For years, Kay Redfield Jamison led a double life. An international authority on manic-depressive illness, and one of the few women who have achieved the status of full professor of medicine at an American university, Jamison was harboring a secret: she herself suffered from manic-depression. A mercurial, emotional child and adolescent, Jamison suffered her first severe attack of the disease at seventeen; a decade later, shortly after she joined the UCLA faculty, her mood swings had developed into full-blown psychosis.
In her memoir, An Unquiet Mind, Jamison tells of her battle with the illness: the joy of the manic highs, which gave her an omnipotent feeling of cosmic connectedness, and the terrifying depressions, when she wanted only to die. Though she responded to lithium, Jamison, like many patients, became addicted to the highs of mania and resisted taking it. It was only after the disease had destroyed her first marriage and very nearly her life that she accepted the "rather bittersweet exchange of a comfortable and settled present existence for a troubled but intensely lived past"[p. 211]. An Unquiet Mind tells of how Kay Redfield Jamison used her zeal and intensity, and her impressive intellectual gifts, to bring the complexities of manic-depressive illness to the world's attention. Her work has helped save countless lives.http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides/unquiet_mind.asp