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An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

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The personal memoir of a manic depressive and an authority on the subject describes the onset of the illness during her teenage years and her determined journey through the realm of available treatments.


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The personal memoir of a manic depressive and an authority on the subject describes the onset of the illness during her teenage years and her determined journey through the realm of available treatments.

30 review for An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

  1. 4 out of 5

    stephanie

    i was reading some reviews of the book written by people that disliked this. i just want to say, that for a person suffering from mental illness, the fact that you know jamieson's full CV and her academic struggles is important. it's more of a - look, she was wildly successful, and dealing with this illness, and she finally came to terms with it, and now she's okay - and still wildly successful. i also want to say how brave it was for her to write this under her own name. it does a lot to irradi i was reading some reviews of the book written by people that disliked this. i just want to say, that for a person suffering from mental illness, the fact that you know jamieson's full CV and her academic struggles is important. it's more of a - look, she was wildly successful, and dealing with this illness, and she finally came to terms with it, and now she's okay - and still wildly successful. i also want to say how brave it was for her to write this under her own name. it does a lot to irradicate the stigma against mental illness, and no doubt she met people in academia who had read her book but never met her, and formed opinions that might be less than true. she really kind of put herself on the line for this, and i have to respect that. those things aside, this book came to me at a very important time in my life. (hence i remember the date i read it so well.) it was recommended by a psychiatrist i really respect, and. i'll admit, i was in the depths of a serious depressive episode, so perhaps it meant more to me then, but the book gave me hope. because i want a professional career, i want to be well respected in my field - and jamieson proved that it was possible. that you could recover from the depths and haul yourself out. she doesn't paint herself as a victim either, which was my main problem with Prozac Nation. she has this illness, and she finds she can't ignore it any longer. she doesn't blame biology or bad family situations - she just realizes that if she wants her life, she's going to have to make some changes. she writes academically, but accessibly, and she doesn't take the easy way out. i've read everything she's written, but this is perhaps my favorite. becuse it shows that you can be honest about your mental health, and still be okay. it's written beautifully, and i go back to it time and again when i'm feeling down - even though i am not bipolar - and again, i think that speaks to the strengths of this memoir.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    “I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide.” An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness is an honest and profoundly dramatic memoir that reveals the challenges and sufferings faced by people that suffer from bipolar disorder. Kay Redfield Jamison herself endured the dangerous highs of euphoria mixed with the lows of depression. Her professional success as a clinical psychologist coupled with h “I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide.” An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness is an honest and profoundly dramatic memoir that reveals the challenges and sufferings faced by people that suffer from bipolar disorder. Kay Redfield Jamison herself endured the dangerous highs of euphoria mixed with the lows of depression. Her professional success as a clinical psychologist coupled with her forthright story helps to diminish the stigma of this serious mental illness that affect many. “There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you're high it's tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one's marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends' faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against-- you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.” Insightful, poignant and thoroughly revealing. Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    A lot of people seem to have a negative reaction to this book, which I totally get. I didn't find Jamison a particularly likable person, and this wasn't great literature, though it did go down fast and smooth. Be that as it may, I've strongly recommended An Unquiet Mind several times, and I can't judge it by the normal standards that I apply to most books. I see An Unquiet Mind as performing a specific and vital function, at which I think it succeeds extremely well: that is, Jamison's memoir does A lot of people seem to have a negative reaction to this book, which I totally get. I didn't find Jamison a particularly likable person, and this wasn't great literature, though it did go down fast and smooth. Be that as it may, I've strongly recommended An Unquiet Mind several times, and I can't judge it by the normal standards that I apply to most books. I see An Unquiet Mind as performing a specific and vital function, at which I think it succeeds extremely well: that is, Jamison's memoir does a spectacular job of demonstrating that a) severe mental illness can and does affect intelligent, high-functioning people who periodically struggle with symptoms but are able to manage their illness and live full, meaningful lives; and (more uniquely and importantly, I think) b) An Unquiet Mind does an AMAZING job of demonstrating how powerful one's lack of true insight into one's mental illness can be. Jamison is a psychologist, and it's just incredible to hear her describe how her vast stores of knowledge about psychiatric symptoms, and about her own illness, were useless against her mind's conviction that she's fine, and not symptomatic, and doesn't need medication. It's just such a great illustration of how intelligence and knowledge aren't assets at all -- and might even be liabilities -- when it comes to understanding and accepting one's own psychiatric disorder. As a social worker, I work with people who are diagnosed with severe mental illness -- mostly schizophrenia, but also many with severe bipolar disorder. The vast majority of my clients have little in common with the relatively wealthy, privileged Jamison aside from a diagnosis, and I doubt most would relate much to her story, but on occasion I try to force one of them to read this book. An Unquiet Mind is good medicine for literate, intelligent people who would be successful in maintaining jobs and relationships if they could manage their symptoms, who fear that their diagnosis is a death sentence for their chances at a "normal life." I think Jamison does an excellent job of showing how this struggle to live with a severe mental illness plays out, and of getting across how difficult it is to accept the realities and limitations of one's disease in the interest of reclaiming the sense of self and real life that disease has jeopardized. Actually, a lot of the most annoying and boring parts of this book -- e.g., Jamison's emphasis on her tiresome love affairs and her tic of constantly reminding us how great she is -- are much of what I want certain of my clients to read. Being diagnosed with a psychotic disorder is terrifying and can be very dehumanizing. People are often scared that they'll never be able to have romantic relationships, that they won't be able to work, that their brains will never function properly. People in that position need reassurance that being mentally ill doesn't mean you're unattractive or stupid or doomed to become some pathetic and useless zombified shuffler. I'd recommend this book to people who could relate somewhat to the author, who need to know that they can recover from mental illness. I'm glad that Kate Jamison wrote it, because even if it's flawed as a book, An Unquiet Mind succeeds in providing a crucial sense of the reality of that hope.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    ‘I worked on a locked ward at the time, and I didn’t relish the idea of not having the key.’ The author suffers from manic depressive illness (who chooses this coin of phrase as opposed to bipolar disorder, and I tend to agree with her). She is a brilliant mind, an academic and health care professional and absolute authority on this subject; she lives and breathes the disease but is able to treat her patients with complete and utter understanding and of course, empathy. This is Kay’s memoir, an ‘I worked on a locked ward at the time, and I didn’t relish the idea of not having the key.’ The author suffers from manic depressive illness (who chooses this coin of phrase as opposed to bipolar disorder, and I tend to agree with her). She is a brilliant mind, an academic and health care professional and absolute authority on this subject; she lives and breathes the disease but is able to treat her patients with complete and utter understanding and of course, empathy. This is Kay’s memoir, and it is just simply very interesting and fascinating reading. She has ridden the extreme mania highs and suffered the almost deadly depressions and tells her story with eloquence, humour and authority. ‘Tempestuous temperament’ seems the perfect way to describe this lady who ‘instead of buying two tickets for a concert would by eight or ten’. Kay speaks simply of her problem: ‘No pill can help me deal with the problem of not wanting to take pills; likewise, no amount of psychotherapy alone can prevent my manias and depressions. I need both. It is an odd thing, owing life to pills, one’s own quirks and tenacities, and this unique, strange, and ultimately profound relationship called psychotherapy.’ Interesting take on her own self-worth: ‘I doubted, completely, my ability to do anything well.’ She is even humorous: ‘But money spent when manic doesn’t fit into the Internal Revenue Service concept of medical expense or business loss. So after mania, when most depressed, you’re given excellent reason to be even more so.’ Kay Redfield Jamison has come quite the guru for me. Would love to meet her in real life. I work in an academic library therefore I have unlimited access to her work. Fancy a 1kg text book anyone?! Unfortunately, I will never get through all her work. This one does fascinate me though: Robert Lowell : setting the river on fire a study of genius, mania, and character. I may get to this soon. ‘I was late to understand that chaos and intensity are no substitute for lasting love, nor are they necessarily an improvement on real life. Normal people are not always boring. On the contrary. Volatility and passion, although often more romantic and enticing, are not intrinsically preferable to a steadiness of experience and feeling about another person (nor are they incompatible).’

