From Kay Redfield Jamison - an international authority on manic-depressive illness, and one of the few women who are full professors of medicine at American universities - a remarkable personal testimony: the revelation of her own struggle since adolescence with manic-depression, and how it has shaped her life. Vividly, directly, with candor, wit, and simplicity, she takes us into the fascinating and dangerous territory of this form of madness - a world in which one pole can be the alluring dark land ruled by what Byron called the "melancholy star of the imagination," and the other a desert of depression and, all too frequently, death. A moving and exhilarating memoir by a woman whose furious determination to learn the enemy, to use her gifts of intellect to make a difference, led her to become, by the time she was forty, a world authority on manic-depression, and whose work has helped save countless lives.
Sadly, I know of people who have successfuly ended their young lives after having suffered with this disorder. My feeling is that anything the general public can do to help these individuals is a step in the right direction. Most of all, though, it's to the credit of Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison that the public has become more aware of this genetic disorder and its implications in an individual's life.
I took from this book the need for the public to accept each person affected with bipolar disorder with warmth and understanding and reject the stigmas that have been part of this mental illness in the past. I also expect that no one should assume to understand the demons of living with bipolar disorder, although the author does a magnificent job of putting her experiences into words.
My hope is that I'll be able to use what I've learned from this book in a positive manner to help others and continue to read works by Dr. Jamison and others in an effort to expand my knowledge of this devastating illness.
Jamison is an amazing person in many ways, and that is perhaps the books most glaring weakness. Most people who suffer from bipolar disorder don't have her intellect, talents or resources.
Still this is a good book to help someone understand the basic ins and outs of bipolar disorder. I recommend to spouses of people recently diagnosed as bipolar. It gives them some understanding, but also some hope that they can have something of a normal life (whatever THAT is.)
Even if you are not interested in mental health, the book is entertaining and extremely well written.
I expected all of that. People with bipolar disorder stop at a lot of the same way stations but travel between them in a huge array of styles.
What I didn't expect was for this book to be so triggering for me, primarily in the explanation of how hard it is to stay on medication. While reading those parts, I found myself longing for the person that *I* was without medication. This is a struggle that it seems like nobody really escapes (at least nobody that I've known), and the fact that I felt it so keenly while reading this book makes me suspect that the author does a good job of conveying how hard it can be to stay medicated - even when you know intellectually that it's saving your life.
Would somebody 'normal' find this as good of a read as I did? No clue... but I'm probably as close to 'normal' as I'll ever get and I liked it. :)
Kay Jamison writes about her life from seventeen - when she had her first attack of manic depression - through to her life now as an adult over twenty years later. It is an extremely well written account and whilst it is factual and often distressing to read I actually enjoyed it. It shows not only her courage but her determination to succeed at life with an illness that almost killed her.
I couldn't actually put this book down and read it in the course of one day, over a series of sittings. This book must be of help for people who don't know how to deal with their own turmoil at the hands of this illness and likewise for those whose lives are affected by it. It doesn't have a text book feel about it but nor does it feel lightweight.
I can't recommend this book enough!
The first few chapters were very promising, I felt there was passion infused in the pages as she spoke about her father, her military upbringing, her mother..her general early life. But as the story continued forward, it became more disjointed, dried out and read as if she used a thesaurus on every word humanly possible. It was overkill.
I admire Ms. Jamison for the strong, obviously intelligent psychologist that she is and for the great studies and growth she has brought to her field. On a personal level, I do not feel that her story was as honest and clear as it could've been. I didn't connect with her struggle, as it wasn't descriptive or deep.
It reads more as a clinical study and I would recommend this book only to those studying the field; not to the typical memoir lover.
I found it amazing that Jamison had so much support, so much love, and still fought not to take her meds. A reader is made to realize that it's not surprising that so many people effectively resist treatment, because they really do feel best when manic, as they don't have the support she did to help them feel better at other times. And she makes it abundantly clear that it's meds psychotherapy that is necessary and best for most sufferers.
