It has become an annual tradition to escape into the wilderness by kayak and enjoy a week of good company without the disruptions of everyday life. It is during these escapes into a wilderness controlled by forces much greater than myself that I can quiet the inner noise and reconnect to myself. My recent vacation was spent in Lake Superior, a remote, dream destination of pristine waters. My group and I circumnavigated Michipicoten Island and enjoyed a week of paddling past massive rock faces, scrabbling over cobblestone beaches, hiking old caribou trails into the forest, discovering an old mine and a sea cave from ancient days and watching young caribou wander over rocky beaches for a cold, fresh drink of Lake Superior. It was magnificent.
Our mornings were spent tearing down camp and paddling with a break for lunch. With a short afternoon paddle, we made our way into various protected coves and harbours to make camp, spending the afternoon exploring, swimming, hiking and relaxing. After a yummy dinner, we would make a fire and watch as the sun set. After a full day of fresh air and activity, sleep always comes easily.
During these trips, each days’ plans are determined by weather conditions. Typically winds over 20 knots and/or waves over a metre to 1.5 metres will keep even intermediate paddlers off the water, as will any chance of squalls or thunderstorms so each day is determined not by what the group feels up to, but by what the days forecast will permit. This means some days we don’t paddle and spend the day at shore, and some days we must paddle long distances to make up for wind or weather days so we can make it to our pick up point in time.
The parallel to managing bipolar disorder is not lost on me here. There are days the forecast simply won’t permit much travel, and there are days that must be spent making up for lost time…and that’s ok. There are forces at work that are much greater than myself and these forces must be respected to avoid danger. Something about being in a situation that illustrates this reality to me allows me to accept this reality on a deeper level each time I experience it. It’s funny because in every day life I feel held back by my “internal forecast”, but on my vacation into the wilderness I realize there is a forecast much greater than mine and that somehow puts it all back into perspective for me.
In Stephen Fry’s “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive” he describes Bipolar disorder as a weather forecast that can cast a grey, cloudy sheen over the brightest sunny day. When I am paddling, every day my internal forecast is for a great day, and for that escape I am most grateful.
Many thanks to my paddling partners that made this trip so great.
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