Book Review: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

Cover: An Unquiet Mind

by lackofsolidity on October 12, 2010

An exquisite portrayal of the intellectualization coping method. In this case, it is utilized to deal with Bipolar I disorder.

The author writes about her life, namely in relation to her illness, love, and her career. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology that she obtained from UCLA, and is now a professor at John Hopkins University. Though her story doesn’t deviate much from the previous books I have read and reviewed about Bipolar I individuals, there are some slight unique qualities to this book.

For one, she is able to look back at her life and state that if she had a choice, she would still choose to have manic-depressive illness. She goes into detail as to why: “I honestly believe that 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; […] seen the finest and most terrible in people, and slowly learned the values of caring, loyalty, and seeing things through. I have seen the breadth and depth and width of my mind and heart and seen how frail they both are, and how ultimately unknowable they both are. […] But normal or manic, I have run faster, thought faster, and loved faster than most I know. And I think much of this is related to my illness – the intensity it gives to things and the perspective it forces on me. I think it has made me test the limits of my mind […]” (pg. 218)

She admits that she came into her career and succeeded in her profession mostly because of, in subservience and thanks to, her bipolar disorder. “I became, both by necessity and intellectual inclination, a student of moods. It has been the only way I know to understand, indeed to accept, the illness I have; it also has been the only way I know to try and make a difference in the lives of others who also suffer from mood disorders. The disease that […] does kill tens of thousands of people every year: most are young, most die unnecessarily, and many are among the most imaginative and gifted that we as a society have.” (pg. 5)

Other quotes that give further insight into the mystery of the illness:
“The world was filled with pleasure and promise; I felt great. […] I felt I could do anything, that no task was too difficult. My mind seemed clear, fabulously focused, and able to make intuitive mathematical leaps that had up to that point entirely eluded me. Indeed, they elude me still. At the time, however, not only did everything make perfect sense, but it all began to fit into a marvelous kind of cosmic relatedness. […] Slow down, Kay.” (pg. 37)

See many other quotes that I found interesting and relevant in this longer book review.

University of Virginia speech by Kay Redfield Jamison

Bipolar Magazine Kay Redfield Jamison: A profile in courage

Johns Hopkins Medicine Faculty Page Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.