Intimate with madness, pioneering psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison learned to fear emotional excess. So she avoided passion and tried to hold love at bay. “Then,” she writes in her new memoir, Nothing Was the Same, “I met a man who upended my cautious stance toward life…. He prodded my resistance with grace and undermined my wariness with laughter.” Jamison succumbed, and we follow suit. This is a finely told midlife love story, a romance as elegant as it is doomed. Before tragedy strikes, though, what a couple she and her husband, Richard Wyatt, made! We’re in the salutary presence of scientific royalty here—professional giants of mental health, all the more imposing for having overcome their own personal afflictions.
The 63-year-old Jamison, a psychologist specializing in manic-depressive illness and now co-director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, movingly described her own struggles with the disease in her 1995 memoir, An Unquiet Mind. She co-authored the leading academic textbook on manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder) and has written well-received books on exuberance, suicide, and the link between mood disorders and creativity. Wyatt was no slouch either. An expert on schizophrenia, he served as chief of the neuropsychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health from 1972 until his death in 2002. The couple traveled in elite circles, counting as friends Nobel laureate James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, and Robert C. Gallo, the co-discoverer of the virus that causes AIDS.