  5. 4 out of 5

    Belinda

    Just ran across this review of "An Unquiet Mind" that I wrote a couple of years ago (January 2009). As I go back through blog posts, Twitter feeds, book reviews, etc., it amazes me how difficult a time *I* was having... and how I was paying NO attention to that whatsoever. It was all about someone else. And really, in this book, that's how Jamison seems to think it should be. I just had the opportunity to re-read this book when it was offered on the Kindle, and I was surprised. I seemed to rememb Just ran across this review of "An Unquiet Mind" that I wrote a couple of years ago (January 2009). As I go back through blog posts, Twitter feeds, book reviews, etc., it amazes me how difficult a time *I* was having... and how I was paying NO attention to that whatsoever. It was all about someone else. And really, in this book, that's how Jamison seems to think it should be. I just had the opportunity to re-read this book when it was offered on the Kindle, and I was surprised. I seemed to remember it as being immensely insightful the first time I read it, but consider that that was immediately after my husband's initial bipolar 1 diagnosis. This was the first book everyone was recommending back then. Now, several years of living with a bipolar spouse later, I read it and think, "Meh." I have tremendous respect for Jamison as a leader in this field of study, but I can't figure out what she was going for in this memoir. It seems to have been written more FOR herself than about herself, if that makes sense--it reads as very personal and cathartic. Is it helpful for others, though? I'm not so sure. There are some wonderful passages in which she borrows from images in poetry and literature, and those, for me, make the book worth reading. But I don't get much of a sense of hope for those dealing with manic-depressive illness, because Jamison's resources were/are simply out of the reach of most of us. If my husband had access to the level of care that Jamison has enjoyed throughout her life, he'd probably be doing much better. Who WOULDN'T thrive with near-daily psychiatric attention and round-the-clock home care (which, just by the way, is provided by friends/family/lovers, most of whom happen to be practicing psychiatrists)? Heck, I'd like to get in on some of that, myself. As it is, we receive financial assistance from our physicians, to lower our co-pay, so that he can see a therapist (not an MD, but a psychologist) once a week, and even that's a burden. Then there's couples therapy, because this disease puts a mighty strain on a marriage. As someone in the "caretaker" role, to use Jamison's own terminology, I found the message of the memoir a bit burdensome. Yes, she shows great appreciation for her loved ones and their unflagging support. She also puts ENORMOUS weight on that support as being the key to her success. That only reads as a compliment the first few times, then it becomes a sledge-hammer of obligation and guilt. I don't know--I'm conflicted this time around. It's a bit of "thank you for being there," and a bit of "but for you, I'd be dead." That's a lot of pressure, gratitude or no.

