Hey, I gotta fill that blank space between my ears when I'm not working on the cure for cancer or reversing climate change.
What a terrible time of my life it was when I bought Dr Kay Redfield Jamison's book from the now-closed Borders bookstore in Orchard Road in 1996. I had just been diagnosed as Manic-Depressive, a disorder that my shrink later amended to Major Depressive Disorder with Psychotic Symptoms.
Anyway, it was so important to me, at the time, to discover that smart, successful people could be manic-depressive. I couldn't believe my shrink, at the time, when he told me the world would be a very boring place without manic-depressives. Because we were supposed to be creative and brilliant along with our madness.
Still, at that point in time, Dr Jamison's autobiographical account of her experience with manic depression. While I, in all honesty, cannot say I experienced those uncontrollable highs - such as my mother-in-law did, and would buy a hundred cartons of milk because "it was on special" (or is that just plain stupidity rather than bipolar illness?), I did reach a stage where I felt my days had flatlined. I felt very calm, very stable, very dead. I was on an anti-depressant, then, called Remeron (mirtazapine) and was doing well, meaning, I had no nasty side effects.
This feeling as if my Joie de vivre were to be measured and a flat line would result, made relate immediately to Dr Jamison's admission that, after her battle with bipolar disorder,..." -- there is now, for me, a rather bittersweet exchange of a comfortable and settled present existence for a troubled but intensely lived past.
There are still occasional sirens to this past, and there remains a seductive, if increasingly rare, desire to recreate the furor and fever of earlier times."
Towards the end of her touching, candid sharing, Dr Jamison says, "Any temptation that I now may have to recapture such moods by altering my medication is quickly hosed down by the cold knowledge that a gentle intensity soon becomes a frenetic one and then, finally, an uncontrolled insanity. I am too frightened that I will again become morbidly depressed or virulently manic - either of which would, in turn, rip apart every aspect of my life, relationships, and work that I find most meaningful - to seriously consider any change in my medical treatment."
Unlike Dr Jamison, I told my doctor I felt well enough (after 3 years on meds) to come off medication and he agreed. I must add that during the last year of that, I had also sent him regular emails. He suggested I try that after I read Irvin Yalom's Everyday Gets A Little Closer. I supposed it did work and he did not detect any signs of madness in my journaling. Back then there were no such things as blogs then. The worldwide web had just come to Singapore the year before and it would be nearly 12 years later, in 2008, before I discovered Goodreads, the book review site where I now post fiction reviews.
Though I have read several more books on Depression and other Mood Disorders, Dr Jamison's remains a personal favorite because she helped me feel so much less alone and afraid at a time in my life when I felt very much that.