“Draw a large circle on the piece of paper in front of you. Draw a smaller circle beside it. Label the smaller circle, ‘me.’ Label the larger circle ‘comfort’.” In March, 2017, a facilitator provided this exercise in an effort to depict the reality of Peace Corps and issued us a challenge to relinquish control in order to have a successful service in South Africa. Having now been in country for 20 months, the diagram of me existing outside my comfort zone accurately describes my life with control and autonomy sacrificed long ago.
Today, I celebrate 100 days on my TB meds. As I glanced at my medication app earlier this week, I decided to honor today and my 100% compliance to my health regimen through reflection and writing. After my TB diagnosis several months ago, I discussed treatment options with the doctors. If I chose to forgo Peace Corps medical recommendations, including TB meds, I forfeited the right for medical coverage for TB-related issues that may arise post service, as well as potentially jeopardizing my ability to stay in country. Days before I started the medication, I made the conscious choice to balance the Western medicine approach with three new daily practices. I supplemented my morning routine with ACCESS, a BodyTalk technique that balances my brain and body, bolsters hydration and body chemistry and helps manage stress. In the evening, I stretch my toes and ankles in a technique I learned in Bali and fall asleep to an amazing guided meditation that is similar to what I imagine an Ambien to be like.
I’m incredibly grateful for my medication app. Its prompts have supported my medication adherence, increased my water consumption and highlighted serious side effects of my medication. I linked my mood tracker to a gratitude practice in which I paused three times a day to notice what I was thankful for. Last month, I noticed that my mood changed and realized I was marking “so-so” each of the three times per day. My affect had dulled and I was literally unable to feel joy. The colors of my life were muted. I cannot fully describe it, but it was a marked difference from my norm. I started to mindfully monitor this disconcerting occurrence. On vacation, amazing moments felt fragmented. Even when I was around children, I didn’t feel the joyful moments fully. It felt like there was an energetic block between me and happiness that I’d never felt before. I noted this and other symptoms in last month’s follow up appointments with the doctors.
Upon receipt of my blood test results from these visits, I was left with more questions than answers. Psychiatric side effects from my TB meds were discussed as common and the meds were reduced by half. 11 daily pills that include additional B and D vitamins, selenium and zinc, were added to my routine to protect my body from some of the effects the TB meds may be having. My blood tests came back negative for TB, positive for schistosomiasis, and my hormone levels were low. I’ve been told the negative TB result shows the medication is working (and my self care practices have surely assisted) and I have to continue on the medication. As I was just treated for schisto prior to starting my TB meds, the doctors decided I will await treatment at my Close of Service. It’s certainly challenging to wait six months for a treatment of a known parasite. I’m thankful to report that I have witnessed an elevation of my mood since the reduction of my TB medications and additional vitamins. Though I’m not quite back to my normal worldview, things are not quite as dulled as they were several weeks ago.
Through all of this, I’ve had the busiest period of my Peace Corps service to date. I hosted a graduation for my four Roots Tribe Yoga classes, distributed over 200 Mother Bears at 6 events, inspired a poultry project and gardening project to promote healthy living and economic empowerment to two groups of women in my village, facilitated workshops on safe sexual practices and pregnancy and HIV prevention and set boundaries on numerous occasions, including recently walking away from a particularly challenging meeting and saying “no” to a project. One of my goals for Peace Corps service was to acknowledge my ability to stand confidently on my own two feet in this world and recognize my own gifts.
I now believe that I can not only confidently stand on these two feet of mine, but that I can venture forth through these last six months of service and into the next chapter of my life. This Peace Corps service has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Each time I barely got my head above water, another wave crashed upon me in the form of site changes, illness and trauma. You name it. I’ve faced it. I like to think that I’ve faced each situation with grace.
It is a huge relief that I have actually gleaned lessons from all of these trials.
It is in these last 100 days that I finally recognized my resilience. I recognize my strength, endurance and resilience and today, I celebrate them. ♥
Thank you for joining this chapter of my story. I aim to chronicle the journey of a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa and appreciate your support.
The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the South African Government.