  6. 4 out of 5

    rachel misfiticus

    So far... about half way done... 1 star for her vanity and pretension 5 stars because of the taxidermic fox 3 stars being a calculated average **UPDATE** Perhaps I have been corrupted by the reviews I read before finishing this book; however, I am still trying to wash Kay Redfield Jamison’s self-haughtiness out of my mind. I think that the first chapter and the last chapter are the only ones with any weight. Chapter one is about Jamison’s childhood and more specifically, her manic father. The second So far... about half way done... 1 star for her vanity and pretension 5 stars because of the taxidermic fox 3 stars being a calculated average **UPDATE** Perhaps I have been corrupted by the reviews I read before finishing this book; however, I am still trying to wash Kay Redfield Jamison’s self-haughtiness out of my mind. I think that the first chapter and the last chapter are the only ones with any weight. Chapter one is about Jamison’s childhood and more specifically, her manic father. The second chapter is suddenly more academic and speaks about the semantics of the disease – manic depression vs. bipolar disorder – and the choice to use certain words which may be construed as offensive: madness. The rest of the book can be recycled. I chose “An Unquiet Mind” because I was hoping for a candid account of moods from someone who studies them – not an embellished CV/personal ad. Here is a sum up of the book: SWF with mood disorder seeks tall, charming, handsome man for lots of passionate lovemaking; must be compassionate, understanding, and artistic. I write little anecdotes revolving around my manic episodes. Aren’t I charming? I use lots of adjectives, such as black and bleak, to describe my depression. My family and friends support me and love me. My sister deals with manic depression as well, but she does not support me and she is against Lithium – she is such a bitch and I don’t talk to her anymore. Have I mentioned I am spectacular?! Lithium! Take it or you will die! Insert Byron, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William James quote. I listen to Schubert and Mozart. I like art! For a book that is praised for its candor, Jamison did not seem very genuine or candid. Her first marriage, for example, ended in perceivable heartbreak when she left her husband on impulse. Instead of delving into her relationships that were injured by her bipolar disorder, she glosses over them. She explains that she and her first husband are still friends – no hard feelings – and leaves it at that. But (oh!) the pages she spends on her perfect, sexualized, relationships. Jamison is redundant and self-centered. I wanted to like this book, but it fell so far from my expectations. I recognize that manic episodes and depressive states are not the same for everyone, but there was something dubious about Jamison’s account. I am curious about what her peers thought of her incessant self-grandiosity. I would agree that it takes courage to share such personal experiences with others, but do it right. Manic depression alienates. Jamison glorifies and romanticizes her disorder, calling it madness and relating her mania to flying around Saturn and dancing in the rain. Mania can lead to adventures and funny stories, but it also can incur humility and regret. Likewise, debilitating depression can cause one to miss out on positive opportunities.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tia

    An autobiography of a brilliant woman who suffered from manic depression (she resists the more watered down label "bipolar" because she thinks it hides the essential nature of the disease.) She made it through a PhD in psychology and became one of the foremost authorities in her field before finally getting the consistent treatment she needed. Just seeing how she was able to achieve such professional success while privately dealing with such hellish, frightening moments of near insanity is enoug An autobiography of a brilliant woman who suffered from manic depression (she resists the more watered down label "bipolar" because she thinks it hides the essential nature of the disease.) She made it through a PhD in psychology and became one of the foremost authorities in her field before finally getting the consistent treatment she needed. Just seeing how she was able to achieve such professional success while privately dealing with such hellish, frightening moments of near insanity is enough to be massively impressed. If you've ever looked at the world and thought it was so full of amazing things that you couldn't sleep for days, or alternatively, if you've ever spent days just imagining every single living thing on the earth dying slowly (I believe she actually describes compulsively thinking of this during high school), then the feelings aren't that new. But she paints a cohesive picture of what it's like to live as a never-ending captive to these see-sawing feelings. She also gives clear insight into why people may resist taking medicine that dulls their manic moments, because they may feel so much more alive, productive, and vibrant during these spells.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan

    This was overrated. I learned very little about what it's like to actually have manic-depression; Dr. Jamison preferred to write about her love life and her visits to England. She glossed over her suicide attempt and the only description of hospitalization is that of one of her patients. Also, the memoir skips back and forth in time and it's irritating. There are better books out there.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Britta

    I'm still not quite sure what I think of this book. It was recommended to me by a therapist thinking I would be interested as someone with bipolar disorder. Due to the source of the suggestion and the author of the book, an expert on and individual with bipolar disorder, I expected some practical insight into living with this disease. What I found was much different. This book is labeled a memoir, and the writing style and content certainly fit the label. Unfortunately, the author seemed to try t I'm still not quite sure what I think of this book. It was recommended to me by a therapist thinking I would be interested as someone with bipolar disorder. Due to the source of the suggestion and the author of the book, an expert on and individual with bipolar disorder, I expected some practical insight into living with this disease. What I found was much different. This book is labeled a memoir, and the writing style and content certainly fit the label. Unfortunately, the author seemed to try too hard, and quite unsuccessfully, to become a writer of creative non-fiction. This frustrated me extremely and made it difficult to actually finish the book. Still, I tend to be unnecessarily harsh when it comes to writing skills. My inner lit snob simply won't shut up. What seriously complicates my opinion of this book, however, is whether the author intended to give hope to individuals with bipolar depression. As previously mentioned, I expected just that from this book based on its presentation to me. Instead, I found myself wanting the author to remember more clearly how difficult it sometimes is for a person with bipolar disorder to see a way out. I found myself highly skeptical of the author's management of the illness considering her unlimited access to psychiatric treatment and information from experts. I think this book may be more useful to friends and family of people with bipolar disorder than those trying to dig their way out from mania or depression. I guess I like what this book tries to do, but I'm not convinced it was well done.

