TW: Thoughts of physical violence
Sunitha’s third #MadCovidDiaries 3.5.2020
It’s been more than two weeks since I last wrote. Not sure why, mixture of very good mood periods where I felt I wanted to be free from technology and low mood points where I just wanted to binge watch some terrible TV show, to escape from the current external situation. For me, I flip flop so much between two states: 1) Everyone will return back to their normal state but perhaps into hyper drive after this and 2) Everyone will finally see this as an opportunity to realise what actually matters. These marry up to my poor mental health days when I wonder 1) if I’ll ever be able to integrate back into society given the way I am; and the good mental health days when I believe that 2) society has the potential to change to accommodate my needs. I mean, successive jobs where I have had to jump through hoops to let me work from home, haven’t exactly left me feeling like the work place is designed for people like me.
Even the concept of who I am has really changed under lockdown, so much of the narrative around mental health feels like its changing who I am so that I can be part of society. Recovery is framed in such a way as leaving the house, showering, sleeping well, having steady employment, socialising with friends to the point that the year when I really had a complete breakdown, time stood kind of still. I got in touch with friends, who I thought I hadn’t spoken to for a couple of weeks but it had been more like seven to eight months. Yet right now, I almost feel like I’m back there, trying to focus on a lot of what I figured out myself, works for me. Accepting that the weird decision I took to write daily updates on Facebook does make me feel narcissistic and I’m really self aware that I don’t want to come across as portraying myself as something that makes other people feel bad. But for me, it’s cathartic. Plus, the ability to be open about the daily struggles I have to both family and friends is so invaluable. Interestingly, the worry that people have now highlights how mental health is often discussed in extremes and with shame attached in my cultural background. This is particularly clear from the messages of concern from my mum’s friend or a relative in India because to them, they don’t see the nuances and the journey I have come to get here.
Coming back to my cultural background, today, I got dragged back into the drama of my extended family. It was something really important as my uncle didn’t have his medicine and because I was asleep, they managed to sort it out themselves but it frustrated me that I am often the first port of call. On top of that, I had to explain to my granddad that going out to buy my uncle some really random food item to take to him was not worth him risking his health. I know all families have these dramas and it’s particularly exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. However, my extreme attitude to dealing with my extended family can often be just to ignore them for months because there’s no respecting of boundaries and way too much listening to them tell me why I’m living my life in the wrong way, because I haven’t lived up to their expectation of me or the community’s. Although I don’t stand for it, listening to multiple people, who claim to love you tell you off like you’re a child when you’re in your twenties and keep to yourself, tests my patience.
Wow – I feel like this has been a lot of ranting, guess it’s that feeling I have had the last week or so. The feeling that I want to scream and shout, which I did manage to do when accidentally watching the news. Maybe I’ll make it my new hobby, shouting at the nonsense people say, particularly politicians. It’s that irritability though that made me want to whack my partner for no particular reason. I’m not violent, I would never hit him – it was just that feeling of frustration. When will this be over? When will I see my parents again? When will Covid-19 stop being buried in my mind? I try so hard to be positive and I do value those moments but I know at the same time, my brain is in over drive.
So I do want to end on something positive, it’s quite a mundane thing but something that I did really enjoy. Last Friday I drove to the supermarket with my partner. Whilst he went in, I called a friend of mine, she’s in her 70s and had a chat with her as it’s been a while. She’s a lovely woman and because of the current crisis, I called her to check in on her after not seeing her for ages. I could tell she was getting a little tired so she passed the phone to her daughter, who is also my friend and is like a mother. The unexpectedness of being able to connect, complain about how video calls weren’t for us types, particularly Zoom parties exacerbating our already anxious demeanour. We chatted about how the work she does and the voluntary work I do keeps us connected to people because we have contact that other people don’t get at this time. We told hilarious stories and laughed so much, it helped me to remember how she and her family helped me put myself back together when I was in pieces. Just as she had to get off the phone, she had to put her kids to bed, my partner appeared, the timing was beyond perfect. Even in these times, I have these little gems, which is what I have held onto all of last year. Those moments that make me realise, those things are what matters and not whether I miss my train, am late for work, lose something or don’t shower.
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