The Covid chronicle : It's ok NOT to be ok

11:29 AM

As we enter week 9 of confinement in Mumbai and I frankly lost all hope of it reopening anytime soon, leave alone May 17th I find myself reflecting on things too few want to acknowledge about this whole mess :


MENTAL HEALTH! 

If one thing has become all to evident, not just in India but worldwide, is that people in power pretty much thought we would have to just suck it up, do as we are told and be ok with it. 
It also gave way to a lot of judgmental posts from people on social medias such as : 

- If you worry about your personal comfort/economy/freedom you need to grow a soul 
- Thinking about your personal need in a time of pandemic is selfish
- If you worry about the economy YOU are the problem
- If you don't come out of lockdown with a new sense of self and new skills you were lazy all along
- A lockdown is the perfect time to introspect and learn from mistakes and change the world

The list frankly goes on, and on, and on, and as the week pass, I feel more and more compelled to just ignore it all, and play a nice game on my iPad rather than read one more piece of condescending BS re-shared by friends I know are well meaning but have totally lost touch with the fact we are NOT all living the same reality and belittling people for not being on the same frequency as themselves is NOT OK.

But then, this whole "let's make the best of what we have" spirit is deep rooted in a particularly westernised modern of "productivity before self"
This is actually this same mindset that has put the entire world in the river of poop we find ourselves in. A world where being sick is not acceptable, were ignoring signs that the body needs to rest is the norm, where a fever and a few body aches prompt one to pop a few pills to get back to work faster. A world in which if we don't give a minimum of 42 hours of our time to a company per week we are lazy, useless, a burden on society. 
A society that in turn will also tell us that "we had it coming" for being stuck in a low wage job, that we have only ourselves to blame for not being "educated" enough to earn more money, when in fact education has little to do with that. 

So, we stepped into a world of confinement, with our deep rooted belief about productivity, and tried to make it work. We now all work from home, and if we don't work 42 hours for a boss, find time to learn a new language, make bread from scratch and still spend 5 hours a day on homeschooling our kids we are apparently not trying hard enough. 

ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes you read it right! ENOUGH! Enough of this bullcrap, this outdated mindset we inherited from the industrial revolution...enough, enough, enough! 

We are not machines, we are not beings meant to be rated on how much our time is financially worth to someone else. We aren't meant to do it all and stay tall and strong, expecting us to do so is inhuman, so let's just stop doing so shall we? 

We are living through a planet wide crisis right now, nobody really know what is the right way to tackle it and as a result we have all been asked to repress one of our core instinct : Being social. 

Even as an introvert myself, I still need a certain dose of social contact, we all do, some more than not, that is what the human race does, we are not a solitary species, we depend on a social network of family and friends and human contacts is something our body needs to feel well. 
Right now, we are being asked to go against that very deep rooted nature for the sake of the community. The rational brain can to an extent go with that (though frankly I am starting to question the logic more and more) but the instinctive part of our brain, aka the subconscious simply can't deal with it. 

We are all grieving the loss of a fundamental, deep rooted, emotional truth about humanity, something that is part of our essential makeup, and probably coded in our genes. 
And yet...here we are, told to reason it, suck it up and find a way to remain productive despite our mind being torn apart. 

I see it even more obvious with each passing days, weeks, we are all on edge. There have been more days in the recent past of me sitting on my bed, repressing tears and hugging my dog as hard as I can to find a way to cope. There are good days too, and there are day I go through every mood on the spectrum.
My only blessing, is that I know what is happening to me, and know how to cope, I have coped with grief before, the situation I find myself in these days is no different than the 4-5 months I spent dealing with a miscarriage in 2008. I count myself as among the fortunate ones who can recognise something is wrong, and know that pushing through it is NOT the solution. 
I also know not everybody is in my situation, and that for some, coping right now must be utter hell, even more so if you live in culture where mental health is still a taboo. 

