What is a summary of An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An Unquiet Mind is a memoir by Kay Redfield Jamison detailing her struggles in coping with bipolar disorder as well as her discovered ability to counsel others with the same illness and her drive to find out more about the ailment. Jamison's drive led her to, by 40 years of age, become a psychiatry professor and Johns Hopins University School of Medicine and the world's leading expert on bipolar disorder.

The memoir details both hilarious and painful moments when she's had episodes. She particularly uses her writing to capture the emotional ups and downs experienced by sufferers in order to better relate to sufferers. One of the hilarious moments opens the books: At 2 o'clock in the morning, after "the endless hours of scotch, brawling, and fallings about in laughter," she furiously runs around the UCLA hospital parking lot looking for her car, trailed by her gentleman medical school colleague. When they are stopped by a policeman and asked who they are, Jamison replies, "We're both on the faculty in the psychiatry department," and is left alone by the knowing officer (p. 3-4).

Throughout her memoir, she details the story of her life and her experience with the illness, starting with the fact that she had a dysfunctional family headed by a father who was an air force pilot and meteorologist. She relates experiencing her first intense moods in high school, moods she described as "seductive" and "intoxicating" (p. 42). High school was also the blossoming of her creative years as she wrote poetry and raced around as though she was in "Squirrel City" (p. 180). However, her euphoria soon crashed into it's first down cycle as she developed her first boubt of depression.

She further details experiencing the same ups and downs in college and beginning taking lithium, but soon stopped taking lithium when she started earnestly desiring her moments of euphoria again. Sadly, session of lithium led to a suicide attempt.

She ends her book by giving an account of having earned her PhD in psychology and all of her research into and writing on bipolar illness.

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