Friday, April 22, 2011

Call Me Anna: Patty Duke and Bipolar Illness

I just finished reading Patty Duke’s autobiography Call Me Anna. This was another book my son’s therapist thought I should read. I thought it was very facinating. It didn’t focus on her bipolar illness, yet she shared many personal details on how it affected her life and the decisions she made. Instead, the book covered her entire life from the unique acting coaches she had and the abuse she suffered at their hands to her acting career and adult relationships. It was really interesting to hear about her journey as a child actor and how her mother’s own mental illness affected her upbringing. She shared her suicide attempts, as well as her manic episodes, one which led her to marry a complete stranger. Towards the end of the book, she hears from her doctor for the first time that she’s bipolar. In sharing her relief to finally have a medical diagnosis for what she’s been experiencing she writes:

“From that moment on, I wasn’t frightened at all. It was such a relief, almost like a miracle, really, for someone to give what I’d gone through a name and a treatment... The odd thing is, when I was a kid and had those panic attacks, usually related to dying, I used to pray for a pill. I’d say to myself, ‘There must be a pill. There’s a pill for everything. There must be a pill for this.’ It turns out there was.” (Duke & Turan, 1987, p. 287)

If there ever was an example of why it’s so important for those suffering with mental illness to receive a diagnosis, I think this is it.

* * *

Video Source:
Uploaded on YouTube by  on Dec 16, 2009 (Sally Jessy Raphael)
Uploaded on YouTube by  on Dec 6, 2009 (wins award)


Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke
Patty Duke and Kenneth Turan


  1. I know that so many people think that diagnoses are just 'labels', but I agree with you. It is such a relief to finally understand the reasons behind the way my kids act. It helps us to help them.

  2. “It helps us to help them.”

    Excellent point Accidental Expert!

  3. most might look at this and think, wow look at this mentally ill woman. I look at it and think, this is a woman who grew up in a terrible circumstance, was adopted by exploitative creepy people and trotted out like a trained monkey for most of her young life. this speech is a poignant poetic expression of the bullshit and chaos that she's been subjected to. trauma creates emotional dysregulation which is exhibited here, but she's also completely herself and not the cheap facade she's been forced to present herself as for years. a woman who's never been allowed to mature and be herself of course will look like a madwoman.