Patty Duke’s son, Sean Astin, said this about his mother upon her passing: “Ultimately, her colossal energy and indomitable spirit charged her life and bolstered the sense of purpose and intention that defined her existence. Through countless and often agonizing struggles, she was a deeply committed and tireless WARRIOR.”
Like many teenage boys in the 1960’s, I watched the Patty Duke show because of the appeal of its star. She was cute, lively and enormously talented, having already become the youngest Oscar winner up to that time. As I watched her performances appreciatively, I had no idea of the suffering she was masking.
By the time she was 8 her deeply troubled parents had already sent her away to live with a tragically abusive husband-and-wife team who managed child actors. Patty’s own psychological problems became more and more severe and her behavior more disturbing. She suffered depression, anxiety attacks, eating disorders and suicide attempts. Her suffering affected others, including husbands and children as well as friends and co-workers. Perhaps most terrifying of all was that she did not understand what was wrong with her until 1982, when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, known then as manic depression.
Once she realized that her suffering was caused by a real disease that could be described and treated, she identified it as an enemy that needed to be conquered. More importantly, she committed to helping other people conquer that enemy. This took extraordinary courage, because at the time she came forward to publicly discuss her disease, famous people were expected to keep quiet about such “weaknesses.” The fact that celebrities can now discuss their private challenges more freely in order to help others is in part thanks to the courage of pioneers like Patty Duke.
“Unleashing human performance” – an endeavor we admire at Forrest Performance Group – takes courage, patience, perseverance and sacrifice in order to step out of our comfort zone and break through the walls that threaten to imprison us. It requires us to get back up when we’re knocked down, and to stand with our backs straight when we’ve been humiliated. These virtues become even more valuable when they’re combined with generosity.
Patty Duke’s life was tough and her accomplishments were great. My fascination with her as a teenager has deepened into admiration for how much good she did and the price she paid to do it. She maintained her stature as a great performer and became an inspiration for millions of others to accomplish more than they believed was in them. I am grateful to her for the number of ways she demonstrated the beauty of “human performance unleashed.”
Author: FPG One-on-One Coach RICH TILLER.
Here’s to earning what you’re worth!
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