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The extremes and things in between

“An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison is an autobiography centered around her manic-depressive disorder. First of all, forced autobiographies are always boring — who wants to read about someone else’s life? At least, that’s what I thought before I read the extensive description about Jamison’s manic-depressive illness. In one chapter, she would run on endlessly without stopping, to get the energy out, and in the next chapter, she would not get out of bed for a few weeks.

The book shows that Jamison had an interesting life: she was a loved child in a kind family who had many boyfriends, out of country experiences, a divorce, and much more. Some of the rash decisions she made were probably from when she was on her manic highs. One time, she redirected her hard-earned tuition funds toward a horse.

Her disorder overcame her when she had to move from her hometown and was exposed to a discerning society. What touched me the most was the start of the second part of the book:

“There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you’re high it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones…”

Jamison continues to describe how exciting it is to be excited, and how it suddenly drops like a roller coaster. People say that they go through emotional roller coasters, and I wonder if this book captures how they actually feel when they do.

When I read this, it actually brought me to tears. It was 3 a.m. so that plays into it, but it was also because I have experienced, and continue to experience, this as well. I wake up every day thinking that I should be kind to others, that I should be a hard working student, that I should be a good daughter, sister, friend, that I should be whatever “good” thing you can imagine.

Then, one day, it all falls apart and I don’t want to be that anymore because it’s so tiring. I stop talking to people, and I don’t listen to them with an open ear, and I’m everything opposite of what I used to be when I tried to be a “good” person. It’s frustrating for other people to see this because they don’t know what to expect from me. Although this is minuscule compared to the manic-depressive illness Jamison went through, I felt like I found a very precise description of my life.

Additionally, this book gives hope in the sense that it shows that Jamison became a successful person after all she went through. She accomplished her dream to work as a psychiatrist, and she also wrote this book to inform people to not to keep it to themselves if they have a mental illness.

Jamison also emphasizes the importance of taking medication. Her progress is shown in the book as she starts taking lithium and starts getting better. The treatment of the illness is not a one-step process, and she makes that clear through her struggles of not wanting to taking her medicine, and even trying to commit suicide by overdosing on it. It’s very human of her, and gives courage to people who are going through a similar type of situation.

People tend to keep it to themselves when they think they show symptoms of a mental illness because they are afraid of others judging them, but more importantly because they don’t think of taking care of themselves as a priority. People should acknowledge that humans are fragile; we’re not perfect, problem-solving machines, although modern society treats us like we are.

As a human, you should know that you are allowed to have emotions and flaws. One of Jamison’s main points was that you should acknowledge the situation that you are in and work on a proper way to fix it. You can’t tell yourself anything but the truth.