In this book American psychologist and researcher Kay Redfield Jamison shares the journey of her life and her story of being a researcher and a clinician struggling with bipolar disorder.
First a short description of the synopsis; the book is divided into 4 parts:
In the first part she takes us back to her childhood as a military child in the US and what it meant for her and how it had affected her life. After moving to California, as part of her dad's job in the army, she suffers her first depressive episode and a few months later her first hypomanic episode. This marked the onset of her condition.
The second part Jamison tells us about how it's like being 'bipolar'. How high the highs take you and how low you can go when depression strikes. How hard it is to manage this condition and how tricky it is to admit you have a mental health issue. She talks about her struggles not only in managing her symptoms with medication and it's side effects but also about having to hide the fact she has a condition from her peers in the psychiatry department in UCLA where she works as a psychologist.
Part three focuses on her relationships. Her ex-husband, her new found love and tragically - his death. later on she meets another guy who she ends up marrying to, which led her to leave her role in UCLA and join him in Washington.
The last part, Jamison recaps and expresses her criticism of renaming the condition from 'manic-depressive disorder' to 'bipolar disorder' as being not descriptive enough. She explains how this condition is hereditary and tells us about her new role in John Hopkins Medical School.
I felt honoured being able to read about her story. It is not often when people with mental illness talk (or write!) about what it truly means for them having a mental health issue and I find it very humbling and moving when I'm being shared with such a story. Mental health issues just feels so much more personal than other disorders. Sure, one can have awful and serious conditions affecting any of the body's systems, but when it comes to the brain, to one's behaviour, one's interpretation of the world around her, it can't feel impersonal because it is as if something is wrong with the core of you, with being who you are.
I enjoyed her writing style. The book has certain flow I rarely find in books of that sort.
What really attracted me to read this book however, is Kay Jamison's character herself. She is one remarkable individual, fiery in spirit, loving life and excited about life. Her passion and drive to understand life as a bipolar, as a person, makes it inevitable to fall in love with her and get carried into her world which is not less than incredible.
Read it. If you want to learn more about bipolar disorder, about humanity, about life this book is a must.