This book is a memoir of Kay Redfield Jamison a professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine which focuses on her firsthand experience of a manic-depressive. An Unquiet Mind examines manic depressive illness in everyday life as she pursued her academic career and the psychological disorder that afflicted her entire life with mood instability and the intensity of her struggles as a major life disruption. The events of this book explicitly detail her account for the pleasure and pain, the loneliness and terror with the highs and lows of what she described as madness during her manic episodes. It is a living account of her reality of growing up living with manic-depressive disorder and her struggles she encountered along the way.
This is a review on a book written by Kay Redfield Jamison, “An Unquiet Mind – A Memoir of Moods and Madness”. Jamison will examine the struggles first hand she encountered as a person in her everyday life, pursuing her academic career while personally dealing with mood instability as a result from manic depressive illness.
The psychological disorder that was depicted from this book is manic-depressive disorder, also known as Bi-polar disorder. Jamison was a bright young energetic young lady whom loved to write poetry, engage in school activities and loved science and medicine and her dreams were limitless. She felt secure in the order of her military life and her life seemed to be clear and comfortable. Jamison’s behavior began to change when familiarity of her life came to a halt when her parents moved her to a new state and enrolled in a public school, living the civilian life that she was so unfamiliar with. Everything in her life was different and she began to realize that her black chaotic moods were not just an inflicted on her father, but actually a disorder that appeared to be hereditary in nature. (Redfield Jamison, 1996) The early symptoms of her manic depressive disorder became clear when her mind began racing and she could no longer sleep, staying up all night sometimes days at a time reading everything that she could possibly read. She felt great like she could accomplish anything and there was no task too difficult. Feeling a cosmic pull, a sense of enchantment of the world around her where she became fixated on the beauty that surrounded her, bubbly and enthusiastic of the awe of her surroundings. Exhausting to her friends because of her high energy level, her bouts of high enthusiasms became less frequent and her highs turned to bouts of total despair and agitation. A mind racing from subject to subject filled with rapid thinking and imagines of death and rotting dead bodies, restless, irritable and long periods of depression. Kay experienced impulsive behaviors and acted contributing to her already chaotic and bizarre behavior. Realizing she needed psychiatric help, she chooses to buy a horse instead, using all her money to feed it. She wrote bad checks, had impulsive shopping sprees and was irresistible to the strong desires of seduction. Her impulsive behavior became out of control and consequences and responsibilities during her mood swings were completely absent. (Redfield Jamison, 1996) Jamison’s attitude was resilient and robust with determination as she slipped in and out of manic episodes and the setbacks she experienced battling her own thoughts and the experimenting with doses of lithium.
My analysis of manic-depressive disorder from the behaviors, attitudes and actions of Jamison in “An Unquiet Mind” to manic episode features accompanies the many periods of abnormal and persistent elevated moods I see in the book. The inflated self-esteem, grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, needing to be directly involved, and distractibility meets the criteria for a manic episode (Croft, MD , 2009). At the same time Kay had bouts of depressed mood and loss of interest, including being delusional and hallucinating, insomnia and the ability to think or concentrate was diminished.
The book is written as a memoir of manic depression, so from the beginning you read the book you knew you were reading about this disorder, however Jamison’s account and description is much like the descriptions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Describing her illness as psychotic, seizure like attacks, black manias, agitated manias, fierce and damaging energy, violence, suicide attempts, unpredictable, uncontrollable irrational and destructive. (APA, 2000) My understanding of Manic depressive illness is due to the many mood disturbances with manic episode as described in the text. Jamison experienced periods of abnormal and persistent elevated, expansive or irritable mood. She had symptoms of grandiosity in high school, college where she felt that she could do anything and also through her years of high and lows. Jamison had a decreased need for sleep which began in high school and continued on helping achieve her educational goals. Her often flight of ideas, her mind never stopped and her high school friends began telling her to slow down and college friends couldn’t keep up. (Redfield Jamison, 1996) Manic speech is loud, rapid, and difficult to interrupt (APA, 2000). Jamison had increased involvement in just about everything she did also making unrealistic future plans. While in college she would experience psychomotor agitation and would pace or take long runs on the beach as she felt periods of rapid thinking. She also experienced much excessive involvement in pleasurable activities such as when she attended St. Andrews worked and studied long hours. After taking on the job at UCLA, she volunteered to work on animal behavior at the zoo, and she was a co-teacher in a course in ethology and pharmacology and had responsibilities as in patient clinical and teaching. She seemed to always submerge in a project or books that she felt had meaning to her dark areas in life. The course of this illness was in adolescence however Jamison first noticed the illness in high school with the episodes would come on rapidly and sudden in her 20’s. Bipolar disorder usually appears between ages 15 and 24 and persists throughout a lifetime. It’s rare that newly diagnosed mania is seen in children or in adults over age 65 (Chakraburtty, MD, 2010). “Within 3 months of becoming a professor at UCLA she was “mad beyond recognition”” (Santrock, 2006). Her episodes would last weeks to several months, and Jamison experienced major depressive episodes immediately following the manic. (APA, 2000). Her autobiography ties nicely into the DSM book as I can see her life unravel within the reading of the DSM diagnosis text. Jamison would eventually accept her disorder, “through strong support from friends and collegues, excellent mental care, medication, and her own acceptance of the disorder, reached a point at which her mood swings were dampened” (Santrock, 2006).
“An Unquiet mind was an absolutely an accurate account of the psychological disorder of manic-depression. The incredible detailed account of everyday real life struggles of the minds highs and lows, the vibrancy turning to depression, the fight of the anxiety, irritability, the darkest moods, suicide and complete turmoil and madness has given me a much better respect for this disorder. One could not possibly understand the accounts of manic-depressive disorder unless you experience the symptoms first hand and I think this book was an excellent journey into the mind of a psychological disorder called Manic-depressive.