I was a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin. I had met a girl named Amy Jo at a Willie Nelson Concert 3 weeks prior and was going to meet her to hang-out when she got off work.
That is where this adventure begins…
Amy worked at Bikinis which was a Sports Bar down on 6th street. She was a bartender and it was Saturday night, and was going to be working until 2am, so I planned to see her at the bar around midnight.
The day had been great, as I had attended a UT vs Texas A&M football game at the stadium which was next to my dorm. The Longhorns won. I had gone to Jester Hall to eat at the cafeteria and now I was playing in a pool tournament at the World Billard Hall also on 6th street. Amy’s bar was a block away.
I was pretty good at pool. OK, I was damn good at pool. I learned to play when I was 11 at my mom’s bar called the Runway Lounge. The bar was located next to Randolph Airforce base and so a lot of Airmen went there. Different Airmen taught me how to play and I got so good that I was invited to play on the men’s team when they played at the bar. One time during a game against the “Who Knows” Lounge, I ran the table and didn’t give my opponent a chance.
Tonight, at 18 years old, I was even better. I ran the table twice on the best of 7 games competition. By the end of the night, I had won the pot. A total of $250 was what I walked away with and it was almost midnight, so I decided it was time to go.
It was a sunny day and warm earlier, but the night-time had turned a little chilly with the Fall weather we were having. Luckily, I was wearing a leather coat over my t-shirt, so I was comfortable. I had worn the jacket cuz I was going on the date and wanted to look a little nicer than just a t-shirt.
I walked along the street passing various bars which lined both sides. Many had open shutters that let you see into the bar and see all the patrons. One bar had a bachelorette party inside and it was still going strong. If I wasn’t going on a date, I might have crashed that party.
Bikinis had gotten its name because, you guessed it all the girls wore bikini tops and Daisy Dukes. I had seen Amy Jo in her uniform before, and she looked hot! Long brown hair, tan legs and arms. But the best thing was her big brown eyes and bright smile. I couldn’t wait to see her tonight.
She made me feel special when I was around her. Sometimes I would just listen to her voice as she told me about her day. Other times I could tell her anything and I knew she would get it. She got it and because of that she was winning my heart.
When I got to Bikinis, the bar was packed. I pressed my way in after briefly talking to the bouncer. There was one seat open at the bar with a view of a big screen TV that was showing Saturday Night Live with a skit showing John Belushi as a Samarai. I seated myself there and waited.
Amy Jo saw me and came over to say hello.
“Hi, Lance you look nice in your jacket.”, she said.
“Thanks, Amy Jo you look nice. Um, you got me drooling over here looking at you.”, I said, and she blushed.
“What will you have?”, she asked as she looked at me with her big brown eyes.
“Give me a Shiner Bock. 24 oz”, I answered.
After she poured my beer she went to go help other customers. I couldn’t help noticing her Daisy Dukes as she walked away. Damn, I’m a lucky guy.
Tonight, I had $250 winnings and about $40 of my own I had before. I wanted to buy a bag of weed and Amy Jo knew where to get it. She lived in a grow house with her landlord Sam.
Saturday Night Live was over and now I was just watching the late night talk shows and nursing a beer. I didn’t want to drink too much since I was going to be driving Smokey. Smokey is my truck named after the pony I had as a child. My Dad had bought him for me on my 5th birthday.
He had run wild for 5 years so my Dad was able to buy him for $30. I was the only one that could ride him. He at first would buck me off. Then my grandma would tell me to get back on and teach him who the master was. I was supposed to be the master, but Smokey and I both knew that Grandma was the master of us both.
Once during one of these “training” sessions called “Breaking Smokey”, I suggested something to the pony when I whispered in his ear. I told him that if he didn’t buck me off and pranced around the yard with me on his back, I would give him half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Smokey thought this was a good idea as he whinnied his approval. Grandma came out and said, “Time to get back on the horse cowboy”.
Smokey let me climb on his back, and we proceeded to ride around the yard. Grandma clapped her hands and said she had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some milk ready for my lunch, and she went in to bring it out to me.
