Sunday, May 26, 2013

An Author a Day for Thirty Days: Day 26

Gianna is on vacation in Florida, so I feel a bit liberated to say whatever I want on the blog post today. Like, have I ever mentioned that Gianna has this habit of sending me pictures of wildlife and beg me for identification? I think she's under the impression that I'm a nature expert. Also, she's scared of bugs. Do you see what sort of hell I live in?

Anyway, as for my author of the day, today I thought I'd talk about Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison, a psychologist, is one of the most eloquent writers in that profession, and her books offer incisive examinations of topics like creativity and mental illness (Touched With Fire) and suicide (Night Falls Fast).

Jamison is best known for her memoir, An Unquiet Mind. Before everyone wrote a memoir of their mental illnesses, there was An Unquiet Mind. Kay Redfield Jamison began suffering manic episodes while in college, but even though she was studying mood disorders and psychology, she didn't recognize her own condition. After securing a faculty position at UCLA, though, she suffered a complete psychotic break. Jamison details her struggles with a condition that threaten her professionally and personally. She loses a husband, and she is at risk of losing her clearance to work in the research facilities that drive her professionally. This was in the early 70's, mental illness was even more stigmatized than it is today, and she was also a woman in a male-dominated profession. She talks about her suicidal moments and the struggle to stay on her medication when the allure of the manic high lurks. Her book is full of courage, beautiful writing, and wisdom, and this book challenged the public perception about mental illness.

Kay Redfield Jamison's latest book is Nothing Was the Same. When Jamison's husband Richard, a scientist, dies from cancer, she is thrown into an all-consuming grief. Her husband had been her support when she'd suffered both manic highs and lows, and he'd inspired her and loved her and challenged her. The guy was super-smart, kind, and loving. He would have squashed Gianna's bug for her. Without him, Jamison must cope with the void of losing a loved one and fight the darkness to which she's particularly susceptible. Again, Jamison blends her professional knowledge and personal experiences to provide insights into the grief that most people will endure at some point in their lives. I read this book shortly after my mother died, and while I have never known the loss of a spouse, I still found that her grief related to what I was experiencing. She's an incredible writer and wise counselor and I admire her greatly.

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