This is going to be a weird blog post to write. It’s about to get real.
I was medically evacuated to America in December. I was sent home to get treatment for anxiety and depression that I had been suffering from for many months. I have previously eluded to how difficult things have been since I returned to Benin after my vacation to America in August. I was not in a good place in September and October and I would often feel anxious, sad, lonely and depressed when I thought about how much time left I had in country versus how much work I had (which was not much because my grants were not being approved for bureaucratic reasons). I doubted Peace Corps as an organization, the whole development mechanism as a whole, and my role in the two.
Thankfully I had my aunt’s visit to look forward to in November and it was wonderful having her see my life in Benin, but I was still feeling terrible and it reached a point that I didn’t even want to be around people. On December 19th I left Benin not knowing if I would return. Taking that med. evac. was the best decision I ever made. I felt instantly better once I was home, surrounded by loved ones. Of course it was wonderful to be home for Christmas and New Year’s, but most importantly I was really comforting and reassuring to know the depression I was experiencing was situational and not some internal issue. I was offered medication, but instead I sought the help of a counselor. On February 4th I returned to Benin after 6 weeks in America.
Maybe this information is too personal to share on a blog post, but I know there are a lot of volunteers out there who are in worse situations than I was in and they are not handling it well. I want everyone, especially volunteers, to know it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. I should have done something about how I was feeling much earlier.
From here on out, I am taking things a day at a time. There still things I want to do with my remaining time in West Africa. I checked one of those things off last week: I completed a 200 km bike ride from my village to our regional workstation. I realize that I will not achieve a lot of the projects I wanted to do, like the beekeeping and latrine projects, but I am going to do more personal projects, like traveling. I am also giving myself permission to leave early if I ever go back to feeling the way I did before.
Finally, I should say that I would never have even made it this far in my service if it wasn’t for my fellow volunteers. I am always amazed by their resilience, positivity and kindness. And also, thanks to my supportive and loving family. You are all way too good to me. And Mr. Geoffrey Tomas, I could never thank you for enough for your love, friendship and partnership.