Tag Archives: Missions

Living abroad – yes. Or no? No, it’s yes…

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…

  1. 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…
  2. 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?
  3. When I happen to end up in crisis – I definitely do not want to be in a psych ward in Ukraine!
  4. 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.
  5. Building a support network will not be easy.  It’s not impossible (me thinks) – but it will take a lot of work.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

Mama’s Losin’ It


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Hope and its varieties

Since my return from Ukraine I have noticed that I have regained a sense of hope that I had utterly lost.  Not that I was aware that I was missing that particular ‘sense’ of hope.  I wouldn’t have called myself hopeless either,  for that matter. 

Initially,  I was actually pretty confused.  Before going to Ukraine my dream of once-upon-a-time returning was intact.  I expected the confrontation with all the changes that a nearly 5 year absence had wrought,  plus the way I had left involuntarily,  fully expecting to be back after a short three-month stay in USA. 

What I did NOT expect,  however,  was feeling confused and having the question rise up in me: “Do I still want to go back?”  This question alone was pure heresy for my mind.  All those years I was geared towards my desire to once going back,  not just to Ukraine,  but also to the work that has my heart.

No wonder I got confused.

Thinking it over upon returning home,  I came to realize that there are still a lot of emotions related to those three years serving in Ukraine.  I loved it.  But I hated the loneliness.  Not the lack of friends,  I am blessed with many wonderful Ukrainian friends.  Not the lack of comfort,  I care very little about comfort.  (Hence I am still living without a light in my bathroom and kitchen half a year after moving into my apartment *giggle*.)

But the loneliness that comes from having to make ALL decisions by yourself,  having to solve ALL problems by yourself,  having no-one to share the burden of pioneering a new work (not ever been done in Ukraine) and inventing ALL the wheels by yourself.

It didn’t start out that way.  It just happened that way.

Add onto that the bipolar trait of hypomanically thinking that,  ‘yes of course I can deal with everything’  feeling.

Add onto that a family situation exploding into my face and it becomes a recipe where I slowly lost control over my life.  This was a type of crisis I had never experienced before.  And I do not care to ever experience it again.  It nearly cost me my life.

Once I had figured out that this was the background of my struggle,  I realised everything was going to be okay.  Cuz I will not repeat the past.  (I will not tire you with how I am gonna make sure of that.  Suffice it to say that I surely will!)

So,  back to the hopeful and brighter side.  I am still here and kicking, yeah!  AND,  I do see a future for myself living and working abroad.  This trip has given me the assurance that it is totally possible.  With a little help from my friends.  And then some.  But who cares?  I know I can make it work with the right people in place and with the prerogative that I will take GOOD care of myself.

Now,  that gives me hope,  peeps!

Tell me,  what gives you hope?


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A visit to remember

Apart from getting my computer back,  all fixed up (hurrah!!),  which is very exciting,  I also had a very exciting conversation today.  I love those,  don’t you? 

I spoke with B. who, together with his wife M.,  visited me in Ukraine back in 2005.  Living in Kharkov,  East Ukraine,  I was running a shelter for ladies that had come of the street, wanting to turn their lives around, turning away from prostitution.

My girls and team members immediately took to M.  In no time she had joined them in the kitchen making pelmeni’s (Ukrainian/Russian type of ravioli’s with meat in them).  B. and I were talking ‘business’.  Now heading up an international mission organisation for Europe, they had been missionaries before in Greece and the surrounding countries. 

Their visit was so timely,  one of those God-moments.  They had sought me out,  since they were visiting other projects their organisation was overseeing.  It was lovely spending time with them.

To catch up again after so many years is so wonderful!  We just continued where we left of.  It turns out that M. is now even more involved in anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution.  Also, their organisation is having a conference in August next year for which I am already invited :). 

It gets me all fired up to be on my way again…  However, that will still take quite some time.  But one can always dream!  And my dreams are BIG people.  I just can’t do it for less,  since I know such a BIG GOD.


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