I was medically separated from the Peace Corps because I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The original trauma happened 14 years ago. I am a survivor of a sexual assault that resulted in a pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. The miscarriage was something my friends and family were aware of but I did not share the circumstances leading to my pregnancy with anyone until two years ago. The flood of emotions associated with speaking openly about the assault (and other disappointments attributed to my reactions to that trauma) were staggering. I eventually sought counseling at a rape crisis center. I was fortunate to meet other survivors and began to feel a real sense of normalcy. About that time, I applied to join the Peace Corps. I discussed this option with my therapist at length. We both felt certain it would be a positive experience and I was emotionally prepared for what might occur in my two years abroad.
Weeks into my service, I watched two different dogs get tied up with wire and beaten to near death. It all happened within a 24-hour period. I intervened in the beatings before either was killed, but witnessing such an event triggered some deep-rooted issues in me. I stopped sleeping. I was experiencing vivid nightmares and anxiety attacks. It did not disturb my work. In fact, my work was a coping mechanism for me. I struggled at night alone. I struggled on the weekends alone. My symptoms of fear persisted and worsened, which led me to seek counsel with the Peace Corps. The medical staff was more than accommodating and sent me to sessions with a therapist in May of last year.
I attended the sessions and returned to my village feeling rejuvenated. Yet, I continued to experience ups and downs. My anxiety and fear did not ease. The attacks of panic and anxiety were becoming more acute, the fear more intense. It started to creep into my physical health. I began to worry it might start to effect my work. I began to worry I would never recover. I had to make a choice.
I walked in to the Peace Corps Medical Office on a Monday morning in February knowing full well when I explained my situation I might not be offered a solution that would keep me in Namibia. That would keep me in Lusese. Peace Corps policy states a volunteer is offered three therapy sessions and if not “cured” in that time frame the volunteer is sent home for further counseling. I knew they might do nothing more than put me on the next plane to the Red, White and Blue. I was hoping they might have another option. I was hoping I could stay. I could not. There was no option for me other than to return home and take care of myself. However, I am considered a RPCV in the eyes of the Peace Corps. I left in good standing. I can join again after a year. And it was the right thing for me to return home. I have no regrets.
So, here I am. Home. Taking care of myself. I want to thank everyone for being part of my Peace Corps service. I enjoyed writing about my experience and I hope you all gained something from it too. Thank you for listening to my story. I am doing well and am actively working to untangle what is tangled.
On a lighter note, I just returned from a 10-day Wilderness First Responder Course (you can check out photos from my class in Cullowhee, NC below) and will be heading to Virginia to work for Adventure Links in about three weeks. I am gainfully employed and headed to the woods to live in a tent and take kids on outdoor adventures all summer long. The journey continues…
|Wilderness First Responder Course|