Tag Archives: Personal history

What have you lost?



Whenever I appeared in my counselors office severely depressed he always asked me:  “What have you lost?”  It took me a long time before his answer made sense to me.

Since my father died in August 2010 I have been thinking about loss and grieving.  Even though we were estranged (to put it mildly) up till his death,  I still knew within my soul that my father loved me.  True,  his ways of showing me his love were outside the proper boundaries.  But still,  there was a tie of love that was permanently broken with his death.

Grief is the normal internal feeling one experiences in reaction to a loss, while bereavement is the state of having experienced that loss. Although people often suffer emotional pain in response to loss of anything that is very important to them (for example, a job, a friendship, one’s sense of safety, a home), grief usually refers to the loss of a loved one through death. Quote

My father’s death closed a chapter in my life that brought a sense of freedom.  Which created a lot of confusion and some guilt at first.

Later I remembered that for all those years I constantly juggled two longings in my life: the desire to be reconciled with my parents and the desire to be safe.  The problem was that I could not have both at the same time.  It was an either/or,  a tug of war that continued for 20 years until my father died,  since with his death the possibility of reconciliation has died too.

(My mother and brother are still alive,  but sadly it is not safe to even have a passive relationship.  In actual fact,  there is none.)

Since our family situation wasn’t even close to normal  (something I have only come to fully understand in the process of counseling) and we didn’t really have any relationship to speak of for about 20 years,  how do you grief this kind of loss?

It is even more complicated,  because I did not only lose my father. There are a multitude of other losses tied into our family life.  Some things were not only lost,  I never even had it in the first place.  I lost my innocence as a child,  I lost my childhood,  I lost a mother (who never bonded with me),  I lost a sister,  I lost a brother,  I lost extended family,  I lost safety, I lost hope…..

Sorrows cannot all be explained away in a life truly lived, grief and loss accumulate like possessions.   Stefan Kanfer 


That was the answer to the question my counselor used to ask me.  That is why I have spent such a big part of my life depressed.  And over time every depression grew worse.  And when you think it can’t get any worse… it still did.

When you feel hopeless,  every negative feeling is magnified.  You feel like you are in this eternal place of never-ending,  excruciating pain without any possible escape.  There is only one way out… suicide.

Suicide is not about wanting to die.  It is about escaping the pain.  About not being able to bear it for one day,  one hour,  one minute,  even one second longer.

I personally think that hell is a place where there is no hope whatsoever.

We have a saying in Dutch:  Hope gives life.

It is so freakin’,  totally,  absolutely true!

May you always have hope 🙂

PS  I welcome comments,  however,  this is a piece of my soul,  please handle with care! Thanks.


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What do you mean, hypomanic?

Photo credit: cohdra

We are going to Ukraine with our youth group to work with street kids this Summer.  I am so excited!!  It’s just over the border with Hungary,  though,  so my Russian will be of little use.  In that part of the country the people speak exclusively Ukrainian.  This comes with the attitude of: Ukraine for the Ukrainians!  In other words,  all others have to clear out and return to wherever they (or their ancestors) came from.

So,  naturally,  I ordered a Ukrainian language course.  And I have started to learn Ukrainian – which is a lot of fun.  It is different from Russian,  yet I can read everything – even when I don’t understand a word of it :).

The sun has been out to play several days in a row.  This makes me ridiculously happy.  So I thought I needed a party.  And because I won’t be here when I do have my birthday in Summer,  why not celebrate it right about now?  I also owed my house a party to warm it up.  Two good reasons to party,  is it not?

So,  naturally,  I invited about 30 people to come to my party in a couple of weeks time.  I came across cheap and fun invitations,  wrote them out,  and handed them out or sent them by mail.  A couple of people I called.  Now the planning for food is going on.  A lot of fun!

My house needs some attention as well.  And of course a number of people I haven’t talked to in a while.  It’s fun to get in touch with them again.  During my time being sick I didn’t see too many people,  cuz that’s what happens when you aren’t well.  Hard to cope with others when you are struggling yourself.  So,  naturally,  now is the time to bug them :).

As I still have to catch up on my computer stuff and all,  I stay up late.  Or early,  it depends which way you look at it.  It’s not thát bad,  really,  I still get about 6 hours sleep at night.  Sometimes more,  sometimes less.  But overall not too bad.  I mean,  really!

