Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae: Part 17 Bipolar Disorder/Alcohol


Jenny started wrestling with her mental illness after starting college, because of her ability to be clever and humorous I believe that she was able to hide much of the paranoia and mania that she went through. Her family was all drinkers and when she and I met in high school we both had a terrific gift for being able to pile away the beer in our guts. I myself had started drinking in earnest when I was fifteen, although I had been exposed to alcohol at a very early age through both sets of grandparents I did not discover the utter escapism of alcohol until Jeanette George’s barn party in 1984. This was a complete revelation for me, not only did some of the girls not think of me as literally a 98 pound weakling but some of the uber-macho farm boys noticed that I could be hysterically funny. This was all manifested through the intake of alcohol. I was taken away by its sublime powers that fall evening, and would not be able to quiet the seductive allure of it for nearly seventeen years.

Chris Biester, on winter break from Ohio University, purchased a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon for Jenny and me on our first date. At that time the drinking age in Ohio was nineteen and it was very easy to score booze whenever one wanted some. From that night forward Jenny and I would drink nearly every day that we spent together until I left her four years later. Even after that, with the exception of me going through one period of not drinking when we broke up and her being in the hospital or jail we both drank nearly every day.

Jenny and I quickly went off the scholastic road when we arrived in central Ohio in during the fall of 1986. She enrolled at Ohio State University and quickly made the marching band, I for some ungodly reason decided not to go to Ohio University in Athens and instead enrolled at the mostly conservative division III university of Otterbein located in Westerville, Ohio. Westerville was the birthplace of prohibition and I fit in there about even less so than I did in rural western Ohio. I could not have choose a more inappropriate college if I were blindfolded and asleep. At that time my mother was divorcing my step-father who was in and out of mental institutions; I was severely depressed and relied heavily on Jenny Mae. She was living in the high rise dormitories of Ohio State that were located roughly ¾ of a mile from High Street. Lincoln Tower was a revolving party from one suite to another, there was little if any supervision, marijuana, alcohol, LSD and were rampant and Jenny was in the midst of it all. It was not uncommon to locate a party on any given night within a few minutes of looking for one and if one was not to be found, High Street was just a ten minute walk away.

In the midst of an explosive depressive state, one October day I drove to her dorm room and slept there for nearly a week and a half, coming out of my shell and peeling the parking tickets that blanketed my windshield and drove back to Westerville. I somehow managed to pass all of my classes but knew I would drop out. When winter quarter arrived I moved into Jenny’s dorm room, fortunately none of the other women in the suite of sixteen appeared to mind my presence and I stayed there until the spring. Jenny and I drank nearly every on High Street, I had secured a few part time jobs and this supported our habit. At this juncture Jenny started displaying some of the signs of paranoia that would later envelope her life. She had covered the area around her bed in blankets and was nervous when we walked home at night. At times she would say half jokingly that “people are out to get me.”

Jenny Mae would not be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder until many years later when she was living in Miami, at this time in our lives we just rode her manias out and tried in earnest to keep my depression at bay. She was apt to compare our moods, she was usually in a mania state during that part of her life and when she went into a low she filled it with alcohol and would float on top of it out her morose valley. She was at times, hypersexual which is a symptom of bipolar disorder and I tended to take her promiscuity with a sense of acceptance and hesitant ignorance for we were young and in love. I also believed that I had nobody else to turn to in my life, my brother was living in Germany and I was somewhat estranged from the rest of my family. Jenny and her mother were basically it for support, or so I thought. It was a life that was filled with a great deal of laughter intermingled with stints of heavy laborious desolation for the both of us; we spent our spare time drinking, listening to music and playing euchre. School was ranked eleventh on the top ten things of importance in our lives. It was as annoying as a fly at a backyard barbeque.

A few years later when she had started writing songs with the encouragement of myself, Jerry Wick and Dan Dow she would stay up for days on end with only a few spot hours of sleep and write music, paint or throw herself into various other art projects such as making sculptures of found objects or writing short stories. She once created a huge garden in our bed room attic, our bed was in the closet to help stem her paranoia and the rest of the room had been made into a green house. During her down periods she would forget to do her laundry, clean the dishes and she would smoke pot and watch the Guiding Light soap opera for weeks on end. When this happened her keyboard would stay under the couch, pushed aside like a pair of old shoes waiting to collect dust and spider webs. She would discontinue school and have to beg her professors to let her back in when her depression lifted, still we would always drink and neither one of us felt as if anything was amiss.

When I left her in the fall of 1990, she was seeing a few different men and I quickly recovered from the break-up by meeting various women. She soon approached me about reconciliation but I had no interest, I cared for her and wanted her to be safe but I was not interested in a romantic relationship. Walking her back to the Norwich house from Bernie’s one night with her she suddenly clocked me in the head with her purse which was filled with beer bottles. We scuffled for a moment and I told her to stay away from me, that she was too scary for me. The next day she checked herself into the psychiatric unit at Ohio State University, I was told I could not visit her and our friend Joe Moore provided kept me up to date with her progress. She was in the hospital for over two weeks, I don’t think she told her parents. It would be the first of many hospitalizations for Jenny but the next hospitalization would not be for almost ten more years, years in which her illness and ways of treating it would slowly eat everything in her life that she had held of importance including her marriage, her pets, her house, cars, artwork and her one constant solace-her music.


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3 Responses to “Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae: Part 17 Bipolar Disorder/Alcohol”

  1. beyondtheendoftheroad Says:

    About 3 months ago my daughter was diagnosed with BiPolar Disorder. I had a small knowledge of it and poured myself into articles and online reports. I was suprised to find the sypmtoms to be opposite of the “stigma” I had assigned to it in my mind.
    Your writing is vivid and heartfelt. At times moving to the point if I close my eyes I can see myself at 19 walking down High Street to the plasma center to make 15 bucks and girl watching. I am sure we crossed paths but just weren’t paying attention or we just walked the same sidewalks looking for answers that just weren’t there.
    Take Care…..Bob D.

  2. Michael Ottinger Says:


    Just wanted to say I remember you from way back in the day. I was in a band with Dan Spurgeon, Matt Mccalski, and Craig Regala. I used to go to Staches, Used Kids, and all that.

    Anyway, I got married and then my wife became bipolar and has been through some hospitalizations. She’s stable now, thank god.

    Just wanted to let you know I can relate and that only people who have gone through that close contact with bipolar individuals can really understand what it’s like.

  3. T-Reyes Says:

    This is so relevant.

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