In 1995 Kay Redfield Jamison published her ground-breaking memoir, An Unquiet Mind, A Memoir of Moods and Madness. For my husband who was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 1987, and myself living through his manic breakdown, Redfield’s memoir was the revelatory longed-for message in a bottle of bi-polar disorder. Jamision’s personal narrative changed my perspective on manic behavior and her insights altered forever the way I understand and react to those diagnosed as bi-polar.
“People go mad in idiosyncratic ways. Perhaps it was not surprising that as meteorologist’s daughter, I found myself in that glorious illusion of high summer days, gliding, flying, now and again lurching through cloudbanks and ethers, past stars, and across fields of ice crystals. Even now I can see in my mind’s rather peculiar eye an extrodinary shattering and shifting of light; inconstant but ravishing colors laid out across miles of circling rings; and the almost, imperceptible, somehow surprisingly pallid moons of this Catherine wheel of a planet. I remember singing “Fly Me to the Moons” as I swept past those rings of Saturn and thinking myself terribly funny. I saw and experienced that which had been only dreams, or fitful fragments of aspiration.
Was it real? Well, of course not, not in any meaningful sense of the word “real.” But did it stay with me? Absolutely. Long after my psychosis cleared, and the medications took hold, it became part of what one remembers forever, surrounded by an almost Proustian melancholy. Long since that extended voyage of my mind and soul, Saturn and its icy rings took on an elegiac beauty, and I don’t see Saturn’s image now without feeling an acute sadness at its being so far away…”
Kay Redfield Jamison is appearing at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I am not going to miss her.
Unquiet Minds: Living with Bipolar Illness
Wed. March 18, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
UVA Jordan Hall Conference Center
Hosted by: Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities, School of Medicine and The Women’s Initiative
–Trudy Hale, editor
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