When she returned a bee came buzzing around my head, and I spilled the milk accidentally and dropped my sandwich. Smokey gobbled it up. I was so mad at Smokey for eating my lunch, but he just smiled at me like nothing was wrong. That was that.
Finally, it was 2am and the last call. The TVs were turned off and the bar lights were turned up brighter. Amy would be off soon as she closed.
Amy came up to me.
“Where did you park Lance?”, she asked.
“Oh, I parked over on Red River and 7th in the large gravel parking lot.”, I said.
“Why don’t you go get your truck and bring it around to the side street and by the time you get back I will be done counting the money.”, she said.
It was about 3 city blocks east and then one block north to the parking lot. It would take me 15 minutes to get there. The streets were full of other people that had just come pouring out of the bars that were closing. I decided to cut over to 7th street early because of the crowd.
The parking lot was poorly lit except for a few street lamps. I had parked Smokey next to one so that I could see. No one was really around, so I didn’t much think about running into anyone, but I was wrong.
When I got to the truck, I heard a voice behind me say, “Hey man, can I ask you a question?”
I turned and saw a guy with two friends approaching me from behind another car. I felt startled and a little uncomfortable being as there were three of them and one of me.
“I don’t know, what is your question?”, I asked.
“Do you have a light?”, he said.
I did have a lighter. I didn’t smoke cigarettes but I used it to smoke weed. I didn’t want to be hanging around these guys. One of the guys behind looked like he had a baseball bat hanging down on one side. They all looked rough. I felt uncomfortable and nervous, so I decided to give him a light and hope he went away.
“Sure, I got a light, but I’m in a hurry and can’t really hang around.”, I said.
“Boy, why don’t you give me your wallet and your keys?”, he whispered as I handed him my lighter.
Oh my God, the three of them were arm distance, and he was asking me for my money.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t care about the money so much but I sure as hell wasn’t going to give him my keys to Smokey. I hesitated to answer or do anything. I wanted to run, but they looked pretty athletic, and I was already surrounded.
“Give me the fucking keys or me and my boys will take them from you and you are going down.”, he yelled.
I impulsively swung and hit him in the face, then I turned to run. My heart was pounding, my breath was short.
The second guy grabbed my coat tail and I tried to pull away.
The third guy came up in front of me and cut me off. I tried to take a swing at him, but he pulled his bat up and hit me in the forehead. I went down, then he pushed me hard until I was on the ground.
The first guy kicked me in the ribs and then in the face.
Lights out. I was unconscious and laying face down on the ground.
It was 6am when I woke up to a dark room.
I was lying on a hospital stretcher. I couldn’t see anything, but my head was pounding. I reached up and touched my forehead which had gauze wrapped around my head. I had gotten 27 stitches. I was glad that my brains hadn’t fallen out, but I sure as hell felt like it was damaged.
I still couldn’t believe I had been attacked. I couldn’t remember much about it and I couldn’t remember their faces. There were three of them and one of me.
A door opened and the lights came on blinding me so I closed them.
A nurse walked over to my stretcher and said, “Good morning, I’m Laura and I will be your nurse. We thought you weren’t going to make it. You came in with a pretty serious head injury. How are you feeling?”
I reached up and put my hand on the gauze wrapped around my forehead and said, “It hurts.”
“Well, I can’t give you anything for the pain until you talk to a doctor. I can give you a glass of water though.”, she said as she turned and left the room.
She never came back (shift change at 7am), but about 7:30 a doctor entered the room. He had on a lab coat and a stethoscope around his neck. His name tag was barely legible. It was blurry.
“Hi, I’m Dr Strasser, I just came on board and read your charts. Seems like you had a pretty good bump on the head. Do you remember anything about it, or anything about last night?”, he said.
“It’s all kinda fuzzy, but there were three guys and one me. I’m not sure about the rest.”, I said.
“Well, you might not remember things for a little while but hopefully it will come back to you a little at a time. I am going to prescribe some OxyContin for your pain. your scans don’t show any hemorrhaging but you might have a little bruising. We will let you rest this morning and see if we can release you this afternoon. I don’t want you to go home alone, you should be with someone in case any complications arise like getting dizzy or passing out for instance. And you shouldn’t be driving. Do you have any questions for me?”, he explained.
