Is acceptance of mental illness the key to living a more fulfilled life?
I first became interested in bipolar or, manic-depression a few years ago when somebody close to me was diagnosed with it. I wanted to understand it better but found that the jargon and detached observations of psychiatric theory and practice that you can find on the internet didn’t really help me to understand what people actually go through. Kay Redfield Jamison’s ‘An Unquiet Mind’ manages to cut through all that to create a fiery, passionate, authentic account of the psychotic experience and introduce you to that facts of the illness without you even realizing it. Kay Jamison’s story is proof that mentally ill people, with help from medication, can live a wonderful life.
Manic-depression does not come on over night, it is an illness that evolves with you as you grow up and you get used to having it. “My illness and my struggles against medication have been years in the making…for as long as I can remember I have been frighteningly beholden to moods”(p.31) Kay Jamison talks about how she was used to having ups and downs in her life and how she acknowledged them as being part of her personality and not an illness. Even as her moods became more intolerable she didn’t consider taking medication. “I became exceedingly agitated, restless and irritable, and the only way I could dilute the agitation was to run or to pace back and forth like a polar bear at the zoo. I had no idea what was going on, it never occurred to me that I was ill, my brain just didn’t put it in those terms.”(p.48) Kay wasn’t exactly uninformed, she had been studying psychology in a personal and professional way for at least ten years. She just hadn’t accepted that she had an illness and so for many years there seemed no need to seek professional help. Kay believes if people knew there were medications and solutions for dealing with most illnesses, people wouldn’t be so scared and they would be able to deal with it earlier. “It’s at the very back of your mind, but fear never lets you suppose it.”(P.22)
Another reason why people might not take medication is because it takes away not only the highs and lows but the essence of peoples’ personalities, it leaves them enigmatic and slow. “The moods you are so used to having on a daily basis fade away until you are left feeling dull”(p.79) This is especially hard for people with manic depressive illness because there moods are very much part of their lives. Many of the world’s most creative people suffer from mental illness and they find that it is very hard to go from being brilliant to average. “When I was depressed, nothing came to me, and nothing came out of me. When manic, or mildly so I would write a paper in a day, my ideas would flow.”(p.114). when you’re forgetting the unbearable pain of depression the memories of seductive highs can easily lure you back off your medication and into another costly episode.
It takes many people years and years to get...