Books, Non-Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

Bipolar disorder is a complex disease. It is a peculiar virtue in the nature of human beings that we accept any physical illness with our open hands but many discard the idea of mental illness. Some just ignore them whether they are the sufferer or not. The society we live in lie to us that everyone is mentally healthy. Everyone of us, at some point in our lives, does distress from a mental malady as we do from a cold or a cough. Those with that peculiar opinion are not ready to accept that a human being can suffer as much as from mental disease as from the physical one. In some cases that mental suffering might be more gruesome than the physical one because it is in the ‘mind’ of that person. However, my opinion is that there is an equal probability of getting healed and healthy in both the cases.

AN UNQUIET MIND: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison examines bipolar illness from the outlook of a healer and a healed one as she herself an American clinical psychologist and suffered from manic-depression, in her book. An Unquiet Mind is a powerful book and a must read if your curious about this disease.

Manic depression consist of many moods. An effortless of well-being, confidence and energy of hypomania, the uncontrolled on and off state of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and overactivity. Kay Jamison makes an excellent case, through her own experiences, for the need to treat manic depression with both medication and psychotherapy. She provides the reader with her personal history, and journal like accounts to weave the story of her illness. Raised in a military family with a history of mental illness, though not one discussing such problems, Jamison first dealt with intense moods during high school.

These experiences increased rapidly during her undergraduate years and by the time Jamison entered her mid-twenties manic depression had taken over her life. Her life then depends in the hands of others, her family, her psychiatrist, husband, lovers, and she has acknowledged this well in her words. This is a point that makes a mental disease such as depression greater than or equal to a physical disease. A physical disease can become extreme due to the excess pain one suffers in particular but sometimes can be handled by on one’s own will, and for that will you need your mental support. In a mental sickness, one does not have her/his own mental support and thus one suffers deeply and if there is any kind of support provided by other minds, then it can be a great help.

In the book, Jamison reveals how her behaviour and her daily life activities were controlled by her moods. The ups and downs all are created by one’s own moods. The whole structure of one’s thought process are chemically imbalanced due to her/his own moods. It is no magic because it is happening inside one’s own brain. Accepting her dependence on lithium Jamison recalls melancholy the joys she once knew during manic phases. She concludes that if she had the choice of not having manic-depressive disease, she would choose to have it.

As a result of it, 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.

Kay Jamison’s memoir offers up many topics for discussion. She states that in the current society those whose brains differ chemically from the usual should be accepted, appreciated and loved. An Unquiet Mind is well written memoir, clear with each account of Jamison’s life and gives a reader an insight to think and understand a life with depression.

4 out of 5!


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