“Well, I seem to see everything all blurry. And I have this throbbing pain in my head. I can’t remember much about last night except the three guys. How long will this last?”, I said.
‘Well, that is a good question and I don’t know the answer. It really depends on you and how much damage or bruising is on your brain. I can expect though that in a few days you should check in, and then we can see. But for now a nurse will be in to help you get to a room and take you out of the ER”, he said.
Then he walked away and left the room.
About 8am a nurse, not Laura entered the room with an Orderly. They helped me get out of bed into a wheelchair and took me to another floor and room in the hospital. The room had a view of the the Tower and there were flowers on the window sill.
Luckily the room had a bathroom, but the nurse said I shouldn’t try to walk by myself in case I get dizzy and fall. There was a call monitor next to the bed. I just laid there and pressed the button.
In the door walked Amy Jo who walked up to my bed and reached out and held my hand. She looked like she had been up all night.
“Hi Amy Jo you look like a sore sight for blurry eyes. I’m sorry I didn’t pick you up at the bar. Are you mad at me?”, I said.
“Mad, nooo I was worried. Me and Guido (Guido was the bouncer at Bikinis) found you in the parking lot laying face down on the ground next to your truck. You were bleeding a little on your forehead where there was a big open wound. Guido ran back and called the police who brought an ambulance. You were unconcious. I just sat there holding you and crying.”, she said with tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry”, I said.
“Oh honey, it’s not your fault someone must have done this to you. Do you remember anything? You have to talk to the police about it.”, she said.
“Well everything is kinda fuzzy, I just remember there were three guys and one me.”, I said.
“I told the nurse at the desk that I was your sister, and she said that I could take you home maybe this afternoon as long as you remained stable and didn’t pass out or have any bleeding. I want you to come home with me and stay in the guest room. Sam and I have plenty of room. She said that you shouldn’t be alone for a few days.”, she said.
“Well, I don’t want to put you out and I know you work and all and have classes.”, I said.
“Don’t worry about all that, I only work Friday and Saturday and I can skip my class on Chemistry today as it is just a lecture and I can get the notes from Suzy who is in the nursing program with me. Besides what better way to practice being a nurse than having you as a patient?”, she smiled as she gave my hand a little squeeze.
I looked at her hand and then her wrist at a tattoo I hadn’t noticed before. It looked like 4 dots and a slash running between them. :):
“Hey, what does that tattoo mean that is on your wrist?”, I asked.
“Oh, that is my happy and sad tattoo. :): Manic Depressive Disorder is something I have. That is a reminder to take care of myself.”, she answered.
“What is Manic Depressive Disorder anyways?”, I asked.
“Well, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that sometimes makes me really really happy, and other times it makes me really really sad. Right now I am in between and have been that way since you met me. You haven’t seen all of me yet and I don’t mean the booty.”, she smiled.
“OK, I get it you have some sort of disease. Can it be cured? Are you a psycho bitch?”, I asked.
(Laughing) “No, but yes. Sometimes, I get really irritated when I am manic, but mainly Its like I’m high all the time with lotsa energy and ideas and projects that I work on. I don’t need much sleep and I tend to talk a lot with thoughts racing through my head.”, she answered.
“But no there is no cure. Only medicine, therapy and I do meditations that Sam taught me.”, she continued to explain.
“OK, that’s cool. I never heard of it before but it sounds like you have something that would be great. I mean if you are high all the time?”, I asked.
“Well, it’s not always fun. I can be like high in the clouds. Higher than even smoking weed. I see things sometimes in my mind and it seems real but it isn’t really there. It kinda like taking LSD and having dreams only you are awake. But the sad part, is when I come crashing down from 30,000 feet and I feel like I am in a grave. And sometimes I want to be in a grave.”, she said.
“I once tried to kill myself when I was in a depressed or really sad mood.”, she said.
“OMG, that sounds dangerous how could you do something like that?”, I asked.
“Well, it’s not something I try to do, it is just something I am. I am Manic Depressive and the chemicals in my head are out of whack. But I still got a good heart and I’m still me mostly. The depression just comes on and there isn’t anything I can do to stop it. I hate it, and I hate myself when it happens.”, she answered.
