How Willie Nelson Triggered My First Manic Episode

It was 1978, and I was in my freshman year at the University of Texas in Austin. Sitting in my dorm room waiting for my roommate to get back from a date it was about 11:30pm. I was studying for a German class that had a mid-term exam the next day. Ich bin Verucht. (I’m crazy)

T​hat is where this adventure begins…


(Door opens)

E​d walks into the room and slams the door.

“​Hey brother, what’s going on? I thought you had a hot date?”, I said.


E​d opened his backpack and pulled out a bottle of Beam, opened the bottle and took a long swig.

“​Ahhhhhh. I needed that. The damn girl wanted to go home and study for tomorrow’s German exam. I wanted to go to the Willie Nelson concert in the park and lay on a blanket and spoon.”, he grunted.

“​Yeah well, I’ve been studying for the exam but I’m kinda burned out. Too bad the concert is probably over by now wasn’t it suppose to start at 9pm? Probably be over at 12”, I said.

“​I don’t care I want to see Willie, so I’m going to the park, you in?”, he asked.

“​Well even if we only get to see the last few songs that would be worth it, sure let’s go see what we can see.”, I answered. 

W​e left the dorm and got in my old Ford 1966 step-side pickup with my dirt-bike in the back. Driving to the park from the dorm was only about a 10-minute dash. We spent more time trying to find a parking place then it took to drive there, but we were not going to be detoured. I found a spot where I could drive up unto the grass. At least I wasn’t on the road, and we didn’t want to waste any more time looking for the perfect parking spot.

A​s we walked across a field of grass I could hear the sound of “Whiskey River take my mind…don’t let her memory torture me”. I was getting excited now. But when we got up closer we saw that the area for the concert was roped off and there was a guy at the gate taking money.

I said to the guy, “Hey, how much to get in?”

“It’s $5 man, but the concert is only going to last til midnight, so I don’t know if it would be worth it for ya. Sorry.”, he replied.

I turned to Ed and looked at him. 

“​Well, should we go someplace else?”

E​d said, “I came to see Willie. I’m going to see Willie.”

Ed turned to the security guy and asked, “Will you take $5 for the both of us? I mean we came all the way down here, and my girl just dumped me for a German test. Come on man, have a heart.”

T​he guard looked at the both of us and just said we could go in and to never-mind the $5 just have a good time. Oh yeah, that is what I’m talking about,

W​hen we got in there were people leaving and there was trash on the ground. Mostly beer cans next to full trash bins. But there was a stage and the band was taking a break.

I thought to myself, well it looks like the concert is over, and we are out of luck.

T​hen Willie came back to the stage with his guitar followed by the rest of the band.

“​Whiskey River take my mind…” started up again with gusto.

D​amn he was just singing that not too long ago. It seems like Willie sings that after every break and what I didn’t know until 3 hours later that Willie sang that song 17 times that night. He didn’t stop there. It was past midnight and things were not slowing down, In fact Willie and his band played for another 3 hours, Wow! We got in free and the show was awesome.

I could see people lighting up and smoking joints. It smelled of Willie weed. That was 30 years before Willie Nelson actually started a brand of weed called “Willie’s Reserve”. But I went up to a girl that was smoking and gave her a shy smile. She passed me the joint and I took it from her happily.

A​fter a couple of long draws I passed it back to her.

“​What’s your name? Mine is Lance”, I asked her.

S​he took a long draw and held the smoke in for what seemed like a minute, but was probably only 10 seconds. Then she coughed and blew out the smoke tapping the ashes on the ground.

“​Amy. Amy Jo is my name, nice to meet you Lance”, she said and then smiled.

E​d came over and pulled out his bottle of Jim Beam and took a swig, He held the bottle out to Amy Jo and asked if she wanted some. They traded joint for Beam.

W​e must of hung out and chilled to the music for about 5 Whiskey Rivers which was about 2 hours. (They played other songs between but this one I remembered.)