  10. 4 out of 5

    jo

    just re-read this for class. maybe i'll post a a review later. for now, though, i raised my four-star rating to five. the ways in which KRJ thinks about mental illness are not always congenial with mine, but this is a brave, beautifully written, and still very powerful book, many such memoirs later. REVIEW 3/12/11 i'm not going to research this, but i think this was one of the first candid memoirs of mental disorder coming from someone famous/mainstream in the US and published by a major publishe just re-read this for class. maybe i'll post a a review later. for now, though, i raised my four-star rating to five. the ways in which KRJ thinks about mental illness are not always congenial with mine, but this is a brave, beautifully written, and still very powerful book, many such memoirs later. REVIEW 3/12/11 i'm not going to research this, but i think this was one of the first candid memoirs of mental disorder coming from someone famous/mainstream in the US and published by a major publisher. it was especially noteworthy because the author was (is) a mental health professional, a teaching and practicing clinician who had written what was probably the most authoritative textbook on bipolar disorder at the time (maybe it still is). that this woman who had climbed so high in a world of men would come out and say candidly that she had the very disorder she was considered an expert at treating was fairly shocking. bipolar people were and are not supposed to be able to think critically about their disorder (or much of anything), much less to treat it in others. i am not going to research this but i think this book became a bestseller. although not herself a psychiatrist (her degree is in psychology), KRJ is a professor of psychiatry and her narrative of madness hinges on the unquestioned premise that bipolar disorder is a biological illness (she doesn't like the word "bipolar disorder," which had already been introduced in the DSM at the time of the book's writing, and prefers to refer to the condition as manic-depressive illness). this means that she embraces what is now referred to as the medical model of (this, at least) mental illness, according to which (this) mental illness is due solely to genetic factors which are responsible for a certain kind of malfunctioning of the brain. humbly, and wisely, KRJ sticks closely to her own disorder, never generalizing about mental illness in general. this biological narrative is the backbone of the book. it allows KRJ to exonerate herself and her history for the terrible lows she experienced and believe that if it weren't for her illness she would perfectly fine. this is incredibly complicated. it hits the core of the concept of illness in general, and identity, and, also, the fraught field of disability studies. if i am blind, am i perfectly fine except for the fact of being blind? do disabilities attach to the body in ways that leave the self intact? i am not even sure that KRJ would agree with my pushing her premises to this conclusion. she definitely does not feel intact. her illness as she describes it affects her life so profoundly, i am not sure she feels that she is entirely separate from it. yet, a certain separateness between the self and the illness is a consequence, it seems to me, of an extreme view of the medical model and of certain conceptions of disability. needless to say, i don't find the medical model convincing. for one, there is to this day no hard evidence of any kind that mental illness is biologically based. there is some anecdotal evidence based on heredity, brain scans, and the sometime effectiveness of drugs, but just about all of the above can be explained in other ways, too. more damningly, there is the fact that mentally "ill" people have lively and rich inner lives that we can explain away through biology only by denying some of the most fundamental tenets of humanness. according to a strong medical model, distorted thoughts, hallucinations, obsessions, phobias and dreams are all the result of misfiring neurons and have no significance at all. as such, they don't lend themselves to more then the 15 mins conversation required to decide what drug treatment to adopt. the reality is that drug treatment decisions are so arbitrary and themselves anecdotal, there is no single drug that is guaranteed to solve a particular mental disorder, the way, say, antibiotics are guaranteed (well, less and less) to cure infection or insulin to keep diabetics alive. it seems at the very least perplexing to me that some thought patterns should be granted credibility and some shouldn't. if you rule out the meaningfulness of the bizarre thoughts of a schizophrenic, why should i lend credence, say, to the thought process that leads you to such ruling out? what makes your thoughts more valid than those of a schizophrenic? etc. so this was always my reservation with respect to this book. having just reread it, though, and seen its impact on my students, i have come to appreciate its complexity and value. first of all, it is remarkably and even outrageously candid. this woman's courage in risking her professional standing to tell an extremely uncomfortable truth about mental illness deserves great admiration. i believe that this book has done much to remove some of the stigma that attaches to mental illness. secondly, it is written passionately and lyrically, and some passages (especially in the last part) are deeply moving. this is a woman who knows pain, despair, and abject suicidality, and if you know them too you will find in her a fellow traveler and a beacon of hope. what i like best, though, lies at the meta-level. when pain hits us harder than we can bear it, we desperately need a narrative that makes sense of it and, in doing so, allows us to survive. in Unquiet Mind KRJ may or may not be telling something informative about bipolar disorder, but she is certainly giving us the narrative she created for herself in order to survive the intolerable pain she was experiencing and even thrive in spite of it. This seems to me of tremendous value. If even one person found in this book a story that helped her carry on and succeed in putting together a satisfactory life, the book would be worth its ink in gold. when KRJ wrote Unquiet Mind the capacity of lithium to stabilize mood had just been ascertained. since then, lithium has been proven to be also very dangerous, so if you read this and your (uninformed) psychiatrist puts you on a gigantic lithium regimen, read up on the internet what lithium can do to your body. there are a number of people who have lost kidney function to the miraculous curative powers of lithium. on the other hand, maybe lithium works for you in small amounts, or other drugs do, and that's great. or maybe you are one of those people who prefer to live their bipolar lives medication-free, and if so more power to you (and the best of luck: you are going to to need a lot of resources to keep out of a very coercive pro-medication mental health system). i have my own personal narrative of mental illness and it works for me. i think it's the right one and i am quite wedded to it. it is based on the so-called trauma model of mental pain and tends to be quite wary of the medical model. at the same time, i appreciate the well-being psychodrugs have brought to countless people, just as i appreciate the well-being people derive from: love, friendship, therapy, good food, yoga, exercise, comfort, compassion, and immoderate amount of chocolate. there is no magic bullet when it comes to inner pain. we do well to keep this in mind at all times.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    I read An Unquiet Mind because I wanted to learn more about bipolar disorder. I remember all the attention this book received when it first came out, and it was recommended to me by more than one person, so I was somewhat baffled by how little I enjoyed reading it. Don't get me wrong--I wasn't expecting a memoir about bipolar disorder to be some kind of party. But I think I may have read too many beautiful memoirs by poets and novelists to be particularly impressed by the workmanlike writing in I read An Unquiet Mind because I wanted to learn more about bipolar disorder. I remember all the attention this book received when it first came out, and it was recommended to me by more than one person, so I was somewhat baffled by how little I enjoyed reading it. Don't get me wrong--I wasn't expecting a memoir about bipolar disorder to be some kind of party. But I think I may have read too many beautiful memoirs by poets and novelists to be particularly impressed by the workmanlike writing in this one. I didn't think the book flowed well at all, and I just didn't care enough about Jamison to be riveted by tales of her getting tenure, opening up a new clinic, and, most painfully, engaging in romantic relationships. Let's get real--love is difficult enough for experienced literary authors to write about well; for someone who'd written only scholarly material up to this point, it was clearly too much of a challenge, and the result was cringeworthy. All in all, the mediocre writing style made this book a slog. On the plus side, I do feel that I learned a lot about bipolar disorder from An Unquiet Mind. If that's your goal as well, I would encourage you to read this. Just keep your expectations in check.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I really enjoyed this book. It’s incredibly well written. The author: She’s truly brilliant. She comes across as completely honest and she allows herself to be vulnerable in the telling of her story, which makes her exceedingly likeable. Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychiatrist, an authority on bipolar disorder, and suffers from the condition herself. And she’s written a terrific book about bipolar disorder and her life experience. And no, I’m not using too much hyperbole!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Think of this book as an autobiography and you can't go wrong. Kay Redfield Jamison hardly needs an introduction here; her life and work stand for themselves. She literally 'wrote the book' on bipolar disorder with co-author Fred Goodwin, M.D. called, simply enough, "Manic-Depressive Illness." So this book, "An Unquiet Mind," is not a clinical study of bipolar disorder. It is a deep and personal inside look at what it's like to live with manic depression from the unique viewpoint of a brilliant Think of this book as an autobiography and you can't go wrong. Kay Redfield Jamison hardly needs an introduction here; her life and work stand for themselves. She literally 'wrote the book' on bipolar disorder with co-author Fred Goodwin, M.D. called, simply enough, "Manic-Depressive Illness." So this book, "An Unquiet Mind," is not a clinical study of bipolar disorder. It is a deep and personal inside look at what it's like to live with manic depression from the unique viewpoint of a brilliant practitioner who has the condition herself - a combination the medical profession has always considered unacceptable. Jamison literally risked her medical career by publishing this book. It becomes clear through her ordeal that recognizing and accepting the disorder is tantamount to successful treatment, and that denial is a roadmap to hell. This book may save your life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    StMargarets

