Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: An Unquiet Mind

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and MadnessAn Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My clinical supervisor recommended this book to me after I told her about a brief encounter with a bipolar client. That's just scratching the surface of my experience with people living with bipolar disorder---or me living with people living with bipolar disorder. Many consumers and counselors today have observed that Bipolar Disorder has become kind of the diagnosis du jour, and while that can help somewhat in reducing the stigma, I believe it also takes something away from the people who truly do have this illness.
As Kay Redfield Jamison points out, Bipolar Disorder is primarily a medical problem that needs to be treated with drugs. Lithium does happen to be one of the most efficient ways to treat this illness. Unfortunately, a lot of patients and doctors shy-away from it because the blood-level monitoring that goes with it leads to additional visits and increased chances of non-compliance on the part of the patient. In An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Jamison provides unforgettable examples that illustrate what this disease is and what it isn't.
As someone who has been friends, and remains friends, with people struggling with this illness, I think it's worth mentioning that the moods may be a hallmark feature of the disorder, but there is more to it than that. Often times, the tragedy of this illness is it often affects people who are extremely bright and creative, and believe they should be able to snap out of it. Like a dog who barks at the postal worker, if the bipolar client waits long enough, the black mood eventually will recede just like the postal worker goes away, and a false cause-effect relationship emerges and is proven repeatedly.
Manias and depressions place those suffering from Bipolar Disorder and their families in the path of substantial physical, financial and emotional harm, so this cycle can be extremely destructive when left unchecked. What is particularly helpful and encouraging about Dr. Jamison's work is that she is obviously a very bright and resilient woman, and even she struggled with this illness for a long time. She also learned how to manage it and accept it as part of who she is, and something that she needs to manage. This is an important book for anyone who wants to better understand this illness whether you believe you might have it or have someone in your life who is struggling with it. It's also a powerful and well-written book. I started it last Friday and was barely able to put it down.

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