More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
My Life: Patty Duke
by Stacie Berg, Everyday Health

Everyday Health: How did you feel when you received your diagnosis?

Patty Duke: I guess it was my usual pattern to be different, meaning I was thrilled. I was ecstatic, because I think I had isolated myself for so long it seemed as if I was the only one. The fact that what I was feeling had a name meant other people knew about it. And then to know that it had a treatment — I was over the moon. The sense of relief was immeasurable.

Everyday Health: What was your darkest moment?

Patty Duke: Upwards of five [suicide attempts before being diagnosed]. I came to understand that those attempts were not so much that I wanted to be dead, but that I wanted to be out of pain. It's so funny that I should have attempted suicide at all, because I had a lifelong, daily phobia about death.

Everyday Health: Since starting treatment with lithium, have you had any mood swings or is it total steadiness?

Patty Duke: What I have is balance, and to me that means I react appropriately to a stimulus. If there's a death in the family, I grieve, but I don't go to the level that I did before. When the natural progression of grief is over, it's over. I don't stay down there. Same thing with joy. I can be just as excited as I've ever been, but I don't have to go that extra mile to uncontrollable destruction.

Everyday Health: Do the changes of the seasons affect you?

Patty Duke: I've only been paying attention since the medication and the treatments began. I do notice a kind of "schlump" in winter. Because I'm aware of it, I put myself in situations where it's not as dreary as it looks out the window. But winter is hard for me; I accept far more traveling engagements, especially when they're in places like Florida. I also have a lot of light in my house. We've put in six or eight skylights.

Everyday Health: Does the holiday season have an impact on you?

Patty Duke: It varies [depending] on what's going on in our family and extended families' lives. I certainly become melancholy. I can walk into [a store] where they're playing Christmas carols and get a little teary.

Everyday Health: On a daily basis, do you have certain coping skills you use?

Patty Duke: I find that in recent years it has become really important for me to be active. The days of lying in bed watching TV or reading catalogues are long gone, because it is necessary for me to get my feet on the floor and do [something]. After I had started some projects in the house, and started getting up early, I noticed, "Oh, this is better."

Everyday Health: What's been the biggest help throughout the years?

Patty Duke: My husband. We have a unique situation - we spend literally 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. When we had our twenty-first anniversary, I said, "Oh no, it should be the forty-second!" There are times when I find myself going off to a corner of the house just to be able to think my own thoughts for a minute. With him, who you see is who he is, and he's that all the time. Sure, he has human emotions and reactions to things, but there is a constancy about him. He has a stable personality. He's definitely dependable. He also glows almost with a loving kind of aura. And not just with me. He's genuine.

Everyday Health: Do you need adjustments of your lithium dosage?

Patty Duke: Occasionally. About ten years ago I was kicked in the head by my horse, something that the rest of the family would love to have done! I had a concussion and a fractured skull. [The clinicians] noticed from my blood work that my lithium level was off the charts, so they cut it in half. I still take half the dosage I took when I started.

Everyday Health: How can families help a loved one get treatment and stay on his or her meds?

Patty Duke: They have to go back to the professionals. Some families choose to just let it bottom out, and yeah, that works, but in the meantime there will be mayhem. We are overly sensitive to what we [view] as judgment. If it's presented in a way that is as nonthreatening as possible, sometimes that works. But my experience has been that you've got to go back to the drawing board. Also, I like to think that [it helps] when people hear from me that I have always taken my medicine, I am not a zombie, I still have the personality quirks that I've always had, and I am at least as artistic as I've ever been.

Everyday Health: What do you want others to learn from your experience?

Patty Duke: That there is hope. To know that someone else got out of the pit and is functioning is vital.


Patty Duke's story was one of the first I heard years ago about a celebrity creating awareness about mental illness. I have found her story and her openness personally inspiring.

Anybody remember who was Patty Duke's first husband whose marriage suffered due to her illness not being diagnosed in the early years?

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Yep. Astin (can't recall the first name but he was a character on Barney Miller in his later career) - and they had a son, Sean Astin, who was also an actor as a teenager.


That would be John Astin "I'm feeling much better now". I loved the character he played

but he was a character on Barney Miller in his later career

Nope! It was as Judge Harry Stone's father, Buddy the eccentric former mental patient on Night Court.

I believe we had this conversation before :hissyfit:


Reference: John Astin - Wikipedia
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