust, part primordial dust and part earth dust — is a constituent part of our planet, one that sometimes shapes personalities. The thought occurred to me that maybe my taking lithium prophesied a lithium-dependent future, connecting it to a past when our world was birthed in fiery lithium explosions. Maybe that capsule filled with a salt, the one that allowed me to function, tethered past, present and future together. But then, extravagant prophecies built on the miraculous powers of a prehistoric element reek of mania.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Anyone with a passing interest in sustainable technology — or whose life has been touched, even slightly, by mental illness — will be blown away by this piece. Just go read it, now.