All Categories

Perfect Chaos A Daughter's Journey to Survive Bipolar, a Mother's Struggle to Save Her

Linea Johnson and Cinda Johnson

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

336 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

The Johnsons were a close and loving family living in the Seattle area—two parents, two incomes, two bright and accomplished daughters. They led busy lives filled with music lessons, college preparation, career demands, and laughter around the dinner table. Then the younger daughter, Linea, started experiencing crippling bouts of suicidal depression. Multiple trips to the psych ward resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and it took many trial runs of drugs and ultimately electroshock therapy to bring Linea back. But her family never gave up on her. And Linea never stopped trying to find her way back to them.

Perfect Chaos is the story of a mother's and daughter's journey through mental illness towards hope. From initial worrying symptoms to long sleepless nights to cross country flights and the slow understanding and rebuilding of trust, Perfect Chaos tells Linea's and Cinda's harrowing and inspiring story, of an illness that they conquer together every day. It is the story of a daughter's courage, a mother's faith, and the love that carried them through the darkest times.


Praise for Perfect Chaos

"Perfect Chaos is an open-eyed, sometimes raw, always astoundingly honest account of a family's unanticipated battle with mental illness. Cinda and Linea's awe-inspiring resilience and the sheer courage of their emotional transparency moved me to my core and deepened my empathy for all those touched by mental illness, including beloved members of my own family. It is about the fierce, transformative love between a mother and daughter and how they both learn to share their truths."—Glenn Close, actress and co-founder, Bring Change 2 Mind

"Perfect Chaos is an important gift to those of us who love someone with a mental disorder. A daughter diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her determined mother take us on their often-painful journey to recovery, giving readers a penetrating look into what happens when mental illnesses strike. This inspirational book teaches us the importance of determination, resilience, love and hope. It is a testament to the human spirit that refuses to be defeated by a brain disorder—a must read."—Pete Earley, author of Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

"Perfect Chaos is a memoir of a daughter and mother working together to overcome the daily challenges of living with a mental illness. Through their trials and triumphs, their story provides encouragement and hope for individuals and their families affected by these illnesses."—Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, founder of the Carter Center Mental Health Program and author of Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis

"A remarkable story about remarkable women! Linea and Cinda brilliantly light a path to hope, understanding, and acceptance as they smash through the stigma of brain illness. Be inspired by the strong voice they give to patients, relatives, care-givers, and especially to those unable or afraid to show their wants, needs, hope."—Patrick J. Kennedy, Former United States Congressman and co-Founder, One Mind for Research

"Perfect Chaos is as much a map as it is a memoir, a powerful resource for families and individuals navigating the confusing and painful world of bipolar and mental illness. The dual-narrative of mother and daughter allows for twice the insight and inspiration. From the giddiness of mania, to the crushing depression and yearning to end it all, Linea captures the experience of being bipolar with raw honesty and a fresh voice. Cinda's passages illuminate her life on the sidelines, alternately feeling determined and unshakable or heartbroken and helpless. Her refusal to give up on her daughter, and Linea's will to live, resulted in Perfect Chaos, a brave and realistic, yet life-affirming message of hope to families and individuals living with mental illness."—Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine, authors of Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey through Hell and Back

"Perfect Chaos is the definition of mental illness. I read most of Cinda and Linea's words with tears in my eyes. Living with bipolar disorder myself I didn't find one untrue word, not one exaggeration in this exemplary book, only the truth. This brave and honest book will educate people who have little understanding of mental illness and allow those who live with mental illness a knowing that they are not alone. I have a feeling I'll be buying Perfect Chaos by the case to distribute to those who don't understand."—Jessie Close, co-founder, Bring Change 2 Mind

"Definitely a must-read . . . a well written, clearly told, inspiring story."—

"Lyrically written with razor-sharp honesty, Perfect Chaos is the story of Linea's day-to-day fight with bipolar disorder and her astounding efforts to piece together her life and achieve her own stability and independence."—, Parenting
"A no-holds-barred ‘biography of depression,' based on the alternating journal entries of a mother and daughter . . . The author and her mother describe the evolution of her disease and the difficult struggle they both faced in coming to terms with it. Even though Cinda trained special-education teachers to deal with mental illness, she found it difficult to accept it in her own daughter, a popular high-achiever whose goal was to become a professional musician. This is a gritty account of what it is like to be down in the trenches with mental illness—fighting suicidal thoughts, battling the aftereffects of shock treatment, dealing with medication and its side effects and resisting the temptations of alcohol and street drugs. While Linea was battling for sanity, Cinda and her husband faced the difficult challenge of balancing their desire to protect their daughter with the need to respect her privacy and freedom . . . A simultaneously painful and inspiring page-turner."—Kirkus Reviews
"[Linea] Johnson, diagnosed as bipolar in her 20s, is one of the lucky ones, armed with a caring family, good health insurance, and a strong determination to live, as she describes with her mother in this wrenching story. As she and her mother detail their family's attempts to make sense of the disorder, it becomes clear that mental illness doesn't spare even the most loving homes . . . The journey for Linea and her family is a moving and hopeful one, as they better understand how she reacts to the illness, and realize that being bipolar is only a part of someone's life, not the whole."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


Finally in August we all flew to Chicago and moved Linea into the nation's largest student residence, home to over seventeen hundred students—a mammoth building on South State and Congress just blocks from Michigan Avenue. We...

Read the full excerpt


  • Linea Johnson and Cinda Johnson

  • Linea Johnson is a recent graduate from Seattle University, with a major in English and Creative Writing. Prior to transferring to SU, she completed three years at Columbia University, Chicago, in a musical performance program. Linea recently worked as an intern at the World Health Organization in the Mental Health department. She is a national speaker and writer, advocating for understanding and support for people with mental illness and the elimination of stigma.

    Cinda Johnson, Ed.D., is a professor and director of the special education graduate program at Seattle University. She is also the principal investigator and director of the Center for Change in Transition Services. She is a national leader in the area of transition from high school to post-high school settings for young people with disabilities. She has written articles and book chapters in the area of secondary special education and transition services including youth with emotional and behavioral disorders and mental illnesses.

  • Linea Johnson Jordan Swain
    Linea Johnson
  • Cinda Johnson Jordan Swain
    Cinda Johnson




Download PDF



Go to website


Sign Up