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Perfect Chaos: A Daughter's Journey to Survive Bipolar, a Mother's Struggle to Save Her Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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“Perfect Chaos is an open-eyed, sometimes raw, always astoundingly honest account of a family's unanticipated battle with mental illness. Cinda and Linea's awe-inspiring resilience and the sheer courage of their emotional transparency moved me to my core and deepened my empathy for all those touched by mental illness, including beloved members of my own family. It is about the fierce, transformative love between a mother and daughter and how they both learn to share their truths.” ―Glenn Close, Actress and Co-founder, Bring Change 2 Mind
“Perfect Chaos is an important gift to those of us who love someone with a mental disorder. A daughter diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her determined mother take us on their often-painful journey to recovery, giving readers a penetrating look into what happens when mental illnesses strike. This inspirational book teaches us the importance of determination, resilience, love and HOPE. It is a testament to the human spirit that refuses to be defeated by a brain disorder -- a must read.” ―Pete Earley, author of CRAZY: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
“Perfect Chaos is a memoir of a daughter and mother working together to overcome the daily challenges of living with a mental illness. Through their trials and triumphs, their story provides encouragement and hope for individuals and their families affected by these illnesses.” ―Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, founder of the Carter Center Mental Health Program and author of Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis
“A remarkable story about remarkable women! Linea and Cinda brilliantly light a path to hope, understanding, and acceptance as they smash through the stigma of brain illness. Be inspired by the strong voice they give to patients, relatives, care-givers, and especially to those unable or afraid to show their wants, needs, hope.” ―Patrick J. Kennedy, Former US Congressman and Co-Founder, One Mind for Research
“Perfect Chaos is as much a map as it is a memoir, a powerful resource for families and individuals navigating the confusing and painful world of bipolar and mental illness. The dual-narrative of mother and daughter allows for twice the insight and inspiration. From the giddiness of mania, to the crushing depression and yearning to end it all, Linea captures the experience of being bipolar with raw honesty and a fresh voice. Cinda's passages illuminate her life on the sidelines, alternately feeling determined and unshakable or heartbroken and helpless. Her refusal to give up on her daughter, and Linea's will to live, resulted in Perfect Chaos, a brave and realistic, yet life-affirming message of hope to families and individuals living with mental illness.” ―Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine, authors of Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey through Hell and Back
“PERFECT CHAOS is the definition of mental illness. I read most of Cinda and Linea's words with tears in my eyes. Living with bipolar disorder myself I didn't find one untrue word, not one exaggeration in this exemplary book, only the truth. This brave and honest book will educate people who have little understanding of mental illness and allow those who live with mental illness a knowing that they are not alone. I have a feeling I'll be buying PERFECT CHAOS by the case to distribute to those who don't understand.” ―Jessie Close, Co-founder, Bring Change 2 Mind
“A simultaneously painful and inspiring page-turning.” ―Kirkus
“Definitely a must-read. . . a well written, clearly told, inspiring story.” ―Examiner.com
“The journey for Linea and her family is a moving and hopeful one, as they better understand how she reacts to the illness, and realize that being bipolar is only a part of someone's life, not the whole.” ―Publisher’s Weekly
“Lyrically written with razor-sharp honesty, Perfect Chaos is the story of Linea's day-to-day fight with bipolar disorder and her astounding efforts to piece together her life and achieve her own stability and independence.” ―SheKnows, Parenting
About the Author
Linea Johnson is a recent graduate from Seattle University, with a major in English and Creative Writing. Prior to transferring to SU, she completed three years at Columbia University, Chicago, in a musical performance program. Linea recently worked as an intern at the World Health Organization in the Mental Health department. She is a national speaker and writer, advocating for understanding and support for people with mental illness and the elimination of stigma.
Cinda Johnson, Ed.D., is a professor and director of the special education graduate program at Seattle University. She is also the principal investigator and director of the Center for Change in Transition Services (www.seattleu.edu/ccts). She is a national leader in the area of transition from high school to post-high school settings for young people with disabilities. She has written articles and book chapters in the area of secondary special education and transition services including youth with emotional and behavioral disorders and mental illnesses.
