Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Valley of Fear: Chronicles of the Bi-Polar Reporter

“The Chronicles of the Bi-Polar Reporter”

The Valley of Fear

By Laura J. Hart

Chapter 1

Welcome to Temerosa

“You look like shit,” Larry the lump head was telling me as we made our way up the stairs of our new humble abode.

“I’m really grateful to know that, Larry, as my self esteem frequently requires a good toughening up.”

Larry looked around at the mobile home, or the rectangle as I call it. He peaked his head round every corner, of which there were two, and finally declares, “You, Hannah Bennet, reporter, are officially white trash.”

“No, that occurred when I picked you up years ago. Looks like I really have let myself go.”

Larry, a newspaper photographer, had left our former town to follow me on my quest for inner peace.

How we found this place is another story. We literally took out a map- a coin, and a highlighter. After rounds of coffee- a lot of yelling and arguing, we had two choices selected.

That was quite a feat considering how large the state California is and all the possibilities.

Taken into the equation was the fact that I began suffering from some unknown illness which requires that I have the least amount of stress possible.

However, I could not count out working because it was strongly ingrained in me. If I’m not writing, investigating or researching, I’m usually in trouble. But then again, I must admit, even then I’m in some sort of trouble.

Here in this mountain community nestled above the smog and business of city life, I came to heal myself.

The mobile home with a view of the massive lake and surrounding craggy mountain tops seems like a good place to start relaxing.
“Let’s go get the moving truck and the movers and get this thing settled,” Larry says, pacing around in the front yard under the expansive shade tree.

“It’s hot up in these mountains, not like the beach.” He grumbled.
Larry makes a call and moments later an orange and white truck backs into the drive.

I surveyed the contents as they came off the truck. Three sweaty guys were being dogged by Larry as they unload his precious computer and photo equipment.

The largest guy, probably a little old for the work, but muscular arms and legs went with the gray specks in his hair.

“Be careful with that one,” Larry points to the home made label indicating the contents were, I guess, precious.

“I got it, man, don’t worry,” the mover reassures an unreassurable Larry.

I watch the spectacle of all this from a chair with a glass of lemonade in my hand. I had nothing to say about the move, but I’m thinking pretty hard about what I’m going to do now that I’m here.

Larry nervously takes a break with me to have a few gulps of the powdered lemonade that came out of the trunk of the car.

As night fell, the truck was empty and the cartons stacked and organized in the various rooms.

A bed with no sheets or pillows was dumped on the floor of what would be considered a master bedroom, and we raced to get on it. We rolled over on our sides, looking at each other.

“Okay, so we are here,’ I was sighing.

“This is what you need, Hannah, rest, you’re sick.”

Since I flatly refuse to be sick, I say nothing more than, “I will get better you know, I always do.”

“Just to be clear here, I think you need some help getting better. I’ve watched your hands shake, your muscle disappear, your attitude- uh well- it’s gotten pretty bad.”

I am too tired to argue with him, but he knows the last time I saw a doctor I ended up with one less cranial nerve in my head.

There are only12, but this one controls visual and physical balance and equilibrium. Though I built my body to offset the loss and kept reading until my eyes couldn’t take it, I still have to be ever vigilant not to fall and stay out of the dark where I have no ability to walk.

“We will talk about it tomorrow,” I conclude our discussion then roll over and go to sleep.

The Sun comes beaming through the east facing windows early which wakes both Larry and I.

We roll off the mattress and take off in two different directions to the bathrooms. After a short time we head into town to look for a coffee shop, breakfast is overdue.

Since we only brought Larry’s little car, and left mine back at the shop in Desparada, we take a spin in his piece of tin onto the main highway surrounding Lake Presbyteria.

As we head to town we pass a sign for the local hospital. Neither of us says anything, but there’s a strong feeling that comes over me as I see the green sign with the arrow.

We make the turn off the highway, now into the edge of what is considered a city, but more like a little town.

We pass a fast food restaurant, making a mental note of where to get a quick meal.

As we continue down the main drag we see a few grocery stores, a pizza place, and finally a small coffee shop, called, “Bertha’s Place.”
“I guess we should try it,” Larry says as he turns into the pot hole ridden parking lot.

The place is bustling as we go in- it’s Saturday morning, and it seems every retired person in this valley is drinking coffee and reading newspapers.
We grab the only available booth situated next to the front door which has a lovely bell attached to it which hits the glass each time someone arrives- which is every two minutes.

A heavy set waitress with black hair tied back, sets some menus on the table with one hand, and fills our coffee cups with the other.
She quickly heads off without saying a word to pour more coffee at some other table.

Larry looking famished closes his menu then slides it to the front of the table.

He’s staring at me while I peruse Bertha’s menu with not much luster. Lot’s of things to do with eggs- which I hate.

I scan the al a carte section and put together my own desired plate. Then I throw my menu on top of Larry’s to wait for our most pleasant server to return for our order.

“What’s our plan for today anyway,” Larry finally says after watching me closely for more than five minutes.

“I’ll tell you we should do some sight seeing. Check out the river, walk by the lake- maybe even take a ride deep into those mountains out there.”

“Okay, sounds good.”

“Could you get me that newspaper that the gentleman left at that table behind us?” I say to Larry who can just reach an arm over the seat and fetch it.

“What do you want with it?” he was questioning.

“To paper train a dog or to use when I sleep on the park bench. What the hell are you asking me for?”

“You know why I’m asking,” he says almost solemnly. “We came here for you to rest. I’ll do the working, you do the relaxing.”

“How the hell do I relax without working?”

“Well, you stick to writing fiction or something else that won’t involve you in any sort of investigations or conflicts.”

Conflicts? What is life without them?

“Listen partner, I’m just thinking about writing some country crap, nothing serious.”

Larry was pondering the idea when our waitress finally returned with pen and paper. We gave the no nonsense waitress our order and went back to our discussion.

“All right, here’s the paper.” He pulls the small publication back as I try to grab it. “There’s more to this deal then you think.”

