An Unquiet Mind – A Memoir of tumultous mind

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is the authoritative figure when it comes to the topic of mood, especially the pathology of mood. Her memoir is the excellent know abouts into the mind of the Manic Depressive. Dr Jamison herself suffering from Manic Depressive Illness has brought up such intensities of feeling and fervor of mood that the reader gets engrossed with the illness. Here, Dr Jamison not only recounts her story but in the process of her realization of the curt reality has successfully made the readers realize the importance of medication and psychotheraphy for any kind of mood disorders. The book will definitely take the readers into the rollercoaster of moods, emotions , feelings and thoughts and gives them the valuable insight of the mind of the Manic Depressive. And the most important and interesting aspect of the book is her life as well, a highly successful proffessional life with the feat that the normal average minds cannot easily secure. With the proper love, care, treatment and acceptance the mental illness cant be the hindrance to having a rich life of personal, social and proffessional abundance . I think that’s the biggest take away from her memoir.

Dr Jamison has beautfied the illness and has added certain charm through her writing but the charm is not without any risk. The risk poses the danger of loosing a life also and Dr Jamison has been lucky herself as she she saw herself narrowly escape from the mouth of the death. When Dr Jamison describes herself in manic state, its so much exhilirating to see her energy and vibrant sleepless routine. I actually was infectious of her exuberance and wish if i had a considerable part of her energy. She could shuffle through 3-4 books a week , countless literatures, her duty at the hospital, teaching the interns and delivering lectures to the psychiatry students. In her own words, she describes her manic state as in :
How could one, should one, recapture that intensity or reexperince the glorious moods of dancing all night and into the morning, the gliding through starfields and dancing along the rings of the Saturn, the zany manic enthusiasms? How can one ever bring back the long summer days of passion, the remembrance of lilacs, ecstasy and gin fizzes that spilled over the garden wall, and the peals of riotious laughter that lasted till the Sun came up or the police arrived?

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But to the other extreme followed by the brief hypomania is the sudden change in the mood into the state of utter confusion, concussion ,the endless cacophony of thoughts and unbearable dispassions and flatness of emotions. The mania takes a deep dive into the abyss of blandness that makes Dr. Jamison cringe into the pain , fear and uncertainty. The only thing worth contemplating is the subject of DEATH. In Dr. Jamison’s own words : ‘…. Then the bottom began to fall out of my life and mind. My thinking far from being clearer than a crystal, was tortous. I would read the same passage over and over again only to realize that I had no memory at all for what I had just read. Each book or poem I read was the same way. Incomprehensible. Nothing made sense………..It was incapable of concerntrated thought and turned time and again to the subject of death: I was going to die, what difference did anything make? Life’s run was only a short and meaningless one, why live? I was totally exhausted and could scarcely pull myself out of bed in the mornings……….’ To her dismay, Dr Jamison found her life, at one point of her life , a big burden to carry and decided to snap the loose thread of life. But then the life had other plans when she found herself in the emergency room of the hospital.

It is quiet remarkable and intriguing to see her fight with and reluctance to take lithium, a powerful pill that treats Manic Depresive Illness. It’s quiet disconcerting for the reader to see her refusal to take the medication especially when she is herself the practitioner of Mental Health. Apparently she doesnt want to use her last resort and is holding upto the fear what if the lithium doesnt work. The thought is frightening to her and she doesnt want to find out her confirmation bias to be true. This is the deep inner reason she is said to have had for her reluctance to lithium. Its a hard won fight with herself that finally she took the medication with all its sideeffects. The sideeffects eventually subsided but it gave her reign to her moods and thoughts and could now lead a perfectly normal life. The readers can easily discern the benefits of regular medication. The absence of the extremes of highs and lows in the writer’s life and the placidity her mind can afford with the medication and psychotheraphy is truly enlightning. However she is not devoid with the longings for her hypomonia although for the brief amount of time but then she knows it doesnot come for free. She has to pay heavy price for her brief excitement with the possbility of the end of her life. And with the quick cost and benefit analysis she contends herself with the normal regular life.

Dr Kay Redfield Jamison is the accomplished figure in her own illness. She has made her illness not an enemy but an interesting phenomenon which can be studied with clinical precision and objectivity. Added to that is her own subjective feelings which ignites the passion within her. She has successfully come with the terms of her illness and has accepted it as her way of life. The illness inturn has given her the rich understanding of the nature of it which has helped her professionally treating her patients. We can know about her feats and achievements from the book and make us wonder how can she possibly be so much accomplished against all the odds. I think this realization in our part has the demystifying effect on the stigma that we generally associate mental illness with the incapacitation of the life functions. Well thats a big blow to the stigma.

I truly and heartfeltly recommend for everyone to read this book. Its truly a amazing journey into the tumultous yet beautiful mind.

Sujan Shrestha

About this Author

Sujan is a recent Psychology Graduate and enthusiast psychology student. His interests lies in Research and Clinical Psychology. He is also a writer and blogger. He is also responsible for editing PNN’s website and blog as Chief- Editor

Sujan Shrestha – who has written posts on Psychbigyaan Network Nepal.


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