When with other people I become virtually a chatterbox.  It’s hard for me to shut up.  Hm,  that one is not always too easy.

Do you think I might be a touch hypomanic?


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Anger – a positive emotion?

Anger – an emotion that I still so much struggle with.  Not in the sense that I don’t think I should not be angry.  Not anymore, thank God.  I have come to realise that I have many good reasons to be angry.  It has finally dawned on me that the way I have been treated while growing up was very unhealthy and dysfunctional.

Unfortunately,  this continued in adolescence and adulthood.  My dysfunctional family prepared me for abuse from others.  As I came across such people they took advantage of me as I was an easy prey.

I was raised with having no rights other than doing as I was told.  Disagreeing or having my own opinion was simply not an option.  Consequently,  I learned at a young age to simply disappear in my own little world for protection.

So I never really learned to protect myself.  Leaving me wide open for abuse and bad treatment from others.

Anger has the function to help us turn away from that what is threatening us.  It causes us to put distance between the source of the threat and ourselves.  But if I get angry at someone who is supposed to take care of me,  like a parent,  I might have a problem.

In my case it was not safe to express my anger.  I was not safe,  period.  So my anger went underground where it turned against myself.  It has been one of the causes of my ugly and deep depressions.  It is the reason why I have struggled with self-harm.

You see,  in a healthy relationship between parents and children,  there is room for the emotions of the child. The parent is able to acknowledge the emotion,  to help the child to give words to it and to express understanding of the child’s frustrations.

Now, let me be clear:  It doesn’t mean that ‘no’ turns into ‘yes’ to appease the child.  By no means!

After all,  the parents are responsible for drawing the line.  Within the given boundaries applicable to the age of the child,  he is safe.  Without boundaries the child gets afraid and anxious as there is too much room for him to handle.  Consequently,  he will act out.  With too many boundaries the child gets afraid and anxious in case it will cross a boundary by accident.  Consequently,  he will hide himself.

Because as a child we think that the way things are done in our family of origin is the norm, we are not able to distinguish between the good and the bad.  As I was the one in our family that ultimately from a very young age was carrying the responsibility,  I thought that was absolutely normal.

For me it has been such an eye-opener to realise that nothing that happened to me in my family of origin was my responsibility.  It is something that I am still trying to grasp at a deeper and deeper emotional level.

It also makes me very angry as I had to live through quite an amount of abuse that carried on into adolescence.  When I think of what it set me up for in my adult life – it is too hard to even contemplate.


It is so freeing to know the truth:  that it is okay to be angry.

Sure,  I wish I knew how to deal with it properly,  so it wouldn’t drag me into depressions time and again when something triggers my anger.  But,  I am working on how to express my righteous anger.  And since I have come such a long way,  I know I will get thru this too.

But please,  rather sooner than later,  pretty please??

How do you deal with your anger?  I’d love to hear from you!


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My bio: A personal history of my Bipolar Disorder – part 2

This is a continuation from part 1  

I had lived abroad since Summer 1994 being involved in two different social projects.  For most of that time I was hypomanic and consequently achieved very much.  Looking back I also see the down right mean side of that period,  hurting people in the process.  I had sudden anger outbursts that I didn’t understand.  I could make mean and hurtful comments,  not knowing myself why I was acting that way.

Many times I asked for forgiveness and just as many times I received it.  I am very blessed with the fact that during this period I did not lose any relationships,  opposite to my time in college when I did alienate and hurt friends and lost their friendship.

Even during those years I hit an all time low and was depressed for a good year.  Since I had also become seriously ill,  I used the illness as a cover up so people didn’t know I was depressed.  After a year I was able to return to the same project and pick up my work.

The last project involved working with youth in schools and girls on the street.  I was doing way too many things all at the same time.  Suddenly,  on top of that,  I received a letter from my parents in June 2005.  This was such a shock to my system that I literally fell ill.  I had tried several times to bridge the gap between us,  but every time it was made very clear that no contact was desired.  So this was like a bomb shell.

Together with some other circumstances it caused a severe burn-out.  A stay in America for 3 months in 2006 turned into more than three years.  I am very blessed,  however,  with my counselor who has been so willing to support me over all those years,  before and after my diagnosis.  Even now,  since my sudden return to my home country the Netherlands in Summer 2009,  we continue our sessions over Skype. 

