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Review: An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and MadnessAn Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kay Jamison has spent most of her adult life studying mood disorders and living with bipolar illness. In this memoir, she faithfully shares her experience. She takes us inside a manic episode as she remembers it, and then the subsequent deep depression. Even breathing becomes a chore. She details the times she spun out and how the beauty of the world through fresh mania soon becomes lost in a whirlwind of racing thoughts and confusion. Anyone who has needed medication may relate to the resistance to taking it Kay describes so well, and the consequences of refusing meds when you need them. For years she started and stopped Lithium, and even when she knew she needed it, she would stop when either she fell dreamy in love with the memory of her mania, or the side effects became too much to bear. Turns out she was on a much higher dose than she needed. But the side effects of Lithium were nothing compared with the devastation which came of allowing her mania to resurface. Her marriage and friendships were poisoned. She maxed out her credit cards. Her professional life suffered. She wanted to end her life.

Miraculously, with the help of family and friends and therapy and meds, she was able to run a mood disorder clinic at UCLA, gain tenure, and today stands as a highly regarded clinician at Johns Hopkins. But most importantly she survived it all. Bipolar illness, aka manic-depression (although the latter usage has fallen out of fashion in diagnostic circles, she believes it sums up the experience), takes lives. People get attached to their mania, they dream of their mania, and some never come around to accepting they need meds. This book is a must read for anyone with bipolar illness.

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