on December 7, 1999
Over the past 20 years I've had several friends who suffered from manic-depressive illnesses. It's abundantly clear to me that the disease is primarily biochemical and "not their fault." But I had trouble understanding why these people refused to take their medication (or stopped taking it after they started) and otherwise engaged in massive denial. Jamison's frank and well-written book was a revelation: now I feel I have a better sense of the seductiveness of mania, and why creative, intelligent people are often willing to risk the lows of their illness for the sake of the highs. As Jamison points out emphatically, however, the long-term effects of bipolar disorder can be devastating mentally and physically (not to mention the financial and personal fallout) -- hence her crusade to understand the basis of the illness, and learn how to fine-tune the medication so that the sufferer achieves equilibrium without deadening the sensitivity and creativity that often accompany this disease. I'd already read "Night Falls Fast," which is also excellent, but this book set out the personal story behind Jamison's research interests. While she insists that love alone won't cure the disease, it's also clear that, without the love of her loyal friends, this intelligent, talented, and articulate woman might never have made it through the more difficult years, let alone become a respected authority in her profession. Anyone who suffers from bipolar disorders, and those who love them, should read this book.
What's it like to have an incurable, but manageable disease? One that changes your perceptions of the world around you, loosens your inhibitions or cripples your ability to do anything? Kay Redfield Jamison pours out her experience of living with a mood disorder, using descriptive, image-evoking prose.
This book contains her life story, told from the point, not just of a disease sufferer, but also from the standpoint of a healer. Dr. Jamison is both. As a psychotherapist & professor of psychiatry, not only did she write a definitive book on the treatment of manic-depressive illness, but she also suffers from the disease herself.
We read her first-person account of how the disease snuck into her life. How parts of it were seductive and alluring, how she enjoyed having the extra energy, the industry; but also how that energy would turn to mania, would be damaging. Then we learn how dark, how bleak the downs could be. She exposes her struggle with medication, how she felt it limited her, how difficult it was to find and maintain the correct dose. We learn about the impact of her disease on her relationships.
She examines the path of manic-depressive illness in her life and paints a picture for the reader. One cannot put this book down without being touched. If you, or somebody you know, suffers from a mood disorder, this book is =REQUIRED= reading. If you would like a deep insightful read, not only will you enjoy this book, but you'll come away from it with a new appreciation for living with a chemically balanced brain.
on December 13, 1999
Upon reading all of the reviews for this book, so far, it suprised me by the number of 1-2 ratings. It appeared that readers weren't very much in the middle; they either loved or disliked it. One of the most common comments pertained to the fact that it was KRJ's personal story. Readers seemed to expect more medical, scientific, and technical material. Please keep in mind that the subtitle to this book is 'A memoir of moods and madness" A MEMOIR. If the reader needs more medical information, they should seek the guidance of that kind of read, psychiatrist, or physician. I thought KRJ did a wonderful job in describing her life with manic depression. Being diagnosed, myself, last year, I needed someone to be this honest and this personal. KRJ succeeded in sharing this information. Of course, she doesn't make her life seem ordinary and "down to earth" (as was another complaint by some readers) because it wasn't/isn't an ordinary life. KRJ has had noteable accomplishments. Not everyone is a PH.D in their field, not everyone has seen far-away lands. I think her story is well told and well thought. I could identify with her descriptions and memories. Her words, people complained, made m.d. seem glamorous and beautiful. To that I say, if you've ever been manic, it can be a beautiful experience. It can be seductive and a whirlwind of wonderful feelings. Just keep in mind that everyone with this disorder has different trials and triumphs and emotions that go with them. I applaud her strength and her will. And, I give thanks to her honesty and straightforward style. Chris...email@example.com
on March 18, 1998
I picked up a copy of this book at an airport bookstore on my way to a job interview. I typically never read autobiographies or memoirs, but the title of this "An Unquiet Mind" resonated so perfectly with the type of hypomania that I experience. I had just been diagnosed and was (am still) dealing with the stigma, questioning, repercussions, misunderstandings, explanations, etc. This book, written by an authority with both clinical and personal knowledge of manic depression, gave me a better understanding of my own condition, as well as the means to educate others (friends, family) who can't grasp that what they thought was me is actually my illness. Jamison's is the best book I have found to date that can provide insight into the lived experience of both mania and depression. I recommend it to anyone in the field of mental health, as well as to those of us diagnosed bipolar and our families and friends. This is definitely crucial reading to develop an understanding of this devastating disorder.