I sit back against the large crack in the vinyl seat and sigh waiting to hear what my orders are. And I was thinking if I were alone without this other being, there would be no question as to what I would be doing.
“Hannah, we are making an appointment with a local doctor who can look you over and tell us what to do to make you well again. That is why we came here,” he emphasizes looking me straight in the eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, just give me the paper.”

Irritated with me he chucked the damn thing at me, catching me on the chin leaving a slight paper cut.

I open the paper, stretching it out in front of me so I can no longer see Larry or the rest of the crowd.

The waitress came by and pushed our food in front of us while I was laughing at the little backwards newspaper.

“Listen to this Larry, there’s a fishing contest and a story about some high school students on the front page,” I find it amusing.

As Larry chews on his steak and eggs, I go through the paper with a fine tooth comb. I look at the ads which were almost comical. Apparently, there’s a store which sells everything from fishing licenses to household appliances.

I ran through the short list of classified ads which were mostly handyman type ads with a few job listings.

“Hey Larry they need help at the bait and tackle shop, you could do that.” I was saying with my most notorious sarcastic tone.

Larry, like organized people do, already took a job before we even got here. He’s going to freelance his photography- I think some wild life types of pictures. I’m sure his fear of animal life will make that a short term assignment. But at least he has a job.

We finished up our first breakfast in the town of Temerosa, leaving a decent tip, and grabbing the little newspaper on the way out.

The tour began around the dam of the lake and ended an hour later back at the house. Larry was ready to unpack.

We spent the next two days arranging our trailer, but most importantly setting up all the computer equipment. We were both junkies when it came to those things. We could no longer live without checking our email.

When Monday rolled around, Larry was ready with his plans for me.
“Okay, today we go to the local clinic and you will be seen by a doctor.”

I was looking blankly at him. Actually, I was hoping if I did this long enough he would forget about what he just said to me.

“Hello, are you having a 60’s flashback? Can you hear me?”

“I take umbrage to the mention of the sixties when I was only a mere child- not tied dyed in a love fest.”

We leave an hour later on the way to the clinic. We again pass the sign for the hospital and again I have a weird feeling about it. Nothing I can pinpoint, just a feeling.

The clinic looks like an old strip mall with some antique wood siding that looks more rotted than restored.

“I’m already unimpressed here Larry, where did you find this?”

“It doesn’t really matter there’s not much to choose from in these parts of the woods,” he was saying as he pulled the car close to the building.

“I’ll bet the doctor is as old as the building,” I was saying in a minor protest.

We went in to find a waiting room full of people waiting.

“I guess this must be the only game in town,” Larry was observing all the elderly folks lining the chairs. A few small children played at the table full of torn magazines.

We checked in and only a short time later, at least three hours, we were taken into a small examining room where we waited for another hour.

I was sleeping on the exam table and Larry was sitting in a chair his head bent back, when the doctor knocked at the door.

He introduced himself in a friendly way, apologizing for the extended wait. “I’m Dr. Fingle.”

I would say he’s about my age, the middle type- a little overweight and by the bags under his eyes, overworked too.

My attitude was one of distrust- not only because I had been previously damaged with the help of a doctor, but because I knew I was really sick this time and it was getting worse no matter how much I tried to ignore it. That means to me I have to rely on a doctor. Quite a distasteful idea I would say.

I started the conversation complaining about hair loss.

“Do you see this bald spot in the front?” I begin moving my hair to the side so he could see the patch that was missing.

“I’m clogging drains doctor. I have to use a roller on my clothes I’m shedding so much.”

While he was jotting down my complaint I noticed his bald spot on the back of his head.

I’m sure he understands how emotional it is to lose your hair. However, I’m sure his is male pattern balding and not part of some disease process. For a moment I felt sympathy for him that his molting would continue, while mine may just have a chance to be restored.

He continued asking me what my symptoms were and Larry, another male pattern baldness victim, veered the conversation away from the hair into other areas.

“Dr. Fingle, Hannah has lost weight and muscle- she shakes in the mornings hardly able to grasp anything- and quite frankly she’s difficult to deal with, if you know what I mean.”

Fingle pulled out a form and began checking off numerous squares then handed it to us.

“We need some tests run to see what is going on.”

He then told us to come back in a week, which we did.

This time we had an early appointment and we were escorted right in to the examining room. Dr. Fingle came in right behind us.

“Well, it looks like you have an autoimmune disorder called “Grave’s Disease. It is currently escalating your thyroid which accounts for your symptoms. We will put you on some medicine which will retard the overstimulation of the hormone and then just watch you”

I suddenly remembered that my mother had the same thing when she was young. She had told me the story of her lengthy bout with the disorder. She said it made her crazy. Well, she never had far to go and frankly neither do I.

“What about her irritability doctor- is there anything we can do about that?” Larry tosses his personally important question in the pot.

I was glaring at Larry who never even looked at me, but rather was receiving a sympathetic glance from Dr. Fingle.

“Larry, it might make sense to put her on an antidepressant while we get these symptoms in check.”

“I don’t think I need an antidepressant, thank you. I don’t react well to medications, so I take the least amount possible.”
Fingle cajoled me with some story about how antidepressants have some magical qualities that could help a bitch like me become a little tamer. Okay, he didn’t say it like that, but I was reading between the lines.

“Okay, fine, give me the crap and I’ll try it.” I was just trying to get along at that point. They were two and I was only one.

Back at the trailer, we were preparing a big dinner, as we finally found the box I had mislabeled with all the kitchen ware.

Larry, standing over a grossly large piece of beef, sprinkled garlic and salt then wrapped it tight, and slammed it into the oven.

“You got the salad going, or am I going to have to do that too?”
I think Larry is the one that needs the antidepressant, not me. Maybe I’ll sprinkle it over the salad.

“Salad, chop chop,” I tell Larry as I wield a knife over the unsuspecting vegetables, unable to move or escape.

I scrape the colorful mixture into the ceramic salad bowl and end with a “ta-da.”

We curl up on the futon and begin a wrestling match for the TV remote.

“I’m not watching another fucking documentary, I want something either dramatic or really funny,” he complains.

