Columbia mother Tara Bailey balances family and bipolar disorder

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:04 a.m. CST, Wednesday, January 18, 2012

COLUMBIA — It takes one look in her kids’ eyes for Tara Bailey to know what’s right: Her kids will always come before her mental health.


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Born in Moberly, Mo., Bailey then grew up in Macon, Mo. For most of her life, Bailey, now 40, described her moods as generally low and often filled with feelings of emptiness.

“I really didn’t know why I was always sad some days and happy other days,” Bailey said.

After getting married in Macon, Bailey moved to Hawaii, where she gave birth to her second son, Anthony, who is now 16. After living in Hawaii, Bailey moved to Colorado where her husband told her he wanted a divorce. The news was a lot to handle for Bailey, as she was admitted to the hospital for psychiatric treatment thereafter. She then sought the advice of therapists, who told her she was severely depressed.

In 1997, Bailey moved to Columbia with her sons Anthony and Jevon, 18. After finalizing her divorce in 1998, Bailey lost the support of her husband and was left alone in not only raising her two children, but also in trying to help her mental stability.

Thoughts of suicide came to Bailey, but she ultimately sought the support of therapists at MU. In 2009 she was finally told she didn’t have depression but bipolar disorder, a condition in which there are alternating periods of very good moods or irritable moods and depression.

Currently, Bailey works full-time as a secretary with the MU psychology department and lives with her son Anthony. However, the cost of medication for treatment can put her at odds for where to use her money.

“I have to make a decision,” Bailey said. “Do I keep my lights on, my gas for my heat and food in my house? Or do I get my medication? And I look at my son and I look at my empty pill bottles, and my son is going to win over every time.”

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Ellis Smith January 18, 2012 | 6:46 a.m.

Has Tara ever been on a lithium regimen? For those who can tolerate lithium carbonate (taken orally as capsules) the cost is very low, especially versus some other psychiatric drug treatments. Unfortunately, as with other maintenance medications, some patients can't tolerate lithium.

Treatment consists of taking the medication daily, plus having blood drawn on some regular basis to check blood lithium level. For a patient who has been on the regimen successfully it may only be necessary to check blood lithium level once or twice a year.

This is a maintenance medication: it doesn't "cure" bipolarity, but it can do a good job of countering the debilitating effects of bipolarity.

(Report Comment)
Tara Bailey January 18, 2012 | 10:44 a.m.

Ellis Smith,
My doctor didn't not want to try me on that medication do to me having a stroke and having low iron and having to take aspirin daily for the rest of my life. But the medications that I am on now thanks to my doctor is helping me out greatly and I am doing well with them. But as the article states I have to make a choice between me and my son having food, lights and heat and my medication and my children are always going to win out every single time!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 18, 2012 | 11:34 a.m.

@ Tara:

With your other problems I can understand why your doctor didn't want to go the lithium route. It's a shame, because that's the lowest cost option I know about, and I doubt there are others that are lower. Many drugs, for psychiatric or other purposes, are synthesized, and many are under patent protection. This makes them expensive. In fact I would describe the cost of some of these drugs as outrageous. Lithium carbonate is a naturally occurring compound: in less pure form it is used for industrial purposes.

Well, I thought it was worth a shot to bring up the subject.I agree that children come first.

PS: Some pharmaceutical companies will, on a case-by-case basis, offer reduced rates on their drugs. Have you or your doctor checked on that?

(Report Comment)

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