This is a wonderful memoir. It is a truly brave and beautiful confessional piece, and it is a brilliant portrait of the human condition, of those essential and elusive things that make life worth living. The book, however, is not perfect. As much as I hate to be critical--I understand Dr. Jamison's enormous pain and her sense of personal pride and entitlement--it is impossible to read this book without becoming aware of the author's position of phenomenal social, professional, and economic advantage. This memoir, in a sense, is manic-depressive illness for the charmed life. I can't help but wonder how the reader is supposed to feel about the lonely and the poor, who also happen to be terribly ill. Most who read this book are not going to have access to the very best psychiatrists; have the unswerving support of a loving family; have the pleasant memories inherent to a blissful childhood; have the opportunity for grand tours of England while on year-long sabbatical leave; have the benefit of an understanding, dynamic, and brilliant professional community; have a world-wide network of well educated and well connected friends; possess the steely work ethic inspired by a WASPy military upbringing; or be blessed with the God-given intellectual talents and physical beauty so helpful to a thriving love life. Many readers won't even have medical insurance. Granted, this is a memoir and not a self-help guide. It is not intended to be a popular manual, but the narrative can be both sympathetic and shamelessly conceited, both poetic and aloof. I'm proud of Dr. Jamison for her achievements, and I'm truly delighted that she has made a wonderful life for herself despite her exceptional difficulties. But I can't help but think that some readers might be a bit resentful.
I had my first and only manic episode at the age of forty-four, four years ago. In order to be diagnosed a manic-depressive (also know as "bi polar"), you have to have also an expisode of the opposite disorder. In my case, a brief period of depression preceeded the mania.
When I went manic, I was fortunate to have a loving husband-- who was quite sensitive to my regular weird nature as opposed to this strange "NEW" me-- realize something was very wrong and cart me off to the doctor immediately. My judgement was way too poor to know this. In fact, I thought my HUSBAND was "nuts"! If you are a family member of a manic-depressive, please understand that they are not capable of behaving normally when they are having an episode.
I didn't have to stay away from home too long because he caught me in a very early stage. I was lucky. This illness can devastate people's lives. Some of us must face it and fight it on a daily basis. When I got out of the psychiatric hospital and initally met the "psychopharmarcologial"* shrink who is my doctor now, he said to me at my first visit: "I would like you to read AN UNQUIET MIND, by Kay Jamison. She is a research scientist who is also a manic-depressive."
So I did. And, do you know what? It helped me to feel comforted. I no longer felt alone. I no longer felt quite so nervous about "trusting my brain", which had never let me down before.
I don't feel as guilty for the foolish things I did while manic, nor I do feel as embarrassed. The shame can be haunting for some people. This book helps dispell that. Dr. Jamison is very honest about all the foolish and self destructive things she did. Because I read this book, I understand that I have a neurobiological disorder that up until recently was very poorly understood. Because of reading this book, I realize that it takes stalwart dedication and, in my case, a love of my family to maintain myself on the road to good health. Otherwise, sure, I would be tempted to "fly" again, just as Kay Jamison did. Her honesty about the damage she did to herself and to her relationships, and her willingness to be open about the seductive nature of this disease has helped me remain on the path to good health.
Read this book and dispell some of your confusion about this not so uncommon, not all that glamorous disorder. And then go hug your family, or your s.o.-- or yourself. Hang tough and don't be afraid. Best wishes, Jean
* this kind of shrink specializes in using drugs to treat certain disorders. very good type of psychiatrist to use if you are manic/depressive.
on August 13, 2003
This is an alright book. I bought it after a few years of thinking that I probably have bipolar disorder. Kay Redfield Jamison's writing is clear, accurate and interesting, though I would not call it beautiful. The book was great about breaking down the specifics of the illness and after finishing I felt I had a better understanding of the illness, felt positive that I was bipolar, and ultimately felt I had a better understanding of why I feel certain ways at certain times.
