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Actress Patty Duke talks about her life with bipolar disorder]
By Jennifer Mooney Piedra


SISTERHOOD: Actress Patty Duke, right, chats with Cathy Jo Westervelt, left, and Lisa Celestin at the gathering where Duke spoke about living with bipolar disorder.

For years, Jody Johnson wondered what was wrong with her.
Some days, the Coral Springs woman would feel great -- partying into the wee hours of the morning, going on shopping sprees and worrying about nothing.
Other days, she couldn't get out of bed and dreaded the thought of living.
Bipolar disorder, she learned, was to blame.

''You have highs and lows,'' said Johnson, 45, of the mental disorder that alternately causes periods of great happiness and great sadness. ``Neither one of them is any fun.''

No one knows that better than Oscar Award-winning actress Patty Duke, who also suffers from the disorder.

Duke, 60, who lives in Idaho, told her story to an audience of about 375 who gathered in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday for the Broward Housing Solutions Peace of Mind Giving Society Luncheon. The agency helps find housing for low-income people with mental illnesses.

''You can be as sick as you could imagine and with the assistance of professional help and dedication, you really can have a life,'' Duke said at the $100-a-plate event at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66, where the agency raised $110,000.

As Duke spoke, Lisa Celestin listened. The 45-year-old with bipolar disorder lives in a North Lauderdale apartment run by Broward Housing Solutions.

When Celestin met Duke at the luncheon, they hugged and exchanged a few words. Duke autographed a copy of her book, A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic Depressive Illness -- another term for the disorder -- and gave it to Celestin.
''She's made it real big,'' Celestin said. ``We're gonna try to climb our way out of this and be like her.''

But Duke, who became famous for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and starred in her own TV series, The Patty Duke Show, said her road to living a ''normal'' life wasn't easy.

As a child actor, while starring in The Miracle Worker, Duke was molested by her manager. She began drinking as a teenager, had promiscuous relationships, and tried to kill herself.
And then there were the mood swings, which took Duke from a feeling of ``euphoria to depression.''

''It was beginning to dawn on me something might be wrong,'' she recalled. ``But the fear of having some type of psychiatric diagnosis made me believe I was better off in this up and down hell than I was being called a psychiatric patient.''
When Duke finally went for medical treatment at age 35, she was relieved to learn she had bipolar disorder -- and was not alone.

Since her diagnosis, Duke has ''religiously'' taken lithium pills -- mood stabilizers for people with the disorder.

Duke's message seemed to impact Cathy Jo Westervelt, 46, who suffers from the disorder and also lives in the Housing Solutions apartment in North Lauderdale.
Westervelt called Duke an inspiration. ''She understands us,'' said Westervelt. ``She said we were sisters because we are both bipolar.''
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