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Barry Schrader


I wrote a column for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle for 8 years starting in December 2007 and running until November 2015. Then I returned to column writing in August 2016, all of them archived here.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Waterman alumna writes ‘tell-all’ book

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist.............................September 29, 2017

Peggy Jo Henry might not have attended any of her Class of 1977 reunions at Waterman High School, but if classmates read her book, “Climb or Descend: The Rantings of an Ex-Air Traffic Controller/Bipolar/Suicide Survivor and a Game,” they will probably be startled to find out about her troubled life.

Peggy Jo lets it all hang out: The good, the bad and the downright sad. She had a promising career as an air traffic controller in southern California back in the late 1980s and early ’90s when she went into a tailspin – crashed and burned, one could say.

For some unknown reason, maybe job stress, she had a manic episode and was hospitalized after displaying suicidal behavior. A doctor diagnosed it as bipolar disorder, a mental illness that causes one to go from deep depression, along with suicidal thoughts, to an elevated mood known as hypomania, acting out irrationally and making poor decisions without thinking of the consequences.

All this happened to Peggy Jo. Of course, she lost her job as an air traffic controller, got divorced, lost many friends, alienated some family members and found it hard to function on a daily basis.

Her book tells it all, revealing intimate details in the second of two parts, with day-by-day diary entries sharing her innermost thoughts, fears and manic behavior. The first part of the book is a conglomeration of family history, movie and song titles, TV programs and documentaries woven into her rambling style. There is even a game to pique your interest – she calls it an internet crossword puzzle. She includes something for everyone – poetry and even her favorite recipes in the second part, known as Episode II.

Peggy Jo Henry, a Waterman High School Class of 1977 alumna, holds her pet, Smokey, an 18-pound cat she said is her best companion. The painting in the background is a portrait of her son and daughter. (Photo provided)

Explaining how she became a delusional psychotic, she also shared details about her hospitalizations, treatment, medications, making a comeback so she can now hold a job, be accepted by her son and daughter, and even enjoy social pastimes such as playing pool, which she does frequently with friends at a local bar. In a phone interview, she told me she “loves the camaraderie there; it’s a godsend.” Her description of the place reminded me of the tavern on the TV show “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name.

Now employed as a clerk in a local drug store, she probably reveals more about her employer and her family than they would prefer. But I found it to be an honest, forthright look at mental illness and its effect on a person and one’s family.

Plus, the game she offers is a bonus for trivia buffs. The book can be found for sale on amazon.com. She sure could use the money after her years of spending binges – scores of purses, shoes, belts, makeup and thousands of dollars in jewelry. She also had a fetish for ties – she has more than 100 – and now enjoys wearing them to work as a conversation starter.

I asked whether she had any thoughts about dealing with a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, and she offered this: Get help; listen to your doctor, always stay on your medication (if it is working for you), and never give up on life.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115