Thomas A.Ban, editor. Lithium in Psychiatry in Historical Perspective.


Reid Finlayson’s reply to Barry Blackwell’s comment on his comment

A Life on Lithium and Lessons Learned


       It was a great pleasure to read Dr. Blackwell’s comment because he thoughtfully outlined the previous autobiographic accounts of living with bipolar illness. The descriptions of their bipolar illness by Patty Duke and Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison (1993, 1995) helped to sustain and support me during the mid 1990s when I was recovering, healing from the self-experiment that convinced me to get back on track with prophylactic lithium treatment. I benefitted from reading their books and watching them discuss their experiences on television interviews. Additionally, Dr. Jamison’s Touched by Fire helped me to imagine the possibility of living happily and being productive after that devastating interruption. I have since been moved and encouraged at two of Dr. Jamison’s presentations to professionals and by Dr. Mark Vonnegut’s 2011 story.  In fact, I still recommend some of this literature to my residents and for patients who are struggling as I was.

       Dr. Blackwell also positioned my INHN comment in historical relation to lithium. I met Dr. Paul Grof in 1973, as a teacher during my first year of psychiatric residency training at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Canada and he became my psychiatrist. I was fortunate to receive Paul’s excellent care early in my career and am pleased to call him my friend to this day.

       Waiting for approval to return to the training program in psychiatry following my first psychotic break made me anxious in 1974. I imagined rejection, being misunderstood and stigmatized. Thankfully, I was allowed to return and welcomed back by my colleagues in training and the faculty. I am grateful for the excellent training and many friendships I received at McMaster and was fortunate to have two years of supervision with Dr. Nathan B. Epstein (1924-2020), the founding chairman of that department. I did recognize some of that old fear arising in exposing my story but am humbled by the examples of courage that preceded mine.

       Thank you, Dr. Blackwell



Duke P, Hochman G. A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness. Bantam; 1992.

Jamison KR. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. Vintage; 1995.

Jamison KR. Touched by Fire. Simon & Shuster; 1993.

Vonnegut M. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More. Bantam; 2011.


March 18, 2021