|Kay Redfield Jamison|
Kay Redfield Jamison in 2007
|Born||June 22, 1946|
|Alma mater||University of California, Los Angeles|
|Institutions||Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
University of St Andrews
|Main interests||Clinical psychology|
|Notable works||An Unquiet Mind|
Several politicians and wives of politicians have been public about their experiences with depression or bipolar illness, including Lawton Chiles, Patrick Kennedy, Tipper Gore and Kitty Dukakis. Each made a tremendous difference by doing so.
When I'm talking about depression, I'm talking about the more severe forms of depression, and I think that conceptualising as a form of grief is probably not the most effective way of looking at it. I mean, at the end of the day, people suffer enormously, and you want to treat it.
People talk about grief as if it's kind of an unremittingly awful thing, and it is. It is painful, but it's a very, very interesting sort of thing to go through, and it really helps you out. At the end of the day, it gets you through because you have to reform your relationship, and you have to figure out a way of getting to the future.
People respond differently to people who are grieving. They reach out. But depression is so very isolating. It's hard to explain to anyone who has never been depressed how isolating it is. Grief comes and goes, but depression is unremitting.
There are a lot of studies that suggest a higher rate of creativity in bipolars than the general population.
A possible link between 'madness' and genius is one of the oldest and most persistent of cultural notions.
It is important to value intellect and discipline, of course, but it is also important to recognize the power of irrationality, enthusiasm and vast energy.
I think one thing is that anybody who's had to contend with mental illness – whether it's depression, bipolar illness or severe anxiety, whatever – actually has a fair amount of resilience in the sense that they've had to deal with suffering already, personal suffering.
You become aware of an illness by understanding yourself and understanding the meaning that that illness has in your own life, symbolically and, more importantly, quite literally.
Lithium prevents my seductive but disastrous highs, diminishes my depressions, clears out the wool and webbing from my disordered thinking, slows me down, gentles me out, keeps me from ruining my career and relationships, keeps me out of a hospital, alive, and makes psychotherapy possible.
Moods are complicated and very much a part of who we are. People would be very boring without them.
It's more common than not that bipolar illness will start in the teens. One of the reasons I spend a lot of time on college campuses is exactly that reason. It's terribly important to talk to students about knowing these things in advance.
Lithium remains the gold standard, but many drugs now treat bipolar disorder. Medication is critical and should be combined with psychotherapy. Compliance is a major problem. Patients believe that once they're better, they no longer need the medication. It doesn't work that way.
Grief is so human, and it hits everyone at one point or another, at least, in their lives. If you love, you will grieve, and that's just given.
'An Unquiet Mind' wasn't hard to write in terms of the actual writing of it.
There is no common standard for education about diagnosis. Distinguishing between bipolar depression and major depressive disorder, for example, can be difficult, and mistakes are common. Misdiagnosis can be lethal. Medications that work well for some forms of depression induce agitation in others.
We expect well-informed treatment for cancer or heart disease; it matters no less for depression.
Mood disorders are terribly painful illnesses, and they are isolating illnesses. And they make people feel terrible about themselves when, in fact, they can be treated.
I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do.
Never once, during any of my bouts of depression, had I been inclined or able to pick up a telephone and ask a friend for help. It wasn't in me.
When public figures remain silent about depression, there is a cost to the rest of society. Silence contributes to the misperception that successful people do not get depressed, and it keeps the public from seeing that treatment allows many individuals to return to competitive professional lives.
An intense temperament has convinced me to teach not only from books but from what I have learned from experience. So I try to impress upon young doctors and graduate students that tumultuousness, if coupled to discipline and a cool mind, is not such a bad sort of thing.
I say I'm an academic: a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. And I write.
No pill can help me deal with the problem of not wanting to take pills; likewise, no amount of psychotherapy alone can prevent my manias and depressions. I need both.
Mania is as bad as it gets. If not treated, it will become worse, more frequent, and harder to treat.
It is an odd thing, owing life to pills, one's own quirks and tenacities, and this unique, strange, and ultimately profound relationship called psychotherapy.
One of things so bad about depression and bipolar disorder is that if you don't have prior awareness, you don't have any idea what hit you.
Because I teach and write about depression and bipolar illness, I am often asked what is the most important factor in treating bipolar disorder. My answer is competence. Empathy is important, but competence is essential.
Scientists have made extraordinary advances in understanding the brain and its disorders.
Psychologists, for reasons of clinical necessity or vagaries of temperament, have chosen to dissect and catalog the morbid emotions – depression, anger, anxiety – and to leave largely unexamined the more vital, positive ones.
I love animals, and I was always attracted to the idea of being a zoo veterinarian or a veterinarian with the circus.
In some cases, some people do get depressed in the middle of their grief, and they really need to be treated for depression.
I have had manic-depressive illness, also known as bipolar disorder, since I was 18 years old. It is an illness that ensures that those who have it will experience a frightening, chaotic and emotional ride. It is not a gentle or easy disease.
I am one of millions who have been treated for depression and gotten well; I was lucky enough to have a psychiatrist well versed in using lithium and knowledgeable about my illness, and who was also an excellent psychotherapist.
There are scientists all around the world looking for the genes responsible for bipolar illness and major depression.
Psychotherapy is a sanctuary; it is a battleground; it is a place I have been psychotic, neurotic, elated, confused, and despairing beyond belief.