I found it disturbing that she feels that her low moods are comparable to being old. Granted, I am less passionate as I age, and less athletic, but I wouldn't have to be. Even the very infirm might very well feel ecstasies - and young, healthy people get clinically, chronically depressed, too. I want to know how she views the comparison that she made here, now that she herself is older.
Overall, well-written, and valuable, especially as an advocacy to convince people to get good help and to follow through with prescribed treatment plans. But not the first book I'd recommend to people looking for help."
The book however, minus her personal life, was a very adequate description of what a manic-depressive goes through. I only wish families and friends who have relationships with people who suffer with this illness can read this book and relate to it the way a manic-depressive does. It's all right there, they just can't see it because they don't experience it . It really is all in your head and if it's not even the most educated phychiatrist can never really relate. That is how I know it was real for her.
This book simultaneously humanizes and medicalizes bipolar disorder, and in my opinion needed to be written in order to keep destigmatizing mental illness
The beginning of the book was very chronological but once her illness sets in it jumps around a lot. She mentioned her family having a big part, both negative and positive, in her dealing with her illness but they are rarely mentioned. I'd like to know what happened to her dad and sister. I would definitely read her other books, but they are on other heavy topics so I might put some space between them.
However, I unfortunately think her case is truly extraordinary. I was surprised by how supportive virtually everyone she encountered was of her and of her illness. Then again, she was surrounded by incredibly well-informed individuals (and some of the best researchers and practitioners in the field). Not everyone with bipolar has a such a strong support system or has the luxury of being surrounded by people who know and understand the disease, which is also part of the problem. Further, it doesn’t even begin to describe to the socioeconomic problems faced by lower or middle-class individuals who have the disease. It can be hard for people with this disease to hold a job (or even get a job), which can seriously limit their access to healthcare. People less fortunate than her often end up institutionalized in one form or another, and lack access to healthcare and other resources they need to function.
I think this book does a great job of explaining the highs and lows of bipolar and how it truly affects all aspects of life. It answers many of the ongoing questions friends and family of people with bipolar have: how and why bipolar is a disease and should be treated as such, how even the most intelligent people can become suicidal, and why people with bipolar so often stop and then resume taking medication (and the often-horrible side effects of such medication). Overall, it’s a very insightful book that gives interesting, thought-provoking insights into bipolar illness.
The book contains rich descriptions, and is searingly honest with no attempt to gloss over the messy and downright ugly bits of mental illness. The author is extremely insightful, and does an excellent job of capturing in words what mental illness feels like. She described the “particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness… You are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and totally enmeshed in the blackest caves of the mind.”
Many of the challenges Jamison has faced will sound very familiar to anyone living with a mood disorder. She is very open about her struggle to accept her diagnosis and the attached stigma. Even once she did recognize that she was struggling with her mental health, fear and shame initially stopped her from seeking treatment. It took a long time for her to accept that she needed to remain on medication, and there were multiple occasions when she stopped her meds and then experienced a relapse of mania. There were several factors that played into her reluctance to take medication, including a wish not to be brought down from the highs of mania. She thought of medications as something that “might be indicated for psychiatric patients, for those of weaker stock, but not for us”. She was placed on high doses of lithium, which caused considerable side effects including nausea and impaired coordination, and at times she ended up with toxic blood levels.
Her work as a psychologist impacted how she experienced and managed her illness and its treatment. When she first met with a psychiatrist, “the questions were familiar, I had asked them of others a hundred times, but I found it unnerving to have to answer them, unnerving not to know where it was all going, and unnerving not to realize how confusing it was to be a patient.”
When she was highly depressed, her psychiatrist tried to persuade her to go to hospital, but she refused. The idea terrified her and she didn’t want to have to “put up with all of the indignities and invasions of privacy that go into being on a psychiatric ward”. She also worried that if it became known she’d been hospitalized “my clinical work and privileges at best would be suspended; at worst, they would be revoked on a permanent basis.” This resonated strongly with me, as I have similar fears about the loss of my nursing license if I were to be hospitalized again.