It's ok not to be ok

Sound counterproductive, I know, but trust me, you have every right not to be ok at the moment. We all do, and we need to do ourselves this favour of recognising it and make peace with it. 
It's not the time to make everyone else a priority, repress your feelings for the sake of others, as they say in the airplane safety drill:

 "In case of cabin depressurisation, put on a mask on yourself before you help others"

This means if you feel like sitting all day on your sofa watching Netflix, then be it! If you notice your kids are getting snappier and fuss over just the slightest thing, just cancel that damn maths assignment the school sent, no amount of stupid leaky tap math problems are worth your child's emotional well being. 
True story, in April, Ishita had a meltdown over the schoolwork coming in daily, the school asked us to pull through 3-4 topics a day, lots of it made no sense to do in the first place, and that day, I had enough. I threw the maths assignment in the bin and decided to do it my way. 
My way being : no more than one academic tasks a day, but ask her to read for an hour daily and told her to spend mornings not in front of a screen. 
I also emailed the teacher and told her I would not be submitting those assignment on time if at all, because it became clear that my own and my daughter's mental health was going to always come first.  She agreed to it, but even if she didn't it would not have changed a thing for me. 

When I made that shift and gave distance learning curriculum and deadline the proverbial finger, we were all more relaxed already, to me that is what matters. 

We all need to take it easy on each other

Seriously I can't believe I am saying it, but accusing your neighbour of being selfish because they want to go back to work instead of worrying about killing your grand ma is NOT OK. 

It never was, it's condescending, crass, and if your sole worry is to keep your parents from catching Covid 19, it's great news because that means you are privileged enough not to have to worry about something else. You can't assume everybody else shares that privilege, and you definitely can't call them name for having other priorities than yours. 

I think the need of the hour, now more than ever is to practice kindness, toward ourselves, and then others. 

Recognise the signs

If you find yourself short tempered, snappy, feeling overly emotional over things that seem small, just know it's the time to lift the foot off the gas pedal. 
Slow down, go back to basics, and do something you like that calms you. It's OK to slow down, it really is. 
Turn off the news, stay off Facebook, play a game, read a book, watch a movie, eat your favourite food, take a long nap, hug your dog, or go for a walk if you live in an area where you are still allowed to do so. 

If you struggle to find ANYTHING to make you happy, lost interest in a hobby your loved, or find yourself entertaining self harm: 

CONTACT A HEALTHCARE SPECIALIST ASAP

Those signs above are a sign you could be sinking into clinical depression, and it is a SERIOUS mental condition that need medical care right away, don't let anybody tell you you are overreacting, and remember there is NO SHAME, in seeking help. 

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6 comments

  1. Hi Cynthia - Yes, we need to be far more responsible and see the wider picture rather than be myopic. When one person is irresponsible, it's not just he alone, but others too who are involved in this.

    It's a really tight-rope walk, balancing safety and keeping the economy running. There is no template all have to follow. Each situation is different. But what is common and applicable to all is we all need to be cautious and discreet in our approach to different situations.

    I liked all those very wise suggestions you have provided under "Recognise the signs". I think that part is very relevant in these times.

    Take care.

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    1. The longer we go in this lockdown situation, the more important mental health become. I am a bit shocked that nothing was really planned to address this part, dealing with emotional stress, anxiety and depression not only is going to happen more and more as people try to make sense of our changed reality, it also affects the immune system in a huge way which in turn could make us all more vulnerable to catching the virus and developing more severe symptoms once we reopen. We are in a very thought situation indeed.

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  2. You're so right that we need to take care of ourselves over all this over-achieving nonsense. Thankfully, my company has been focusing on this by providing resources on mental health, as is our state in terms of all the relief and benefits being provided. But, even so, it's part of the rat race culture to be productive at all costs. I'm kind of over all these online renditions of everything and the new skills that are expected in this time. Even the “what’s new on Netflix” bugs me. How does one find the time to watch shows or be bored when you're just about managing work, the house and kids? I, like you, am turning to coping skills from previous crises like my miscarriage and subsequent pregnancy on bed rest. I also took a several year break from social media, where I was completely off it all. Now it doesn’t really occupy headspace thankfully.

