RIP Anna Marie Pearce

PattyDukeBook2You might be looking at the title and wondering, “Who is that, a relative, good friend”?

In some ways both of those may be correct; however, the truth is I only met the woman once, and it was very much a “fan and idol” type meeting.

Today, Anna “Patty Duke” Pearce, passed away at the age of 69. In an August 2015 post, I briefly mentioned her as a role model for her work in mental health awareness. We were sisters in the battle against living with both the effects of bipolar and the stigma surrounding it.

It was interesting reading some of her obituaries and biographies this morning after learning of her passing. Wikipedia mentioned (reference Duke’s Autobiography, “Call Me Anna”):

Duke returned to television in 1970, starring in a made-for-TV movie, My Sweet Charlie. Her sensitive portrayal of a pregnant teenager on the run won Duke her first Emmy Award, but her acceptance speech was rambling, angry, and disjointed, and led many in the industry to believe she was drunk or using drugs at the moment. In fact, Duke was in the throes of a manic phase as part of her then-undiagnosed bipolar disorder, which would remain undiagnosed until 1982.

When I first read this in her book I understood so clearly. I had people call me drunk, a druggy, crazy, and many more unmentionables while the bipolar was raging inside me undetected. Who knows, maybe some still think that way.

Mostly, talk of Ms. Duke’s career and life is filled with admiration and praise. Sure, she wasn’t perfect; however, none of us are … with or without a mental illness.

Oh, that one meeting we had? It was in the back alley of the small city where I grew up. I was visiting my Dad at his place of business and walking to my car. There was a TV movie filming so that I couldn’t park on the main street. I looked at a woman just ahead of me talking to a man who looked like part of the crew. He handed her a few sheets of paper and walked on.

I looked at the woman and said: “Excuse me, are you, Patty Duke?” I am not one to usually “stalk” celebrities; however, this was a woman who was helping me understand myself. She smiled and nodded yes. I just said that I read her books and also was someone who suffered from bipolar since my teens and I admired her work both acting and in working to end the stigma.

She was very sweet, and when a man was hurrying towards us (to protect the star from fanatics), she waved him off. She told me she loved meeting people who were also dealing with the disorder. She pulled out one of those pieces of paper, ripped the corresponding one from her script and signed that one “Love, Anna Marie Pearce” (her birth and married names).

We will miss you, dear lady.

Lydia

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