Today we are going to do something a bit different. I want to share a book with you that will change the way you think about mood disorders.
An Unquiet Mind is written by Kay Redfield Jamieson. What makes this book so unique is that the author,is a patient as well as a treating professional of Bipolar Disorder. This combination of perspectives creates an honest, at times extremely brutal, portrayal of what life with this illness is like. And as someone with Bipolar Disorder I found myself deeply interwoven in every single word in the book. But Redfield Jamieson does a brilliant job of describing madness and treatment objectively, with a respect and dignity that is admirable.
When this book was first recommended to me I did not know much of the author. I recognised her name from research articles, so I knew she was a well established researcher in the field of mood disorders. But I did not know how intimately connected she was with the condition. There are so many wonderful quotes from this book that I could share with you to capture the earnestness with which she tells her story. I honestly higlighted about half the book on my kindle. It really is that good, folks. This book will rip your heart out a million times over but it will also make you believe in the capacity and strength of those with mental illness like you never have before.
Redfield Jamieson, who at one point describes herself as possessing ‘a dead heart and a brain as cold as clay’ encapsulates the nature of successful treatment and management of mental illness. She also feels that if given the choice, she would not change her fate or her diagnosis. She makes a point to contend that she did not succeed as a mental health professional, academic and researcher simply in spite of her illness but because of the hunger for life and learning that her manic-depressive illness gave her.
Far from being a straight forward memoir, Redfield Jamieson does not just provide us with a chronological telling of her life with Bipolar Disorder. She dealves deeply into many hard-hitting debates concerning the illness. What will genetic research on Bipolar be used for? Is Bipolar the correct term to describe the condition? How do we reduce stigma? Should people with Bipolar reproduce? She attacks these topics with the fervour of one who has asked herself about them time and time again as she looks up at her ceiling. She tackles these questions, both as a patient and as a professional and both perspectives mould together seamlessly to give answers that anyone interested in mood disorders simply must read.
Despite my previous post condemning trigger warnings, I will say that this book may be confronting for some readers. As someone with Bipolar myself I knew what I was getting into. But if you are uncomfortable with the idea of being in the racing mind of a sometimes violent and suicidal person, perhaps this book isn’t for you. But in my opinion, that is exactly why you should read it! This illness is not spoken about; often being pushed to the side by its more popular cousin, depression. The only way to remove the stigma of the condition is to talk about it. And this entire book reads as the racing ideas of someone who undoubtedly is Bipolar. So I implore anyone studying a helping profession or who knows someone with a mental illness to pick up a copy of An Unquiet Mind. I promise you, you will learn a great deal. And to all of my fellow mood disorder buddies out there, I promise you that this book will never let you feel alone again.