I can’t remove the remote from his grip so I bite his hand and the thing falls loose.

I then program the history channel to learn more about what Hitler did. We all need to know more about what Hitler did.

“Fuck it, you find something I’ll endure it.” He looked quizzically at me that I gave up on our regular family feud for the remote so quickly.

“Don’t be disappointed, I’ll dominate the television some other time.”

He reached over and put his arms around me, giving me a kiss on my chin putting his saliva right into my paper cut.

“Hannah, I want you back,’ he whispers in my ear.

“I’ll be back,” I reassure him while trying not to sound like the “Terminator.”

We fall asleep together with the TV murmuring in the background.

“Larry I need my car,” I was complaining as he was driving us to the local grocery store.

“I’ll take you wherever you need to go, no problem.”

“Big problem for me though, it means I have to rely on you for transportation. What if I need to storm off or something? You going to throw me the keys and say go drive recklessly in my car.’

There was a momentary pause- I believe he is assessing the potential consequences of lending me his car.
“Well, you’ve got a point there.”

I knew it- you can play with his dick, but don’t fuck with his car.
“Let’s go buy a car, that’s the answer. I’ll sell the Mustang and get some sort of vehicle. Maybe a funny squared off one- or some retro car.”

“Or you could be practical like me and just go for the gas mileage.”
Practical in my mind sounds like something less than fun.

“Yeah, I’ll let you be practical, and you let me, well, do what I do.”

As Larry turns the car into the parking lot of “Groceries- R’- Us” I order him to find a car lot where I can get a vehicle.

“Driver, take me to the “Car Corral” in town, I want to see what they have.”

We pass the front of the store with shoppers exiting with carts of groceries. We stop short as an older woman, dressed up for country living in flannel and cut off’s,  pushes her cart right in front of us as we try to leave.

“Apparently, rudeness is not reserved for the anonymity of big city life.” I was observing as nobody seemed to care that we were trying our best to exit past the bustling store without mowing down the somnambulistic shoppers.
A few miles down the highway we could see the big cowboy hat sign for the car dealership. It looks like a happy place- it even beckons memories of “Cal Worthington” and his used car dealership.  Worthington's TV ads would have him ride elephants- try to hold an aptly clawed tiger cub- or some other animal that would seem to always try to attack him. People bought cars from that jackass just for that reason.

There wasn’t much action in the lot as we pulled in. We walk around looking at the array of used cars and trucks. No salesperson set upon us, which is what I expected. But it became an annoyance after about a half hour that nobody noticed us perusing.

“Hey Hannah, look at this.”

Larry was pointing to a small, red, economy car with tinted windows and some sort of sprockets for hubcaps.

“Yeah, that looks good for you Larry. I’ll find something which will suit me.”

“Suit yourself.”


I walk across the hot pavement, being drawn to a purple Volkswagen, bug. I press my face up against the window and look in to find a dynamic looking stereo installed with the controls on the steering wheel.

Larry, with sweat beading up on his forehead and neck, comes over to see what I’m so interested in.
“Oh, a bug. That would be nice for you.”

I don’t why but I was instantly turned off by that comment. I made my way next to a large, older, convertible.

It’s in need of a paint job, as the barely colored paint had probably been rubbed out until they got to the metal.

The seats were a little weather worn, but still comfortable, as I leap over the door and put my ass snugly into the driver’s seat.

“Oh, god, you like this don’t you,” Larry was commenting before I could say anything.

He continued, as men will do around cars and tools falling into the male domain, “this will break down I will tell you that. And by the looks of it, it wasn’t well maintained.”

“I will maintain it with gas and prayer, that’s all it needs.”

Finally, out of some corner of the lot comes a man with western garb, including a huge belt buckle shaped like a fish.

Larry goes to the middle of the lot to greet him and they shake hands like they know each other.

The barrel shaped man, fit to only walk part of the way across the stretch of vehicles, points to me in this convertible.

I can see him shaking his head- or bobbing like a pigeon- I’m not sure. Then Larry laughs and they amble over to see what I’m doing.
“Hannah, this is Brad, the co-owner of this place.”

I look up at him from the car, both my hands poised on the steering wheel, and I make race car sounds. “Rrrrrrrrrrr, rrrrrrrr, here we go.”
Brad, with round rosy cheeks and specks of food in the corner of his mouth, says that he will make me a deal on this thing.

“All right, Brad, I’ll give you some food stamps and an orange from the trunk of Larry’s car for this thing. What do you say?”

Larry gives me the look of he doesn’t get you, he’s simple.

“Get me the keys Brad, I have places to go. What do you want for this?”

“Well, ma’am, I can say that you look better than the car, but if you want it, I’ll put some numbers together.”

“You do that Brad.”

Larry and I raced back home, me in my outdated convertible, my dirty blonde hair blowing and almost strangling me in the wind.

I arrive first parking my fancy, new, gas guzzler in the prime spot, while Larry maneuvers around fitting his tiny toy car between the tree and the shed.

“I hope you’re happy,” he says exiting his car.

“I’m revved, buddy.”

“At least he gave you a good price is all I can say. That thing will be at the mechanic more than on the road,” he says to me looking at the muffler hanging low and the cracked tail lights.

We hadn’t quite settled in yet, because my cats were not here. And we had the problem of never having lived together before too.

Larry insisted we live together in the same home so he could take care of me. I think he would make a good neighbor. I would always borrow his sugar.

There was some obvious tension between us the first few weeks, spats here and there. But we had settled into some comfortable, ugly arguing which always lead to good sex.

“Wow, Larry, you were really angry and sexy, which is what I like about you.”

Larry got down off the counter, an apple slice from breakfast stuck to his sweaty buttocks, drops to the kitchen floor.

“Hey don’t waste food, eat that.”

He turns to see the apple slice on the floor, then chucks it into the trash. “I’m taking a shower.”

Moments later he is calling me from the bathroom. “Hannah, what is this?”

I open the door to find him holding a bottle of pills.

“My best guess is that is a bottle of prescription medication- I don’t know what do you think?”

