Photo credit: Steve Parker
What would it take for you to pick up and move?
Welllll – really not much: pack my suitcase & laptop, preferably my guitar, and off I go!!!
I’ve done it many times since I lived for a total of about 15 years abroad, so I know the ins and outs of travelling light (meaning carrying my laptop, guitar and hand luggage while losing my coat and/or scarf on the way to the plane :) ).
But that changed in the last 5 years… since my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder I in 2007.
You have had it all your life, done all this travelling, so why can’t you just up and leave?
Welllll – yes, I have had it all my life, but I wasn’t a rapid cycler.
You Dutchies are always on your bike, what’s the problem with being fast?!
Welllll – it’s got nothing to do with my bike, that’s why!
It means that my episodes or mood swings can go up and down fast. I can change moods during the day – although this doesn’t happen often – while in the past my moods could last for many months or even years. *big sigh*
So, how come you are a fast biker now?
Welllll – it usually happens after going through a crisis, like a big one. Which I did. Unfortunately.
In 2005 it started to go down hill and during 2006 it got progressively worse. I was seriously suicidal and didn’t know what to do with myself. I was going up and down and experienced mixed moods for the first time in my life. I had no idea about what the heck was going on in my life. I only knew that I wanted the pain to stop.
I was diagnosed early 2007, but still went through a manic phase after the diagnosis while taking mood stabilizers and other meds. Not fun (huge understatement :(, do you hear the sarcasm?).
After I became more stabilised on the right med combo that worked for me, it became very clear I had become a rapid cycler.
Officially you are a rapid cycler if you have more than 4 episodes a year. Well, I can have 4 different moods a week! I am not ultra-rapid cycling – that is even worse, changing moods all day, every day. Sort of. Yikes!
Meaning fast bikers don’t get anywhere?
Welllll – heck yes!!! Of course I can travel. This winter I made a beautiful trip to Ukraine. I will travel again this Summer with the youth group.
But there is a difference in travelling for a month or so and living abroad while taking care of your Bipolar. By yourself. No support network. With meds, of course. I checked, my current meds are available in Ukraine, if I would end up there again. But…
- I’ll need a doctor to prescribe my meds. Or take huge amounts over the border. Don’t know if that works, provided I would get a half a year supply from the pharmacy here…
- I’ll need blood checks on my liver every three months. I need to find a lab with lab technicians that do blood work that I can trust. And let’s not forget: use clean needles and such. Don’t want to add HIV onto my plate of health challenges, now would I?
- When I happen to end up in crisis – I definitely do not want to be in a psych ward in Ukraine!
- Even though my insurance has covered repatriation in the past, it is not very likely they will in the future. That is what this type of diagnosis can do for you.
- Building a support network will not be easy. It’s not impossible (me thinks) – but it will take a lot of work.
- I’ll need to monitor myself very strictly, since I will be most likely more or less my own doc. That’s a bit tricky, however good I am at recognizing my symptoms and such.
- Welllll – can’t think of more, but gotta have an uneven number, so this is the seventh. Six is enough anyways, don’t you think?
Okay – so you will only make short trips then?
Welllll – who said that?! Of course not! I want to live and work abroad, don’t you get it?
Uhm… not sure I do.
Welllll – that’s your problem then, ain’t it?