    Beautifully written memoir, published in 1995, of a wildly intelligent and successful John Hopkins psychologist who has bipolar disorder. I took two things away from it: One- so much has been learned about the disorder since 1995. Two – I feel like I understand my mother’s illness better after reading this, but not my son’s. I understand my manic depressive mother better since I didn’t realize that lithium wasn’t approved for general use until the early 1970’s. That explains so much about my childh Beautifully written memoir, published in 1995, of a wildly intelligent and successful John Hopkins psychologist who has bipolar disorder. I took two things away from it: One- so much has been learned about the disorder since 1995. Two – I feel like I understand my mother’s illness better after reading this, but not my son’s. I understand my manic depressive mother better since I didn’t realize that lithium wasn’t approved for general use until the early 1970’s. That explains so much about my childhood. During the 1960’s she was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and she had many, many suicide attempts. But once I was in 7th or 8th grade (1974-5) she entered a very long period of stability that ended with my father’s sudden death (and her refusal to take meds) in 1982. So wow – lithium did work for her – even after years of instability and cycling. I was also reminded of the secrecy that surrounded the disorder – and the despair – and the magical thinking. Now, because of all the research, the “weather” of bp is a lot more predictable and understandable. And boy, I wish I had known this when I was growing up. This is a beautifully written memoir. The author describes her childhood as the daughter of an Air Force officer and the elegant culture of days gone by. She has love affairs and European travel and horses and beautiful meals and sunsets and manages to get her Phd in psychology all while coping with her ups and downs in mood. It’s a fantastic tale – fantastic in the sense that this is not an ordinary life. Which is why this memoir didn’t help me understand what my son is going through. He has absolutely no delusions of grander. He says he’s not artistic or inventive or an entrepreneur – all positive attributes of the bipolar mind. Right now, he doesn’t see a lot to celebrate about his “super power” (as Kanye calls it), but thankfully he is starting to accept and cope with it. I think this is an inspirational story in that it reminds the reader that a person can suffer and still have a good life. It’s not a primer on bipolar disorder and shouldn’t be read that way. It’s a memoir and as a memoir it does its job.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Beautiful book by a beautiful mind. I have had people with bipolar disorder in my life, and I believe that I understand their joys and sorrows a bit better after reading An Unquiet Mind. Jamison has apparently been very diligent about making sure her co-workers know about her manic-depression, so that her patients always come first, but as a professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital, it was still very courageous of her to come out about her struggles. An Unquiet Mind is also notable for the poetry o Beautiful book by a beautiful mind. I have had people with bipolar disorder in my life, and I believe that I understand their joys and sorrows a bit better after reading An Unquiet Mind. Jamison has apparently been very diligent about making sure her co-workers know about her manic-depression, so that her patients always come first, but as a professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital, it was still very courageous of her to come out about her struggles. An Unquiet Mind is also notable for the poetry of Jamison's writing and for her insight into her condition,not just the brutal honesty of her memoir.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Violetta

