Did Somebody Lose Their Marbles?

Did Somebody Lose Their Marbles?

After shooting the film “The Crucible,” during which I had a manic episode, I returned to Los Angeles and had to find a new agent. I told him at my interview I had bipolar disorder. He said, “Oh, honey, I’ve had actors wander off sets for weeks on a binge. You are the least of my problems.”

Amazing. Could telling the truth be that simple? I changed my diet. I quit eating sugar and white flour and anything that might digest as a sugar… and I became calmer.

I had been writing about these manic episodes and all the recovery I had found around them when my friend Michael Patrick King, the creator of “Sex and the City” and who at the time ran the Arcade theater, said, “Why don’t you turn these stories into a one woman show?”

“Michael,” I said, “I’m too frightened. If everybody finds out I’m bipolar, I may never work again.”

“You just had an episode in front of 400 people. I think the cat is out of the bag.”

“Not really. The people on ‘The Crucible’ were told I had the flu.”

“And you think they bought that?”

“Michael, I’m afraid standing up and talking about these episodes might bring another one on.”

“Just take your meds and keep seeing your doctor.”


Mary Pat Gleason with dear friend, Michael Patrick King.

Mary Pat Gleason with dear friend, Michael Patrick King.

I swallowed my fear and Michael and I began rehearsing the show. We were only a few days into the process when my brother Jack called me and said his youngest daughter, Christy, had a bad fall on her roller blades and had cracked her head on the curb. He was calling from the hospital. Christy was slipping in and out of a coma. Jack asked that we all pray for her, but he didn’t want us to come.

Despite my terror about my niece, I went to Michael’s the next day to rehearse and the second he saw me he said, “What happened?”

I told him about Christy and he said, “I’m afraid this is too much pressure for you. Maybe we shouldn’t do this show?!”

“I’m afraid, too, Michael. But I think it’s important to tell people I don’t have ulcers or the flu. The only way I’m ever going to get some freedom is to tell the truth.”

Just two days before my first performance, I left my apartment to go to rehearsal and I was stopped by a rose bush in the courtyard, enthralled by it’s richness of color, complexity of design, the glint of light on the dew of its petals. It appeared to be breathing beauty. If I can’t handle a single rose petal, how am I going to handle L.A.?

Driving to rehearsal, I stopped at a traffic light and I saw Joan Allen helping Daniel-Day Lewis across the street, dressed as pilgrims.

I knew I was seeing things. Clearly I was between seconds again. I didn’t tell Michael about the visions. When I got home from rehearsal that night, I took a sleeping pill, but I didn’t sleep.

The next day, Michael and I continued to wrestle with the process of rewriting and rehearsing, but it was nearly impossible.

“I feel like you aren’t here,” Michael said. “You’re distracted!”

“Of course I am, Michael. I’m holding Christy’s hand.”

“What do you mean you’re holding her hand?!”

“My heart is in Atlanta with my brothers and his daughter while she struggles with this coma.”

“I need you here.”

“I am here, Michael!”

So we continued to work.

That night, at home in my apartment, I couldn’t sleep. I was up worrying… feeling that my niece, Christy, was hooked up to me. That the blow to her head had somehow made her electromagnetically or psychically connected to me in my manic state. I believed she was trying to heal me. I felt when I was sane and relaxed, Christy was in the coma, and when I was hallucinating… Christy was out of her coma.

I didn’t know how to break that connection so I began to pray. My whole body heated up like a hot flash, only worse… more intense. It wouldn’t let up. I got into a cold shower. When I got out, the burning returned immediately. This continued for hours. That whole night was a trial of fire and water.

The only way I could see to unhook from Christy was to end the connection, and the only way I could see to end the connection was… to end my life. I took all the medication I had. Then I laid down, fully clothed and calmly went to sleep.

I came to in the shower. Two of my friends, Linda and Mary, had come over to take me to my psychiatrist’s appointment. When they couldn’t wake me, they put me in the shower.

I asked them, “Am I alive?”

Mary said, “What do you mean?? What have you done??”

I spent the opening night of my show in the locked psych ward of UCLA. The only person who showed up for that performance was Michael Patrick King. I saw him kind of winding his way down the hallway, holding a card in his hands, and he was saying, “This could be funny… or this could be awful.”

I opened the card and on it was a picture of beautiful marble cat’s eyes. Inside it read… “Did somebody lose their marbles?”

For a moment, I was shocked. Then we both laughed ‘til we cried.

With that card, Michael lifted the shame of my attempted suicide. With our shared laughter he set me free again.

A year later, my niece Christy was fully recovered.

I faced my fear and shame, my family’s fear, the medical community’s concern; and successfully performed this show.

You can’t heal what hides in shame in the dark. It must be drawn into the light. I believe your wound is your gift. I believe bipolar disease is my gift. But I have to see it that way. Otherwise your wound is just a wound. If we remove the shame around mental illness, if we can speak of it in public without fear of being punished, perhaps we have a chance of finding a cure.

Thank you all for your attention and your light!


