It is a moving account of the extraordinary highs and numbing lows inflicted by manic depression. Finally, like those tigers, they became meaningless melted pools. Nothing once familiar to me was familiar. I wanted desperately to slow down but could not. She goes on to describe her battle with bipolar disorder, including the dizzying highs and sickening, black lows, her suicide attempt and, through it all, her successful career in clinical psychology.
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Is depression really "unipolar" while manic depression is "bipolar"? Such classifications presuppose, she writes, "a distinction between depression and manic-depressive illness — both clinically and etiologically — that is not always clear, or supported by science".
Jamison, writing in the mids, says she felt personally affronted by the term "bipolar". She was not afraid of admitting that she herself suffered episodes of "madness" — nor did she feel the need to be de-stigmatised by politically correct terminology.
A psychiatrist who has suffered from the illness for most of her life, she prefers the term manic depression because it is both more expressive of her experience and, ultimately, more clinically accurate. Her arguments flow from a view of major mental illnesses as the downstream biological effects of genetic disorders, and she perhaps underplays environmental factors.
But this book is, above all, a memoir. That is not just a statement of the obvious but an indispensable clinical fact. Jamison writes about childhood, family and work. She writes about relationships and lovers and how "sex became too intense for pleasure and during it I would feel my mind encased by black lines of light that were terrifying to me". She writes of the sensation of being "a zebra among the horses", and the struggles of psychiatry to classify, research and treat.
The writing is clear and beautiful, the descriptions accurate, the interior world she evokes is furiously alive. In the 16 years since An Unquiet Mind was first published, no greater book about manic depression — or bipolar disorder — has appeared.
Kay Redfield Jamison
She also studied zoology and neurophysiology as an undergraduate at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Jamison has given visiting lectures at a number of different institutions while maintaining her professorship at Hopkins. She was distinguished lecturer at Harvard University in and the Litchfield lecturer at the University of Oxford in In , she was a panelist in the series of discussions on the latest research into the brain, hosted by Charlie Rose with series scientist Eric Kandel on PBS. Her book Manic-Depressive Illness, first published in and co-authored with psychiatrist Frederick K. Goodwin is considered a classic textbook on bipolar disorder.
Explaining Bipolar Disorder: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison (Book Review)