My beef with the book is that she doesn't acknowledge how exceptional her access to resources is. Like when she talks about running up her bills too high (I also have this problem) she just has her brother loan her the money to fix it. When she feels really sick, she has the best psychologist/psychiatrists watching her round the clock. It really doesn't work like that for most people. I am a 22 year-old boy supporting myself totally in NYC. I am broke, have no health insurence and no family members who will financially support me. I'll be lucky to afford seeing a shrink and paying for my medication, while she, on the other hand, had people calling her, watching her, making sure she wouldn't cause herself harm. It almost seems at parts of the book as if treatment sought her, instead of the other way around. if only i should be so lucky. I find it funny that she doesn't bring up how different another patients struggle might be without the priviledges she's had. So, it was kind of frustrating.
on January 10, 2000
Kay Redfield Jamison's 'An Unquiet Mind' has been for me an adventure into the chaotic past life of my beloved first daughter. For so many years our family has lived with this disease, never diagnosed until mid 1999. This book transported me back to her first suicide attempt at age 16, her many many relationships, two marriages, countless changes in schools, outrageous spending sprees, severe panic disorder, inability to raise her own child, and so many other tragedies. Our lives have been complete chaos. Never before have I been able to understand this disease, but this wonderful book has given such tremendous insight, it could very easily be my daughter's story. Thank you Dr. Jamison. Now with this new knowledge, gained from your story, so beautifully told, and the prescribed treatment which is working so well, we can all look forward to recovery with confidence.
on January 30, 2001
Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and co-author of the standard medical text, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is more than a widely recognized expert in the field of manic-depressive illness; she lives it. In AN UNQUIET MIND, Jamison shares the pain and pleasure of depression and mania in a poignant, honest account of living with mental illness.
Manic depression kills tens of thousands of people every year, and profoundly touches thousands more. Jamison describes manic depression as "seductively complicated, a distillation both of what is finest in our natures, and of what is most dangerous."
While biological in origin, manic depression manifests itself as mental illness, undermining the very foundations of one's existence; yet manic depression can also become the impetus of the greatest creative energy. Indeed, Jamison explains that these creative, manic phases that present themselves as seductive, discouraging treatment for fear of loss of energy, inventiveness and insight. Certainly, gentle intensity brings tremendous reward, but out of control it leads to frenetic episodes and eventual insanity.
With medication, manic depression is frequently a controllable illness. Despite this fact, Jamison examines her own reluctance to take medication that inhibits one's energy levels and creativity. Further, she examines the process of accepting the illness and the necessity of treatment, particularly from the viewpoint of one that offers help, but does not wish to receive it.
Jamison writes with a unique viewpoint, as that of a healer and as a patient. In often times lyrical language, she exposes the world of mental illness complete with the fear and insecurity that accompanies it. In addition, she offers her experience as a message of hope. Despite periods of psychotic episodes, deep depressions, and a suicide attempt, Jamison is a highly successful woman with a life in academia and a full, loving personal life. In a world filled with books about mental illness, Jamison offers stronger hope, based on fact, than any other author that I have yet encountered. Very highly recommended.
on August 5, 1998
After many years of trudging the mountains and valleys of the journey that is manic-depression (aka: bipolar disorder) I felt so terribly alone. No one in my life understood it, and after dealing with the ups and downs, most of them really didn't care to. It was on the advice of my psychiatrist that I came to read this particular book. I had been searching with an insatiable hunger for someone that I could relate to. With great elation, I found her in the pages of 'An Unquiet Mind'. At last, I was not alone. Kay Jamison became a silent friend and comrade and provided some much needed comfort as I began a new course of treatment and continued my quest to fully understand my condition. Perhaps the most incredible aspect of her story comes from her career as a psychiatrist. She offers invaluable insight into both sides of the disease being a doctor as well as an affected patient. She has blessed us by sharing this insight that we would probably never have seen b! ut truly need to in order to fully understand the relationship of doctor and patient. Also noteworthy is the fact that it is written in such a way as to give friends and loved ones a chance to peek inside the bipolar mind in an objective way. They learn that this is why I do that and that is why I do this which enables them to better deal with it all. Though I have never met her personally, I feel a great kinship with this woman. I'm certain that others who have read this book must surely share in the relief and comfort of knowing that they are not alone. Thank you Kay Jamison for giving us that gift.