Now he knows I didn’t take the antidepressants he so desperately wants me to take. I’m feeling another fight coming on.

“You haven’t taken any of these which I already knew because you’re restless, bored and confrontational.”

“Is that your diagnosis doctor or do you forget that those unwanted traits are ingrained into my personality?”

He pops a pill from the bottle, puts it in his open palm and offers it to me.

“I think you’ll have to stuff that in my mouth then rub my throat to get it down, because that’s the only way I’m taking the damn thing. I’m not eating it out of your hand.”

Well the world is full of surprises, as my less dominant partner grabs me and stuffs the pill down my throat. I had no time to close my mouth, which always stays so prominently open.

“There you go fido,” he says slipping into the steaming shower.

“Payback’s a bitch Larry- you have to sleep sometime.”

I get a glass of water as the capsule was lodged in the back of my throat and I imagine that I had hit the nadir of my existence. I went in and laid down on the futon, forlorn and most likely depressed.

Larry came out of the bathroom- towel wrapped around his waist- water dripping from his hair- and looks at me.

“I’m sorry I had to do that, but it’s for your own good.”

My only answer was keeping my mouth shut and maybe never opening it again. I turned on the TV- hiked the volume up so the dead would wake- and just sat there. 

Much too Happy Hannah

The following morning, after an evening replete with bitterness, I could feel something had changed.

“Hey handsome, let me take you for a spin in my car to get those jelly doughnuts you live for.”

Larry was looking at me like I was another woman he might actually like, but didn’t know.

“Get yourself dressed and we will go adventuring today, my charming companion.”

As I was bustling through the house, picking out clothes, straightening up the clutter, he knew there was something very right, but oh so wrong about this new attitude.
“Where are my keys- would you tell me please- you manly man- with a tight can,” I sang out in the singing voice I was born with that shatters the ears of all living creatures.

“You are pretty happy this morning Hannah. I take it you’re not mad at me anymore then?”

“About what?”

I was living in a moment of true bliss, appreciating everything around me, forgetting anything bad or irritating ever happened in my life.
After a few rounds of “Singing in the Rain” and “I’m so happy I could piss” (I made that one up on the way to the bathroom), we were hopping in my convertible on our way to town.

With the top down we speed down the highway listening to music blaring, but crackling as the speakers couldn’t keep up with the required volume.

“Oh, remember this song, Larry, from the 80’s.”

I keep changing stations as I normally do, but each time a song came on I had to sing along. Larry had never seen this before.

“Aren’t you going to sing Larry? Or are you going to be a sour puss?” I was asking as he seemed to be shocked by something.

“Hannah, honey, baby, I’m beginning to think something strange is happening to you. Don’t take it wrong, but you seem a little 'too' happy, if you know what I mean.”

I hardly heard him as I was hanging my head to the side of the car so the wind would whip up my nose.

“Yahoo! It’s a beautiful day here, God is great.”

I look over at Larry, my face beaming like I had won the lottery. His expression is now one of serious concern.

We screech to a halt on the side of the curvy mountain highway as I slam the brakes like I’m packing the ground with my foot.

“What is the problem Larry? I have none- there are no problems- only ones you create in your mind.” I smile at him wanting him to recognize the great wisdom in what I had just shared with him.
Instead Larry says, “We should go home and talk.”

“No, we should talk here on the side of the road with the majesty of nature surrounding us.” I declare now feeling like I need to be one with everything.

A large truck hauling freshly cut trees rumbles by us, shaking the car, and then spewing us with diesel smoke.

“Doesn’t that make you angry Hannah,” Larry was asking as I didn’t even react to the situation.

“Everyone has a job to do, a place in this world. And I don’t particularly care about anything right now but those two ravens circling overhead. It’s all a matter of perspective I realize.” I say as I crane my neck to watch the birds sailing around in the wind.

“Okay, the Hannah I know would have balled up her hand and extended a middle finger at the driver of the truck. What you are doing is, well, different,” Larry trails off seeming to be confused about what to do with such a happy Hannah.

As Larry is privately pondering his situation, staring intently at the glove box, I get out of the car and climb over the guard rail next to the highway.

Several large boulders jut out over the scenic mountainside. I stand there breathing in deep gulps of fresh air, while my mind races through stores of memories, future plans, while trying to fathom the universe.

Suddenly, I’m down on the ground with Larry on top of me.
“What the hell are you doing Hannah? This is dangerous- you could fall and kill yourself. You don’t have balance anymore, have you forgotten?”

I start laughing at the situation.

“Larry this is pretty funny, you know you are the one who is afraid of heights. This is no place for you to be.”

Larry realizes I am making a good point.

“I just won’t look down” he says gulping back fear.” Now come back to the car with me.”

He adjusts his arms around me ready to haul me to safety. “It’s all right, calm down funny face, before I laugh so hard I roll into the ravine, die, and then you’ll look pretty silly.”

Feeling light of heart I help Larry back to the car as he is now paralyzed with fear that he will fall.

“Thanks for the help,” I tell him as we drive away from the scary cliff.
“Can we please go home now and talk,” he pleads.

“How about we go have sex in the woods? Or maybe on a sandy stretch of beach by the river? Or possibly in a public pool.”
I turn the radio up and tune in the only rock n’ roll station available singing as we drive back home.

Larry doesn’t say a word the whole drive back, but I, ooh and ahh, the scenery- the birds- the sky- even a few nicely painted road signs.
But as I’m pulling the car and our wind whipped selves up to the house, I know Larry is correct, I’m off somehow.

The engine shakes and rattles and finally stops. A gasoline odor surrounds us as we sit not speaking.

As much as I don’t want to give up this very happy place in my mind I have found, or has found me, I know it’s not exactly my natural state of being.

“You may be right, I may be crazy,” I sing to Larry with a huge grin on my face, “but it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.”

Since I couldn’t remember anymore of the lyrics I let my message go at that.
Larry seemed relieved to hear that I wasn’t completely gone- yet he was still alarmed I could only speak in song now.

