Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

*Sigh.* Just when I thought this was going to be easy.

I got notice on Saturday (why can't it ever be Tuesday or something, when I can do something about it?) that the Medical Office of the Peace Corps needed more information on my counseling. Back when I was doing the medical part of the initial Peace Corps application, I clicked a radial button indicating that, yes, I had at some point received "psychiatric, psychological, or mental health counseling." yes, I have received counseling. I had two really rough patches in 1999 and 2001, both having to do with a previous relationship, and I saw a school counselor both times. I won't get into the details here, but Peace Corps wanted all my documentation with my medical packet and they wanted me to write a detailed (!) account of my mental health history.

SO. Then on Saturday they write to me saying they now need me to go get a psych assessment, with a board-certified psychiatrist, no less, and of course they cannot reimburse me for this. You know how much these people charge per hour? And Peace Corps wants about three of these assessment sessions so the doc can see if I'm sane? We're talking about over $500 dollars here. I don't have that kind of money. I know, people always complain about spending $500 dollars, but I really don't have that money. As I said before, I live pretty poor.

I called the Peace Corps to try and talk them out of this huge requirement. I mean, after all, with that one question they lump everything together -- if you ever had marriage counseling, you have to follow the same procedure for having multiple personality disorder. Everything -- disassociative disorders, OCD, manic-depression, panic attacks -- everything gets lumped into the same category: "I once had some kind of counseling or therapy." No matter if you visited the school counselor for a few weeks over lack of school motivation or you were hospitalized in a loony bin for twenty years for having some kind of psychotic break where you thought you were Napoleon. It's ALL THE SAME THING!

When I talked to the representative of the Medical Office, she pointed out that "conditions in the field" are stressful, yadda yadda. I know this. She said the Eastern Caribbean doesn't pose the same kinds of stress and challenges as other posts around the world. I know that, too. Hell, I'm probably better suited to Peace Corps life than a lot of other volunteers, mainly because, A) I already live a pretty modest lifestyle, at least by American standards, and B) I'm very used to being isolated and alone. I actually like it. Ask my friends and family members... I go weeks and months without talking to them. I know ONE person in Tallahassee. That's it. I'm used to being poor and lonely. I'll be fine. But her fear, and I know they're just covering their asses, is that these environements are stressful and she noted I tend to get counseling when I'm stressed.

Yes, true true. But wouldn't it be worse if I didn't get counseling? What about those who just bottle it all up?

I'm being punished for getting professional advice on a painful divorce. Silly me.

Anyway, I'm getting the counselor I saw to give them a call. Still waiting on the results of that, but I figure if the same guy who did the counseling in the first place can call them and talk some sense into them, maybe I can avoid this snag. Because I don't have the money, nor do I have the time -- it would take weeks to get this accomplished, and by then I'd be missing my "early November" departure date. So hold on, dear readers, because if they won't listen to my former counselor (they damn sure don't trust my word for it!) then I won't be leaving in November after all. And if I don't leave in November, I may not be going until -- who knows? -- next spring or summer or fall, and I won't be going to the Pacific probably.

So major changes... Stay tuned for the stunning conclusion to this week's The Toughest Job!


p.s.: think carefully as you fill out the medical questionnaire!

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