APA Style Citation
Johnson, L and Johnson, C. (2012). Perfect Chaos: A daughter’s journey to survive bipolar, a mother’s struggle to save her. New York: St. Martin’s press.
Perfect Chaos provides an up close and personal view of an individual and family struggling with bipolar disorder. The book is written in a series of journal entries, which chronicle the details of Linea Johnson’s specific bouts with bipolar as they occurred. Linea describes what she was feeling when she overdosed on pills, or suffered from a manic episode. Cinda’s (Linea’s mother) entries recount the struggle of a parent whose child is diagnosed as bipolar and the struggle to support them and identify the signs when a manic or depressive episode was beginning. Cinda also struggles with allowing her college aged daughter to experience the freedom typical for someone that age while wanting to keep close tabs on her because of her disorder.
Linea Johnson grew up with her parents and her older sister Jordan in a suburb of Seattle. She excelled in arts and music and was extremely competitive and hardworking. She participated in musical performances and sports in addition to her schoolwork, but by sophomore year in high school she was suffering from anxiety, which everyone attributed to her over involvement. When Linea discovered that her best friend was cutting herself, she confided in a school counselor which did not go well but eventually led to Linea sharing some of her own feelings with her mother and going to see a psychologist. At this point, she was diagnosed with depression and was prescribed antidepressant medication. While Linea experienced many great successes in her high school career, she also describes feeling “numb” and blaming herself for not appreciating all of the good things she had going on in her life. At the time she could not understand that her illness was impacting her perception.
Linea was accepted to Columbia University in Chicago with a scholarship to study music. She experienced great anxiety about her future but everyone in the family simply attributed this to her moving across the country. Linea excelled during the first semester and had abundant energy, but after the holiday break she began to experience extreme moods swings. Assuming this was another bout related to her depression, she saw a psychologist who diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. In her sophomore year, Linea experienced extreme highs and lows and began self-medicating with alcohol and drugs to ease her emotional distress. She experienced hallucinations and at one point believed that a hotel room was the Titanic as it was sinking. Linea came home from Chicago and eventually admitted that she could not keep herself safe. As a result, she was admitted to a locked psychiatric unit. She begged her parents to “just let me go” as she could not bear the pain any longer. Linea’s mother Cinda worked with transitioning disabled teens from high school to their future lives, and she acknowledges that her experience in the field and connections in Seattle helped Linea get care that others would not be able to receive because of the endless and confusing bureaucracy of the medical system.
Linea went through the controversial treatment of ECT in an effort to jolt her out of her depression when medication did not seem to be having any impact. This worked for her even though she today acknowledges it is not for everyone. She eventually made her way back to Chicago but the disorder would continue to cycle and Linea overdosed on pills finding herself once again in the ER. The disorder does not go away, but Linea manages it better now and both she and Cinda know the signs of an impeding episode Cinda and Linea talk to groups to encourage others to learn about the signs to bipolar disorder. They are willing to share the painful memories of their own story in order to help others.
Other Related Resources
NPR Interview with the Authors:
Linea’s Blog: Chronicling her struggles with Bipolar disorder
National Institute of Mental Health: Information on Bipolar disorder
Mayo Clinic Information on Bipolar Disorder:
Psychological Figures and Concepts
Feeding and eating disorders