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Surprising Science

Sanity and Solace in the Written Word

Big Think had the pleasure of sitting down with Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. this morning. Dr. Jamison is, first and foremost, Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, but she’s also a MacArthur Fellow, a brilliant writer and a manic depressive. That last identity was the subject of Dr. Jamison’s first memoir, An Unquiet Mind, in which she charted the course—from first mania, to suicide attempt, to medication—of her manic depression. Her most recent book, Nothing Was the Same, picks up where An Unquiet Mind left off, but is ultimately a story about the loss of Jamison’s husband, Dr. Richard Wyatt, to cancer.

Having read Jamison’s books, I was in awe of her professional accomplishments, but I was most moved by her ability and willingness to speak openly about such personal experiences. When I asked how she felt about such candor, Dr. Jamison made it clear that it had not been easy to open up, especially given her upbringing in a WASP family that worked hard and kept personal matters quiet. Ultimately, however, the importance of being open about her illness—for the sake of other manic depressives, their friends and family, and the medical community at large—became apparent. After losing her husband to cancer, a similar instinct to share her experience, and to eulogize her husband of 20 years, spurred Jamison to write Nothing Was the Same.

Jamison talks about both books, recovering from the loss of a loved one, and misconceptions about suicide in her forthcoming Big Think interview.


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