As we came through the door of our prefab home, I tossed my keys like a horse shoe onto the hooks of the key holder Larry installed to prevent him from constantly searching for my keys.

“Bull’s-eye!” I yell as the keys, from a distance of at least ten feet, hit the mark and stay.

“How about a cookie and then we will talk- sound good?”

Larry sat on the overstuffed futon- back straight- arms stretched out with both hands holding his knees- his expression one of deep contemplation.

“Let’s use logic Hannah and figure this out. Sit here with me.”

I know I should just sit down next to him, but all I can see in my mind right now is me jumping up and down on that futon, possibly grabbing him and having him take me on a horsy back ride.

The thought amuses me, but I pull together as much impulse control as I can muster and sit down.

“Thank you. Now the change I see occurred literally overnight, Hannah. What is different from yesterday?”

“The name; Yesterday was Tuesday and today is Wednesday.”
I put my hand over my mouth now trying to stop the onslaught of responses which won’t help the situation.
“Sorry,” I mumble from behind my hand- then I double over with laughter.

I fall into paroxysms of laughter- rolling around- tears streaming down my face.

Larry, who initially looks irritated, can’t help but join me in this funny state. Now he’s laughing too. Whatever I have has become infectious. It can’t be that bad.

We get it together momentarily as I can’t seem to control the emotions rising within me.

“Hannah stop! We have to talk about this. It’s like you’re on drugs or something.”

“I don’t need drugs Larry, my brain can create its own chemicals that junkies would jump in through my ears to get.’

“Oh god,” Larry begins to say. “It’s the antidepressant.” His face was turning a crimson color as he was realizing he had fed me the thing.
I quickly understood too. Yes, it was the only thing that had changed. My euphoria suddenly turned to worry.

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know, we can call the doctor though and maybe they can help us.” Larry timidly suggests.

We both knew that once manic, the next stage would not be good or funny.

The order of the bi-polar disorder

“Don’t panic Larry- it’s not as if this is a myocardial infarction.” Larry was panicking at the same time guilt ridden. He can't stop doing things. All the plants were well watered already, now there were several flash floods at various sites around our home.

“Here’s the thing we can’t leave an emergency message with the doctor and then tell him it’s because I’m too happy. Even I’m reasonable enough to know that. He’s going to say, ‘well then its working wouldn’t you say.’ ”

Now wiping up the water and potting soil runoff from the tiered plant holder, Larry thinks we should make phone calls and involve other people in our problem- our plight.

“We have lifelines we should call Hannah.”

“Again, what are we going to say that I’ve had a very euphoric side effect to a medication for depression? Send us flowers, so we don’t have to water our plants.” My mood is disagreeable I know, but I just need to work this out on my own.

“We could call family.” Larry sneaks in sheepishly.

“Oh, yeah, let’s bring in the order of the bi-polar disorder. They’ll know what to do. They can save us.”

This was like a lightening bolt to my whole nervous system. I love my family- the bi-polar side- but it’s a risky situation to call on them in an emergency such as this.
Being the unlikely counselor for my mother, siblings, and cousins, has made me play my own troubles close to the vest.

Upsetting the natural imbalance would be strange to say the least. As well as being uncertain if they would help or hinder my fragile state of mind.

There were always risks that they may be more depressed or manic than I am which makes for some very unusual exchanges. Or the worst is when one is manic and one is depressed.

Neither can fathom that the others perspective even exists, it gets pretty resentful sometimes.

“I’m for, let’s see what happens if I don’t take anymore of the pills.”

“Well, I’m for involving the doctor- the family- and if necessary a priest.” Larry walks to the kitchen, slamming things around, in a display of fear and frustration.

“How about some food, since you’re already in there?” I figure that will give him something to do and keep him out of my hair for a while.
Larry resigned to prepare food and maybe provisions for what could be an interesting ride.

I stay on the couch, realizing I will probably not sleep tonight, though I will fake it to avoid talking to Larry during the whole damn night.

My mind was still zooming past the posted speed limit, although now I was able to observe its activity like an outsider.

The smell from the kitchen indicates Larry is cooking up a storm. It reminds me of my grandmother who would cook so she didn’t have to hear Grandpa complaining all the time. We had some of the best food when the grumpy old fart would inflate a small issue into a major problem.

How they stayed married for more than 60 years amazes me to this day. I’m thinking it was because Grandma was half deaf and only really heard what was necessary. She said, “yes, dear” and smiled a lot.

I wish I could be more like her. However, I can hear an ant crawling across the carpet and I rarely avoid an argument.

Instantly, I roll over and grab the phone and start dialing.

Larry peers over the counter. “Who are you calling?”

Part of me wants to play it straight, but I can’t quite do it.

“Nobody, just making some crank calls.”

He looks at me, mouth tight, and shakes his head.
“I told you, we need a doctor.”

“Just keep cooking, honey, it’s going to be all right.”

I hear a bowl drop to the counter, then some chopping. It’s Larry therapy.

After about five rings, a voice answers, “hello.”

“Hi, mom, it’s me.”

I take the phone with me to the other room to keep Larry from eavesdropping.

“Hi honey, nice to finally hear from you.”

“Well, it’s been busy, and I’ve got some sort of disorder- illness or something-you had it too- Grave’s Disease.”

“Oh no, you have it? That is not good Hannah. It took me years to recover from it.”

“I appreciate the negative scenario, I wouldn’t want you to hold back or anything. However, it seems my more acute situation is regarding an anti-depressant the doctor gave me.”

“You’re manic again, eh?”

“You could say that.”

“Well, it’s better to be manic than it is to be depressed. I enjoy mania, I get so much done. I wish I could be manic.” She sure sounds manic to me and I guess right now I’d be the expert.

So, the conversation turned right into the parking lot of denial and stalled.

Part of me wants to tell her how deluded it is to be manic aside from the fact that it leads directly to depression. But I’ve told her this continuously for years but to no avail.

While she went on about her mania stories, I couldn’t help but remember the three year long episode of mania which cost her and her boyfriend almost a million dollars in property and eventually included illegal drugs.

