I don’t even know how to begin to write about this book and I’m still having trouble shaking this story from my mind. Dr. Perry Baird was by all accounts a brilliant doctor and was doing some ground breaking experiments trying to discover a biochemical root in manic depression. He had a thriving practice as a dermatologist, a wife and two young daughters and scores of friends. He also was manic depressive himself and had endured some stays in mental hospitals. Much of this book is comprised of Perry’s own writings, which Ms. Baird received from a distant relative some 40 years after her father’s death. I found these pages to be so compelling and moving.
When he was in a manic episode, he would remove himself from the family home and take up residence at the Ritz-Carlton, to spare his family. During one such episode, in February of 1944, he set out for a walk in the Boston Public Gardens.
“I ran short distances and leaped wildly over the broad flowerbeds. Anyone who might have seen me from the hotel would have thought my behavior a little unrestrained. I felt wonderful but restless, feverishly overactive, impatient.”
Later that same day, takes a cab to his home, but his wife and daughters are not home, so he heads out back and over the fence into a deer park where he proceeded to try to outrun the deer. When he finally ends up at the Country Club where he was a member, it’s not long until he is met by the State Police: he’s being commited to Westborough State Hospital. His account of his stay there is at times harrowing and always riveting. Ms. Baird does frame the material with some background and her responses to these findings. Much of her father’s illness and history had long been a family secret, and she only saw him once before his death in 1959. It may have taken decades but she was finally able to do right by her father. I hope she is finding a measure of peace in this.