One of the most
memorable and exciting moments happened on the night of May 27, 2005.
That’s the night I not only got to hear Anna “Patty” Duke speak to
supporters of the AIM Center in Chattanooga, but was gifted with a
personal meeting prior to her arrival at the event.
I had driven two hours from Nashville to meet her, a woman who literally
changed and saved my life years ago with her openness about her
disorder. I didn’t know I was going to get a personal meet and
greet with her until ½-hour prior to the meeting. Ashley Evans,
Executive Assistant with the AIM Center, located me in the crowd of
attendees and told me to meet her by the elevator that she wanted me to
be able to tell Anna what she means to me.
You see, years ago, in the early 1990s, I saw “Call Me Anna,” the
autobiographical movie she made. I remember telling my husband,
“That’s it. That’s how I feel.” I was relieved that
someone had “come out” and brought the disorder to the forefront of
society. The problem was, I really didn’t know where to turn for
help. Finally, in May, 1993, I had sunken into a deep depression.
I would get up every day and go to work, sitting in the dark and
listening to Elton John songs for 12 hours straight. I have to
say, in the back of my mind, I knew what was wrong, but hadn’t hit
bottom yet. When I finally did–thanks to a not so kind boss–I
spent three weeks in the care of the psychiatric rehabilitation staff at
Baptist Hospital in Nashville. Of course, I was diagnosed as
I am a writer by profession. When I returned to work (the boss had
been fired by that time!), my best friend was serving as my supervisor.
She encouraged me to write again, to write cut-lines and bios for the
artists. I’d write anything that would put nouns and verbs
I knew all along that Anna Duke was my hero. If she could fight
the disorder, so could I. Now I won’t tell you that it’s all
peaches and cream. I have bad spells. I have great spells.
Then I have spells where I’m “normal.” That’s the best
feeling. I can function as any other adult.
Thanks to Anna’s honesty, I am now the publicist for the Nashville
chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. I am doing
TV and newspaper interviews. I “came out” as being bipolar and
am surprised at the support I’ve received.
I owe Anna a lot
that I can’t repay. When I met her, I told her that she saved my
life. In her usual way, she said “it’s all of us working
together.” I looked her in the eyes and said, “No. The
books, the movie. If it weren’t for you I don’t know if I’d
be alive.” Instantly, her chin began to quiver and I started
crying. We hugged in what was one of the most special moments of
That night I sent an e-mail to my friends. I said it’s one thing
to tell someone who’s influenced your life how you feel. It’s
another to be able to touch their heart and soul the way they’ve
touched yours. I believe we shared a special bond that night.
One that will remain with me forever.