Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

After decades of living with mental illness, a Bolivar writer finds her superpower

Denise Noe writes poetry, articles and books from her home in Bolivar, Missouri.
Jennifer Moore
Denise Noe writes poetry, articles and books from her home in Bolivar, Missouri.

This week, KSMU Radio is featuring stories of local residents who express their identities through various art forms. Join us for our Sense of Community Series, "Living Through Art."

It wasn’t that Denise Noe had trouble finding a job. She just couldn’t keep one.

Take, for example, the time she got hired to work in a library.

“I was told after about a week that I was on thin ice because I wasn't remembering the things that I was supposed to remember,” Noe said.

She was supposed to shelve the books in a specific spot—but instead, she misplaced them.

“You were supposed to, you know, check things out. I wasn't doing it right. I also had a problem, like one time my blouse rode up on me,” Noe said.

That foreshadowed how her career would go for years.

“I was hired to do an answering service job. I was fired my third day of training. Let’s see, I got a telephone solicitation job and I think I was fired the second day. I went to try to get a job as a waitress. I did a day of training and the other woman got hired and I didn't,” Noe said.

She decided to learn how to become a cashier. And this time, she went all out—starting with her enrollment in a vo-tech school in Georgia.

She studied training videos on YouTube that taught how to count change. She practiced and practiced at home.

“We did six weeks of training. Everybody else learned how to become a cashier, and I did not,” Noe said.

A childhood hallmarked by fits of rage

Denise Noe felt defeated. She knew it wasn’t for lack of effort that she couldn’t keep up. Since her childhood in California, she’d been told she was different.

“Well, when I was up until five or six, I apparently was a very friendly, normal child. And it was about when the time I started school that I started having problems,” Noe said.

As a teenager, she had begun to experience extreme impulses to say or do things that, to others, seemed impolite or even irrational. Occasionally, she would feel intense rage and terror, exploding in outbursts of vulgarity or dark imagery. Those episodes were followed by tears, she said.

In school, she was bullied and taunted.

“If I was around somebody else, it would take an almost superhuman effort not to say anything. I would try not to say anything, as best I could. But automatically when I was in a rage, my facial expression would change in bizarre ways. Or people would notice,” Noe said.

Later in life, she received two diagnoses: one for Impulse Control Disorder, and another for Schizotypal Personality Disorder—that’s a mental illness that can include eccentric behavior, a distrust of others and occasional psychosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Receiving a diagnosis, she says, was freeing – because she could then seek treatment. And she did.

With the help of therapy and medication, the rage and impulses dissipated.

A writer finds her superpower

Noe discovered she had a talent: she could research and write true crime stories—and she learned there were publications that would pay her for it.

“I worked for something called ‘Crime Library,’ and I would turn in articles and I would get paid,” Noe said.

She was receiving a regular income. And it soon became clear that Denise Noe has two qualities that make her the envy of writers everywhere: she’s lightning fast, and she rarely struggles with writer’s block.

“My supervisor called up and said that they wanted me to do such-and-such article. And I said, ‘Well, I have no expertise in this area.’ And she said, ‘We need it done quickly and we think that you can do it quickly,’” Noe said.

Noe then set her sights on publishing a book.

Her first book was a behind-the-scenes look at the TV show, "Married With Children," published by BearManor Media.

Denise Noe, a Bolivar resident, holds two of her latest books: Justice Gone Haywire, and The Bloodied and the Broken.
Jennifer Moore
Denise Noe, a Bolivar resident, holds two of her latest books: Justice Gone Haywire, and The Bloodied and the Broken.

Then came a second, and then a third. Her topics span a wide range: one book is about Jewish contributions to Christmas, and another is about the children’s show, “The Teletubbies.” Yet another is on letters from famous criminals—some of whom she’s corresponded with.

She feels a sense of empathy with people who have suffered physically or psychologically.

Noe says her writing is a work of art, and that her spirit is infused in her books.

“A lot of times I'll write something and I'll write it over again. I'll read it. I do try to get every sentence exactly right. And I think a lot of times the the devil is in the details and so is the angel,” Noe said.

Her sentences are uncluttered and precise. On the page, her writer’s voice commands credibility and demonstrates skill. Today, Denise Noe lives in Bolivar, where she writes from her home.