As Jamison was recovering from a long period of suicidal depression, she began a romantic relationship with a man. He asked her to come to stay with him in London, and she states that although she was “still recovering… and my thoughts were so halting and my feelings so gray I could scarcely bear it I somehow knew that things would be made better by being with him. They were. Immeasurably.” Love helped her replace the awfulness of illness with beauty and vitality, which I found this interesting, as in the past love has made a big difference in my own recovery,
She writes about the issue of language choices when it comes to mental illness. She prefers the term manic-depressive illness to bipolar disorder, as she finds it more accurate. She also questioned whether in the end destigmatization can possibly come from simple language changes, or whether it will instead come from things like public education and improvements in diagnosis and treatment. She touches on stigma within the health professions, giving the example of one doctor who told her she shouldn’t have children due to her illness. She warns that stigma may prevent clinicians with mental illness from seeking treatment because of concerns about their professional license or privileges. She has been careful to create a safety net of colleagues who are aware of her illness and who will step in to keep her from practice should her mental health start to deteriorate. This reminds me of the safety net I had in place several years ago when I was getting outpatient ECT. I knew from past experience that ECT adversely affected my memory and I was often unaware of the full extent of this impairment, so I had spoken to each of the physicians I worked with and asked them to let me know if I was slipping in my management of our shared patients so that I would know if I needed to take time off.
I found the conclusion of the book very powerful. The author stated that as a result of her illness, “I have felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters; worn death ‘as close as dungarees’, appreciated it–and life–more; seen the finest and the most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty, and seeing things through.” It’s a good reminder to all of us that as dark as mental illness can be, it does not entirely shut out the light. I would definitely recommend this book.
I felt the presence of men all over the book. Kay rarely mentioned women and the only ones who showed up were her mother and older sister. It was overly suffocating and I felt condescended to when Kay mentioned her achievements and the oppression she felt when her mental illness prevented her from accomplishing what her WASP/Ivy status allowed her to do.
Her writing was good but it was not enough to distract me from her abysmal egocentricity about her sex life, her list of lovers, and all those men who were her friends. I don't understand why she doesn't talk about any female friends...maybe she doesn't have any? I understand that's reasonable since to each their own but I'm still baffled.
There was so much centralization on SEX and MEN. what the actual fuck
Like if I wanted to read about romance, I would've searched out a love story! (and I love romance, by the way; it adds a lot of fun to an otherwise tragic book that takes itself too seriously with its sad, gory, and fantastical elements)
Sorry, I read this book expecting a book on mood disorder and that's what it was marketed as but I now want my money back. I didn't EVEN BUY THE DAMN BOOK. never mind I actually want my time back. This book wasted my time and it wasn't even about how unlikable Kay was. I'm sick and tired of this book, it's only 228 pages and it's saturated with achievements, her rise to prestigious job positions, and the amount of support she received from men. Okay, yeah, you garnered a lot of attention from men and you also have a lot of handsome friends.
Your two best friends in high school were handsome, sardonic and super popular GUYS in high school. Thanks for describing that, did it contribute to your story, influence your illness or even impact your life?!!! Because you briefly drop them and then talk about other guys you meet in college, husbands (yes, husbandS), and turbulent love affairs.
Keep in mind I have a 8-page paper due in a few hours and all of it to be written by referring to this book. And yet, wa-la!...here I am writing about how much cock and bull I read wastefully. And surprisingly, I wrote so much and infinitely quickly on my subjective review of this book than my actual assignment essay!
A lot of the aforementioned male friends and people who supported you need not be included because Kay did not show their long-term support. She would talk about them for a few pages and then it would all revert back to her. They are then dropped and I never hear about them again (except for maybe the psychiatrist and her family). Nearly every men she comes into contact with was always first and foremost described physically and usually as devastatingly handsome and/or charming.
Her self-centeredness and grandiosity is beyond belief.