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This is a question This book changed my life

The Goat writes, "Some books have made a huge impact on my life." It's true. It wasn't until the b3ta mods read the Flashman novels that we changed from mild-mannered computer operators into heavily-whiskered copulators, poltroons and all round bastards in a well-known cavalry regiment.

What books have changed the way you think, the way you live, or just gave you a rollicking good time?

Friendly hint: A bit of background rather than just a bunch of book titles would make your stories more readable

(, Thu 15 May 2008, 15:11)
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This book explained my life
Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind.

Only once have I been in a state of mania extreme enough to frighten me. By this I mean psychosis. I'm discounting the occasions spent crouching in a corner communicating with god having eaten hash cookies that left everyone else merely chilled out. It took me years to realise that full-blown hallucinations on cannabis were not the norm amongst my group of friends.

Altered perceptions without the use of drugs were fun at first. I couldn't stop moving: running, jumping, fidgeting, twitching. I saw brighter, clearer and more saturated colours than anyone else; I heard and felt so many intricate layers of music that it was too painful to listen to it anymore; I could make huge mental connections - leaps and bounds - and see patterns that no one else could see; I could take on the world - and god knows I tried.

My work began to suffer. I couldn't sit still for longer than five minutes at a time. I spent my whole day at work pacing my office, surfing the web, writing page after page of elaborate schemes then abandoning them in favour of a new idea. I knew something wasn't quite right and let myself be persuaded to revisit a counsellor I had been seeing during a previous bout of depression. She questioned me about how things were, and I felt I was mentally running rings around her. I spent much of the session counting snowflakes falling past the window.

It came to a head when I found myself hiding in a dark room because I couldn't understand what my colleagues were saying. I swore they were speaking some other language. It wasn't English - it couldn't have been. It sounded nothing like it. It didn't sound like anything I recognised. The carpet, a vile industrial mixture of reds and purples, was freaking me out - I was at the peril of someone else's very bad decorating tastes. Every purple and red object in the room was linked to that carpet. They were all jumping out at me, lines between them, until all I could see was red, red, red, purple, and it was sensory overload. I sat under a table in the dark room until two friends with an understanding of what was happening found me and hauled me to the doctor. He calmly told me that I was high and wrote a prescription for tranquillisers and a referral to a psychiatrist. I can't thank him enough.

It was one of those friends - also bipolar - who recognised the symptoms in me. He told me about Kay Redfield Jamison's book. It's her memoir of her life with manic depression and how she, an academic psychologist, both researched and suffered from this illness. I identified with every single page and I cried my way through it. It gave me answers and it gave me hope. It presented knowledgeable discussions tempered with personal experience. It''s beautifully written and it's moving and compelling.

I have an uneasy co-existence with my manic depression. Lithium works for me and I've been pretty stable for a couple of years now. I've been so low that I've tried to die. I've been so high that I can't function. Being bipolar is not about an inconvenient oscillating mood. It can be a crippling and life-threating illness. One of the hardest things is knowing where the illness starts and where my own personality ends.

There are degrees of mania, and when I was hypomanic - high, but functioning - I was so very happy. Mood stabilisers might not have made me a different person in the eyes of my friends, but to me I am a poor, pale and boring copy of what I used to be. I would like the highs again, just the gentle ones, but I'd never make it through another low. I'm damn pleased that someone else out there understands it.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 15:40, closed)
Just to let you know .....
You'd be suprised at the amount of people on this website in your position or similar. My battles have been much less chronic or serious than yours but it's no suprise to me why we all get on so well on here.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 16:05, closed)
My depression is very mild in comparison but enough that friends and family have advised that I go and seek help. I have been in therapy, which I found helpful when I needed it most but I would refuse to take any anti-depresants or suchlike.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 16:09, closed)
no surprise at all. We probably keep the pharmaceutical companies afloat.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 16:09, closed)
I could make huge mental connections - leaps and bounds - and see patterns that no one else could see;

While I realise your condition is something I wont even pretend I understand, I just wanted to say that every time I hear a quote such as the above, I feel slightly saddened to think that creativity or problem solving can sometimes be originated from a mental disorder.

I hope that one day, you manage to get through this with your mind intact. I may try reading the book myself someday.

A well written clickworthy post though.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 16:34, closed)
Thank you. To a certain extent I am through it, in that I'm relatively stable and have good NHS care. It's not curable though. The first year or so following my diagnosis it really dominated my life, just coming to terms with it. Now it is in the background and things are pretty normal until you have to do annoying stuff like renewing your driving licence annually on medical grounds, or the shrink visits and the blood tests every couple of months, or wincing at the portrayal of mental illness in the media or - worse - the negative views of friends or colleagues.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 16:58, closed)
I could make huge mental connections - leaps and bounds - and see patterns that no one else could see;

Bipolarity can do that to you sometimes, I've myself experienced this many years ago and it's an utterly wonderful feeling. You really do feel like the sky is the absolute limit.

However the lows - and proportionately I've endured much more of these than I have the highs - can have you utterly convinced that are incapable of performing nought but the very basic of tasks. It took me six years of searching before my GP found a medication which lifted my mood, further exascerbating my belief that I was some sort of incurable freak.

I'm pretty stable these days, but there isn't much I wouldn't trade to experience that world conquering high once again.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 17:04, closed)
I hear you.
Amen to that.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 17:52, closed)
Yet again, clicking "I like this"
seems inappropriate. As BGB said, I think there are many B3tans who are to a certain extent bipolar, although I imagine for many its not as marked as your condition. Certainly I can live medication-free, although continually going from feeling like one wants to die, to thinking that life couldn't be better, is a wearing process. And yes, if you have a relatively good brain chances are that you can run rings round counsellors so I haven't got comfort there.
But I didn't want to write about me - I just wanted to say how well you'd written this, and how much it's moved me. There's a line in Shadowlands - "we read to know we're not alone". I'm really glad that worked in your case. All the best
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 18:36, closed)
Another nod...
...and another who's not quite been to the same extremes, but knows to some extent what you mean.

@PJM - yes, I know exactly what you mean. In my highs, I've written a (bad) novel, I've planned businesses, I've solved problems - my brain has fizzed with creativity and enthusiasm. Now, I feel that while I've hit a level of stability, it's a flat, dull and frustrating place to be. There's no spark - just a dull glow really.

My own experiences of (generic version) prozac/fluoxetine horrified me so much, that I don't dare consider an alternative. In my case, it was as if my brain went from a steady motorway 70mph down to a housing estate 20mph. The whole "Flowers for Algernon"-ness of it frustrated me so much I just resolved to work through it myself.

One thing I'm proud of though, is that in the midst of all of this, I was doing a part-time MBA. I passed through my lowest points while keeping this going, and finished it a couple of years later.
(, Thu 15 May 2008, 21:53, closed)

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