She is a Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University. She is an international authority on Manic-depressive illness. She writes about her own struggles with the illness since her adolescence. She recounts the slow and painful mastering of her illness through knowledge, courage, medication, self-discipline and the power of love. Her work has helped save countless lives. An excerpt:
“At this point in my existence, I cannot imagine leading a normal life without both taking lithium and having had benefit of psychotherapy. 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 running my career and relationships, keeps me out of a hospital, alive, and makes psychotherapy possible.
But ineffably, psychotherapy heals. It makes some sense of the confusion, reigns in the terrifying thoughts and feelings, returns some control and hope and possibility of learning from it all. Pills cannot, do not, ease one back into reality; they only bring one back headlong, careening and faster than can be endured at times. Psychotherapy is a sanctuary; it is a battleground; it is a place I have been psychotic, neurotic, elated, confused and despairing beyond belief. But always, it is where I have believed-or have learned to believe-that I might someday be able to contend with all of this.
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. 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.”
- from ‘An Unquiet Mind’ by Kay Redfield Jamison.