The following is excerpted from High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder, by Martin Baker and Fran Houston (Nordland Publishing, 2016).
I’m Never Giving up on You
In late November, Fran took a short trip with a friend to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. They left on Thanksgiving Day, and Fran thanked me for making such a difference in her life. We both had tears in our eyes. I reprised my “angel in the car” role by helping them navigate to their hotel.
I had just come off the computer when Fran messaged me “HELP!” because they were getting close to Kripalu and weren’t sure of the route. So I turned the PC back on, found and messaged her the directions, and then went to bed!
The workshop was challenging, but Fran connected well with the people she met. I wrote in my diary, “She’s found some real insights on this trip. It is so good to see how much she is growing.” It was a brief respite. Within days of returning things were hard again. My diary is full of words like “anxious,” “tired,” “frazzled,” “stress,” and “depressed.” She seemed overwhelmed by her new life and doubted herself at every turn.
i feel pretty flat and exhausted.. i’m scared to death of homemaking.. i don’t know how to do it.. there are so many choices.. it’s really hard for me.. i don’t have any of the skills..
You are still finding your way, Fran. It is three weeks tomorrow since you moved in. Look at what you’ve achieved! Sure, there are boxes you’ve not unpacked. But you’ve had visitors. You have a sofa on order, and a new laptop. You have cleaned. You have set fire to the microwave! You’ve explored some of the neighbourhood, been to the cinema, met up with friends, and had a long weekend away. I’m so proud of you!
it’s a good thing i have you to remember all of it.. i don’t give myself a break..
She was physically and mentally exhausted, and barely functioning. I encouraged her to rest when she could. Sometimes, I sat quietly with her while she tried to sleep. Most important of all, I made sure she knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
i feel like i’m losing it..
You feel overwhelmed by everything you feel you have to do? The pace of the city?
yeah.. and depressed.. and tired..
I am never letting go of this end of the string, Fran. I am never giving up on you.
Good luck with that..
Somebody Has to Get Me Ready
Gradually, Fran began moving forward again. She attended appointments with her psychiatrist and care coordinator, and went grocery shopping—a significant personal challenge. We compiled a master list of all she wanted or needed to do, which steadied and reassured her. Day by day, she was settling into her new world. As she expressed it: “I am building my life from the ground up.”
The opportunity arose to accompany a friend on a week-long meditation and yoga retreat in the Bahamas. They planned to leave on Boxing Day, and we had no more than a week to prepare. Fran’s energy was starting to flag again.
Fran was really tired today, but she allowed me to get her going with packing. She trusts me to pick what she needs to do next and urge her to accomplish it. She has done a lot today, and will be even more tired when we meet later. I don’t want to push her any further. She deserves some quiet time.
I felt guilty for pushing her so much, but it was necessary and she valued my help.
What will we do this afternoon? Pack? Or nap?
No naps! You slept well last night. What time are you going out today? I need you back by 2 p.m. We have lots of packing to do. And you will be tired by 6 p.m. so the more we do this afternoon the better. I know I yap at your heels, but only because you are leaving soon and there’s still a lot to do. Maybe I should ease off nagging you.
Just be you. Somebody has to get me ready!
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