A​my, Ed and I were feeling no pain cuz we were like in Luckinbach Texas in our minds. The weed and Beam were tripping us out, and we swayed to the music.

I came closer looking at Amy and said, “I think you need a hug.”

S​he said, “I think I need more than a hug” and she came closer and kissed me. Right on the lips. I smiled, paused and then leaned in and gave her another long slow kiss with hints of Beam and weed on my tongue. Her arms grasped me and her right hand held on to the back of my neck. We were necking in the park, and I was high as a kite.

I​t was 3am and WIllie took the mike and said, “I’m glad you guys came out tonight. You are like family to me, all of you belong. We want to leave you with this last song, Amazing Grace”.

A​mazing grace was what I was going to need if I was going to make my 8am German class. Crap.


I didn’t hear the alarm clock go off because I forgot to set it. I must of come in around 4:20am and was still buzzing from the Beam and reeling from the kiss. I couldn’t remember too much but I figured I had a good time. On the floor was a piece of paper with some writing. I looked at it and saw a number signed Amy Jo. Whew wee. I did have a good time last night or early morning I thought.

E​d wasn’t in the room. Either he found a girl to go home with, or he was in German class taking the exam as it was now 9:30am and class was from 8 to 10. I had totally missed the exam and the whole class. I didn’t care at this point now, but I would have to go see the professor and tell him I was sick and needed a remake.

I looked out the window from the 3rd floor down at the street and saw that my truck was not in its normal parking spot or anywhere else on the street to be found. I guess I had left it at the park and walked home. Jeez I had blacked out.  I either walked home or had been given a ride cuz I didn’t have cab fare.

W​alking the 2 miles from Jester Dorm to the park near the Capital grounds, I didn’t feel hung over. In fact, I was still feeling pretty high and happy for having stayed out all night. No matter, I was going to take a mental health day and blow off all my other classes which was one. A computer science programming class in Fortran, which I didn’t have trouble with cuz I was good at math.

W​hen I got to the truck, I noticed that my dirt bike wasn’t in the back anymore. Someone must of borrowed it. Great. I got in and fired up Smokey. (I called my truck Smokey after the pony I had growing up as a kid. A present from my Dad on my 5th birthday.)

I​nstead of going home, I had a vision to go to Hippy Hollow today. Hippy Hollow was on Lake Travis and was a spot for nudist. I felt pretty confident that I could go and chill out with some hippies. So that is where I started to drive. Besides, I didn’t have my bathing suit nor anything with me except my back pack with a paperback book titled “Narnia Chronicles”. I was going to do down to the nudist swimming hole, find a spot and read a book. That was the plan. 

I​t was not too long before I was on the winding road to Lake Travis and only 30 minutes til I pulled up to a side road that I knew went down to the lake and a boat ramp. I parked and got out with my backpack.

I could hear laughing and splashing as I got nearer the water. There was about 30 people all hung out enjoying the sun. Yeppers it was the right place cuz everybody was nude. I found a spot close to the water, and a grassy area with not too many rocks. It was rocky all around.

I put my pack down and took off my clothes. Shoes, socks, pants, under-wear, but decided to leave my t-shirt on. It said, “Fish naked, show off your pole.” There was a girl looking at me that wore nothing but cowgirl boots and a hat. She had a BudLight in her hand and was dancing to some music. It wasn’t Whiskey River but it didn’t matter, I couldn’t care less what she was playing as she was sun-tanned and gorgeous.

I sat down on the grass and pulled out my book, I’m going get me some Aslan and Narnia critters in my brain. Relax. Restore. Repeat. This was my plan and a pretty good one I thought.

I​ started thinking about my German class and the exam. What was I going to say to the professor and when was I going to go see him. Awww, tomorrow I can go to his office and plead for mercy.

T​he day went as I had planned. There were blue skies looking at me. Nothing but blue skies did I see. And of course I saw the buxomed cowgirl all tan and svelte. When it was 4, I decided I had sun-burned enough and had finished my book. It was time to go home and take a nap. The only thing was I wasn’t tired. The reverse in fact, I felt energized. Super charged. My mind was racing and I had all kinds of ideas about Amy Jo, the music, my motorcycle possibly starting a band. 

