An Unquiet Mind

An Unquiet Mind Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Jamison's claim to ownership over the terminology of her own mental health translate to that of the reader?

    Jamison addresses her choice to use the term "manic-depressive illness" for her own illness but acknowledges that many may consider this language outdated. The modern reader must reconcile this term, which she upholds as her strong preference, with the desire to further the discussion of mental health and stay up to date with the discourse. A reader who experiences a mental illness may feel uncomfortable with Jamison's terms like "crazy," "madness," and "insane," and readers without a mental illness may be wary of appropriating terms or using outdated language that could cause offense.

  2. 2

    Why was getting tenure so important for Jamison?

    Tenured academics have the freedom to pursue research according to their own interests and schedule, and they have breaks between and during semesters. Jamison hoped that tenure would allow her to build a life that worked with her mental illness. Furthermore, attaining tenure meant that Jamison was able to achieve her goals despite her illness.

  3. 3

    Why does Jamison spend so much of her memoir focused on her romantic relationships?

    Jamison spends a quarter of her memoir discussing the romantic relationships she has with four men in particular—her first husband, David, her lover in England, and Richard, her final love and future husband. She does so in order to support one of her central messages: love can be as healing and vital to the recovery process as medication and psychotherapy. Jamison focuses on her love life because it was through loving these men that she was able to find stability and regain hope for life.

  4. 4

    How do the characteristics of mania and depression differ, and what happens to Jamison when they combined to form a "mixed state"?

    Because Jamison's memoir is, in many ways, an educational text on manic-depressive illness, she spends a lot of time discussing the particular symptoms of her illness. One cannot come to understand manic-depression without understanding the basis for each of these states, as well as understanding how they relate to and feed into each other. For example, Jamison discusses how exorbitant spending is a common activity undergone by those experiencing mania, but that the ramifications for that spending in the form of overdrawn bank accounts and debt can eventually contribute to depression. Mixed states are the experiences of Jamison's illness that terrify her and encourage her to finally get psychiatric help—they, too, must be understood.

  5. 5

    Describe Jamison's relationship with the animal kingdom.

    While Jamison studied zoology simply for the love of learning, the knowledge she acquired in this course of study affected how she relates to her illness. When discussing times of acute mania or depression, Jamison turns to metaphors or similes of animal behavior in order to best describe the absurd and inhuman characteristics of this time. Jamison also spends a considerable amount of time riding horses, which is a therapeutic activity for her.