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An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madnessby Kay Redfield Jamison
Synopses & Reviews
In her bestselling classic, An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison changed the way we think about moods and madness.
Dr. Jamison is one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness; she has also experienced it firsthand. For even while she was pursuing her career in academic medicine, Jamison found herself succumbing to the same exhilarating highs and catastrophic depressions that afflicted many of her patients, as her disorder launched her into ruinous spending sprees, episodes of violence, and an attempted suicide.
Here Jamison examines bipolar illness from the dual perspectives of the healer and the healed, revealing both its terrors and the cruel allure that at times prompted her to resist taking medication. An Unquiet Mind is a memoir of enormous candor, vividness, and wisdom — a deeply powerful book that has both transformed and saved lives.
"What makes this account of the author's life-long struggle with manic depressive illness so gripping — and so important — is that she is both victim and healer. As a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and Johns Hopkins, Kay Jamison treated manic depression in her patients, studied its causes and effects, and wrote award-winning papers and textbooks on the topic. But until this memoir, she never spoke publicly about her own experience of the disease. From her late teenage years, Jamison found herself alternating between exhilarating highs and terrible black depressions. In her mildly manic states she found herself vastly productive and creative, enjoying higher energy, greater concentration, and magnified self-confidence. In her depression she became suicidal. While lithium helped restrain her mood swings, for years Jamison was loathe to live mundanely, until psychotherapy convinced her that without the drug she would soon be dead or hopelessly insane. Neither preachy nor aggrieved, this book is tough-minded but gently written." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"An invaluable memoir of manic depression, at once medically knowledgeable, deeply human and beautifully written...at times poetic, at times straightforward, always unashamedly honest." The New York Times Book Review
"Stands alone in the literature of manic-depression for its bravery, brilliance and beauty." Oliver Sacks
"Jamison’s [strength] is in the gutsy way she has made her disease her life’s work and in her brilliant ability to convey its joys and its anguish.....Extraordinary." Washington Post Book World
"The most emotionally moving book I’ve ever read about the emotions." The New York Times Magazine
"Written with poetic and moving sensitivity...a rare and insightful view of mental illness from inside the mind of a trained specialist." Time
"Enlightening...eloquent and profound." San Francisco Chronicle
"Brave, insightful, richly textured and chillingly authentic." Boston Globe
"Piercingly honest....Jamison’s literary coming-out is a mark of courage." People
As a founder of UCLA's Affective Disorder Clinic and a co-author of a standard medical text, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison may be the foremost authority on manic-depressive illness. She is also one of its survivors. And it is this dual perspective — as healer and healed — that makes Jamison's memoir so lucid, learned, and profoundly affecting.
Even as she was pursuing her psychiatric training, Jamison found herself succumbing to the exhilarating highs and paralyzing lows that afflicted many of her patients. Though the disorder brought her seemingly boundless energy and mercurial creativity, it also propelled her into spending sprees, episodes of violence, and an attempt at suicide.
Powerfully candid, exceptionally wise, An Unquiet Mind is one of those rare books that has the power to transform lives — and even save them.
About the Author
Kay Redfield Jamison lives in Washington, DC.
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