Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sane Enough to Know I'm Not: Introduction

The individual who coined the phrase “you never see anything on the Interstate” must have just finished driving through Kansas. In all directions are fields of grain which dance with wind that never takes a break. Trees, probably planted to break the never ending bluster, have few leaves. The highest structures are an occasional silo or overpass.

The state with its hard working farmers and wonderfully warm and friendly people is flat, boring and monotonous as hell.

I left Kansas City, elev. 774 ft., one sunny morning and headed west for Denver and the beautiful majestic Rocky Mountains. After passing through Topeka the monotonous terrain began to cause my eyes to droop and my spirits to sag. With each mile it became increasingly hard to stay awake and it took every ounce of will power to concentrate on the driving.

My body began to feel sluggish and I had to fight to stay awake. I yawned, I squirmed, I opened the windows and turned the volume up on the CD player and then switched to the radio searching for some upbeat music. Nothing helped and the noise of the music was more an irritant than a benefit, so I turned it off. And then I turned it on again. Off again,on again. I just wanted to crawl into a warm cocoon and go to sleep for a long, long time.

For hundreds of miles of unbearable boredom I battled the overwhelming desire to snooze. I tried gallantly but unsuccessfully to fight off the sinking spirits which were threatening to consume the whole of my body and mind. As hard and fast as I tried to drive there was this little black cloud that seemed to be weighing down the car and its driver and pulling them back. The speedometer read 80 mph but it felt more like a sluggish 35.

By the time I reached Colby the little cloud had turned into a huge black turbulent mass that sat on top of bright blue skies. Perfect conditions for a tornado. The car automatically headed for the little town out in the middle of nowhere and to the well-known motel that I already knew offered solace in the way of solid food, lively music and drinks as powerful as the ones at the Denver Press Club. I had a good time with my old friend Jack for a few hours before crawling into that cocoon I had longed for all during the day.

The sky is endless in Kansas and the next morning the sun shone brightly as I headed for my car. Just as I was getting in I noticed my little black companion hovering nearby. I knew I was looking forward to more of the same and sank into the driver’s seat feeling totally deflated. More boredom. More tediousness. More flat land. More depression.

Over 200 miles later, I stopped in Burlington, Colorado for gas and a bite to eat. The man behind the counter bragged about their historic carousel. “Not bad for a tiny town on the plains with an altitude of 4,219 feet,” he said. An altitude of 4,219 feet? Who was he kidding? Not once did I feel I was gaining in altitude.

Even though eastern Colorado is a mirror image of western Kansas, I began to feel a tingle of excitement as I started out once again. My spirits rose higher and higher with each mile and the little black cloud began to dissipate. I slammed down on the gas pedal and soared toward Denver. No longer did the car feel sluggish. No longer did I feel lethargic. No longer did I feel flat. I was flying. I was in control.

Several hours later I could see the snowy peaks of the Rockies and became even more excited but didn’t dare drive any faster. And then the Denver skyline started taking shape and I could hardly contain myself. I was about to burst wide open and began singing at the top of my lungs with Willie, “On the Road Again.” God, it felt good to feel good.

Since I had a few days before I had to report back to work I recklessly decided to head for Estes Park, the "Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park." I couldn’t contain my energy and impatiently honked at Sunday-go-to-meeting drivers as I barreled past giving them the International Sign Language. Once I got through Boulder the traffic thinned and I was Queen of the Road. I drove up steep curvy mountain roads as if I was back on the flat straight interstate in Kansas.

I was euphoric. I was energized. I was as manic as a gerbil on a perpetual motion machine. My mind was taking off in flights of one fancy after another. I was going to do this, buy that and create this, that and the other. In the meantime I kept increasing my speed. I was no longer in control.

The crash was sudden and hard. I went careening down a steep embankment into a big black hole where the sun didn’t shine.

NOTE: Congress declared the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1990. Because of all the voodoo surrounding this subject I am going to dedicate a few posts to bipolar illness over the next few days. It is what I know best. I hope I can bust a few myths for anyone who cares to read about it.


  1. That's an interesting, well-written recollection, L.P.

    I can tell you from experience East and West, rolling countryside can become monotonous, whether it's vast prairies of potato-growing country, wheat-growing country or just grass, brush and trees. The monotony quotient doubles in winter.

  2. Well you have me hooked, Leslie. I eagerly await more.

    This subject is important to me, since my mother suffered from mental illness all her life.

