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100 of 104 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2001
kay jamison is not only an excellent writer and psychologist but she also knows personally the pain of mental disease. maybe this is the reason why she writes with such enthusiasm and warmth about bipolar writers, poets, musicians and other artists and it seems she is saying to us who struggle with manicdepression that there is something precious inside all of us even though we may never be world class artists. touched with fire is one of the books i always come back to since i find its message comforting. madness is pain but it is also a very strange gift.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
Touched with Fire, written by Kay Redfield Jamison, deals mainly with the apparent link between manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament. Those in the arts were often known to have severe mood swings, from the ranting and ravings of the poet Lord Byron, to Vincent Van Gogh and his severing his own ear. I had bought the book in the hopes of finding an answer to my own mood swings, for although I had sensed that something was not quite "right" in the consistency of my mood, the doctors were content to tell me to "try this" and "try that", doling out the tablets as though they were candy.

Sensing that my mood was volatile, I had asked my doctor if perhaps I may have something like bi-polar disorder, to which he replied, "You're young. You just need to get out there and enjoy yourself".
As a side note, I've also been told, whether there is actually any truth to it or not, that doctors are becoming reluctant to diagnosing patients with a mood disorder because they fear the patient will obsess over this thing that's "wrong with them", now that they've finally been able to name it,thus becoming the illness itself, rather than the person who has an illness.

However, that almost seemed to suggest that the doctor was bordering on alternative healing such as "mind over matter", or in this case "mind over mood". The second reason was that having a mood-disorder, especially bi-polar, was now becoming too "fashionable". Why would anyone want a mood disorder? If they truly had to deal with one, other than carrying it around like a fashion accessory, they would wish it gone.

While probably not meant to be taken as a complete diagnosis of one's mental health, I found a section in the book called Diagnostic Criteria for the Major Mood Disorders quite interesting. In our "do it yourself" self-help era, due to our, often justified, skepticism in the competence of our own local doctors (who usually have no real knowledge of mental ailments), it offers some form of insight into what may or may not be "wrong" with us. If anything, a book like this gives some clarity into what would otherwise be a guess in the dark as to why we suffer the highs and lows of mood swings. Never being officially diagnosed with anything, I cannot say for certain if I have a mood disorder at all, though I have most, if not all, of the symptoms of one who has Cyclothemia.

Admittedly I found the book quite a difficult read, mainly because I know nothing of medicinal, medical, or psychiatric terms, which the book is rife with, yet for those who are approaching the subject with a more learned grasp of psychology I feel this would be an excellent book. As for those in the arts, such as painters, illustrators, musicians, actors and so on, I feel many will read about William Blake, Van Gogh and so on and unconsciously nod their head in agreement sighing "I've felt like that too". (I did)

It's a great book to be sure, though one that I have found difficult to get in to, mainly because I feel it's just not one of those kind of books. It's a study, rather than a book to entertain and so needless to say it's not meant to be, in my opinion, an engrossing read. Jamison certainly knows her stuff however, and expresses this beautifully in the book, convincing us of the apparent link between creativity and madness.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Touched With Fire by Kate Redfield Jamison meets her usual standard of excellent writing. This book goes far beyond the usual easy reads on Manic Depression. It is interesting, absorbing and educational and very well written. Kate R. Jamison is an inspirational writer for those seeking to understand Manic Depression.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2009
A good read - informative without being dense. Lots of food for thought and some convincing insights into specific cases. Perhaps the conclusion was a bit foregone, but a good buy nonetheless.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2008
This is an amazing book. I hadn't realised how many artists or all genre had manic depression.

Yes the type is a tad small which made me have to really concentrate to read it but I found myself enjoying my journeys to work as I went through it. Even now it is lovely to dip into and become inspired.

It is defintiely worth reading if you want to see another side of artists and it certainly doesn't excuse anything they have done.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2008
This is a book I really want to read, the content looks to me to be very intriguing. The problem is the print, both the size and the set up on the page. I read alot and can manage with many different type sets, but unfortunately not this one. Hopefully, maybe ...audiobook?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2012
This book first seems to be a huge daunting mountain of deeply researched material. Once you start on the path of reading, it keeps encouraging and drawing you onwards. A superb combination of clinical material, that has recently helped me work with a client, and wide ranginging references to artistic pillars that bring the topic alive.
Well worth the climb!
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on 21 June 2015
I loved this book. I found her research methods really enlightening. I can only image how much preparation must have gone into writing this book. I read this while living with someone who was going through a manic episode. It helped me put what was happening into perspective.
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on 11 January 2014
Useful reading for people who have friends or family with bipolar.
A classic text, this is the second time I have bought it as my first copy was lost.
Good insights from probably the person who knows best what it all feels like.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2011
So beautifully written, so thorough and interesting. A definite must-read for anyone with an interest in the arts and bipolar disorder.
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