    "There's no easy way to tell other people you have a manic-depressive illness; if there is, I haven't found it...I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide." Me too, Kay. Me too. "There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you're high it's tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them u "There's no easy way to tell other people you have a manic-depressive illness; if there is, I haven't found it...I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as though I have something to hide." Me too, Kay. Me too. "There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you're high it's tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one's marrow. But, somewhere this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends' faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against- you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves it's own reality." "Everything- every thought, word, movement- was an effort. Everything that once was sparkling now was flat. I seemed to myself to be dull, boring, inadequate, thick-brained, unlit, unresponsive, chill skinned, bloodless, and sparrow drab." "Manic-depressive illness forces one to deal with many aspects of growing old- with its physical and mental infirmities- many decades in advance of age itself." These are just some passages that hit so close to home, I felt as if I was speared through the heart. I never talk about my manic-depressive illness. But if I could, if I didn't fear it would color me in such a wild, frightening way, I would talk about it the way Kay Redfield Jamison does. If someone close to you has a mental illness, read this book, and they will feel less alone. If you have a manic-depressive or any affective disorder, read this book, and you will feel vindicated.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Otis Chandler

    Highly recommended if you are curious about Manic-depressive disease. A fascinating and even very well written insight from a woman who is both a Psychiatrist who treats it and suffers from it. She was very brave and very poetic in writing this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    In her bold autobiography An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison details her struggle with bipolar disorder in the midst of her career as a clinical psychologist. First published in 1994, this book highlights Jamison's bravery: with such a prestigious academic position and a CV full of work related to manic-depressive disorder, she risked her reputation and her ethos by writing this wonderful, heart-wrenching volume. The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast you first must make it be In her bold autobiography An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison details her struggle with bipolar disorder in the midst of her career as a clinical psychologist. First published in 1994, this book highlights Jamison's bravery: with such a prestigious academic position and a CV full of work related to manic-depressive disorder, she risked her reputation and her ethos by writing this wonderful, heart-wrenching volume. The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast you first must make it beautiful. In some strange way, I tried to do that with manic-depressive illness. It has been a fascinating, albeit deadly, enemy and companion; I have found it to be seductively complicated, a distillation both of what is finest in our natures, and of what is most dangerous. In order to contend with it, I first had to know it in all of its moods and infinite disguises, understand its real and imagined powers. Jamison reveals everything in An Unquiet Mind. She shares her family history, her scholarly successes, her romantic relationships, and how her bipolar disorder affected all of those facets in her life. Her writing, while full of emotion, maintains a professionalism and intelligence that never speaks down to the reader. Jamison has gone through many trials in her life, and though reading this book forces us to feel along with her, she adds words of wisdom and hope along the way. But, ineffably, psychotherapy heals. It makes some sense of the confusion, reins in the terrifying thoughts and feelings, returns some control and hope and possibility of learning from it all. Pills cannot, do not, ease one back into reality; they only bring one back headlong, careening, and faster than can be endured at times. Psychotherapy is a sanctuary; it is a battleground; it is a place I have been psychotic, neurotic, elated, confused, and despairing beyond belief. But, always, it is where I have believed - or have learned to believe - that I might someday be able to contend with all of this. The inspirational quality of An Unquiet Mind makes it a marvelous read. Even though Jamison contended with manic-depressive illness for several of the most important years of her life, she still earned success and acclaim. Her accomplishments speak to how mental illness should not be construed as a crutch that will inevitably handicap all those affected by it. Jamison also dispels the rumor that medicine will numb one's mind. She admits that taking lithium played a key part in her recovery, and while taking lithium, she worked and wrote and saw patients. Jamison acknowledges the stigma against mental illness, and she shows how she overcame it through her passion and dedication to the field of mental health. Overall, highly recommended for those searching for a book about bipolar disorder or mental health in general. Powerful and honest writing sets An Unquiet Mind apart from other books, and I look forward to reading more of Jamison's works. *review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice

  19. 4 out of 5

    Inge

    “If you have bipolar illness, this book will help you to forgive yourself for everything that has gone awry; if you do not, it will perhaps show how a steely tenacity can imbue disasters with value, a capacity that stands to enrich any and every life.”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kimber

    I wasn't sure if it was Jamison's illness that makes her seem so arrogant or her upbringing. It was hard for me to feel sympathy for someone who has never had to have any consequences for her actions, keeps getting bailed out but is considered qualified to be somebody else's psychiatrist....She keeps justifying her actions, and her reluctance to take medication that she needs to take. She was unlikeable and unreadable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hadrian