I was a guitar player and sang. A singer-songwriter that learned to play the guitar in Kentucky from a pig farmer that played the banjo near my Uncle Leo’s farm. 

I spent 5 summers at my Uncle Leo’s farm and I had a girlfriend there named Denise. I chuckled at the thought because my older cousins both had a crush on Denise, and I was only 14 then when I met her at a barn dance. I went up to her and said, “Hi, I’m Lance from Texas”. That was all it took to dance with her all night long. She was 18 which was 4 years older, but we clicked and all summer long we stuck together like corn on a cob. She taught me wondrous things. Smiling now.

O​k, back to earth or should I just fly home. I opted to drive my truck back to the dorm.

The next day I was still feeling pretty high. I didn’t think that weed lasted that long, but maybe Amy Jo had some magic weed or something. I felt like going to the BSC. That was the Biblical Studies Center where I went to church and hung out with other spiritual seeking college students. Besides they went on trips to camps and did things on campus. Ed and I both went there together almost every Sunday and Wednesday nights. 

I took a course in the book of Luke from Tony Ash which was my favorite teacher. He made everything seem so easy to understand. He knew Greek, and he also taught my favorite class which was a survey of all of C.S. Lewis’s works. The Chronicles of Narnia was assigned for this week, and I was pleased that I had read the whole book in one day. Good thing cuz there was a test that week.

A​ny ways, my Luke class was at 10am and that gave me enough time to get some coffee and sit in the library of the BSC waiting for class to begin. Only Ed and I were signed up for the class. I felt like we were getting some quality time with Tony. He loved teaching. He loved the book of Luke. Luke the doctor he would say, only he would just call him the Doctor.

C​lass was in an upper room in the BSC and there were windows with bright sunlight shining into the room. We all sat around a long table with our bibles and commentaries. The commentary was written by Tony, it was his book we referenced most of the time outside of just reading the bible.

C​lass began, and I was assigned to read. After about twenty minutes into the class, I noticed that Ed had put his head down on the table. I looked over at Tony, and he was also asleep. The sunshine had made the room really warm and the sound of my voice reading monotone had made it the perfect nap time. I laugh at this today, that I put the professor to sleep.

O​h damn, the professor, I needed to go see my professor for my German class. I ddn’t want to go alone so after bible class, (we all woke up) I asked Ed if he had taken the exam. He said no, he had blown off class like me and had spent the night at a girl’s dorm room whom he had met at the park.

I asked him, I don’t remember anything about that night but the beginning and meeting Amy Jo. He said oh yeah you and Amy were getting along good, so I left to go dance with this girl I met there.

S​o we both needed to go see the German teacher together and beg for a chance to retake the exam on another day. We got to the office the hours posted were stating that the professor should be in. I knocked on the door and heard a voice say to come inside.

T​here he was, our German teacher. I looked at him and he looked at me. I was about ready to open my mouth and explain myself when he spoke up first.

“​Boys”, he said “This is your lucky day!”

H​e continued, “I know you both skipped my class, missed my class and had the hemorrhagic flu or something of the sort but I have some news that will make you extremely happy.”

“Well, yes we did miss the class, and I am sorry but…”, I started to say til he cut me off by raising a hand.

“I know, I know you want to take the exam another time. That won’t be necessary as I am leaving the college. I am taking a job in Industry as a paid consultant. I will be making a lot more money and I have to start my new job next week. Which means that there will be no more German class this semester, but you would get your grades. Now, by missing the class you get an F and that will bring your C average to a D average.”, he said.

I thought oh God I’m going to get a D at least it not an F, but my mom ain’t going to be too thrilled with that news.

“​And Boys, the lucky thing for you is that I am going to grade on a special curve, because I am leaving the course. Both of you are going to get an ‘A’. That is my parting gift to you.”, he smiled when he said it.

“​I, I can’t believe it. Well thank you. Thank you and good luck to you.”, I said.