  3. SW: I have driven this route 100 times or more, but I wasn't trying to recollect as much as to make an anology between it and bipolar mood swings. But yes, it is an excrutiatingly boring drive. The only one I've ever made that is worse is in the NW corner of Colorado.

    Shaw: Thanks. I feel as if I just stepped out of my closet without any clothes on. ; )

  4. Nice story indeed Leslie, except for the crash. As far as the bi-polar thing ... I do question it only because I have known so many folk's that were diagnosed with this, and are pumped with drug's/ prescription's, and question it, because some seem quite normal to me, and think they have this I think simply because they were told they do ... sometime's I think the only sane people , are the psychiatrist's who determine everyone else is insane from their therapeutic office's. People get up and they get down ... it natural. We live in sometime's a confusing society we created and is difficult to grasp all the same. I'll put a lid on it though.

    BTW ... as far as the driving thing ... that happen's to me at night ... as far as the drifting off, I have to shake my head alot and such to brush off the white line fever, that's why alot of time's on weekend's when I drive the nost rural ... like to Houston, Waco, Austin or whatever ... I will spend the night too at one of the many roadside motel's .. their usually clean and cheap, but I've done the road quite a bit across America, some Canada and Mexico as well .... geeezz ... that sure id some beautiful country up that way in the Colorado Mountain's ... quite a sight ... I remember stopping off to get a cup of coffee, have a smoke, etc ... and I was so high up .... it looked like I was level with dozen's of mountain peak's in the distance.

    BTW ... this whole area of Kansas... well up to Illinois and such all the way down to the Gulf ... was an ancient sea at once, million's of year's ago ... Kansas was simply the floor of the sea .... the two mountain range's from what I gather ... I reckon Appalachia (spelling?) and Rockies ... were the coastline's on the east and west. Back a few decade's when they were building the first subway tunnel's in Dallas, the worker's were overcome by methane gas, and couldnt figure out why, 12 stories underground with no line's ... scientist's came in and found there was a bunch of huge ancient sea turtle's causing it.

    Later Leslie ....

  5. RC: Thanks for the comment. I am not going to respond to the bipolar parts here because I'll be addressing these very issues in the following posts. I hope they will help clarify some of your misconceptions - and those of millions of others - about this illness.

  6. you had me on the edge of my chair! First thoughts were of Kansas, by birthplace. My moms family is there, her and my dad met there and married. What a lifetime ago....
    Most of what I know about Kansas is they are conservative and even to the extreme. I'm talking about my own relatives!

    should be very interesting to read your personal story of struggles and triumphs!

  7. Anyone else having connection troubles with Blogger recently?

    Sue: Afterall, it is Phelps and Bob Dole country. But I always found the natives kind and friendly - unlike their neighbors to the south of them.

    I'm really interested more in education and knocking down old myths but sometimes we have to show by example.

  8. I know that feeling of interminable excruciating boredom from countless trips thru Nevada. Scrub brush and nothing else. Mile after painfully boring mile.

  9. Oso, sweetie. I think I need to clarify. The trip is meant to be an analogy of the mood swings I experience due to bipolar. How I go from feelings of dullness and depression to those of mania and exhiliration. Think I need to add a clarifying phrase to the title. I'm sorry.

  10. You're a really good writer!

    Mental illness is not a laughing matter, but it should not stigmatize one either. Bipolar people must actually be more self-aware to keep themselves on an even keel and the meds.

    You've written about it beautifully, and it all took place in my stomping grounds!

    Props for staying on top of it all and not letting it beat you down.

  11. Thank you SF. That is very nice of you. Yes, we must be more aware of ourselves, constantly monitoring any mood changes. Probably this just adds to the perception that we are narcissistic but it can't be helped. It's truly necessary to our survival. Thank you for stopping by.

  12. tnlib, I got it that your trip was a way of illustrating the mood swings. That's what I was alluding to in saying it's well written. I didn't get into bipolar disorder because, frankly, I'm not all that qualified to comment on it, especially not to someone who's lived with it.

