Author is hoping story saves lives

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 07:23 am

Former Okotoks teacher Fran Porter will have a reading for her book “When the Ship Has No Stabilizers” at the Okotoks Public Library on May 12.
Former Okotoks teacher Fran Porter will have a reading for her book “When the Ship Has No Stabilizers” at the Okotoks Public Library on May 12.
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A former Okotoks high school teacher hopes sales from her book will give people the power to save the lives of youth with mental illnesses.

Calgarian Fran Porter, a retired Foothills Composite High School English and French teacher, spent 32 frustrating years trying to help her daughter Colleen. Colleen suffered from a borderline personality disorder and Porter describes the harrowing years trying to help her daughter in her first published book “When the Ship has no Stabilizers.”

“It was 32 years of hell,” said Porter. “As a teacher it was sometimes therapeutic because I knew I was helping other kids, but the really sad and ironic thing was I couldn’t help my own child.”

The book, released in March, is from Porter’s point of view dealing with her daughter’s symptoms, the frustrations of trying unsuccessfully to get her help and then Colleen’s suicide in 2010.

The book contains two chapters of clinical information about borderline personality disorder and related illnesses, as well as resources people can access to get help, said Porter.

“It’s a very serious mental illness,” she said. “Many more people than I think we realize have it to a greater or lesser extent.”

In her effort to share her story, Porter will read a portion of her book at the Okotoks Public Library on May 12 at 7 p.m.

Copies will be sold for $30, with each dollar going to Calgary’s McMan Youth Family and Community Services Association, which assisted Colleen through her disease. The not-for-profit society is hoping to start a dialectical behavior therapy clinic to provide immediate treatment to youth with emotional disorders by teaching them how to reprogram their brain to get through the disorder.

Darlene Petrie, McMan’s community engagement specialist, said the society needs $45,000 to operate the clinic for a year and currently has no funding in place.

When Petrie learned of Porter’s pending donation, she was ecstatic.

“I was just so blown away,” she said. “It’s amazing what she is doing. The education that her book will put out into the community is going to be really helpful for people who have youth with mental health disorders. The youth we are working with don’t have the option to go on a waiting list and they don’t have the funds to be able to pay for it privately.”

Porter hopes to contribute a minimum of $10,000 worth of book sales to give the clinic a head start.

“The people who have (borderline personality disorders) sometimes have to take medication and quite powerful antidepressants,” Porter said.

“These are addictive drugs. They tend to overdose to the point of killing themselves because they feel the need to numb.”

Porter said many people who have the illness don’t want help, and if they have a moment where they identify that need that’s where this clinic will come in handy. She said some patients wait months for help.

Porter hopes publishing her story will help others.

“I think the message is there and it has to get out,” she said. “The main feeling I had at the end is, is this is going to help people who are going through what I’ve been through?”

Porter set to task writing the book days after her daughter’s suicide. Although she had work published in various magazines, this was her first attempted to write a book.

“I needed to just write because that’s how I work out my emotions,” she said. “I started writing two days after she passed away.”

When Porter shared what she was doing with the congregation at Red Deer Lake United Church, where she attends church, Calgary artist Larry Stilwell volunteered to design her cover. Stilwell put Porter in touch with a publisher he knows in Ontario and as a result her book was published by Crossfield Publishing, which covered the majority of the costs.

Porter had her first book reading at Shelf Life Books in Calgary last month, where the book is available for sale. The next book readings are at Southwood United Church in Calgary on May 8 and Red Deer Lake United Church on June 8 at about noon.

“When the Ship has no Stabilizers” is available for purchase at the Okotoks Public Library, Okotoks Chiropractic and Massage Therapy, amazon.com and amazon.uk.

To attend Porter’s book reading on May 12 call the Okotoks Public Library at 403-938-2220.


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