Nothing Was the Same: A Memoir

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Overview

"Perhaps no one but Kay Redfield Jamison - who combines the acute perceptions of a psychologist with a writerly elegance and passion - could bring such a delicate touch to the subject of losing a spouse to cancer. In direct, straightforward, and at times strikingly lyrical prose, Jamison looks back at her relationship with her husband, Richard Wyatt, a renowned scientist who battled debilitating dyslexia to become one of the foremost experts on schizophrenia. And with her characteristic honesty, candor, wit, and simplicity, she describes his death, her own long, difficult struggle with grief, and her efforts to distinguish grief from depression." But she also recalls the great joy that Richard brought her during the nearly twenty years they had together. Wryly humorous anecdotes mingle with bittersweet memories of a relationship that was passionate and loving - if troubled on occasion by her manic-depressive (bipolar) illness - as Jamison reveals the ways in which her husband encouraged her to write openly about her mental illness and, through his courage and grace, taught her to live fully.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In her oft-quoted meditation An Unquiet Mind, psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison delved into the very heart of madness and manic depression. In this equally powerful memoir, she describes the final illness and death of her husband, Richard Wyatt, and the overpowering grief and healing process that followed. Nothing Was the Same is both a fond recollection of 20 years spent with her brilliant, loving husband and a penetrating study of overcoming his loss. A poignant personal memoir replete with telling insights about coping with the grave illness and death of a loved one.
Reeve Lindbergh
The great gift Jamison offers here, beyond her honesty and the beauty of her writing, is perspective: a clear-eyed view of illness and death, sanity and insanity, love and grief. As she writes, she often invokes the words of scientists, philosophers, novelists and poets, from Sigmund Freud to Graham Greene to Edna St. Vincent Millay. The excerpts are well chosen, but the voice that rings truest is her own, with its disciplined mix of openness and restraint. Once again, Jamison seems to be telling the truth, no matter how difficult it may be, in a way that avoids self-pity and inspires courage. To write the truth with such passion and grace is remarkable enough. To do this in loving memory of a partner is tribute indeed.
—The Washington Post
Michael Greenberg
Much of Nothing Was the Same is an account of this dance with impending death and its aftermath. Inevitably, it will be compared to Joan Didion's memoir of her husband's death, The Year of Magical Thinking. But Nothing Was the Same is a very different kind of book, told with less writerly detail than Didion's but more direct emotion…In this slim, intense memoir Jamison shows us that mourning leads us back to life.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
A manic-depressive clinical psychologist finds solace after the death of her husband. Redfield (Psychiatry/Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine; Exuberance: The Passion for Life, 2004, etc.) stunned readers when she recounted her battle with harrowing mental illness in her 1995 memoir An Unquiet Mind. Continuing her journey, the author analyzes her life with celebrated scientist Richard Wyatt, who suffered the recurrence of Hodgkin's disease after 20 years in remission. Persistence and relentless ambition prevented a lifelong battle with dyslexia from impeding Wyatt's collegiate studies. He earned a psychiatric residency at Harvard and went on to become Neuropsychiatry chief at the National Institute of Mental Health. By the end of his life, he was considered a pioneer in the field. Jamison's manic mood swings caused friction early on in their romantic relationship, and though Wyatt was new to love, he cherished Jamison "in a way I never questioned." The ebb and flow of their often turbulent coupling was buoyed by unconditional devotion and extreme patience ("My rage was no match for Richard's wit"), and they married in 1994, only to have Wyatt's cancer recur five years later. Risky stem-cell transplants and high-dose chemotherapy afforded them added time together, but little more than a year later, the cancer took his life. Before his death, they spent languid days of quiet time pondering "only small and binding things." When Jamison admitted to sobbing "But what will I do without you?" and started to prepare funeral arrangements, her ordeal becomes overwhelmingly heart-wrenching. Alone and unmoored, Jamison amazingly skirted the pitfalls of her formerly depressive state and foundclarity, managing to make peace with her husband's death. A soul-baring love letter to the author's loving life partner that also addresses the debilitating condition that restricted her from enjoying life to its fullest. First printing of 75,000
From the Publisher
"Raudman's narration is full of wistfulness as she delivers Jamison's memoir recounting the illness and death of her husband." —-AudioFile
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781410425225
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 4/2/2010
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 231
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Kay Redfield Jamison is a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and codirector of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center. She is the author of the national bestsellers An Unquiet Mind and Night Falls Fast, coauthor of the standard medical text on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, and the author or coauthor of more than one hundred scientific papers about mood disorders, creativity, and psychopharmacology. She has received numerous national and international scientific awards and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship. Renee Raudman is a multi-award-winning audiobook narrator. A multiple Audie Award nominee, she has earned a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for The Last Secret by Mary McGarry Morris and Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien, as well as a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award for Joe Schreiber's Chasing the Dead. She has also performed on film, TV, radio, and stage, including the recurring roles of Jordon on ABC's One Life To Live, Phyllis on NBC's Passions, and guest-starring roles on prime-time TV. She has been heard in cartoons (The Simpsons, Billy & Mandy), videogames, and on the E! channel. Her narration of Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper was selected by Library Journal as one of the best audiobooks of 2009, and her reading of Marthe Jocelyn's Would You was selected by the ALA as one of the best young adult audiobooks of 2009.
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Read an Excerpt

