Sunday 5 February 2017

Using the Darktime

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). This section covers part of Fran’s two-week cruise from Amsterdam to New York aboard the MS Eurodam.

Using the Darktime

Our first opportunity to connect properly was in Reykjavik, five days into the cruise. Fran was desperately fatigued, and in emotional and physical pain. She was relieved to have made it through the summer but fearful of the future. We had always known the summer would be hard, but instead of recuperating she faced finding somewhere to live, packing, leaving her community, and settling into somewhere new. It was not merely daunting, it was potentially dangerous.

Fran: I’ve missed you..
Martin: I’ve missed you too.
Fran: You help me beat my depression..
Mary: That’s because I come down there to find you, in the darkness where you are. I sit with you until you are ready to walk out again into the sunlight.
Fran: From this bleak harsh landscape..
Martin: Iceland?
Fran: Yes..
Martin: The landscape can be an analogy for your depression. Let’s use this part of the journey, this Darktime. Feel the sadness, and then leave it behind on these shores.
Fran: I don’t like this part of the trip.. Coming home.. It’s scary..
Martin: Find me a stronger word than scary.
Fran: Terrifying..
Martin: Good. If it’s terrifying then say so. Feel it fully. Because if you can feel it, it will keep you from falling deeper into depression.
Fran: I haven’t made the most of Norway and Iceland.. I don’t like them.. They are not warm like Germany..
Martin: On the way back to the ship, find me one thing that delights you. A smile. A ray of sunlight. Anything.

She messaged me later.

Fran: We sail soon..
Martin: What did you find for me?
Fran: The bus driver.. And a woman named Cindy who went to buy a swimsuit..
Martin: As you found two things I will ask for three tomorrow.
Fran: The blue of the water.. The brown of Mum’s eye.. The niceness of people caring for us..
Martin: I said tomorrow! That’s cheating! (Thank you.)

They were at sea for the next four days. We were able to chat when they reached Nanortalik in Greenland, and I was relieved to discover her mood had lifted a little. I didn’t expect us to be in touch again until they landed in Newfoundland, but some personal news required me to contact Fran the next day.

Despite the cost, we exchanged text messages throughout that day and for the remainder of the cruise. It helped Fran process her feelings from the summer and prepare for all she would face once she returned home. She was by turns angry, tearful, and depressed. Most of all, she was exhausted. One bright moment occurred as they reached Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was at work, and a colleague found a webcam that showed the Eurodam as it berthed at the ferry terminal.

Martin: Frannie, I have the ship on webcam! I watched you coming in. The camera is looking down on the ship from outside the terminal.
Fran: Would you see me if I waved?
Martin: Maybe! Are you at a window?
Fran: I could go up top on the back deck..
Martin: Yes do! Let me know when you get there!
Fran: OK.. I’m by the stacks..
Martin: I think I can see you! Walk about a bit.
Fran: I’m right by the railing..
Martin: Yes! I can see you! I am waving!
Fran: Can you see my big belly?
Martin: Haha! No but I can see you!
Fran: I’m going back down now.. I don’t have a coat and it’s cold..
Martin: Go and warm yourself up! I can’t believe I just saw you on webcam from all the way over here!
Fran: That was awesome.. Thank you for doing it with me..
Martin: Thank Barry, he found the webcam!
Fran: Thank you, Barry!

I took a screenshot of Fran waving, and shared it on our social media pages.

A little later she went ashore and we were able to talk. The call only lasted a few minutes, but it was our first since Amsterdam and helped us feel connected again.


You can watch the live Halifax Pier 21 webcam here.


High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder is available at: | | | | | | | | Barnes & Noble


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