Perfect Chaos

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Perfect Chaos: a daughter's journey to survive bipolar, a mother's struggle to save her (2012) is a memoir by Linea Johnson and Cinda Johnson.


  • alone will not save someone from depression. You cannot simply love someone back to the safe ground of wellness (oh, that we could!). But you can love someone enough to seek, advocate, and fight for medical treatment. ...that love--a love that drives you to fight for the life of your loved one--
    • Cinda, p. 2, Introduction
  • I don't choose to act this way or that. I don't choose to have crushing depression or extreme manias. ...I don't choose to sometimes feel like killing myself. Why did I do the things that I did in my life? Did I ever have the choice? I was given a gift and a curse at the same time, and the only choice I have ever had is how to accept it. I feel because I feel, and sometimes my feelings are more extreme than most people can imagine, but I always try my best. ...I never chose this. ...Mental real and it is painful and it is powerful.
    • Linea, p. 9-10, Introduction
  • Telling her that she could do anything she wanted and that she had it all going for her didn't help. ...I knew that telling her that didn't make her believe it. In fact, it probably made it worse.
    • Cinda, p. 31, Ch. 1 Nostalgia
  • For the longest time I thought my mom was all I needed, but there were other things that I needed to talk about that I didn't feel comfortable telling her. I still can't talk about drinking with my mom. Not that she would judge me, but out of my own fear of not seeming perfect. Plus, I want to be an adult and I don't want to rely on her for everything.
    • Linea, p. 47-48, Ch. 2 Certainty
  • I'm becoming a worse person the longer I try to stay normal.
    • Linea, p. 56, Ch. 2 Certainty
  • There were many layers in my relationship with her during the first years of her illness... The first was love, that all-encompassing love for a child that will not let go and will not give up.... The next layer was the clinical professional layer, always trying to analyze and figure out what the hell was going on, because if I could figure it out then I would have a chance to fix it. ....there was the paranoid alert layer, always questioning whether I was overreacting or being too protective, worrying that I was filtering everything through my own past. And finally there was terrifying fear. It was always there, lurking down deep, panicked that I could lose a child.
    • Cinda, p. 61, Ch. 2 Certainty
  • The tears were lessening, she was no longer crying all the time, but she was certainly far from happy. There was no joy in this daughter of mine. She stepped slowly through her days without noticing life. She was trying so hard, but she could not move fully out of this low, low place that she was in.
    • Cinda, p. 102-103, Ch. 4 Devastation
  • I could be there for her and I could be with her when she needed me, but I couldn't be in her. This was her battle and we could only support her in that fight. ...but I could not keep her safe every minute of every day.
    • Cinda, p. 262, Ch. 10 Chaos
  • I was proud of who she was, not what she did. I let go. I let go.
    • Cinda, p. 264, Ch. 10 Chaos
  • I have tried both prescribed help, like prescribed medication, and "self-help," better known as drug abuse. I had given up on the healthy choice many times, but that night, something within me prevailed. It reminded me that addiction was a longer, harder road than prescriptions, even if the prescriptions were at times unpredictable.
    • Linea, p. 279, Ch. 11 Endurance
  • One year ago I would have had to take Adderall or coke to feel this way. I would have had to be manic. But now I merely am happy. I am real and feel as though there is a point to the world. I feel as if I am meant to be here. I am meant to live and love and learn.
    • Linea, p. 281, Ch. 11 Endurance
  • I didn't allow myself to make any plans for her future. She would have to make these decisions herself.
    • Cinda, p. 301, Ch. 12 Clarity
  • But in the end, it was only Linea who could grasp her life. We could support her always, and get out of the way as she moved to independence, yet still be there when she asked us to.
    • Cinda, p. 302-303, Ch. 12 Clarity
  • It is hard to parent from the middle, but the middle is the only place you can parent an adult child. Adult child--what a contradiction for both the adult child and the parent. Let go. Help. Give advice. Don't. We struggle to figure out the dance in a way that will leave us both intact.
    • Cinda, p. 304, Ch. 12 Clarity
  • True friendships last. They take work and forgiveness and more talking than some people can give. But in the end, friends care. It's just that sometimes they don't know how to deal with it.
    • Linea, p. 307, Ch. 12 Clarity
  • In this journey I am reminded to relish each moment of peace and joy and believe that more such moments are coming. Life goes on with all its unpredictable pain, and also with joyous surprises. My work is to let go of the fear and agony of the past few years and to trust in the future.
    • Cinda, p. 315, Epilogue
  • illness called "bipolar disorder"...doesn't define us. It has challenged us and, in so many ways, enriched our lives. We have not turned away from loving each other.
    • Cinda, p. 316, Epilogue
  • ...suicide is not something selfish. It is not something you choose. It comes at you, a force of its own that you may be able to ward off, but that can take hold of you, stealing your power to fight it off. It is so strong that you have to fight with your entire self to keep it at bay. It is something that many cannot fight when their illness takes control. Suicide is a symptom of illnesses that may be preventable with treatment.
    • Linea, p. 317-318, Epilogue
  • ...I was not my bipolar. I realized the power of words. I realized that by saying "I have bipolar" instead of "I am bipolar," I was myself with an illness, not myself defined by my illness.
    • Linea, p. 318, Epilogue
  • It is important to be honest with yourself and your life. It is important to share your truth so that we can all learn from one another ...It is important for our youth to know what this illness is so that they can create a world free of stigma. A world where people can share their feelings and worries. Where an illness of the brain is as important as an illness of the body. We must share our truths.
    • Linea, p. 319-320, Epilogue

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