Reading An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison, was much like driving by the scene of a horrible car wreck. We snuck a peek, turned a page, faced disturbing images and soon became entwined with gut wrenching emotions that made us want to run away. As if transfixed by a cavalcade of emergency vehicles' flashing lights, our morbid fascination compelled us to look on and face our fears! Author Kay Jamison takes you on an emotional roller coaster, as she shares her journey between the depths of despair and darkness of shear madness, into enlightenment and the road to recovery. An Unquiet Mind poignantly chronicles her life; a personal hell of living with manic-depressive illness and the crusade she waged against lithium, the medication ultimately responsible for restoring her mental health.
[...] However, her foremost fear was having her clinical work and privileges suspended or revoked, if it became known. Although she had “excellent medical (pg. 113) Jamison could no longer stand the unyielding agony, relentless bleakness, nor did she want to impose any more chaos on family and friends. is a pitiless, unrelenting pain that affords no window of hope, no alternative to a grim and brackish existence, and no respite from the cold undercurrents of thought and feeling that dominate the horribly restless nights of despair.” (pg. [...]
[...] would put an animal to death for far less suffering.” (pg 115) Perturbing as it was, Jamison thought of her family having to identify her body and decided not to jump off a high building or eat the barrel of a gun. Instead she took a massive overdose of lithium. Saved by a quirk of fate, she instinctively answered the phone, half-conscious. As it turned out, eventually she had her dosage of lithium cut down and almost immediately experienced such a overwhelming relief from many of the symptoms, she finally felt like her old self again. [...]
[...] I longed for the days that I had known before the madness and medication had insinuated their way into every aspect of my existence. (pg. 97) Jamison's persistent opposition to taking lithium was partly due to the above side effects, but mostly because she didn't feel she needed it, a common trait that went along with the illness. As it is with many people, just as her symptoms improved and she felt relatively well, it became hard to accept that she had an illness, or believe it would come back. [...]
[...] Furthermore, she had a profound sense of loss for her former self and terribly missed the euphoric moods and energy she was used to while in the state of mild mania. In addition to the emotional Life, Lunacy and Lithium 5 aspects that compelled her to resist medication, she experienced ten years of debilitating side effects from high blood levels of lithium. While Jamison never questioned that the lithium worked well for her form of manic-depressive illness, she experienced severe bouts of nausea and vomiting every time lithium levels would get too high, and whenever they became too toxic, she would tremble, lose motor coordination, walk into walls and have slurred speech. [...]
[...] After taking a well-needed year off to study in Scotland, it became Life, Lunacy and Lithium 4 clear to Jamison that her temperament wasn't going to be conducive to the strict regiment of medical school and changed her career path to the field of psychology, instead. While married to a French artist, Jamison focused her doctoral studies on clinical psychology, yet in spite of the extensive clinical training, never connected her own problems with the manic-depressive illness described in her textbooks. [...]
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