Saturday, July 28, 2012

My take on: Perfect Chaos

"I suddenly understand the true meaning of the word "situational." I know that I will no longer judge the "bum" on the street. It is not any more his fault that he hears voices than my fault for seeking pain. These people are true. This is them. This not an act. And it can happen to anyone." Pg 197

We've all done it, myself included. The "crazy" person on the street is talking to themselves or they're doing something weird. We look at the "crazy" person on the street with disdain. We wish they would go the other way or just get out of our way. You hope that they don't do anything dangerous. Sometimes it's hard to look at the "crazy" person as just a person. After reading Perfect Chaos by Linea and Cinda Johnson, perhaps I can look at them differently.

During her struggles with mental illness, Linea Johnson developed a deep understanding and empathy for others like her. However, it was a long and painful road to reach that epiphany.

Preparing for college was supposed to be the best time of Linea's life. She was going to a college in Chicago, thousands of miles from her family in Seattle. It was her time to really be an adult. She can make decisions for herself. She can do what she wants. It should have been a happy time. It was at first. She was thriving at school. She went out with friends and partied. But Linea's mind was chaotic. Feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide were beginning to take over her mind.

Is this a real problem? Or is this somehow normal for a young woman living away from her family for the first time. Initially, Cinda Johnson wants to believe her daughter is Ok. She wants to believe that whatever is wrong with Linea can be solved with love. If the family can show Linea how much she is loved, then everything will be fine. It seems like such a natural reaction. Who would want to believe something is wrong with their child? Linea grew up with both parents. She has a great relationship with her older sister. She is a gifted musician. Sure there were moments when Linea felt overwhelmed. In high school, Linea had a full plate with music performances and sports. Sometimes she felt a little anxious by all the work. She experienced some depression in high school, but it wasn't debilitating.

On the outside everything seemed perfect, but that's the image Linea wanted to project. She wants everyone to believe that everything is Ok. She can be a great student and a great musician, despite the mess in her head. But there reached a point when Linea couldn't control the mess anymore. Her parents couldn't ignore the mess anymore. But finding the right treatment for Linea proved difficult.

Linea was lucky in that her parents could afford medical care, but unlucky in finding the right treatment. Not all medications are created equal. What worked for someone else didn't for Linea. Some medications lulled her thoughts of suicide, but would make her feel sluggish. What kind of life can you have if you walk around like a zombie? Also, Linea wasn't always the model patient. She would stop taking her medication, all the while projecting an image of perfection. When the time came to discuss Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or as it is more commonly known electro shock therapy, I thought that's barbaric. I mean isn't ECT when you strap someone to electrodes and zap them with painful bolts of electricity? At least that's the image portrayed on television. I realize how wrong that is because ECT is often portrayed as a joke on TV and in movies. After reading this book, I know ECT is not barbaric. It is a very helpful form of therapy for someone who is suicidal. It can rewire a person's brain, and it is done humanely.

There is so much in this book, I could go on and on. It's told from Linea and Cinda's perspective. I love their honesty. Linea wasn't afraid to write what was on her mind, not matter how much it might hurt someone. She criticized her friends and family. I really felt like I was in Linea's head. I was believing her when she said she wasn't suicidal. In her mind, she was just trying to quiet the thoughts in her head. With Cinda, you could feel her helplessness when Linea was really sick and her hopes for the future. It's a very powerful book, one that I'm sure will help a lot of people struggling with mental illness.

Rating: O.M.G. !!!


Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) at the request of Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review.

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