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Jesus Hitler Manson  
Chapter Three
The Power of Mania

People often speak fondly of their influences. Musicians are quick to credit other musicians who have influenced them. Artists and writers do the same. We have all been influenced by our parents and teachers. Influence is a good thing.

Influence is what makes a society grow and evolve. Influence passes ideas from one generation to the next. Influence stimulates and educates.

When we influence one another, our intention is to give the other person a gift. When we are influenced in a positive way ourselves, we feel as though we have received a gift. It's only when influence is used to manipulate for selfish reasons that it becomes a bad thing.

During my teen years I volunteered at a summer day camp for handicapped children. It was a fun but very intense and often psychologically challenging time. Long days in the hot sun caring for some severely physically deformed children. I spent a considerable amount of time taking them to bathroom and changing their clothing. You had to be pretty intimate with these kids so you saw and experienced things that would make most people extremely nauseous.

But this was the perfect place for a teenager with bipolar disorder to shine. My mania would "kick in" on the first day and last most of the summer. I was able to handle it all. I was pooped on, peed on, vomited on and bruised from flailing, spastic arms. I literally saved a few kids' lives on several different occasions. Some from drowning, some from choking and once from a hurricane.

I was truly in my element. Everyone loved me there. All of the kids, the other volunteers and especially the counselors in charge. I spent six or seven summers there and was clearly the guy everyone looked to for everything.

I was always full of energy and inventing cool stuff for us to do. I initiated activities that the camp had never done before and activities that the kids had never done before. I took them horseback riding. I organized group trips to the movies. I even came up with the annual trip to the mall.

Most people take a simple thing like going to the movies or the mall with our friends for granted, but for these kids it was a first. The only time they ever went to the mall was with their parents and it was always a drag. Our mall trips allowed them the freedom to be kids. They didn't have to worry about being stared at for being disabled because they were in a big group of disabled kids. So they were invisible and at the same time, part of a team. Safety in numbers, so to speak.

I was loud, crazy, funny, creative, and most importantly, responsible. Everyone always felt safe with me around and I was the one they counted on when things got rough. To the members of this camp, I was a star.

And I enjoyed every minute of it. I honestly believe that I would not have been as successful at this job as I was had I not been bipolar. No amount of coffee can amp you up like mania. Coffee also doesn't give you the creativity or clarity of thought that mania does.

Each summer, we'd have one sleepover. I'd usually spend most of it taking kids to the bathroom all night. Since I was one of the only males working there and I had the stomach for gross stuff, I was the "go to" guy. The kids also preferred me to take them to the restroom because I made them feel comfortable with what can only be described as a very uncomfortable experience.

I could joke about the occasional surprise erection. When a kid would poop on my arm by accident, I'd smile and say, "You've been eating corn again, huh." We'd all have a laugh while inside I was freaking out. But that's the power of mania. You can endure anything.

On one particular sleepover, I was one of four counselors with a group of younger volunteers. I was now a full counselor and was left in charge of the sleepover. There were no parents and at about age sixteen or seventeen, I was the oldest one there.

You might think it absurd to leave two dozen handicapped children in the hands of a teenager overnight, but remember, I was a star and everyone trusted me implicitly. I had done the sleepover several times before. This was going to be no problem.

The evening began as usual. It was an extension of the regular camp day but instead of going home, we set up tents and spent the night. We sang songs and played games. I took kids to the bathroom. It was business as usual.

Around 7:00, the sky got dark real fast. Not because night was coming but because an unexpected storm was moving in—and moving in fast. My first instinct was to get everyone off the field and out of their tents and into the big barn.

I told the volunteers to leave the kid they were looking after in the barn and try to grab all of the clothing, diapers and other necessities they could and get them into the barn as well. At this point, the rain was coming down pretty hard and the wind was really getting strong. But the weather report hadn’t mentioned a big storm, so I figured it would just pass in a few minutes and we could get on with the sleepover. Well, I was wrong.

The storm got worse. Way worse. Some of the kids were a little scared as were some of the younger volunteers. But everyone was looking at me and I was cool and still cracking jokes, so they all remained calm. After about twenty minutes or so, the storm was so loud between the rain, wind and thunder, I began to realize that this barn might not be the best place to be.

