Saturday, March 16, 2013

On Mental and Emotional Breakdowns

Catchy title?  Some of you have likely and rightfully assumed that I'm holding back.  I dish out the simple, the good, and the funny.  You might get a taste of bad if I can successfully wrap it in enough sarcasm and humor.  That's pretty much how things go with me on a normal basis unless it's one on one and I've had a sufficient amount of booze that I can later credibly blame. 

Here, in this public venue, the need to be cautious is doubly so.  First, my mother reads this.  While she's a strong woman and, lord knows, has already survived plenty raising a son like me, being oceans away I can't reassure her as quickly to my actual well-being and general survival.  Second, there is probably someone at the Peace Corps reading this and they are technically my employers (so stay tuned for the novelization when I'm no longer under their thumb… and wallet).  And finally, I've already had one chief walk up and tell me he found my blog.  Luckily, he is THE BEST CHIEF EVER.  I do question his English ability, but with technology like Google translate anyone in the world can get the gist.  All that as it is, I feel like I really need to say this.

I am incredibly lonely.  Lonelier than I've ever been in my life.  Even thinking back to blurry, mostly repressed days of my childhood before discovering friends, I can't remember feeling like this.  It comes in swings and at strange times.  Like after an episode of Community ends.  I can't even really explain the 'why'.  I'm never even actually alone!  I have to close all my doors and hide from the incessant knocking if I actually want to be alone for Christ's sake.

I know I'm the sort of person that requires constant interaction (and validation) from other people.  When discussing my placement I told them two things: that I want to learn French and that they cannot isolate me.  And they listened.  I see Erin at least once a week, actually have another volunteer in Bogo with the VSO, and am only an hour away from our regional capital with three Peace Corps Volunteers stationed there and more always in and out.  That's a lot of Americans with whom I can connect (technically the VSO is a Canadian, but, while culturally pre-developed, she's still smart and funny).  Not to mention that I just spent a month gallivanting around with 50 other Americans all going through the same thing.

So why the hell would I feel this way?  Is it homesickness?  Some of that to be sure.  Damn sure that I miss my friends and family.  I miss being around people that know me.  Or at least attempt to understand me.  It's freshman year of college where you just keep meeting new people, but have trouble actually connecting with anyone.  It is the late night conversations I miss; I'm rarely with just one person. If we foreigners are together, we are in groups.  There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle and I'm not even sure it can be sorted out or adequately described.  It's real but intangible.

I say all this because I think it is important for you to know.  Particularly anyone thinking about doing something similar.  It's not missing the food that is hard.  Or the latrines or the bucket baths.  It's not the bugs or the heat (it's 98 degrees as I write with a fan pointed at me and it is the middle of the night).  Even in this day in age with emails and cell phones, it's hard to walk away from everyone you know and love.

You should know I'm fine.  Minus a few strange outbursts and breakdowns to which this post owes its title.  I really am surrounded by great people here.  I've a whole network of friends and was once put on something called "the truth train".  Sometimes that honestly makes even acknowledging any of these feelings seem harder knowing all the support I do get. 

Really reaching for that lighthearted joke to dissipate all this seriousness…  I'ma have to follow this post up QUICK.