  13. Thank You Leslie ... I will actually look forward to that, since this has been of interest to me. You see ... what I am saying from my perspective is ... I and everyone else has day's where were happy, sad, angry, etc. Although I have known some folk's that were on I think it's called "Prozac"(?) ... (if that is one of the treatment drug's"?), but 3 gal's I know in particular ... all from different background's, and very different perspective's and personalities, have told me that they were bipolar, and this was why they got angry or bad mooded or whatever at time's( they could get a lil rough at time's, and not in a fun or fantasy type roleplay or anything, but really rough, I get angry myself though and outspoken, I just dont throw household item's at folk's head's doing so, then later their fine, didnt mean it, etc, etc and tell me it's because of their illness ) . I tried talking to all 3 of them at one time or another, since everything they done daily was quite normal, as far as working, etc ... I mean ... they didnt seem mentally deficient to where they couldnt function, and actually at time's had a great personality, just thought a lil depressed or something at time's I reckon ... so I was I reckon trying to convince them that these shrink's tell them their f'd up, and they start thinking to it, and there are self therapies instead of these pharma drug's that you can try to excercise. No ... I'm not anti pharma ... but know that 10's of 1000's of foster children are diagnosed improperly with this ADD, and are being pumped full of drug's which I have touched on some, and will more ... as far as the racket behind this business, especially in Texas and California.

  14. SW: I came back to urge you to read what comes after. All I'm really trying to do is explain what is not easily explained because there are so many facets to BP and to help "educate" a little - maybe?

    RC: My answeers to all this will be in my posts.

  15. I have an anxiety disorder and went through an episode of depression caused by getting off of anxiety medications cold Turkey and by not dealing with a traumatic event. I turned to get help for my post traumatic stress disorder and depressive episode and things began to really fall into place. The depression went away (extremely slowly) and the anxiety started coming back. I tried with the help of a therapist to face those things that cause the anxiety and I can now say that I take no medications for anxiety. Does this mean I am better or fixed? NO. This means that I no longer hide it from myself and like myself for me AND if I need medication again, I can feel safe about taking it for a specific period of time. I get down sometimes but not like before and I can avoid triggers and surround myself with people who do not judge mental illness as leprosy.

    I had no idea that there was anything declared by Congress for this. This is great. Thanks for the post.


  16. Phillip: Thanks for commenting. To take meds or not - that is the big question and the cause of much controversy - and it's definately something I'm going to touch on at some point.

    Sounds like you've taken the right steps. Avoiding those dang ole triggers is so important; they drive me nuts, so to speak. I'm glad for you.

    As I've said before and will say again and again, there is so much ignorance surrounding these disorders. Stay tuned.

  17. BJ recommended this to me, and I'm glad she did. My sister-law-has been diagnosed bi-polar for years. When she first started having symtoms(probably 25 years ago) she was diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia. At times she would be so medicated, she would be in a daze. Over time and with different doctors, she is being treated for bi-polar, is off of most of the meds, and is doing well. We are very proud of her, and my brother has been so patient. I will be very interested to read coming posts.

  18. Annelle: I love to read "happy endings" - meaning a calm place - like yours and Phillip's.
    If you read my next post, which I just put up, it's easy to see how people get misdiagnosed. As far as being over medicated, that used to be the case but not so much anymore - except in maybe extreme measures where the patient is just so far gone the docs need to get them stabilized before they begin easing off the meds. Thanks for reading and commenting and I'm so happy for your sis-in-law. It ain't curable but it can be managed - just like diabetes.

  19. BJ recommended this to me also. Great writing. Twenty-five plus years ago, Tiny had back injury diagnosed as "emotional and psychological" and sent to a psychiatrist who drove her over the edge. First time in her life she was not allowed to go to the type of doctor she needed to see. That's a long story she will not go into here. But some doctors will try to convince you that your pain is mental instead of physical. This is when she would love to find a good psychiatrist for them!

    Tiny is pretty sure she has a daughter with BP disorder that was escalated by alcohol and cocaine. Although she if off both, Tiny did not see a change in the behavior. Kind of like someone who quit alcohol but didn't do their inner work and are known, in the business, as a dry drunk.

    Tiny looks forward to, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story."

  20. Tiny: Most people with bipolar self-medicate. I turned into a marathon alcoholic but finally realized I needed to quit. I'd like to think that my behavior has improved because I did quit, because I've been very fortunate to have top-notch mental health professionals and because I take my meds.

  21. Lelsie. I'm now glad I've been absent for awhile. I get to read these back to back non-stop. There's something to be said about laziness :-).

    I love the Rockies. We lived in Durango for several years. I posted here:

    if you're interested in reading about it.

    And, we lived in KS for one horrific year. You're right, that drive can paralyze you within 10 minutes.

  22. BB: Thanks. I hope you enjoy them.

    The Durango area is absolutely gorgeous - especially the Colorado National Monument.

    Of course I'm interested in your post. Will be right there.

  23. WOW! You visited me on OS. I'm duly honored Leslie. Thanks

    You should stop by OS more often, there are some incredibly artistic writers to read and you'd fit right in with them.