Ever since her senior year in high school, Kay Redfield Jamison has spent days and even weeks exploding with energy. She would stay up all night, sometimes for weeks in a row, feeling euphoric and productive. She would become lively, extroverted and impulsive. She would make bizarre purchases--a stuffed fox one day and a dozen snakebite kits the next.
Then, suddenly, it would end, and Jamison would descend into darkness. She would lose interest in work, friends and hobbies. She would feel listless, drained and totally alone. During these periods, thoughts of death and decay plagued her. More than once, she flirted with suicide. "From the time I woke up in the morning until the time I went to bed at night, I was unbearably miserable and seemingly incapable of any kind of joy," she wrote in her memoir, An Unquiet Mind (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).