“You know stop right there, Mom, your obvious predilection for mania is scaring me. Don’t forget what it did to you and the family.”

“What, what did I do? I was having a good time and you, Arthur, and your brother and sister, ruined everything. Do you remember that? I was fine, it was you.”

Of course, I recognize that she never really recovered reality after that and has some very creative delusions that she has carried around for years.

When she went bonkers, which is a good enough word to describe her behavior, the family intervened trying to get her hospitalized. She agreed to go to a hospital but only by way of limousine.

Wow, that was one long night. We waited outside the mental hospital as she apparently convinced them there was nothing wrong except her family.

“You’re right Mom- we just didn’t understand how happy you were.”
I just lie so I don’t fight about something that isn’t even real rather solely concocted in her mind. It’s just easier for me.

“If you had just left me alone everything would have been all right. But instead you kidnapped me- drugged me- then took my money.”

Thanks Larry this is just what I needed.

“Yeah, we were confused.”

Nobody took her money- kidnapped her- or plied her with drugs. However, we wanted to.

“Well, that’s the past, Hannah, and now I’m happy at my new house. I’m not saying I don’t have any problems, I have to take pain killers for my neck- sleeping medication- antidepressants- hormones- anticholesterol drugs- muscle relaxers- migraine medication…”

“You’re taking all those medications?”

“I have to if I even want to get out of bed.”

The woman had not been out of bed in five years. She is only in her late 50’s, but she looks like she’s in her forties. Still trim, hair bleach blonde, dark and sharp lines on her face made her the epitome of past mid-life beauty. Unfortunately it is being wasted on drugs, prescription drugs.

“Yeah, I see. Now you could get a second opinion and find out if you need all those drugs.”

“I just told you I need them.” She says sharply.

I feel now is the right time to end this call which is doing nothing for my mood.

“You do what you think is right Mom, and I’ll call you again soon.”

“Okay, honey, I’ll be here. Oh, and I’m sending you some expensive revitalizing lotion for your skin. I don’t want you to look old before your time.”

“Great, thanks.”

The woman is fanatical about the way she looks, but then she’s equally obsessed with the way her children look. I suppose if we look average or wrinkly, it somehow carries over to her own self worth.

“Love you, talk to you soon.”


I walk back out to the living room hoping to put that conversation out of my mind.

Larry walks in with a large plate- a salad bowl- a soup terrine- and an arrangement of fresh fruits like we are at a swanky buffet.
“Wow, Larry, it looks good. Let’s eat.”

Lot’s of food to consume means less conversation. I’ll eat all night.
The coffee table in front of the futon was loaded with food, we even had toothpicks for some vegetable medley.
I began consuming everything. Maybe it is my nerves, but I couldn’t stop. After an hour of chewing, swallowing, followed by the “you’re eating too fast” belch, I rolled over and went to sleep.

“You’re going to sleep, that’s a good sign Hannah. You will feel better tomorrow.”

“Asshole, I feel good today, tomorrow is a toss up.”

I woke up on the futon, momentarily unable to remember how I ended up here. Oh, yeah.

My bladder was waiting to be emptied, but I didn’t really feel like getting up. In fact, it crossed my mind to just pea in my pants.

I rolled onto my back looking at the ceiling which is nothing more than white tiles with a few soiled patterns which look like Buddha, Christ, and the Virgin Mary, depending on how I turn my head. I feel like fog rolled into my mind and I can’t see two feet in front of me.

I finally get up and realize it is barely six in the morning. I don’t even want to face this day.

A thought shoots across my mind that I have been the world’s biggest fuck up there ever was or ever will be.

Back to the futon.

I put my face in the pillow hiding from myself and my thoughts.
My mind flashes to a time where I sunk to the depth of suicidal depression. “Should have done it then, but I couldn’t even get that right.”

Tears swirl out of my eyes in all directions. I feel like I can’t go on. I can’t do anything. I’m not going to get better only worse.

I feel a hand on my back. Larry is standing there in his boxer shorts rubbing my shoulders. I immediately stop crying. No sense letting him in on day two of the brain chemical crisis.

“How you doin’ Hannah, any better?”

Depression has its verbiage containing all the negative matters that really don’t have anything to do with anything.

“I’m great Larry, how are you?” That is the best I can do right now.

“Can I see your face?”

Why does he pry? Leave well enough alone. I’m an ostrich, don’t pull my tail feathers or I might just pull my head out of the hole and grab you with my beak.


A simple and direct answer, I thought.

Larry said nothing and left the room. I kept my face in the pillows which are now wet and warm from my tears.
I could hear a voice in the background.

“I would like to leave a message for Dr. Fingle regarding Hannah Bennet.”

There was a pause.

“Well, the problem is that she may be having side effects from the antidepressant she was prescribed.”

I’m all ears now with my head raised.

“Yesterday she took the first dose and Hannah was very happy.”
“What is the problem?”

I told him they wouldn’t understand. They can write the prescriptions but can they actually manage the results? I say no.

Larry went on to describe the euphoria, and then hushed his voice to tell the details.

“She is sliding downhill right now. Depression I’m sure, I’ve seen it before.”

I could hear tension rise in his voice, “maybe they are not supposed to have that effect so quickly, but she did. What is your name?”
“Listen, Nancy, the whole thing started with the antidepressants, there isn’t anything else to blame it on.”

It looks like Nancy wants to argue her point, maybe even give a diagnosis.

I get up and grab the phone from Larry’s hand.

“Nancy, Hannah Bennet here, I just want to thank you for not knowing your ass from a hole in the ground. It would be really refreshing if you stopped talking out of your ass and get somebody qualified to deal with this. Can we do that, Nancy?

She didn’t care for my tone and obviously didn’t believe the complaint was legitimate- but she took our number and told me she would have the doctor call when he arrived.

I clicked the phone off and returned to the futon of the doomed.

“You see Larry, this is what happens. They don’t believe you. They treat you like you’re a mental case.”

Larry was looking as depressed as I was feeling.

“What should we do?” he meekly inquires.

“I have no idea,” I say to him half heartedly.

