COVID-19 Lockdown: Isolation Is Taking A Toll On My Mental Health
I’ve been seeing my therapist diligently since February last year. She’s absolutely fabulous.
I love her because she’s helped bring a certain stillness to my thoughts. With regular reflection and evaluation, I find my self slowing down the tsunami within.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a hypochondriac. Every few weeks I have a list of ailments and disorders I think I have. ABCD: Anorexia, borderline personality, carpal tunnel, dysmorphic disorder, etc, etc.
For each disorder I throw at her she tells me that we all have symptoms of various diseases from time to time, but that I am in no way “eligible” to be labelled as any of the above.
So I continue trying to find a label for my chronic existential angst which has followed me well into adulthood. But nope she doesn’t crown me.
I’ve suffered from depression in the past and have found a friend in anxiety. I call it my friend because it alerts me whenever there is dissonance between my devil and angel within.
Needless to say therapy, my safe space, is sacred. But this past Thursday was ominous.
My haven was under threat. Purnima told me that in all likelihood sessions would be moved online because of COVID-19.
ABCD changed to Anxiety Bulimia Corona and Depression!
And that’s what I’ve been feeling ever since, riddled with anxiety. Every itch in my throat, every sniffle that I suppress, every forward I receive, every alert that beeps is creating a stir within. My depression has floated to the top like a bubble of oil in a pot of boiling water. Simmering on the stove of uncertainty fanned by the fear of the unknown. Permutations and combinations abound. With the odds really not in our favour.
As a planet, we are in the midst of a global crisis, as if climate change wasn’t enough!
While this thread of oneness uniting us is palpable, touching, warm and fuzzy, on the other end of the spectrum morbidity factor is rising. With no end in sight. Online university really isn’t helping me. Funny, sad, shocking stories emerging by the minute are bombarding my WhatsApp, Insta and FB feed. There has been no respite.
Where I used to go to escape is what I am escaping now. I have muted all groups and am only paying attention to my school “girls” group. Where we still manage to crack a joke or two.
Meanwhile back in reality I am being forced to “Adult” at 40 some, taking responsibility for my parents and a preteen’s wellbeing. Because if I step out I compromise their immunity too. So I’ve been quarantining myself. An alien concept.
Enter all my demons.
Isolation has begun to take a toll on my mental health. I’m feeling caged, enraged and stifled.
The fear of the uncertain has heightened my anxiety. It’s no longer my imagination or stressed out immune system reacting, its reality knocking at my door.
While emotions can enhance one’s immune system they can also compromise it. I’m tanking up on supplements. Probably have more vitamin C in my system than an orange tree! But I’m still not feeling “well”.
I’m feeling edgy and tested. My nerves are frayed with my precocious preteen’s attitude and her permissive grandparents. We are in a lockdown, tethered together, giving unconditional love a whole other meaning!
Educators deserve an award hands down for how they negotiate and navigate across ages.
I am shamed to share that I’m tired because of the chores I’m not used to doing. Tired because I’m forced to stay indoors. Tired of the drone of bad news and there is no escape window!
There have been moments where I have felt restless, sleepless, weepy and stretched because of the lack of socialisation. Something one takes for granted.
I’m coping by moving my workout sessions with my trainer online, creating art with my daughter, baking, cooking, decluttering my house and ensuring that I meditate twice a day.
On the other hand, there are way bigger issues beyond the demons in my head. Lives are actually being lost to this virus. Unemployment is real. The economic slowdown is here to stay (just in case we thought there was a turn around lurking doing the corner). Our global healthcare system is not equipped for the looming catastrophe. The bomb is ticking loud and clear.
But, in all of this, I am in awe of the silence. The stillness. The forced meditation. The enforcement of the curfew. Fascinated by how self-preservation is kicking in, not in a singular fashion, but as united front. Fascinated by the thread of unity stringing us all across the globe. Finally, Nisargadatta Maharaj ‘s quote “There are no others” makes sense.
I feel it is very important to not forget that it is the emotional contagion, the information overload that is driving us more insane, not so much the physical contagion.
So it’s imperative we watch our thoughts words and actions.
Let’s build on this huge group therapy session. Where we are all singing one tune, across borders. Hugging each other with our words, caressing with our spirits and serenading the planet with an orchestra of silence.
Is this planetary shift what we needed to pause?
What a huge price to pay.
Nina Kler is a Wellbeing crusader and mental health champion. In her previous avatar she is credited with creating and curating the entire Wellbeing vertical at BW Businessworld where she was the Editorial Lead Well-being. She has spoken at multiple platforms and has been awarded Women of Excellence award by the Women Economic Forum. Presently she is freelancing. The views expressed are the author’s own.