In an effort to get back into reading again, I got a library card and checked out Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind”, which I’ve wanted to read for years. Dr. Jamison is a well-known bipolar expert who happens to suffer from a particularly nasty version of BP 1, making her writing that much more credible given her lived experience with the disorder.
It took me a full week, reading in fits and starts according to my attention span, but I made it through this fascinating story of manic-depressive illness (she doesn’t like the term ‘bipolar’). The only problem is that it’s made me question my own diagnosis: how could I be in the same category with someone who’s gone through psychotic manias so severe that she became violent, needing hospitalization and sometimes even physical restraints?
OK, I’ve had episodes where I was verbally abusive and thrown things. I even punched a refrigerator once. I’ve also had touches of psychosis (ever heard music that isn’t playing or cats running around the ER? I have). But I can’t imagine going through the kind of hell Dr. Jamison has…..and yet we carry the same label.
I’ve researched this topic in the DSM and found that bipolar 1 has a number of specifiers (e.g. ” with mixed features” and “most recent episode depressed”. But there are no different levels of severity within the category, and I wonder why there aren’t. I don’t think my manias are as serious as those of some other members of my cohort. But then, several psychiatrists (including my own) have agreed on my diagnosis, so I may as well stop trying to wiggle my way out of it.
Anyway, I found Dr. Jamison’s story compelling and utterly believable, because even despite the advantages of wealth and privilege, she has suffered the tortures of the damned that make all bipolars kin. I recommend this book for anyone with bipolar of any variety, as well as those who love someone who has the disease.
And yeah, I’m proud of myself for reading an entire book, as brief as it was. It was the first one I’ve read since 2011. Now it’s on to a book of Stephen King short stories!