O​ver the next few weeks I didn’t sleep much at night. I was a regular chatter box with ideas and dreams whenever I was around anyone. I spent some time with Amy Jo when we went to a movie. I could tell we were going to be good friends and I made sure that I treated her with respect cuz I wanted to keep her around. Besides not sleeping at night too well, and being the life of the party which wasn’t me. I was an introvert, a nerd. But I smoked a lot of weed and figured that was what was making me so hyper.’

I dreamed that Amy Jo and I would get married some day and that I would maybe be an engineer. No, maybe I would be an astronaut or a pilot. Or later on a Senator!

I was having grand dreams. Delusions.

N​o sleep. Dreams beyond belief. Racing thoughts. Chatter-box. And feeling very sexy around Amy Jo all the time.

W​hat I didn’t know at the time was I was in a manic episode. I was having bipolar symptoms before I even knew what it was.

W​hat caused all of this? Was it the weed? Was it the beam? Was it the flu?

N​ope, it was the lack of sleep and staying up all night at the Willie concert. And maybe some of it was the weed. (THC can provoke psychosis in some people).

I still today believe that my manic symptoms were caused by staying up and going to the Willie Nelson concert in the park.

I​ never saw my motorcycle again, but I didn’t care too much I found Amy Jo instead out of the thing.

T​hat is why I believe that Willie Nelson caused me (triggered) my first manic episode. More to follow over the 40 years of life that bring me up to the current day.

Sleep is not over-rated. I am triggered by lack of sleep. I sometimes like today, cut my sleep hours by 3 hours so that I could get a little boost. That is what I needed to get creative, and courageous enough to write this post.

Thank you Willie, thank you Beam and God Bless Amy Jo wherever you are.

If you got a kick out of this, could you buy me a coffee?

Published by BbqDad

pilot poet dad "I can open a pickle jar with my bare hands!"

10 thoughts on “How Willie Nelson Triggered My First Manic Episode

  1. Oh how I loved this. I could feel the mania as you were describing it. Lack of sleep triggers my mania too, unfortunately for me when I’m manic I can’t sleep so it’s a vicious cycle

    1. Yes, I am in a sleep deprived hypo-mania state at the moment and writing like a mad rabbit. I’m so glad that you liked this chapter of the book. Thank you for sharing about being bipolar as YOU are exactly my ideal reader: 1) someone bipolar, 2) someone that reads and comments on articles, 3) and this is optional bipolar people that use weed for relief hence the website so I have a target NICHE. I do hope you will come back as I make progress on this project. I want to create connections and community and do so by ENTERTAINING and providing SAGE advice.
      Do you have a website blog or project you are working on to share?

  2. this is an amazing piece of writing that both a pleasure to read and delving into the mind and experiences of a Biploar person. great job and looking forward to chapter 2 🙂

  3. The author, who is a lovely friend of mine paints a very descriptive picture of his surroundings and experiences. My favorite part was his description of the Willie Nelson concert he attended. It honestly made me feel like I was there , attending with him. His choice of tone is very conversational as if he was talking to the reader as if the reader is a dear friend. He describes his personal experience with mania perfectly, but also depicts a mystery for those that do not quite understand Bipolar Disorder. It leaves some questions like, “Is this due to the alcohol?” “Maybe the weed or staying out all night?” In which makes this an educational source for people to spot symptoms and behaviors that lead to the conclusion it is Bipolar Disorder. His summary is perfect at the end where he breaks the chapter down for the reader. But the author still leaves a question for us in regards to his romance with JoAnn, where is she now? As he states, “Wherever you are.”

    1. I appreciate the effort you put into this comment. I respect you as a more knowledable and gifted writer. You comments make me feel like I am on the right track with this book. I had been writing lists of how to’s and wasn’t feeling it. So now I am writing personal stories to educate and entertain and hopefully like in this article I can continue to open up my heart and pour it out on the page. I would like to know more of your story as well as other’s so we can all get Relief from our mental illnesses.

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