An Unquiet Mind

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Kay Redfield Jamison, born in 1956, starts the book vividly describing her standing outside in the playground, just outside of Washington, looking up at the skies, just as many of the other children would do because, like them, she was a daughter of a man who was in the Air Force. As an elementary school student, Kay recalls a plane flying low to the ground crashing nearby, and the pilot being remembered as a hero for not abandoning the jet and causing the lives of the children in the playground. Kay lived with her father, an enthusiastic meteorologist and Colonel of the Air Force, her mother, a kind, gentle, and caring woman, her brother whom she got along with very well despite their three year age difference, and her younger sister who was rebellious and the “black sheep” of their family. Kay grew up in many different locations because her father was stationed in those locations as an Air Force officer. Since she could remember, Kay had a great appreciation for music, poetry, animals, medicine, science, and the skies – most of which was introduced by her father. Kay spent her adolescent years pursuing her passion for medicine and science, and along with her enthusiastic friends, family, and acquaintances she had acquired, she kept herself busy and interested by visiting St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital in D.C., volunteering for surgical procedures at the hospital in Andrews Air Force Base, and also volunteering at the Los Angeles Zoo to study animal behavior. In 1961, when Kay was fifteen-years-old, her father resigned from the military and took a job as a scientist in California. Kay and her family moved to southern California. This sudden shift in friends and lifestyle, leaving behind a boyfriend, leaving behind a childhood of sports and activities, and diving into a society where everything she had learned from a military-like lifestyle did not provide her useful information in living in the west coast now. Her life fell apart. Having to start fresh in a foreign world was tough and required years of getting used to, but Kay overcame many obstacles and thrived in school and created new friendships. Among these friendships, Kay had a unique, yet intimate, friendship with two attractive athletes; one boy had manic-depressive illness in his immediate family, and the other boy’s mother had shot herself in the heart with a shotgun. She acquired a boyfriend, who was older than her, a student at UCLA, and used him as a means of escape from her pressures and overcoming new barriers in life. In her senior year at Pacific Palisades high school, Kay experienced her full-blown manic episode. Kay portrays her encounter as racing like a crazed weasel, fizzing with plans and enthusiasms, playing sports, staying up many nights with friends or reading, filling manuscript books with poems and plays, talking excessively, and making unrealistic plans for the future (“An Unquiet Mind”, p.36). Kay recalls feeling great about herself, but she finally slowed down. The author explains how she felt terrible, wanted to die, couldn’t clear her mind of horrid images and thoughts, wasn’t able to concentrate on anything, and didn’t want to engage in any sports. (“An Unquiet Mind”, p.37-39). After high school, Kay began attending UCLA as an undergraduate, while she lived through high moods and depression. The personality laboratory in which she spent hours researching interested her very much. After two years at UCLA, she went to St. Andrews in Scotland and studied zoology, pursuing her love for animals since a very young age. After one year of escape from despair in Scotland, Kay moved back and continued her studies at UCLA. She now researches moods with a professor who, like her, had changing moods; they spent hours talking to each other about one another’s moods. After graduating, Kay started her PhD program in psychology at UCLA in 1971. Kay kept herself busy with clinical research, a French artist and husband,...
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