Its depression all right, the nasty stuff that permeates your thinking like toxic groundwater soaking in and poisoning your very core.
And it’s dramatic too.

I know it from childhood and on. Its chemical falsehoods I have believed and even maintained belief up to this moment where I face it again.

The contrast from yesterday’s ecstasy falling out of the sky like a comet, filled with light, and then smashing directly in the ground where you leave your crater, smoldering.

“Larry you remember I told the doctor about the other antidepressant I took that, well, caused some serious problems for me- and some drug dealers- and a police station. So, why did he go ahead and prescribe this one?”

Larry made eyes and faces like he was thinking about this, “He gave you the lowest dose, I do remember that.”

“My intention is not to blame here, but to understand the obvious fucking error that has taken place.” I’m up under the covers now in my futon home, hiding and trying to use a fucked up brain to reason with.

“You never really told me all about what happened or even why you were prescribed it.”

Feigning ignorance, he knows about that year.

Larry looks like he wants to talk about this situation which may help me from being sucked into the depression vortex.

“I don’t know exactly what it is you go through with these pretty wild and crazy, ups and downs. Me, I’m sad or angry…”

I interrupt his important announcement, “and you stay very busy.”

At first I thought he wouldn’t understand that remark, but he heard.

“I do have to do that to feel my life is able to be controlled, by me.”

“So, when it’s off the register you can’t understand it, what do you do? Try to understand it or stay busy?”

No need for an answer.

“I get down and out too,” he starts rather whiny, “but it’s generally for a reason. I admit I don’t always know what the reason is, but I do try and figure it out.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing right here?”

I can hear these thoughts saying that I’m dealing with stupidity, more than mine, which is significant. I’m getting restless with the bullshit.
If I wanted to listen to crap I would be listening to the downtrodden broadcast being played in my head right now.

“It’s different for me Larry, I’m not sure how to explain it or if you would get it. You have your own coping skills. Great food last night, by the way- healthy- but a bit over watered plants and herbs. You escape in Tinkering with your computer gizmos and gadgets. And lastly you enjoy a few hours of TV, even network television. Now if suddenly you had no warning and you couldn’t do these things because of agonizing something or another, what would happen to you?”

He ponders the question carefully before answering.

“I would probably go crazy.”

“Bingo, reality boy.”

Sliding down the mountain

Several weeks have passed since the antidepressant created a new reality for me- one that causes me to think I cannot do anything-, be anything-or even talk to another human being.

My mind reels with thoughts about death or injury or some other dire scenario.

Today, I have a meeting with a part time psychiatrist who my regular doctor seems to think I should see. They literally threw their arms in the air refusing to believe that a simple,
"innocuous," pill could be causing my problems.

I am now a problem for them in that I don’t fit into their categories. I probably fit more into tornado categories- like F5.

Huddling in bed, I finally make it off the couch. I feel frightened to go to this doctor. More so, I am cognitively defenseless. My ability to reason frazzled by sad and domineering negative memories.

“I’m ready when you are,” Larry says sliding his sandals on his bare feet like we’re going to the beach and not a mental health clinic.

“Should I wear this blanket and the pillow for a hat?”

He stands in front of me wondering how he’s going to get me out of the house to this most likely futile appointment.

Finally he breaks the silence and says, “We will give them one chance and one chance only- how’s that?”

I don’t know, but it seemed to make sense and I like his attitude.
No shower, but I did brush my teeth and tidy my greasy- unkempt hair- and we are on our way.

We drive up to the bland looking building situated off the street behind a tiny food establishment.

“Oh, this is where they hide their shameful mental health cases,” I comment as we wind past the “Food Shack” into a private driveway.
Larry says nothing knowing for a fact there is nothing to say that would make any difference at this juncture.

We walk in the tinted doors into a waiting room with about four people sitting around, not reading or talking- looking down mostly.

The receptionist, a middle aged woman with dark hair and light colored eyes magnified by her reading glasses, announces my name and tells me I will be seen in just a few minutes.

“Fucking great, thanks,” I say after I realize she has just told the whole waiting room my name.

Larry and I sit next to a younger woman with red, curly hair, and a pair of glasses that are crooked on her face. Her clothes consist of a tank top and a pair of ratty shorts, set off by some slippers she must have thrown on in a hurry.

She gets up and asks the receptionist when her appointment will be.
“You know you are late and we are trying to squeeze you in.”

“I have my kids at home and I need to get my meds so I can take care of them. And I only have a babysitter for another hour.”

Seemingly unfazed by the woman’s problem, the receptionist, shrugs in answer.

She sits back down next to us, “this place is worthless. I wouldn’t even come here if it weren’t for the fact that there is nothing else. This is the only game in town.”

I perk up, “I can tell they are compassionate folks already.”

“Yeah, they have done nothing but prescribe medications and make me beg to get them filled before I run out. I’ve run out at least six times in a year.”

“How can they do that to you?” I ask wondering what sort of situation I am walking into.

“First, they hold back the refills which would make things easier. Or they don’t get you in for your appointment in time before you run out of medicine. And there is no calling in medications like a real doctor would do. They suck.”

I know a lot of these psychiatric concoctions cannot be taken intermittently without some side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
I ask the woman how she survives these shortages of medications. “What does it do to you when you have to suddenly stop taking the meds?”

She has become animated now. Her lipstick, improperly aligned on her lips, makes her sarcastic smile look quite maniacal.

“Let me tell you I’ve been through hell and back each time I go off and get back on the medicines. My kids have seen it, which is what kills me. How do I explain to them ‘Mommy is freaking out’ for no freaking good reason. Pardon, my language.”

“Oh no, pardon me, for thinking this is a pretty fucked up place I arrived at.”

She laughed, her curly locks bobbing with each guffaw.

I hear a buzzing sound- then a bolt receding- and a plain woman- hair tied back- called my name from the doorway.

Our new friend gave me a sarcastic, “Good luck,” as Larry and I followed the woman who looked like a farmer’s wife down the hallway.

The heavy door closed behind us which gave me a start.
“I’m Terry and I have some paperwork for you to fill out before you see the doctor.”

