Anxiety. Depression. Anger. These are words that a I never imagined would infect me as they did the past few months. My heart has been heavy with disappointment as expectations of a beautiful smiling Peace Corps service have crumbled. Peace Corps, my long sought after dream, slowly becoming my nightmare as days passed and issues grew. I am not comfortable with giving the details of my situation, because the last thing I want to do is throw anyone under the bus or overshadow The Gambia as a whole with my one experience. The Gambia is a beautiful place, and I know some truly wonderful people. However, just as there are anywhere, some people do not treat you right, use you, and hurt you.
In any other situation, if I were in a bad position in life, I would change it. Here, however, I am not sure why I didn’t, and I allowed it to go on for almost my entire service thus far. You can’t just pack up and move when you are a PCV. Also, the culture is so close knit that you have to be careful about what you say and who you talk to about certain issues. The expectations about who you are as a PCV sometimes overshadow your own health. “Resiliency” it was labeled as. Strength. Waking up every morning with a smile on my face, attempting to push down the serious damage that bubbled up every time I walked outside. That worked until waking up wasn’t even on the agenda.
After a year and five months, I finally spoke up. This experience, for better or for worse, has made me much more independent than I thought I ever would need to be. It has taught me how to advocate for myself and stand up for my own rights. Rights as a woman, as an employee, as a United States Citizen, as a human being. I have been lower than any low that I have felt, higher than high, and everything in between. But I am not broken.
I thought that I was. Grieving the loss of my positive disposition. However, as much as I have learned to be independent, I have also learned to lean on those who want to help and who can do their very best to understand. As I slowly came to terms with the fact that in the next week, I would be packing my bags and going home, my dear friend surprised me by coming across the country to where I was staying. With hugs and kind words, she reminded me about who I am. As I wallowed in the idea of everything going wrong, she told me to make things right, because I have the power to do that. I have the power to change my situation. So, instead of packing, I fought back (in a nonviolent and polite way that is..of course.) *BEING RUDE AND SNIPPY HARDLY GETS YOU ANYWHERE IN LIFE- CHOOSE LOVE PEOPLE*
I wish that I could say that everything is perfect and fixed as of now, but it isn’t. It has been a long month of tears, making hard decisions, and saying goodbye to the life that has been mine for the past year and a half. My village holds such a beautiful place in my heart, and it kills me to know that some of the people that I love there really wont understand why I had to go. I am still making peace with this.
Nothing, right now, is set in stone. I am not sure if my chapter here has ended or not, but I am praying daily that whatever I decide to do next will be in the plan that I am supposed to be following. I am praying daily for peace. I am praying daily for the ability to look fondly upon this experience, remembering the beautiful and really fun things that I was able to experience and accomplish. Peace Corps was not a mistake. Life just sometimes deals you some bad cards and these bad cards have the potential to create a better you.
If there were no disappointments in life, how would we know success? If there were no obstacles, how would we know how to be thankful for the smooth paths? If we were never challenged, how would we really know our strengths?
So, to close out for today, I just want to leave you with this. I am no expert on any of this, but if you are dealing with situational depression or anxiety…
- Breathe. Let your breath wash over you. Remember the strength in that breath. Remember that you control that breath. Allow yourself to slow down.
- Pray. If you are into that. I do encourage you, no matter where you are spiritually, to try this, though. Let it out, you never know who is listening ;p.
- Remember that you are in control of your situation. As chaotic as life gets, something in your situation is in your control and you have the power to make it positive. I swear, you do. I spent a long time thinking that I couldn’t be in control of the feelings that seemed to overtake me. Reclaiming yourself is hard, but not impossible.
- YOU CAN LEAVE. If your situation is not building you up, making you better, molding the best version of yourself…maybe consider removing yourself from that place. There is somewhere else that you belong. There is always somewhere where you belong.
- Sometimes your expectations are your worst enemies. Don’t base your life on someone else’s. Perhaps this isn’t always the best attitude… I find that maybe if you keep your expectations a little lower…then you are always surprised when things turn out fantastic! Have standards, but don’t think that your situation will be like the next persons.
- IT IS OK TO BE SAD when life sucks. Cry, be mad, sleep for three days. But then, come out of your cave and find your happy again.
- Strength is not always found in sticking it out or pushing through. Sometimes, strength is found is quitting what makes you miserable! YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE MISERABLE. aka…don’t be like me. a year and a half is too long.
- Reach out. As much as people can disappoint you, people can seriously surprise you. That goes for your friends, your coworkers, your employers, or people that you just met. Support is a wonderful thing. Use it. Also, here is a huge plug for therapists. It’s not shameful to have one. SHOUT OUT TO SHELLY!
- You don’t have to do any of these things that I just listed if you don’t want to, because it is YOUR LIFE. Did I say this before? YOU ARE IN CONTROL.
Regret nothing. This is your life, this is my life, and it can only go up from here.
Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive and loving as I float through all of this. You beautiful humans know who you are.