The wooden planks that comprised the barn’s walls were rattling as if they were about to come off. The ceiling was leaking badly and everyone was getting wet. I was especially concerned about the electronic wheelchairs. Soon it became clear that we had to get out of there. Fast.

I knew there was a house up the street from the camp that most likely had a basement. Even if it didn't, it was better than this old barn. I told everyone to grab what they could carry and that we were heading out. I had a couple of bags thrown over my shoulder and a kid in a wheelchair in each hand.

As I passed through what was left of the camp, I saw the camp's chicken smashed up against the side of her coop. I was pretty sure it was dead. All of the tents had been ripped out of the ground. The place was a disaster.

I continued pushing both wheelchairs at the same time with a parade of kids behind me. When I think back to the physical strength it must have taken to push two wheelchairs at the same time up the street that far in the rain, I can't imagine how I did it. Plus, part of the trip was on a dirt road. Mania.

When we reached the house, I pounded on the door and shouted that we were from the camp up the street and needed help. No one answered. I looked at one of the other counselors and down at all the kids behind me who were visibly shaken.

"I'm kicking in the door."

"Do you think we should?" she asked.

"I don't think we have a choice."

I had never kicked in a door before, although I had seen it done on television. I kicked it once, hard, near the knob. It kind of gave but not all the way. I kicked it again and it flew open. I was a little surprised to be honest. Easier than I thought.

I yelled for everyone to get into the house. We started lifting wheelchairs up the front steps and into the hall. The door to the basement was right there off the front hall. Once we got everyone in the house, I started carrying kids down the steps into the basement.

Some kids couldn't be removed from their wheelchairs. Their condition was so bad that the wheelchair sort of held them in place. I had no choice but to move them down the steps in their wheelchairs. I had this younger male volunteer named Ted help me. Some of the wheelchairs were electric and pretty heavy. I can't believe the two of us managed to carry them down the steps.

Once we got everyone into the basement, I looked around and surveyed the situation. The girls were busy trying to dry off their kids and calm them down. Everyone was looking at me.

"It's cool. We're safe," I assured them.

Everyone seemed to relax. On a scale of one to ten, I was on eleven. I couldn't stay still. I was up and down the steps, looking out the window. The storm was still going strong. Although we didn't grab any food, everyone was too upset to eat.

I don't remember how long we were in that house. Time was racing. At that time, there were no cell phones and the phone in the house was dead from the storm. No one to call. We were on our own for a while. Finally, the head of the camp came through the front door with some other people and asked if everyone was all right.

I shouted, "Worst sleepover, ever!"

Pretty soon a whole bunch of people were there. More people from the camp, concerned parents and even the people who owned the house. The rain had stopped and Ted and I started carrying kids back up the stairs.

At one point, I passed the owners of the house and said something like, "Sorry about your door. It was an emergency."

They didn't seem to mind.

We loaded all the kids into their parents' cars. (They eventually all showed up to get their kids.) No one said shit to me. That I remember for sure. No thank you's or anything.

The next day of camp only about half the kids came. The place was a wreck and we spent most of the day cleaning up.

The point of this story is to illustrate leadership and the bipolar condition. I started that day from a leadership position where I was respected and well-liked. When the storm hit, I was the one everyone looked to for what to do. When things got really bad, they all blindly followed me to the place I thought we should go. This is the ultimate in leadership. It's the point where people will do whatever you say and not think twice.

It is a very powerful place to be and needs to be taken with a serious sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with a bipolar leader.

Hitler and Manson are perfect examples of men who were able to get their followers to blindly do whatever they wanted. They had people so devoted and accepting of their leadership, they would commit murder if asked. It was the power of mania gone horribly wrong.

Conversely, I used my power for good. So did Jesus in many ways. People changed their lives for him. You really do have a choice. Remember, bipolar disorder combined with the ability to lead and influence is like a super-power. It's up to you how you use it.

Jesus, Hitler, Manson and Me
Bipolar Men of Influence
Vinnie Santino
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