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 Call Her Anna - A Conversation With Anna "Patty" Duke  
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When you say the name Patty Duke, you can't help but smile. The Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress has filled her lifetime with some of cinema, television and the stage's most memorable performances including her Oscar-winning turn as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, her sexy and delightful journey through Valley of the Dolls, the television classic The Patty Duke Show and dozens more. In her mid-30's, the highly acclaimed Duke served up what could have been career suicide by seeking treatment for and publicly acknowledging being diagnosed with manic depression, often referred to these days as Bipolar Disorder. While her marriage to John Astin was already too fractured to be salvaged by her newfound and ever increasing stability, Duke approached her journey of hope and healing with the same passion, energy and commitment she had long given her career. Within the next 5 years, Duke penned the autobiographical Call Me Anna, a remarkable literary work detailing with heartfelt honesty and authenticity her inner-most secrets and previously undisclosed childhood secrets. Within this same period, Duke would meet her husband of 25 years,  Sgt. Mike Pearce during the filming of A Time To Triumph. 

Anna "Patty" Duke is the featured speaker at Prevent Child Abuse Indiana's "Breaking the Cycle" conference at the Radisson Hotel at Indianapolis International Airport on March 29th, 2011 at 6:00 PM where she will speak on "Behind the Scenes: From Mental Illness to Mental Health." For more information on "Breaking the Cycle" and Duke's appearance, visit the Prevent Child Abuse Indiana website.

Anna, as I prefer to call her, sat down with The Independent Critic recently to talk about her career, her past, the healing journey and her upcoming appearance in Indy. 
 
  
  
Photos Courtesy of OfficialPattyDuke.com
The Independent Critic

What makes your message so valuable for the "Breaking the Cycle" conference?

Anna "Patty" Duke

I feel grateful for any opportunity to share my story, just hoping that it might inspire someone to go for help.

The Independent Critic

Was there something that clinched the decision for you in deciding to go for help yourself?

Anna "Patty" Duke

Actually, there wasn't. There was nothing really all that dramatic. I think I just finally wore myself out. I think I'd reached a point where I no longer had the energy to fight it in a negative sense.

The Independent Critic

When you made the decision to seek help, was it a decision made in consultation with family? Friends? Professionals?

Anna "Patty" Duke

There had been family consultations throughout the years, mostly with my ex-husband John Astin. However, always when we talked about it it would end up with me freaking out and saying "You think I'm crazy. I'm not." Things finally came to the point where John and I were separated and the divorce was going to happen. I figured out that if I was going to be of any use to my children, I had to figure out what the hell was going on with me. As luck would have it, when I went to talk to my doctor about it I was in a manic phase and the doctor was able to see that. I'd been seeing him for quite sometime, but he'd not seen that in all the years I'd been going to him. He'd always seen the down side, not the upside. He was able to make a determination quickly. I began medication, and I certainly continued talk therapy which you've got to do because you've got a lot of debris to clean up.

The Independent Critic

So, once you made the decision to seek help you pretty much started everything right away?

Anna "Patty" Duke

I did. I started trying to make things right. Part of fixing it is going back and trying your best to say to others "I'm sorry." If I was still a practicing Catholic, I'd say it's kind of like penance. I behaved badly, whether I was crazy or not!

The Independent Critic

Did your decision to seek help or your decision to be so open about it impact your career?

Anna "Patty" Duke

There's no real way of knowing. When I decided to be so public about it, there were definitely "experts" who said "Don't do that. It'll be the end of your career." I was so compelled by feeling good and wanting others to know that they could that I just sort of plowed ahead with it. I seem to have continued to work - It seems that aging is more of a problem. I've worked less since I've hit my 60's. So, I guess part of the value of my message is that people are able to see a person who says "This is what I did" and "This is what is bad about it." I thought that I could never get out of all that but, lo and behold, the experts are right. It is fixable if we can get past the fear. If we can get past the fear and the stigma we can get to the point and we can get better more quickly.

The Independent Critic

It's definitely a journey.

Anna "Patty" Duke

Oh yes. It definitely is. Sometimes, I sure get the E-ticket!

The Independent Critic

You haven't become like Mary Poppins have you?

Anna "Patty" Duke

(Laughing) No, not exactly. However, I am much better now that I take my medicine regularly!

The Independent Critic

Can you speak to the role that creativity in healing?

Anna "Patty" Duke

You find people who are afraid that their creativity will be stunted either by medications or by really addressing their issues. I've found my work has improved since being diagnosed and taking medications for 30 years now. What I mean is that I don't go on these flights of fancy that I used to go on - they seemed to be a whole lot of fun while I was up there. Now, I can organize my thoughts and my life. I never could before. I'm a far more creative wife and mother now. That's because there aren't a bunch of disorganized thoughts flying around and once in awhile I catch one. Creativity is a powerful excuse for many - "I'm an artist." I know people who've taken the medications and claim that their creativity has been stunted. Maybe it did, but there are thousands of others who were afraid of that happening and who found out that was not the case.

The Independent Critic

Hollywood sort of encourages a certain amount of craziness.

Anna "Patty" Duke

YOU THINK? (Laughing)

The Independent Critic

Just a personal observation. I know I'm in Indiana, but it sure looks that way to me. (Laughing).

Anna "Patty" Duke

If you're going to be Bipolar, show business is one of the best places to go! I respect those people who are afraid they will lose their creativity. I just wish those people would try it for awhile and see what happens.

Copyright 2011, The Independent Critic

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