Last summer, my psychiatrist Dr. Bob recommended I read The Center Cannot Hold – My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks.
This was a first. We've been together since 1991.
The only other book we ever discuss is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. He even gave me a little pocket edition called Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV – published in 1994. I treasure it.
Back to the Saks memoir. I've discovered a number of peculiarities about it. Though it was number 34 in the "Also Selling" section on the New York Times best seller non-fiction list in September 2007 – it was never reviewed and its author is mentioned only once. Saks is briefly quoted, but not about her book or herself.
Saks is cited twice in The New York Times archives.
Jamison, 561 times.
Saks has schizophrenia diagnosis. Jamison, bipolar disorder. Or manic depression, the term she prefers.
Both are married.
Saks to a good, kind, supportive, rock-solid man – Will.
Jamison, to a Richard J. Wyatt, a renowned schizophrenia scientist about whom she has written her sixth book – Nothing Was The Same, a memoir – to be published in September 2009. For Jamison, a brilliant writer with an M.A. in English Literature, her second memoir is an elegy on her 20-year marriage that ended when Wyatt died of cancer in 2002 at age 65.
Saks is a PhD in philosophy, a professor of law at the University of California, an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of California, and a research clinical associate at the New Center for Psychoanalysis. She prefers research. Dislikes lecturing. She's had a number of important scholarly books and papers published about her area of expertise – mental health law.
Jamison is a PhD in psychology, a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, a clinician/researcher and one the leading authorities on bipolar spectrum disorders. She's written several medical texts, plus five books for non-clinical audiences. All about mood disorders. All wildly popular.
Among them – Exuberance – about hypomania. Touched With Fire examines manic depression and the artistic temperament. Night Falls Fast – about suicide – is still the first of its kind. Meticulously researched and breathtakingly written by a clinical psychologist who came perilously close to dying by suicide before being prescribed Lithium Carbonate in the mid-1970s. (Then a revolutionary pharmacological treatment for manic depression, it saved her life and successfully stabilizes her mood swings.)
Saks' book is barely discussed. Rarely reviewed. Problematic, perhaps, it is extraordinarily compelling – the only memoir I've ever read by anyone with wildly delusional and psychotic episodes of schizophrenia yet her primary treatment was and remains psychoanalysis. She takes medication now, but for years she fought her diagnosis and often refused to stay on it.
Here, I stop. The rest of this post goes back into the parking lot. To be continued next time.
You'll notice my posts are shorter, as they should be. This one is 561 words. I've written 1,500 word posts. Too long. I'm not writing for a magazine here. You should be able to read these on Kindle or an iPhone.
Let me know your thoughts on this. Does "length" matter?