“Don’t worry, I won’t kill myself. I just feel like I want to sometimes, but I won’t do it I promise.”, she said.
Amy hung out until noon when it was lunch-time.
I was really hungry, and they had a Hickory smoked BLT on the menu or Smoked Salmon on Pilot bread crackers and cheddar cheese soup. Wow, both of those sounded really good. I went with the Salmon and crackers and soup. All of them my favorites.
(OK, I got a lot of favorites like BBQ briscuit and jalapeno poppers. Buffalo wings are my favorite now, but they were not invented back in 1978.)
I sat in bed most of the day, only leaving the room a couple of times to take a lap around the floor and to go down and visit the cafeteria and gift shop. OK, so I was bored and I missed Amy Jo. I didn’t want to get hit in the head, but I was liking the fact that I would be staying at Amy’s house for a few days. She was really starting to grow on me. Well, maybe I was just starting to fall in love. Who knows what she thinks of me but I can only dream that she feels the same about me. She must feel something cuz I am going to her house!
(door opens to room and Amy Jo walks in the door with a bag)
“Hi, Amy Jo it is so good to see you. I have been going stir crazy with a lot of crazy!”, I said.
“Hey, Lance back at cha. Ed got you some clothes and put them in this bag so that you wouldn’t have to wear the same ones that you had on last night. The nurse at the desk said we could leave anytime after the doctor gives the go ahead.”, she said.
At that time the nurse came in with a wheelchair and said, “Mr Merrick, your chariot awaits get dressed.”
It didn’t take me long to go into the bathroom and put on my jeans and t-shirt and jacket. I was ready to go. The nurse and Amy were waiting for me.
We got down to the front entrance and got into Amy’s 69 VW Bug. It was yellow and had the numbers 05 painted on each door. It looked like a race car with a black stripe also down the center of the hood and over the roof.
It didn’t take us long to get to East Austin up in the same neighborhood as the French Consulate. Sam had one of those old Victorian style homes with two stories and 6 bedrooms. There were 3 on each floor. In October, it would make the perfect Halloween Haunted house at night with a spire and attic windows. There was an iron fence and gate which separated the house from the sidewalk.
When I got out of Amy’s bug and walked up to the porch the door opened. Sam came out to welcome us to his home.
“Welcome, Welcome to the Ghost Ranch and Resort!”, said Sam.
“Sam, it is nice to meet you and thanks so much for taking me in while I get my wits back or whatever is wrong with my head heals.”, I said.
“Oh, you are going to be put to work. Trimming bud. I got a lot of babies that are almost ready to harvest but we trim most every day and I could use the help. That is what Amy does to help out too.”, he said.
We entered the house into a grand room with 10 foot high ceilings. There was mahogany wood everywhere and a large banister that was probably made in the 1890s. It was an old house but extremely well maintained. Amy gave me a tour of the downstairs. Showed me the kitchen, bathroom and her bedroom.
Her bedroom was decorated like a Japaneeze Geisha house with a big red globe hanging from the corner of the ceiling as well as plants and a big fireplace in the center of the room. This was probably the master bedroom back when the house was first built. She had a king-size bed with posts on each corner. She had a couch or daybed on one side of the room.
“Well where do I put my stuff?”, I said.
“Come on down the hallway, there is a guest room where you can sleep and put your stuff.”, she said.
It was about 4:20pm and Amy said, “Oops, I almost forgot the best part of the house. Come with me to the backyard.”, she motioned with her hand to follow.
The backyard was almost a half acre in size which was pretty amazing for a house in the city. In the center of the yard was a large gazebo all painted white with 2 rocking chairs and a wicker love seat. A little table had a box on it, and an incense burner near a lamp.
She said as we sat down on the love seat, “It’s 4:20, time to smoke some weed”.
She opened the box and there was a small pipe with a bag of green buds and lighter. She took out the bag and opened it, put some bud in a grinder and then put the ground up plant in the pipe.
“You get green since you are a guest”, she said as she handed me the pipe and lighter.
The smoke aroma was Afghani, my personal favorite except for the Northern Lights strain. Apparently, Sam grew and bred his own strains and had a brand. His brand of Afghani cannabis was called Ghost2012. Today, we were smoking Ghost2012 she told me.