    A cathartic and expressive memoir by someone who has dealt with bipolar disorder. The all-consuming, tireless highs struggle with the dark, depressive, sickly lows. An excellent means of understanding this mental turmoil, how one can achieve the most stunning of successes, while grappling with the base desire to stay alive.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Very interesting look on manic-depressive illness. Read this for my Medicine and Literature class and really enjoyed it. The book is a memoir from the author (Kay Redfield Jamison) who suffers from manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disease) and is also a well respected psychiatrist. This puts a very unique look at the disorder considering she plays both the roles of patient and doctor which also gave her a unique approach to how she treated patients because she was also being treated for a ment Very interesting look on manic-depressive illness. Read this for my Medicine and Literature class and really enjoyed it. The book is a memoir from the author (Kay Redfield Jamison) who suffers from manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disease) and is also a well respected psychiatrist. This puts a very unique look at the disorder considering she plays both the roles of patient and doctor which also gave her a unique approach to how she treated patients because she was also being treated for a mental illness. This women is a great role model for those with mental illness and really anyone. She was able to overcome her disease and is very prestigious in her professional career. She fought through the manic stages which led to debt and would often get herself into more things than she could handle when not in a manic state. She found the manic state to be a wonderful "high" except for the times when she would suffer from terrifying delusions. She also made it through the depressive stages, surviving a suicide attempt with the help of family and friends. Even though she was a doctor herself it was interesting to see her battle with taking her medicine. The professional side of her knew that she needed to take it to feel better and after some rough patches and finally a lowering of her dose it did ultimately help her but the patient side rebelled and often times she would refuse to take her medications. It is interesting at the end of the book she says if she had a choice she wouldn't take the lithium because of the enjoyable manic states. I would recommend this book to those interested in different perspectives on mental illness. It has many scientific parts to it but also filled with her personal experiences and the story of her life. It brought a lot of debate to our class about how people view mental illness nowadays and if people with mental illnesses should be able to treat people. With Jamison in mind I think that she proves that people with mental illness can still cope and be a part of everyday life and that it is not something to be ashamed of. She says that the illness made her who she is today and she isn't ashamed of it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    kaylan

    As someone who loves reading memoirs and is interested in psychology, I enjoyed every page of this remarkably written memoir. It can't be put any better than it was on the front cover, "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 Kay's beautifully poetic way with words attracted me to this book even further. I found myself de As someone who loves reading memoirs and is interested in psychology, I enjoyed every page of this remarkably written memoir. It can't be put any better than it was on the front cover, "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 Kay's beautifully poetic way with words attracted me to this book even further. I found myself deeply inspired by how well written every page is. I know already that this memoir will always stay with me because it provided me with a genuine look into the mind of someone with manic-depression. I respect the author greatly for providing a personal glimpse into her mind in some of the most difficult times of her life. If you enjoy reading memoirs, or just reading in general, I highly recommend this book to you. Also, if you have not read many memoirs, I recommend it even more. I both enjoyed this book and learned a lot at the same time, which is never not a good thing. I'm really glad that I decided to pick this up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Ibrahim ♥

    She is not the average every day person, but I feel as if I am in the presence of a genius who is ahead of everybody I have ever known. It’s like reading a great work of writing like Jane Austen, the Brontees, etc.,people that overwhelm you with a sense of awe and deep respect. At the same time, she is so real, down to earth, simple, inspiring, motivating, challenging. I found the writing both compelling and gripping. It is hard not to cry sometimes. Reading this part on her seeing a doctor when She is not the average every day person, but I feel as if I am in the presence of a genius who is ahead of everybody I have ever known. It’s like reading a great work of writing like Jane Austen, the Brontees, etc.,people that overwhelm you with a sense of awe and deep respect. At the same time, she is so real, down to earth, simple, inspiring, motivating, challenging. I found the writing both compelling and gripping. It is hard not to cry sometimes. Reading this part on her seeing a doctor when she’s a doctor herself and what she had to say towards the end of the chapter about lithium in her life, what psychotherapy can do and cannot do, all this is just gripping. I feel as if I have been with her in that session seen by the doctor and what she must have felt, oh I am just in awe and speechless. The whole book of course touches the deepest part of my soul. I was especially touched by the account of her encounter with the doctor on pages 81 through 89. All I can say reading this now is, it feels like I have not read a good book in looooooong time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fawaz Ali