Those years between 2005 and 2010 have been excruciatingly difficult and painful.  I have lived through many difficulties (including a nomadic lifestyle) during those years,  together with working through past trauma’s and trying to find ways to deal with my bipolar traits. 

I had been very suicidal for one and a half years,  even before my trip to the States.  I had concrete and detailed plans where I would not be found alive.  It was not so much that I wanted to die,  it was simply that I could not continue to live in such pain and despair. 

The only reason I am still alive and kicking today is because the Lord saved me from committing suicide.  I can not tell you how He did it,  because I don’t know,  just that He did.  And to tell you the truth,  I wasn’t even grateful in the first few years!!!

At some stage I started to understand that  ‘being suicidal’  is part and parcel of BD.  It is not part of  ‘me’  as such.  In the process I came to realise that I have a choice in how to respond and at some point  I decided not to entertain thoughts of suicide as a way out any longer.  This doesn’t mean that thoughts of suicide don’t pop up at times,  of course they do.  But I am able to handle it,  it doesn’t endanger me anymore. 

I am glad to say that by now I am overall glad to be alive.  For the first time in many years I am looking forward to the future.  I have plans and dreams and there is a live waiting for me to live.  I am committed to live that life,  with bipolar traits and all,  to the best of my ability!

Picture courtesy of StrangeCosmos


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My bio: A personal history of my Bipolar Disorder – part 1

Just to give you a little insight of my background,  I have decided to write a little bio about myself related to Bipolar Disorder.  This way I hope you understand better where I come from in my writings.

Photo credit:  BigFoto.com

Even though I was born with Bipolar Disorder,  I was only diagnosed early January 2007 with BD II,  which switched to BD I after a manic episode in May 2007.

The manic episode started with a situation that I couldn’t handle that caused me to run away and live in my car,  turning paranoid,  not talking to anyone as I thought everyone was after me.

Unfortunately the only person I had somewhat of a trust relationship with at the time,  my counselor,  was gone for several weeks. I still don’t know what made me call long-distance to a friend who was living in Ukraine at the time.  But I did and she,  after several days,  managed to convince me to go see my p-doc.

He just saw me and put me straight on antipsychotics.  It was just in time to save me a trip to the hospital…

During that time I was on at least 5 different meds and taking about 15 pills a day.  I thought that was how it would be in the future.  Thank God, I am only on 3 meds and a total of 6 pills today!  Even though taking meds is not an issue for me,  because my focus is my quality of life,  still the less meds the better 🙂 .

After my diagnosis I started to research and read everything I could find about Bipolar Disorder.  Looking back in hind sight I realised that my first deep depression hit me when I was 15 years old.  Even before that age there are now clear signs that I had bipolar traits.  However,  as most other people, I was misdiagnosed for years with Major Depressive Disorder.

You see,  my hypomania was not so visible,  so it really wasn’t so strange.  I have always been a very driven and passionate person.  People saw and experienced me as ‘intense’.  In the ‘good’ times – read:  hypomanic – I achieved a lot.  Since I never knew any different I always thought that others were not committed or even lazy to some extent.  It was only after my diagnosis that I realised that there was a good reason why they couldn’t keep up with me!

I felt always very ashamed about my depressions.  During my school and college years I could still handle / hide it as my hypomania would usually compensate for times I was hardly able to do something.  But once in the working world I had to perform on a consistent basis and that is where I stumbled and fell.

Because I worked for the Dutch government and in my country one can not so easily fire government workers,  I didn’t lose my job in the process.  In other circumstances and in other countries I would have lost my job several times.

I remember taking on a new job about which I was really excited,  only to dissolve into nothingness not even three months down the road.  I was supposed to create an archive but was caught between the policy makers not wanting to part with their documents and the archive department not supporting me.  Little did I know at that time that such a situation drives a Bipolar totally nuts.  I thought of myself as weak and unable.

In the end I was transferred to a job way below my ability.  This reinforced the thought that I was not able to function properly,  for whatever reason.

My childhood was filled with trauma’s of sexual abuse, within and outside of the family.  There was also enough of verbal abuse and to some extent physical as well.  Unfortunately,  I had to divorce myself from my family around the age of 20 to simply survive.  I continued in survival mode for about 20 years before the shit hit the fan,  as they say.

To be continued on Monday….


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