It was smooth and strong. I could feel the smoke go into my lungs and release its payload of THC/CBD. Sam believed in the medicinal value of weed. He grew it so it had 50% THC and 50% CBD. The CBD is what gives you a nice body high and has a lot of medicinal properties. The THC is what gives you a head high and helps you to see brighter colors and makes everything more intense.
I blew out a big lung full of smoke and passed the pipe over to Amy Jo.
“Amy how long have you known you had bipolar? Has it caused you any problems?”, I asked.
She was still holding in the second breath of smoke when she passed me back the pipe. Then she blew out the cloud of sweetness into the air.
“Well I’ve known since I was 14. I had a really bad time with depression and felt like I was ugly and worthless. At one point it got so bad I was making cut marks on my arm with a razor blade just to have something to feel. I thought a lot about killing myself at one time. I almost died, that is when I went to the hospital. I was really scared and glad, I didn’t do it. That’s when I got diagnosed and I started taking medicine”, she answered.
‘Wow, that sounds scary. I am so glad that you are alive and doing well now. I would hate for anything to happen to you.”, I said and I leaned over and gave her a hug.
“Lance, I think you might have bipolar too. Remember the concert and then how every day for 3 weeks you couldn’t sleep and had all those racing thoughts about starting a band and building a cabin in the woods? I thought about it and said, I bet he is having a manic episode. And it started the first time we met. That is when I knew that maybe you would understand and appreciate what I had gone through when I have my manic episodes. I just hope you don’t have to crash and have as bad of a depression as I did.”, she said as she held me tighter.
I pulled back a little and smiled at her, then I leaned in and gave her a kiss. She kissed me back, and we held each other tighter. The kissing lasted for a good 5 minutes before we came up for breath.
“Whew, baby you are going to spoil me.”, I said.
“No problem we can spoil each other. Are you hungry? Cuz if you’re not you will be after smoking this weed.”, she asked.
Amy went in the kitchen and put a skillet on the stove and got out of the fridge a package of Hickory Smoked Bacon, a tomato, lettuce, sharp cheddar cheese and some bread. She was making BLT’s. That was what was also on the hospital menu, but Amy’s had cheese. Yum Yum!
Later that night we said “Good night” to each other and I went and laid down in the guest room. I normally sleep in the nude, but Ed had thankfully put some gym shorts in my bag so if I got up during the night and walked around, I wouldn’t scare anyone!
It didn’t take long before I was fast asleep. I was exhausted. It also didn’t take long before I woke up because my head was pounding. I got up again and got my pill bottle from the hospital and took one OxyContin to relieve the pain and calm down my anxiety. I was on edge and needed something to calm me down. I hadn’t at this time learned any techniques for meditation or deep breathing so I was doing the best as I could with what I knew to do.
I laid back down and waited for the pill to start to work which was about 20 minutes. I then drifted into a mild dream state of nirvana. This allowed me to dream. Little did I know that my anxiety was producing a lot of stress that was a result of my attack. The pill helped to stop the pounding however.
I dreamed I was a CIA operative that had parachuted onto a beach in upper North Korea. My mission was to make my way to the Royal Palace and assassinate the Supreme Leader. I didn’t have any weapons, and I was a long way from the city but my plan was to get caught. Because I would be seen as a political spy, their curiosity would lead them to take me to him, so he could make the most of any information and use me as leverage with the US government.
I did have a backpack with some food and necessary supplies: matches, fire starter kerosene sticks, Jim Beam, 3 lbs of bacon, a can of beans and chili (my chili doesn’t contain beans but this is what I had to eat), a radio beacon to signal for extraction, and a mess kit.
Just then I heard a vehicle approaching down the beach and coming my way. Apparently I had been spotted, when I parachuted down from the transport plane that had brought me and dropped me from the sky. I hid in the trees and looked out down the beach watching a jeep cruising along the water line.
The jeep had two soldiers, and they were armed with AK47 rifles. I imagined they also had radios to report whether they saw me or not. Behind the jeep was a troop transport truck that I imagined contained many soldiers.
