Fly-Fishing & Bipolar: It’s Progress…Huge Progress
I have been on vacation. A vacation without cellphones, wifi or even my watch. The kind of vacation where time stands still and you forget what day it is. I slept until my body told me to wake up. I fell asleep when it got dark because at 39-degrees and 10,000 feet, up in the mountains where the mountain lions roam, there is not a lot to do after dark but talk, sleep and pray that the mountain lions and bears have full tummies.
I did not read a newspaper or listen to any news. I stopped to say “hello” to every dog that crossed my path and ate jerky. I stomped around in streams, up to my thighs in clean, cold water attempting to fly-fish.
I paid attention to my mood. Uptight at the airport – trying to figure out what I had forgotten. Negotiating for an upgrade on the rental car, trip to WalMart for camping supplies and provisions.
Finally, we fished.
I’m a cane-pole-&-bobber kind of girl. For me, fly-fishing was the stuff of Robert Redford movies. But when a childhood friend offered to teach me to fly-fish in Colorado, I could not resist.
Now, let me just start by saying people with bipolar should think long and hard before they decide to pick up a fly rod. The skills needed to fly fish are the same skills that vanish when my mania ramps up: patience, stillness, focus, serenity, silence – whole Zen thing.
Imagine in your mania you are given a fly the size of a mosquito and a fishing line the diameter of a frog’s hair and you must thread the frog’s hair through a hole the size of an ant’s eye on the end of the fly. After a dozen attempts I became convinced that there was some evil fly-tying madman out there who was laughing his butt off because he had place a microscopic drop of Super Glue on the ant-size eye on the end of the fly – blocking me from ever pushing that frog’s hair through the ant’s-eye.
I’m not even going to bother telling you about the knot you have to tie with the frog’s hair after you finally thread it through the ant’s eye. Or the time I spent on the river bank untangling my fly from an evil shrub that sucked it in damn near every time I back cast. Or the time I dropped my fly-box into the river and watched it bob quickly downstream.
I also won’t bother to tell you about the six-inch long trout I caught after all of that. Six-frickin’-inches. I’m from Florida. The last fish I caught down here was a monster sailfish. Took me 20 minutes to bring her in.
But there I was in Colorado, standing in 35-degree water, poking a frog’s hair through an ant’s eye and having the time of my life. Enjoying the heck out of it. Loving every minute. Hour-after-hour. Day-after-day.
People, I am here to tell you that I have made progress! Huge progress. Six years ago – before all the therapy and medications – this type of vacation would have been impossible. My mania would have blocked that frog’s hair from making its way through that ant’s eye and my depression would have taken hold after three days of no trout. I would have given up. I would have complained and whined and been a miserable travel companion.
But I can see my improvement! I am so much better! All the therapy and medication and diet and exercise has paid off! I am back from my vacation and rested and relaxed and happy. And…dare I say…proud.
I would actually go fly-fishing again. In fact, I want to go fly-fishing again – but this time in Florida, where we use flies the size of your thumb and a tippet the size of a shoelace. I even have a goal. I want to go to the Florida Keys and catch the most manic fish of them all. The wiley bonefish. You’re mine, baby. You’re mine.
Photo by Explore the Bruce, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
Stapleton, C. (2011). Fly-Fishing & Bipolar: It’s Progress…Huge Progress. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2011/10/fly-fishing-bipolar-its-progress-huge-progress/