    Book Review of an Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison Dr Jamison is a renowned psychiatrist who has published numerous research papers and books on bipolar disorder. In this book, she details her experience with bipolar disorder and how she was able to cope with the tragedy of being both a doctor and a patient. Unfortunately, the book is forgettable and focuses on details that some readers may find personal, such as Dr Jamison’s love life, her academic career and t Book Review of an Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison Dr Jamison is a renowned psychiatrist who has published numerous research papers and books on bipolar disorder. In this book, she details her experience with bipolar disorder and how she was able to cope with the tragedy of being both a doctor and a patient. Unfortunately, the book is forgettable and focuses on details that some readers may find personal, such as Dr Jamison’s love life, her academic career and travels. What should have been an intimate philosophical examination of an illness turns out to be nothing but a diary of a psychiatrist. It is a shame that Dr Jamsion was unable to provide a reflective account of her mental illness based on her experience, and it is indeed sad when a book is marketed based on an author’s credential rather than the merits of the book contents.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    This memoir written by Kay Redfield Jamison is an open and honest portrayal of her life with manic depression(bipolar illness). Starting in her teenage years, Dr. Jamison (she is also a Ph.D in psychology)describes the roller coaster of her own emotional health.With just a short remission during the years she was working on her graduate studies, her illness repeatedly returned... characterized by extreme highs in her moods and thinking processes (mania) and very low periods of extreme depression This memoir written by Kay Redfield Jamison is an open and honest portrayal of her life with manic depression(bipolar illness). Starting in her teenage years, Dr. Jamison (she is also a Ph.D in psychology)describes the roller coaster of her own emotional health.With just a short remission during the years she was working on her graduate studies, her illness repeatedly returned... characterized by extreme highs in her moods and thinking processes (mania) and very low periods of extreme depression. Each time the illness recurred, the symptoms seemed to intensify so that in the time following her acquisition of her first professional job, she experienced a psychotic break characterized by frightening hallucinations. Dr. Jamison describes her illness with such vivid, honest details that I had to put the book aside for a time. Reading about her extreme emotional fluctuations and all of the bizarre and extreme behaviors that went along with them was making my own mind feel unsettled. Dr. Jamison talked about one thing that I happened to very much agree with and think is very important... her belief that psychopharmaceuticals alone cannot heal a person; in addition, psychotherapy alone will not work. The two must be used together. I also feel she described her own experiences so eloquently regarding her resentment over needing to take lithium. She honestly described the effect that her illness had on her personal and professional relationships. This was a well-written, fascinating look at a very debilitating and sometimes fatal mental illness. I could not help but think however, that it seemed that Dr. Jamison reached a manageability of her illness in part because of her own training and background and through her professional relationships with colleagues who stepped in to help her when she desperately needed it. My wish is that all people suffering from this and other mental illnesses have access to the superb care and ultimately the positive results. I think there is still a long way to go but Kay Redfield Jamison has certainly done her part in bringing this illness to light. I admire her courage.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Beautifully written, candid, and informative book about Bipolar Disorder (or as Jamison insists on calling it, manic-depressive disorder). I especially enjoyed the interweaving of the author's clinical knowledge and experience with her own personal struggle. The book also presents a very hopeful and optimistic perspective about mental health challenges. That being said, I couldn't get past the fact that the author does not really acknowledge how her enormously privileged background may have play Beautifully written, candid, and informative book about Bipolar Disorder (or as Jamison insists on calling it, manic-depressive disorder). I especially enjoyed the interweaving of the author's clinical knowledge and experience with her own personal struggle. The book also presents a very hopeful and optimistic perspective about mental health challenges. That being said, I couldn't get past the fact that the author does not really acknowledge how her enormously privileged background may have played a role in her recovery. Jamison writes with a lovely sense of gratitude and appreciation for her family's support, but she does not do a great job of acknowledging her white, upper-middle class upbringings and the extensive network of doctors and scholars who supported her along the way. Maybe I am biased because I work in a setting where my clients have limited financial and social support, but I couldn't help but think it's just not fair that Jamison had the ability and resources to travel the world, attend the best schools, see the best doctor for many years, pay $25,000 for an orchestra to do a benefit concert.... the list goes on and on... I found myself reminded of my reaction to Eat, Pray, Love: part of me feeling inspired by the author's story of healing; but most of me disgusted by the fact that most people simply do not have the privilege and/or resources to have such a journey.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nomin Jargalsaikhan

    There is something profound in reading a book written by someone who knows their subject precisely as the result of direct, intimate personal experience.   Recently, while listening to Oxford University's 'Psychiatry' podcast, I heard about a book, 'An Unquiet Mind,' by Kay Redfield Jamison, an American clinical psychologist who has suffered from manic depression since her early adulthood. I started reading her book this morning and simply couldn't put it down. I finished in one go.   Jamison is not There is something profound in reading a book written by someone who knows their subject precisely as the result of direct, intimate personal experience.   Recently, while listening to Oxford University's 'Psychiatry' podcast, I heard about a book, 'An Unquiet Mind,' by Kay Redfield Jamison, an American clinical psychologist who has suffered from manic depression since her early adulthood. I started reading her book this morning and simply couldn't put it down. I finished in one go.   Jamison is not only a successful psychologist but also a distinguished lecturer at Harvard and Oxford who pushed through her doctorate despite suffering severely from her illness.    She writes beautifully and from an interesting perspective: both as a clinician and as a person with bipolar disorder. Her writing reveals the absurdity of how many people simply cannot understand mental illnesses in the same the way they do physical ones – that is, that having a mental illness is not something people can control, any more than they are able to influence the effects on their body of food poisoning or cancer.   I encourage everyone who is interested in psychology and the human mind to read this fascinating, eye-opening look at mental illness.

  29. 4 out of 5

    KatieMc

    A very poignant first hand account of the struggle with bipolar disorder from a clinical psychologist who studies and treats the disorder.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ania

    Anyone even a litle unstable will relate to this book, and probably become convinced that they are bipolar. But that is a personal way to start. This book irritated me. Well written, albeit showy, her confidence I guess was what was grating. You could praise her optimism and strength in the undercurrent of subtle praise for the benefits that mania imparted on her life, and her vagueness in describing her depressions. And you could say that it should be an inspiration to anyone bipolar/manic-depre Anyone even a litle unstable will relate to this book, and probably become convinced that they are bipolar. But that is a personal way to start. This book irritated me. Well written, albeit showy, her confidence I guess was what was grating. You could praise her optimism and strength in the undercurrent of subtle praise for the benefits that mania imparted on her life, and her vagueness in describing her depressions. And you could say that it should be an inspiration to anyone bipolar/manic-depressive to know that one shade of one mood you experience may bring you closer to some kind of genius (something consistently hinted out throughout but never openly admitted), but in reality I expect that most people with this problem will not excel in their chosen academic field so managably. I liked her admission at the end that given the choice she would have chosen to be manic-depressive, this seemed honest and obvious based on her infatuation with the brilliance of her manic self. It is difficult to read this book objectively, so don't come to it with that. I felt that her recollections were as turbulent and clouded as her diagnosis would predict and i'm not sure what else I expected. I wonder what the point of this book is, for I doubt it comforts people suffering from the same disorder, and it's difficult to treat it as an insight into the plights of a suffering doctor for all the egomania and literary pretensions. Maybe i just have a problem with autobiographies.

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