The love you gave me wasn't fresh and young,
It didn't melt the sun or set the town aflame.
But it was warm and wise as any street,
Where hope and sorrow meet in bars without a name.
I only know that one day was a drink And then the next was you and nothing was the same.

—STUART MACGREGOR

Prologue

When I was young, I thought that fearlessness and an easy way with love would see me to the other side of anything. Madness taught me otherwise. In the wake of my first insanity I assumed less and doubted more. My mind was suspect; there was no arguing with the new reality. I had to learn to live with a brain that demanded more coddling than I would have liked and, because of this, I avoided perturbance as best I could. Needwise, I avoided love.

I kept my mind on a short lead and my heart yet closer in; had I cared enough to look I doubt I would have recognized either of them. Before mania whipped through my brain I had been curious always to go to the far field, beyond what lay nearest by. After, I drew back from life and watered down my dreams. I retaught myself to think and to negotiate the world, and as the world measures things, I did well enough.

I was content in my life and found purpose in academic and clinical work. I wrote and taught, saw patients, and kept my struggles with manic-depressive illness to myself. I worked hard, driven to understand the illness from which I suffered. I settled in, I settled down, I settled. In a slow and fitful way, predictability insinuated itself into my life, and with it came a certain peace I was not aware had been missing. Grateful for this, and because I had no reason to know otherwise, I assumed that peace was provisional upon an absence of passion or anything that could forcibly disturb my senses. I avoided love.

This lasted for a while, although not perhaps as long as it seemed. Then I met a man who upended my cautious stance toward life. He did not believe, as I had for so long, that to control my mind I must first control my heart. He loved the woman he imagined I must have been before bowing to fear. He prodded my resistance with grace and undermined my wariness with laughter. He could say the unthinkable because he instinctively knew that his dry wit and gentle ways would win me over. They did. He was deft with my shifting moods and did not abuse our passion. He liked my fearlessness, and he brought it back as a gift to me. Far from finding the intensity of my nature disturbing, he gravitated toward it. He induced me to risk much by assuming a portion of the risk himself, and he persuaded me to write from my heart. He loved in me what I had forgotten was there.

We had nearly twenty years together. He was my husband, colleague, and friend; when he became ill and we knew he would die, he became my mentor in how to die with the grace by which he lived. What he could not teach me—no one could—was how to contend with the grief of losing him.

It has been said that grief is a kind of madness. I disagree. There is a sanity to grief, in its just proportion of emotion to cause, that madness does not have. Grief, given to all, is a generative and human thing. It provides a path, albeit a broken one, by which those who grieve can find their way. Still, it is grief's fugitive nature that one does not know at the start that such a path exists. I knew madness well, but I understood little of grief, and I was not always certain which was grief and which was madness. Grief, as it transpires, has its own territory.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2009

    Jamison does it again.

    Once again, with courage and sinsitivity, Kay Redfield Jamison lays bare her exquisite soul to us in a beautifully written book.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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