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!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Time Keeps on Slippin'

I'm really starting to get jumpy about my invitation. If you've read earlier posts on this blog, you should remember that my departure date is supposed to be "early November," which I assume could mean anything from the 1st through the 15th. You may also have read that the Peace Corps supposedly cannot send an invitation without at least 6 weeks advance notice. Which makes sense, when you think about it, because would-be-volunteers need a little while to get their lives in order before they go. Well, do the math -- 6 weeks is either NOW or coming up in a very short while. Every day I log onto the Peace Corps web site and it tells me the same thing: my paperwork is still on hold in the legal and medical departments for consideration.

It's really getting scary. I hope I make it in time.


Forgive Me

Forgive me reader, for I have sinned. It has been 20 days since my last confession.

Seriously, I apologize for the huge gap. I ended up helping my ex-girlfriend Melonie move to D.C. Yes, she's an "ex" now, sadly. Those of you who have read earlier posts on this blog will probably recall the overly-sentimental post from a few weeks back where I consider the end of our relationship. I guess it has to be, otherwise the possibility of wanting to ET might rear its ugly head again -- especially for such a good relationship like the one we had. Man, it was great. But time to move on I suppose.

So what the heck kept me from posting? Well, we spent a good week packing and cleaning her apartment, then we had the spontaneous notion that I should go to DC with her to help her move and unpack. We checked flights, and it turned out we could get a great price on a return trip, so up with her I went. Turned out to be a really good idea, because it allowed that really sentimental part of my brain to get more of a sense of closure than I would have otherwise had by just watching her drive out of my life. I got to see her situated in a new life, got to attach her with a physical location. Anyone who knows me, as I always say, knows how centered on "place" I can be. While I was in DC I got to go down and see our nation's capitol and the Smithsonians as she was at work during the day. I could write a whole lot about that -- I hadn't been there since I was 13, in 1985, and the place is on lock-down. It's scary, really. Security fencing, police everywhere, guards with machine guns, anti-aircraft missiles on buildings... The whole time I was down there I felt very unsafe. I'm sure with every fiber of my being that something horrible is going to happen that will make 9/11 look like a house fire, and DC may not survive. One truck nuke is all it would take. I fear for Melonie, so close to all those hard targets (she lives in Maryland, just over the border). I also felt quite pissed off, I have to say, because security was out of control down there. Bag searches, bomb-sniffing dogs... They won't let you into the Capitol building anymore with *bottled water* or even an EMPTY bottle of water. No sprays, no fluids of any kind. Is this the right solution? Is this what we want? Paranoia? A lock-down? Especially because it was our foreign policy that made us the targets we are in the first place!

But anyway, the good news is I got to see all the big sights down there: the White House, the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Lincoln Monument, the whole shebang. Hell, I saw were the Forest Service is based! I spent Tuesday the 7th WALKING all over downtown DC and the Mall, and I saw dang near everything that day. My feet were killing me. Damn, but my dogs was barkin'. Then the next day I did it all again, this time taking in the Smithsonians (American History, what parts of Natural History I didn't get to see with Melonie a few days earlier, and then especially the Air and Space museum). Two days spent walking. I must have logged about 15 miles all told -- no joke.

So I came back the 9th. My 33rd birthday was the 8th, by the way... happy birthday to me. Yipee. My birthday gift was the last night of my relationship with Melonie. It was surreal, laying there with her and realizing when we wake up we won't be together anymore. I got pretty choked up, both then and the week before while we were packing, but I'm okay now. I think I'll be okay.

And for those of you following the hurricane season, no, I wasn't in Tallahassee during Frances, and yesterday Ivan only grazed us with some stiff wind and rain and lots of blowing leaves. Nothing major. I'm safe, fine, and comfortable. Maybe I'll get out of Florida yet without experiencing another hurricane (I was in Andrew, out of a strange coincidence, back in 1992).