This would be easy. All I had to do was make a fire and burn some bacon which would attract attention and get myself captured.
So I gathered some dry palm leaves and took out some paper, the kerosene fire starter sticks and the mess kit. I got the fire going and put the mess kit on the fire and threw some bacon in the kit.
Soon the bacon was sizzling and making some smoke. I knew that the smoke and smell would lead them to me. To prepare myself for what would be a violent interrogation, I ate the weed brownies and took a big swig of Jim Beam to wash them down.
The transport had stopped and the soldiers fanned out and entered the jungle looking for me. I just knelt down and hid in the jungle away from the beach but near my fire. I didn’t know how much longer I had before I was found,
Then I heard a rustle behind me. A rifle butt appeared from nowhere and hit me in the head.
Lights out, I was down.
I awoke from my dream in a cold sweat. My heart was pounding, mind was racing and head was throbbing. I just couldn’t stop seeing the rifle butt coming at me and connecting with my head.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this dream would be one of many like it where I am running for my life or being in a dangerous situation. They would all end up with me being attacked in some way. This was the beginning of my PTSD.
Just then Amy Jo came into the room wearing a long t-shirt and white panties with little blue bonnets print. She said, “Lance, I just came to check on you I didn’t think you would be awake. What’s wrong?”
“I was having a bad dream, and I am very stressed and anxious. I am afraid to go back to sleep, so I have just been laying here trying to remember but also trying to forget and put it out of my mind.”, I said.
“Aww baby, I think it is from your attack. You are reliving the experience but in ways that are not exactly like what happened except for the fear and anxiety are the same.”, she said.
Amy Jo knew a lot about mental health and symptoms. She had lived with it and researched her own symptoms. What I didn’t know was that Amy had been raped and had her own trauma to deal with. She also had PTSD and that is why she was able to recognize it in me.
“Well, I don’t know what to do. I took an Oxy for the pain in my head, but I still can’t stop dreaming these damn thoughts that are invading my brain.”, I said.
“Well, let me go ask Sam, he will know what to do.”, she said.
Soon Amy Jo came back and Sam was following her into the room.
He smiled at me knowingly and said, “I hear you are having bad dreams. They are called Flash Backs. You don’t necessarily see the events as they occur, but your mind makes up things that have the same feelings and fears associated with them. What you need is a way to sleep without dreaming. A deep sleep so you can get some rest.”, he explained.
“Well, what do I do? What are you saying I should do, take more pills?”, I asked. I didn’t like taking pills because they usually had side effects.
Sam said, “Oh no no no. No pills. I have only natural remedy. It is my magic brownies. They will make you sleep. You will not wake up or have any dreams, but they take about an hour to activate in your system and release its medicine. The medicine of THC/CBD. Would you like some?”,
“Yes, anything to help.”, I answered.
I followed Sam down the hall to the kitchen where he had a tray of brownies on the counter.
“I just made these today. I eat them for my lower back pain, but they also help me sleep as well. That is how I know that they work.”, he said.
I took one of the brownies and proceeded to eat it. I washed the brownie down with a glass of milk which I found in the fridge. Sam was like a sage of wise learning about weed and yoga. I think he even taught a meditation class to reduce anxiety in people. At least that is what Amy had told me before I had met him.
I went to find Amy.
In this episode we learn that Amy has bipolar disorder and what some of her symptoms are as well as her attempted suicide. She also convinces Lance that he may have bipolar tendencies too. He started having flashbacks as a result of the head trauma
This was the start of PTSD being manifest.
These events happened to me. I had a hard time remembering and facing the details of this attack. I spent years having flashbacks and anxiety from the events and it was only in the last 3 years that I found the right combination of tools that give me relief.
One takeaway was that cannabis can help to prevent dreaming by providing a calming and sedative effect thus allowing me to sleep deeply without the nightmares.
If you have PTSD and decide you want to try something different that is natural, like cannabis for instance then talk to your doctor about it. Some are educated on research and studies that give evidence for how cannabis helps PTSD. You can get a medical marijuana card in States that allow it for PTSD.
Me, I live in Alaska where it is legal.
If you like this post then please comment below as I would like to hear your story and struggles.