    Here, it seems to be a toss up between “opening up now” and “opening up with precautions” and I fall into the latter category. I think it’s safer to open up in a phased localized manner with testing, contact tracing and proper protection enforced in workplaces, than to “Wisconsin” it and open up all willy nilly. Those relief programs should actually help people and not big businesses though. The decision on opening up is far more difficult to make in India, where both choices put us between a rock and hard place. In the US where federal assistance can be made available, but is just chosen not to be, it is more debatable. Some states have gone ahead and opened up in the name of economic recovery, but more so to get people off unemployment benefits without having to provide a safe and sustainable way to earn income. President Obama tweeted this article recently which offered quite a well-balanced opinion. https://www.vox.com/2020/5/13/21248157/testing-quarantine-masks-stimulus
    But it’s tough times all around and the anxiety is real.

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    1. Yes, being between a rock and a hard place is exactly what it is like in India. So far it seems the PM is proposing a phasing out of lockdown starting next week, but no details have been shared. At any rate it won't apply to us in Mumbai because the Maharashtra CM has already stated that Mumbai, Pune, Thane and 2 other districts are going to remain on tight lockdown until May 31st at least.

      At this point I don't really think it's a solution for us either, as time goes more people are getting antsy, and desperate enough to break the lockdown rules in Mumbai. Phasing it out has to start here too for the sake of everyone.
      The other day my laptop charger fried, I contacted the official Apple distributor in India to check if they could sell me one and ship it. At first the guy told me that they didn't get the license to ship those yet as they fall under "non essential goods", but Apple being Apple, they called me right away after I explained my problem in email to get a sense of what was happening and then the guy told me he will ask if something can be done, called me again, and told me that their stand alone stores in Mumbai could deliver it if I placed an online order with the guidance of one of their representative, 5 minutes later the shopping representative helped me with the order, and flagged it as urgent in the system and I got my charger in 24 hours.

      That said, it should not be this way! Expecting people to work from home but not taking into consideration that it requires IT support, stationery and replacing breaking equipment is idiotic at best.
      Just yesterday a friend of mine who is pregnant for the first time was ranting that she can't buy maternity wear anywhere because clothes are non essential too, what is she supposed to do? Squeeze herself in too tight clothes or roam around naked?

      I think it's starting to really show that we are being ruled by a bunch of old dudes who have no idea what it takes to run a household and know very little about what it takes to make working from home takes in the way of technology. These guys still have the VIP treatment, living in servants, security detail and tech savvy personel.

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    2. Anonymous12:55 AM

      Well to put it plainly we have an inefficient dumb set of people running this nation. From the prime moron to the FM. We've been asked to stop work yet pay our bills, donate and also help the poor. I'm not even going to get into migrant labour discussion. Suspend all forms of transport and yet expect the essential service to show up at work. Right. Planning has never been this country's forte.

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    3. Agreed! I just can't deal with the amount of stupidity coming from the government right now. Seriously I got lucky that Maple agreed to deliver a laptop charger the other day. Working when technology fail us and deeming all IT equipment non-essential is supremely dumb.

      The biggest joke right now in Mumbai is the municipality no longer testing close contacts of a positive case unless said contacts develop symptoms! There are no less than 3 building in my area right now that are sealed.
      They just lock in residents of 150 apartment per towers for 14 days, and wait until people develop symptoms to test again. I know a lady whose building was supposed to get out of containement, but at the last minute the daughter of the initial positive case got symptoms and they tested her then, guess what? She is positive, so now they are going to extend the seal for another 14 days.

      Since when locking 600+ people in a building and not testing them has ever been a good strategy? Why do we need to inconvenience such a huge amount of people for 14 days instead of systematically test people and assess the level of infection and spreading?
      If they continue with that protocol even after the government reopens things, we are going to face people having to tell their boss : "Sorry I have to stop coming to office again because one person tested positive in my 170 flat building and they don't want anybody to get in or out"

      If the government persist with this dumbassery we are going to have riots.

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