We were directed to a tiny room with a table and three chairs.
Terry hands us a mountain of paperwork like something out of a real estate transaction, which Larry immediately grabs and goes to work on.

“Are you her husband,” Terry asks because he had the pen and the drive to complete this mission.

“No, I’m her keeper,” he says quietly, still filling out the pertinent data.
Terry, the mirth maker, says, “oh, okay,” and leaves the room.

After more than a half an hour Larry and I have managed to unscramble the voluminous questionnaire.

Terry picked up the paperwork and left the room. Moments later she comes back and leads us to another office where a tiny doctor probably born during the Mesozoic age sits behind a large cherry wood desk- head down- reading the paperwork.

We sit down in two ornate, stuffed chairs, in front of the desk, waiting for the doctor to acknowledge our presence.

Although I can only see a small portion of him above the desk, I notice he’s wearing a rust colored, polyester suit, the fashion of choice during the 1950’s.

He has an ethnic look, possibly Mediterranean- nicely pigmented skin- and all his hair. I’ve always envied pigment and I’m almost sure white people are the result of a recessive gene, I sit there thinking waiting on this man to actually talk.

Then I just make a throat sound as if to remove some phlegm, but the signal is to simply imply I’m unhappily waiting for something to happen.

A deep baritone voice answers my signal. “I will be right with you.”
I look at Larry and scrunch my eyebrows as if I just heard a Chihuahua bark like a German shepherd.

Finally, the doctor lifts his head up showing a serious expression on his face, as if to say my questionnaire indicates some mental cancer or something.

“Did we fill that out properly,” I ask, darting my eyes over suspiciously at Larry who did most of the work on my mental health masterpiece.

“Yes, its fine,” he says deliberately looking me over.

Feeling uncomfortable with the man whose voice doesn’t fit his size- and I myself looking half baked in appearance- I become self conscious.

“Miss Bennet,” he begins, “I see that you indicate you are suffering from depression, sleeplessness, hopelessness, confusion, and you have had some hallucinations. Is this correct?”

“I guess.”

“Is that a yes or no?”

“Yes and no.”

He sighs. “I have patients to see all day, Miss Bennet, could you please answer the questions so I can prescribe the proper medications.”

Great, he’s going to do the psychiatric round up. Bring in the cattle- brand them with an iron- and fill their bellies full of colorful pills.

“Something like that doctor. But let me explain that I was given a dose of antidepressants which set off this round of, oh, let’s call it, shakiness.”

“I have no idea what you mean by that, shakiness. Are you capable of being more precise?”

My head turns to Larry, he reads that rage is emerging now, and I’m moments away from leaping out of the chair.

“Doctor, Hannah is correct this began as a result of an antidepressant,” Larry intervened.

“Who are you, may I ask?”

“He’s my massage therapist. What does it matter old man who he is? Let’s get down to business you have something on your mind, why don’t you tell me what you ciphered from the records and we can go from there.”

The tension in the room was thick. Larry palpitated with fear and the cereal box size, psychiatrist was angry about being put on the spot. He held his gaze on me then broke off to write something in my records. I’m sure it wasn’t flattering.

“First, I will tell you that you are likely bi-polar.”

Larry and I spontaneously laugh- it was a big “duh.”

“And I would recommend that you be treated with a mood stabilizer of some sort along with a different antidepressant. I will give you an antipsychotic which will help you sleep and lessen the confusing thoughts. We also have some new medications you could try along with the mood stabilizer.”

What the fuck? We could have just done this on-line or over the phone.

“Gosh doctor, that sounds great. Why don’t you pull that nice pen out of the clock and write out as many prescriptions as you can and I will take them all. I feel better already.”

Again, tension and fear in the room.

“Oh, but before you go through all this trouble, could you tell me what causes bi-polar disorder? I’ve always wondered that.”

The doctor fell silent- leaning back in his red leather office chair- hands clasped- eyes surveying the desk.

“We don’t know what causes the disorder. We do know that it is treatable and most people respond well to the medications.”

“If you don’t know what causes it, how do you actually treat it?”

It was a loaded question and I already knew the answer.

“Miss Bennet, we often have to try many medications before we find the one that works for you. It can be a matter of time.”

“Just for the record, what are the side effects and risks from these medications?”

“Let me put it this way to you,” he says slowly and deliberately, “would you rather be depressed or manic, out of control, or would you like to feel better?”

“I’m thinking I’d like to feel better, but I’m definitely unsure whether your medicines will be the answer. Have a nice day and pop a pill for me.”

I grab Larry’s hand and pull him not so gently to his feet and we exit the room leaving doctor prescription pad behind.

“What are you doing, Hannah?”

“Getting the hell out of here before this fast food clinic starts feeding me to the pharmaceutical industry.”

As we head down the hall, Terry jumps in front of us and hands me some papers which look oddly like prescriptions.

“Here the doctor would like you to try these and then schedule another appointment in a month to follow up.”
“Aww, how sweet, a to-go bag.”

“Thank you, Terry,” Larry politely tells her while I tug on him to leave quicker.

We arrive home where I immediately take up my defensive position of hiding under the covers in bed.

I pull the scripts out of my pocket and read each one.

“Let’s see, we have some Lithium, some Risperdal, Effexor, and ativan. The breakfast of champions. Larry, get in here!”


“Look at what they gave me,” I hand him the papers.

“Geez, Hannah, you’re sicker than I thought,’ Larry attempts to humor me.


  1. People always see the bright and shiny part of me (and think that I am in a constant state of perpetual happiness) because I try and keep the other side of me hidden. They never see when I am extremely volatile and ready to explode...and for the most part it is better this way.

  2. I really like this, Laura, and even though I am neither on anti-depressants, nor have I been diagnosed as bi-polar, I have wondered if I may be and I definitely relate to the moodiness and sporatic bursts of happiness, followed by extreme lows.

    I think it is wonderful how you are reaching out to those with similar issues, and I admire your determination and courage to tackle the ignorance on the part of our health care system. Thank you!