Top customer reviews
First, the story must be well written - compelling, capturing and SUSTAINING the readers' attention. Second, because every story is as unique as each of us, there need to be underlying threads which allow the reader to identify with aspects of the story, the circumstances, the characters, the feelings. The goal is not to try to be all things to all people, but rather to help the reader to find the similarities through our innermost hopes, fears and emotions. Third, we need a take away from the book. A sense of hope or empowerment, or a new found clarity and insight into a topic that may have been foreign to us.
So, how did `Perfect Chaos' measure up to these qualities for me? As you can tell by my rating, very well. But let me explain why. `Perfect Chaos' is not a perfect book, but that is as much strength as a weakness. It's a real story, with real people in an all too real situation.
The first few chapters move a bit slowly, as the stage is set with the background that paints a picture of a family that seems to have it all. But that background creates a stark contrast to what lies ahead, reminding us that mental illness does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone. We can't `vaccinate' our loved ones against it with love, education, intact households, middle class suburbia, or a good health insurance plan. And this is where the `well written' takes over. Linea's journal gives us a window into her emotional roller coaster as all the intangibles that she and her parents wanted so badly slip away. We hang onto the edge of our seats, hoping against hope that things really are getting better as we are taunted and teased with glimpses of stability intermingled with devastating crashes. Cinda's doubts, fears and struggle for when to step in and when to let go echo that inner turmoil that so many mothers (and fathers) feel as their children launch into adulthood. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and we can think of a dozen ways we'd handle these situations differently. But we also see how in the heat of the moment, this family is doing the best they can with what they have, navigating a terrain that is both foreign and frightening at every turn.
While `Perfect Chaos' is uniquely one family's story, it touches the readers' heart and emotions because the authors capture the essence of what it's like when mental illness descends. Substitute the bipolar diagnosis with any other chronic illness - cancer, diabetes, autism, autoimmune disease . . . the pain, the anguish, the frustration, the anger at the system, the risk/benefits of each treatment option, the inequities, the inability to `fix' everything, the risks, the letting go while wanting desperately to scoop up our child and keep them safe . . . it's all the same. As is celebrating the simple joys and the small and big successes yet having that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that this could all change in a heartbeat.
Lastly, whether you are reading `Perfect Chaos' because you know mental illness intimately, or because it is foreign and you want a better understanding, you will come away feeling enriched and empowered. There is hope because Linea's illness didn't destroy her or her family. It forever changed them, but they chose to take adversity and turn it into the opportunity to help others. There is knowledge because we are given an intimate look at one family's story. We get to say `oh, I'm not sure that I'd have handled things THAT way' and `Wow, I can't believe they got through that horrible nightmare' and `I wonder what I would do if I'd been Charlie or Cinda or that nurse in the psych unit'.
The point is that as we go along and life continues to happen, we will bring a new perspective that will affect the way we assess, react, intervene, or sit on our hands and try desperately not to micromanage. When we are in a conversation about mental illness and someone makes a comment out of ignorance or misinformation, we will have the opportunity to lend a voice for those who can't. Or when we see a situation that in the past made us uncomfortable or judgmental, perhaps we will instead reflect a face of empathy and compassion when it is needed the most.
I have never been so moved by a story. The writing is so well done. The experience this family went through really touched close to our own experience. This story really helped put into perspective the day to day struggles my kids go through. I often want to say snap at of it. Quit being so mean.I know they are ill but it can be so exhausting. I believe they realy can't help it. That doesn't mean I have to put up with it. But they really can't deal. The day to much more work for them. Not to say it's not for us. I have more sympathy, compassion and respect for this illness. I'm not saying we didn't already know what struggles this illness creates. I just feel this story was empowering. I have learned more patients, and respect for my kids. Quite sad. A must read. Thank you for sharing your story. Very brave.