Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: Perfect Chaos

By Cindy Roesel

As we just celebrated Mother's Day this week, we also recognize an important new book about motherly love called, PERFECT CHAOS (St. Martin’s Press), and written by the mother and daughter team of Cinda and Linea Johnson (respectively). It’s a daughter’s journey to survive bipolar disease and a mother’s struggle to save her.

“There is no form of art capable of expressing this madness.”

Being told you or someone you love has mental illness, even in 2012, is shrouded in stigma. That’s why it’s so important that Linea and Cinda have taken this courageous step to tell Linea’s story, a true account of what came so close to killing her and leaving the Johnson family without their daughter and sister. Linea grew up in Seattle in an educated upper-middle class family of health professionals. She had every advantage, but she goes from being a happy student with musical aspirations to feelings of depression and hopelessness, taking her family and friends on an emotional roller coaster ride.

Away at college in Chicago, the family’s worst fears come to fruition. Linea wants to kill herself so she ends up in the psych ward and there are numerous attempts to save her life. Through electro-shock therapy, depression, mania, cutting, bulimia, drugs and alcohol use and the wrong medications, Linea writes, “How am I supposed to trust the doctors when one pill makes me lack any personality and the other bring moods swings so large they long to kill?”

One of every four families has someone suffering from mental illness. Within her family, Cinda struggles with how much information she should share with family members and friends about her daughter’s condition. This is all unchartered territory. Throughout the book, mother and daughter write a dual narrative back and forth before, during and post diagnosis. It’s hard not to get caught up in Linea’s pain as the disease overtakes her and Cinda is forced to listen helplessly on the phone thousands of miles away, as her daughter breaks down.

After reading the book, I have to say it miraculous Linea is alive. While based in Seattle, Her parents did everything possible to help Linea, including respect her request to go back to Chicago and then stay in the Windy City perhaps longer than she should have. Her mother honestly addresses that issue, but Linea doesn’t elaborate. I know she was sick, but as a reader I would like a little more on that subject.

The bottom line is PERFECT CHAOS makes serious strides in moving toward a world free of stigma attached to those with mental illness. I appreciate both Linea and Cinda Johnson for the courage they brought to writing PERFECT CHAOS. For more information go to their website or visit them on Facebook and Twitter.

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