3. An Unquiet Mind – Kay Redfield Jamison
“A Memoir of Moods and Madness” and a stone cold classic for anyone interested in mental health, An Unquiet Mind is also an engaging read. Jamison’s experience with manic behavior was extremely interesting to me – her description of running rather endlessly around a parking lot during the process of earning her degree and using “we’re psych students” as the reason when questioned stood out in particular. It sort of suits the trope of going into psychiatry because one has psychological issues, but, that doesn’t have to be true. It’s very possible to ignore your own symptoms regardless of what you’re learning about or what level of professional development you’ve achieved. Brains are tricksy.
One thing to remember while reading An Unquiet Mind is that, especially if you don’t have anyone to catch you or clean up the giant mess you may have made while manic, this is definitely not an instructional manual for what to do if you are also experiencing manic or depressive episodes. It’s a memoir, and it has helpful examples, but it is not a self-help manual. You may recognize yourself, you may end up being a little envious of some of the things Jamison has gotten to do, you may not even care about getting to stay in England for long periods of time to write (I miss it). It always amuses me that I know the struggle to publish as an academic writer exists, but when you read material from people who have ended up with published work, when they discuss writing their proposals it’s just like a given that it’s going to happen- of course it did, but, somebody should write in one of their failed projects too, give the folks at home something to relate to on the other side because there’s a lot of failed academics out there who probably assumed their work was going to get published too… (Full disclosure, I am not an academic writer. I’ve just seen a lot of stressed out academics as a librarian and I’m guessing not all of them had a streamlined path to publish their research. And I’ve read or skimmed a crapload of extremely dry articles, so I wonder if the academic writers with stronger writing voices are getting shafted.)
Twiglet, a stone cold classic anchor pig.
70. Gone South – Robert R. McCammon
I’ve been looking at this book on my mother’s bookshelf for a long time and it’s one hell of a novel. I did not expect a single thing that happened in it; I didn’t know I was going to be reading such a tense, fantastical story that included some Elvis, some serious amounts of sweating, a fairy tale garden, drug dealers, obstinate ladies, and a conjoined twin. I felt like I understood it better after having lived in Mississippi (it takes place in south Louisiana) and I definitely know where the areas that the story took place are on a map – mainly it reminded me that there are some things about living in the South that I cannot explain to anyone. It’s retained its sense of wildness and a weirdness that is heavily on display in Gone South. And living there truly demonstrated to me that there are some things that can never be fixed, some things that will work themselves out regardless of how much I worry, and some things that are just doomed. My darling Duncan was one such doomed individual and you can see her sweet little profile in the photo below, she’s with her mother Murderface. She died four years ago today, the first of my herd of eight to pass, of cancer. She was only nine months old and time was obviously not on her side. No it wasn’t.
I think about Duncan a lot and regardless of whether or not I want them to, some of my pigs’ death days sneak up on me. I’m pretty sure one of the currently living pigs’ death day is soon to come and so the death days are reminders of what I’ve gone through and what I will go through again and again, as long as I choose to keep these little rapscallions. Granted, the benefits of having guinea pigs for me far outweigh the non-benefits. Lost my words there a bit. Oh well. Anyway, another reason that Duncan’s death day is weighing heavy four years on is that Ned Vizzini committed suicide recently. He was only a year older than me and was living a chunk of my dream career- he’s had four books published, he allowed a movie to be made of one horrifically affecting novel (that meant a lot to me), and he was writing for television. He also may have had enough money for his family to live on at any given time. And some people have to write- regardless of whether or not it’s ever going to get anywhere that anyone notices- and some people get paid too. It’s hard to understand where that kind of accomplishment would go south on you. But maybe he lost his anchors or maybe he was being pressured to just “get over it” too much, as that seems to happen to people with serious depression. I definitely lost my anchor and, just a quick public service announcement, try not to choose anchors that can die.
Murderface and Duncan Hills, brutally cute, also brutal reminders of how short the lifespan of guinea pigs can be. Happy Holidays, Mr. Hobbes!