About the Author:

Mary Pat Gleason (Performer/Playwright) has had the pleasure of working with many great directors including Steven Soderbergh on the film TRAFFIC. Her other film appearances include WRISTCUTTERS, THE ISLAND, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, THE CRUCIBLE, A CINDERELLA STORY, EVOLUTION, A WALK IN THE CLOUDS, LORENZO’S OIL, SOAP DISH, BASIC INSTINCT, DEFENDING YOUR LIFE, FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY, and MARILYN HOTCHKISS BALLROOM DANCING & CHARM SCHOOL. Gleason has appeared in Hallmark Hall of Fame’s A SEASON FOR MIRACLES and Movies of the Week such as THE WEST SIDE WALTZ, CHILDREN OF THE DARK, and KILLING KENNEDY. Throughout her many years in the business, Mary Pat has guest-starred on virtually every television season including: MOM, GILMORE GIRLS, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, SEX IN THE CITY, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, MURPHY BROWN, NYPD BLUE, ER, FRIENDS, WILL & GRACE and LA LAW. In regional theatre she has appeared in SPACE at Mark Taper Forum, GROWING GRACEFULLY at the Tiffany Theatre, ONLY A KINGDOM at the Pasadena Playhouse, A STREETCARE NAMED DESIRE at George Street Playhouse, PLAZA SUITE at Meadowbrook Theatre, JITTERS at Walnut Street Theatre, TARTUFFE, LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, and THE RUNNER STUMBLES at Cohoes Music Hall, and FRANKIE AND ANNIE at Manhattan Theatre Club. Mary Pat played Jane Hogan on GUIDING LIGHT and won an Emmy for editing the show in 1986. She was invited to HBO’s 1999 Comedy Festival in Nancy Shayne’s production of TWO BITTER WOMEN IN A COFFEE SHOP.


  1. Reed E Rudy February 9, 2017 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    You are a beautiful woman. Right now, after reading that, you have brought me to a remarkable place. The body is alive, literally tingling all over. You’re bi-polar disease must be a gift, because you have an endless stream of them.

  2. David Windsor February 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    I remember seeing the show. It was brilliant and devastating. What a gift you are. I miss you.


  3. Rachel February 9, 2017 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    This is beautiful. You are full of magic and light and all the good things. Xoxox

  4. Becky Brosseau February 9, 2017 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    What a huge blessing your story is Mary Pat . Such honesty and candor will surely help a multitude of others!
    God Bless you for sharing.

  5. Michele Krebs February 10, 2017 at 6:34 am - Reply

    So beautiful, Mary Pat. You are a truly wondrous person, caring of the world, caring for those around you and those you don’t know. I haven’t seen you in years but your light still shines when I think of you.

  6. Robyn February 10, 2017 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Your show was brave, beautiful and funny.
    Eye opening experience. Unforgettable. Xo

  7. Liz Johnson February 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Mary Pat:
    I can’t remember the last time I saw you – I am sure I was in junior high or high school. I just read your story and am so proud of you and your wonderful accomplishments!! You are such a strong woman and touch the hearts of everyone you meet! I am keeping you in my prayers!
    With love, Liz McDonald Johnson (one of Maddie McDonald’s twins)

  8. Bud Horwath February 10, 2017 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    I am glad the suicide attempt did not work Mary Pat because I would have lost a good friend to whom I have not spoken with in a few years and the world would have lost a wonderfully amazing person whose life has been a testament to all who have had mental diversity theirs.
    I had addictions and things including massive depression which people in a job I had though was something else. I stopped taking the meds because I had lost control of my emotions and that was a bad thing. I went back to Lord Jesus to get help with my problems and He has been helping me for years. You on the other hand did what I only thought I wanted to do and that was to let people know that having a mental problem is not easy and being part of a family with that in our lives is extremely hard to cope with. Your experience was worse than anything I felt and you have come from the depths back to near normal to tell us about it. There are so many people who would have never been able to understand if you had not written this and made your Documentary. I am happy that you are still part of the world. Thank You!

  9. Mary O'Keefe February 11, 2017 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Bless you for sharing your story, Mary Pat! The world is a better place with you in it. Dan and I always love seeing you on the big screen and love your delightful sense of humor. I remember when Christy had her accident and it’s such a joy to be connected with her now on FB and see her doing so well. Keep being such a bright light in the world.

  10. Michael Lacy February 12, 2017 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Mary Pat for sharing your story. I remember from our young school days in St Paul. I remember you always had a wonderful smile. You would light up a room with it. I, too, hope you get your show completed and start performing your story. It would be wonderful if you brought it home to St Paul someday.

    Stay strong, and peace,
    Mike Lacy

  11. Kathy (Charles)McMahon February 12, 2017 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    An amazing story you have shared with all who have followed your career. The wonderful part is your survival after your attempt. I thank God as all of us do, that you are still in our midst and thriving. I see FB posts with our Joed friend that I love seeing. Keep up the good work. Maybe see you at a reunion? That would be fun. Take care, Mary Pat

  12. Carol Sorvig March 2, 2017 at 12:25 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your courage and honesty! What a paradigm shift to think of your bipolar as a gift! Truly it has given you endless material from which to create.

  13. Mary Gwen Schreck Dombrowski May 17, 2017 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Dear Mary Pat,
    You might remember me as your sister Roxanne’s friend from Lake City. You were a little girl. I probably folded your diapers while Roxanne read her book. Your Mom wouldn’t let her come out to play until she had done all her work so I did her chores!
    I have a daughter who has dealt with depression and a suicide attempt, and now she is giving a talk about her journey at a Spiritual Wellness event in Sun Valley, Idaho in a few weeks. You and she and Roxanne and I have so much to be grateful for…our faith, our tenacity and the love and support for each other.
    I never asked you to friend me on FB because I was afraid you might think I’m just another celebrity seeker, but
    I love Roxanne and all your work and it makes my day when I catch you bu surprise on some show.

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