The National Institute of Mental Health has estimated that 2.6% of American adults suffer from bipolar disorder. There is no shortage of textbooks, articles and scholarly papers on the topic. But a view from the inside is rarer. Jerry Jewler, a successful ad man who transitioned into academia and spent nearly 30 years as a respected college professor, gives us that look in Climates of the Mind.
Jewler was not diagnosed until he was 60. In the book, he looks back at his life now knowing that his earlier behavior — the mood swings, impatience and social awkwardness — can mostly be attributed to bipolar disorder. He does a nice job explaining the largely inherited condition, with its manic and depressive phases that control a person’s life, often without them realizing it.
Much of the book consists of Jewler relating his life story; chapters from his journal, part of his therapy, are interspersed, giving insight into a bipolar person’s day-to-day life. Unfortunately, these passages are less interesting than the biographical material and bog the book down at times. Jewler’s reflections on his childhood, teen years and early manhood, though, when recounted through the prism of bipolar disorder, are informative and engaging.
Jewler’s skill as a writer — he is a co-author of two series of college textbooks, and he was the editor or managing editor of his high school, college and army base newspapers — is evident. His stories and explanations, even his journals, are clear and easy to follow.
Climates of the Mind is hardly scientific. It’s more of a memoir: one man’s story of his journey through life and how it was directed by an unknown force. Reading Jewler’s book, those unfamiliar with bipolar disorder are sure to get a better understanding of it.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.