Thomas A.Ban, editor. Lithium in Psychiatry in Historical Perspective.
Barry Blackwell’s comment on Reid Finlayson’s comment "A life on Lithium and Lessons Learned"
Reid Finlayson’s fascinating autobiographical account of his lifetime experience with lithium in the treatment of his bipolar disorder is first placed in the perspective of similar accounts and then in relationship to INHN’s Historical Perspective.
Personal Biographies of Lithium for Bipolar Disorder
John Cade documented the efficacy of lithium for acute episodes of mania in 1949 and Mogens Schou revealed its prophylactic action in stifling recurrent episodes of bipolar disorder in 1968.
To date there have been 10 books published by individual patients describing their experiences. The first, appearing almost half a century after Cade and a quarter century after Schou, was by actress Patty Duke who related her experiences in detail in Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness, co-authored with a medical writer (Duke and Hochman 1992). Another nine books followed, eight in the first decade of the 20th century (2003-2015).
Three of the biographies were written by medical personnel, two by mental health professionals. The first and best known was by Kay Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (Jamison 1995). Jamison began her career as a clinical psychologist at UCLA, graduating with a PhD in 1975 before becoming a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and pursuing a distinguished career devoted mainly to bipolar disorder.
The second was Mark Vonnegut, a pediatrician and graduate of Harvard Medical School whose book was titled Just Like Someone without Mental Illness Only More (Vonnegut 2011).
Reid’s story, “A life on Lithium and Lessons Learned,” is unique in several ways. It is the tale of 46 years of continuous use of lithium including several psychotic breaks and hospitalizations told by a talented, highly sensitive and intelligent psychiatrist who has made wise and practical use of a multifocal approach the details of which are told in a precise informative manner.
In Historical Perspective
Reid Findlayson’s experience with lithium was sparked and enhanced by his therapeutic and professional relationship to Paul Grof beginning with his first psychotic episode. Grof, like Schou, is a pre-eminent world leader in lithium research with keynote contributions to this Historical Perspective, some involving my own participation (Blackwell 2020).
His mature and masterful approach and understanding of his illness and its treatment was informed by important psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic experiences that helped him through a troubled marriage as well as by his intense involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous and later as therapist, educator and consultant psychiatrist for “many hundreds” of impaired physicians while a faculty member at Vanderbilt University (Findlayson, Dietrich, Neufield et al. 2013).
Reid Findlayson’s display of lessons learned about lithium in his lifetime is congruent with and adds to the large body of wisdom in INHN’s Historical Perspective, knowledge he gained from his “inside out” experiences linking his own to those of patients and colleagues “who struggle with similar issues.” His post adds a new and valuable dimension to INHN.
Blackwell B. Reply to Paul Grof to his comment on Mogens Schou: My journey with lithium. inhn.org.biographies. November19, 2020.
Duke P, Hochman G. A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness. Bantam 1992.
Findlayson AJR, Dietrich MS, Neufield R, Robuck H, Martin PR. Restoring professionalism; the physician fitness-for-duty evaluation. Gen. Hosp. Psychiatry. 2013; 35(6):659-63.
Jamison KR. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. Vintage 1995.
Vonnegut M. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More. Bantam 2011.
November 26, 2020