Equilibrium is honoured to announce that Kay Redfield Jamison, the internationally renowned psychologist, researcher and writer on bipolar disorder, has joined our professional advisory board. We greatly value her support already and look forward immensley to working with her in the future.
A psychologist by training, Dr. Jamison is unique among the world’s most respected authorities on mood disorders as an expert whose writing has been informed by personal as well as professional experience. Not only has she made a massive contribution through her own research and scientific writing on the subject, but she has also published several books so beautifully written that they have appealed to readers far beyond the academic community.
As Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore, USA, Dr. Jamison shocked many of her medical colleagues in 1995 by publicly revealing her own struggle with manic-depression, first in a ‘Washington Post’ article, and then in her memoir An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (Knopf), which became an international bestseller, translated into fifteen languages. In it, Dr. Jamison describes her experiences of mania and depression, and how – despite her knowledge as a clinician – it took her ten years to accept she needed medical help.
“I was a senior in high school when I had my first attack of manic-depressive illness; once the siege began, I lost my mind rather rapidly. At first, everything seemed so easy. I raced about like a crazed weasel, bubbling with plans and enthusiasms, immersed in sports, and staying up all night, night after night, out with friends, reading everything that wasn’t nailed down, filling manuscript books with poems and fragments of plays, and making expansive, completely unrealistic, plans”.
Later, Dr. Jamison describes the descent into a “long and lacerating, black, suicidal depression which lasted more than a year and a half”, a period when all joy and colour had drained from the world and every thought and movement was an effort. “I seemed to myself to be dull, boring, inadequate, thick brained, unlit, unresponsive, chill skinned, bloodless, and sparrow drab.” Chronicling her resistance to accept what proved to be life-saving lithium treatment (partly due to the seductive qualities of hypomania), she also makes the case for the adjunctive use of psychotherapy: “I cannot imagine leading a normal life,” she says, “without both taking lithium and having had the benefits of psychotherapy”.
The importance of An Unquiet Mind in the history of writing about bipolar disorder cannot be exaggerated. As neurologist Oliver Sacks said “It stands alone in the literature of manic depression for its bravery, brilliance and beauty”. Her next book Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide (Knopf, 1999) was also a national bestseller, as was her earlier examination of the links between creativity and mood disorders: Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (Simon & Schuster, 1993). Since the publication of Exuberance: the Passion for Life (Knopf) in 2004, Dr. Jamison has been busy producing the second edition of Manic-Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression (Oxford University Press, 2nd Ed., 2007). Written with colleague Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, the first edition was declared the “Most Outstanding Book in Biomedical Sciences” by the American Association of Publishers in 1990, and the new edition is undoubtedly the definitive medical text on mood disorders.
Dr. Jamison has published over 100 articles in academic journals and is a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, in addition to numerous international and national awards. She completed her undergraduate and doctoral studies at the University of California, where she was UCLA Graduate Woman of the Year having spent a year at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where she is an Honorary Professor of English.
Chosen by Time magazine as a “Hero of Medicine”, Dr. Jamison is undoubtedly a hero to the hundreds of thousands of people with bipolar disorder all over the globe who have read her work and been informed, moved and inspired by it.