|Visiting with Anna in Chattanooga, 2005|
Ever since reading her books and seeing her TV interviews with Hugh Downs and others, I have wanted to share stories with Patty Anna Duke. Last week, when she came to visit Chattanooga's AIM Center--a psychosocial club house where I have been a member for fifteen years--my wish came to be, not once but twice.
First, she toured this "model facility," learned of their educational, employment and social support programs and met and connected to many of the members of AIM Center. We spoke briefly and I immediately felt her warmth, interest, and her commitment to support mental health and individual recovery. She was more gracious than I could have expected.
Then, that evening, Mrs. Pearce was the honored speaker at AIM Center's annual dinner. More than four hundred supporters, mental health professionals and many mental health consumers listened intently and repeatedly applauded her thoughtful and encouraging comments as she shared her own history. She mentioned the progress over the recent years in improving diagnoses, treatment, medications and the continuing fight against stigma towards the mentally ill. Camera ready, I got a great picture with her while we chatted briefly. Many guests spoke with her and Mike. She had very kind words for the event and for Chattanooga, a "small town" with very good mental health treatment resources.
Now that we have met, I hope we can stay in touch and perhaps network together for our continued recovery and that of others at various stages of the process. As we all agreed, early diagnosis, along with newer, better medications, psychotherapy and support groups such as through DBSA and NAMI can be a positive approach to these disorders. This was truly an encounter to remember always.