Angie Mayes
  Meeting Anna at the AIM Center, 2005

 

 

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 bipolar.

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 together.

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 my life.

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.