This whole experience is really taking a mental and physical toll on my body. Each day to me actually represents three or four days of pre-covid time.

Sunitha’s #MadCovidDiaries 25.5.2020 

Yesterday, my mum reiterated her desire to come drive to see me even if it was just from afar. A couple of weeks ago, I was seriously considering self isolating in preparation for relaxing of lockdown rules and asking my parents to do the same. Unfortunately, trying to convince my mum that her journey isn’t necessary in this current political climate, when I feel like I am falling apart mentally, has pushed me to my limit. Even her point of view, that the deaths are decreasing, though logical, ignores my valid instinct to keep her safe in whatever way I can. To that end, whilst I might usually call her and cry, tell her how much I am struggling, I have tried to play it down. On top of that, I think a break from my obsessive information consumption is needed for things to become manageable.

It’s a sad state of affairs though when I stop consuming information from news outlets both online or on the TV because it leads to elevated levels of anxiety. At a time when we need guidance and support, I feel like there’s nowhere to look except inwards. Unfortunately, I have a huge feeling of drowning at the moment and it’s very clear from my dreams that I am over stimulated with the feeling that there is no real way out. To make matters more surreal, I have had a few days where my dreams have included the relative mundane things of waking up and getting dressed. Usually when I do eventually wake up, I have to have the realisation that I had dreams within dreams within dreams. Also, the mental energy taken to shower in my dreams means that usually, my awake brain has no reserves left to get me there in real life. My new sleep pattern has seen me get up in the morning rather than in the late afternoons. However, I still need naps, which now suggests to me that this whole experience is really taking a mental and physical toll on my body. Each day to me actually represents three or four days of pre-covid time. 

Right now, I am struggling to write, it’s the afternoon, I have changed the music I’m listening to several times, messaged people, tried to call my dad but then realised, I have nothing to say – all usual procrastination. From my life, I know that the antsy feeling I have is textbook anxiety but right now, I know all the “tools” I have learnt in the past are only going to patch me up to carry on. Except today, I don’t want that, today I want to understand why I feel like this. Maybe I should take advantage of the fact I have a garden and just lie there trying to get to the bottom of this feeling.

Before lockdown, home to me represented a place with darkness and a space for both my depression as well as my partner’s. So I would run away to stay with friends or family, which led to a brief respite from that feeling even though it was always there especially when I was alone. Yesterday I spoke to a friend and for the first time I realised, under lockdown, my home had become a place of safety again. Occasionally, I wake up in the middle of the night, hearing noises and worry about being burgled again. However, compared to right after the event, which happened almost two years ago, it passes very quickly. Honestly, my new fear is that I struggle to get out the house, being around people, going to supermarkets, all things that were huge issues for me at the beginning of my breakdown. At the same time, I am relating to people in new ways, I find myself falling further into a space where I find myself reverting to a child version of myself.

Childhood for me was a lot about being the odd one out and as an adult, I really believed that I embraced that part. Yet, along the path of adulthood, I learnt how to survive and identify suspect behaviour in others so that I would be safe. Through a lot of work on myself as well as both good and bad therapists, I got to a point of minimising the hyper vigilance and accepting that to trust people again was good enough if it led to a few great friendships. Equally, under Covid, the beautiful thing in semi isolation is that I have been able to find this authentic version of myself and on good days, I can proudly say that I don’t want to play the game. The game to me was and always is my survival mechanism to deal with the trauma that I have encountered in my life. Of course, sometimes, I don’t even know why I am freaking out as it can all be subconscious but during this crisis, I have reached a point where I want to connect with the hope and kindness I used to feel before life happened. On my desk, I have a photo of me when I was a toddler and smiling, a real smile. As an adult, everyone who meets me thinks I am cheerful and smile but I know that often there’s a story behind it, the pain I am trying to hide.

Finally, I settled on a song though possibly because I know it presses a particular part of my brain, remembering a moment a few years ago with my partner and I. It has no lyrics but it transports me to that moment, a time when things were incredibly difficult but were actually improving in the short term. At the time, I had no realisation that our rock bottom moment was coming. My point though not particularly eloquent is that I don’t want to thrive in crisis because I always feel like things will improve but can’t enjoy happiness because I expect the worst. This week, my days have found me existing in these two spaces: i)  giving up because there is no end in sight, feeling intense loneliness and a crumbling feeling or ii) being able to look forward to a potentially better world, filled with a job that suits me and spending time with family/friends/community. 

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