Imagine one day your brain is overflowing with ideas, bursting with creativity; you can’t stop the thoughts from coming, faster and faster and faster. You’re exhilarated, you don’t sleep, you see everything with a clarity you didn’t think possible; your brain is on fire with understanding. You’re euphoric, delighted, inspired by life.
And then it isn’t and you aren’t.
Instead you can’t get out of bed. You can’t go to work. You don’t eat or you eat too much. You stop showering. You’re apathetic, possibly suicidal. Nothing matters, nothing is exciting, everything is pointless. You’re tired. You’re done.
That’s life with bi-polar disorder. There’s no in-between.
Kay Jamison is a clinical psychologist and an expert in the field of mood disorders. She has also suffered from bipolar disorder since early adulthood. A good friend with bipolar disorder asked me to read her book, so that I might understand him and his illness. I’ll confess, the idea of “mania” is seductive to me. As someone who is pretty even-tempered, the idea of going off the rails is tempting. However, the personal and financial fall-out is too scary—and that’s what makes me different from someone suffering from bipolar disorder.
Jamison wrote Unquiet Mind as a memoir, so it doesn’t get too scientific—though she does explain the science behind drugs (some work, some don’t and it seems like all of them deaden) and brain chemistry. But ultimately, it’s her story about years of refusing medication—even while studying it! At one point, instead of finding a therapist, she buys a horse. She racks up piles and piles of bills, is evicted multiple times and yet completes a PhD. It’s a highly personal glance into someone’s very personal struggle.
Do I understand my friend’s illness better now? Maybe?