I overheard a group of people walking past me questioning how terrible 2020 has been for them. Yet I realised that compared to 2019, for me, 2020 has been so much better.

Sunitha‘s #MadCovidDiaries 24.11.2020

TW: Self-harm, Bereavement

This week has been so crazily busy for me, but one thing that I did manage to do was have Saturday where I took a break from screens (tv, laptop and phone), which for me felt completely different from anything that I’d experienced in a while. Whilst I was eating my meals, instead of watching tv, I read a fiction book, written as an imagined prequel to the Mahabharatam or Mahabharata, which is a Sanskrit epic. It’s one of a handful of books that I borrowed from my uncle when I visited India last year but it’s only now that I am finding that I have the will and the attention span to read. As always, since I grew up, reading fiction was always preferable to me as it was that escape from the reality of my life and it still works once I get hooked. Although I didn’t read as much on Sunday, I think I will try and at least read a little more this week so that I can have a little sprinkle of fantasy which is so needed right now. The other book I am reading alongside this book is actually giving me a certain amount of hope that maybe the world has improved over centuries even if it feels like it hasn’t in the last decade. Ultimately, and this is the crux of the matter, improvements around us just don’t naturally come, but come from the hard work of groups of people fighting for our rights or scientists coming up with vaccinations. Equally, as I am often critical of the information that I read, I also acknowledge that this book has been written centred around the experience of those in the Western world. Irrespective of that, in a small way, it gave me a glimmer of hope.

On Saturday, whilst I managed to feel slightly better in myself in terms of being able to read, dance around and sing, which I did without a care in the world, I recognised that without being on my phone, I felt a lack of connection to people. The dancing reminded me that I missed being able to do that with other people around even if I wasn’t directly connecting with them, and I missed my support network as my phone is the vessel by which I am able to reach out, something that has helped me over the years during my breakdowns but also during the pandemic. Perhaps, it’s even more pronounced right now because my partner is working through his own things and as always when you are with someone who is also battling their own demons, sometimes things can feel out of sync.  In most ways, things have been better as we are more connected but I know that the difficult parts about us being depressed comes out in our lack of communication, us keeping crazy hours, which has in the past led to weeks of me sleeping alone. Radiohead’s ‘Black Star’ perfectly sums up the dynamic of the relationship between my partner and I at its worst. These days, if I know that I’m tired and worn out, I usually make a point of telling my partner that I’ll probably sleep on the sofa and I don’t get too upset if he’s fallen asleep on the sofa himself because the truth is that sometimes with our anxiety the way it is, it’s the only way that we can manage a good night’s sleep.

Sleep. The bane of my life. It feels as if it becomes all encompassing. It’s usually the thing that even if I am semi functional, I always struggle with. When people speak about having a bad night’s sleep, I feel like they don’t really appreciate what it feels like to toss and turn all night without ever feeling rested. I love the night time, which is probably part of my problem. I guess when I was a teenager, the night was peaceful as it was a time when my parents were often in bed so no shouting could happen and I didn’t have to deal with any possible fallout. Although I suspect the silence that comes with having to hear the true voices in your head without any other distractions brings a certain tranquillity, it’s also the time that I often feel completely alone on this planet. There’s a danger in that time of course as my senses are heightened, where anxiety attacks have a tendency to spiral and thoughts of self harm become common. I recall one particular night where I lay in bed, just wishing and hoping to die because the feelings were overflowing and I just wanted someone to switch me off. In some ways, walking quietens the noise and during the last month, I began going for evening time walks with a friend with our head torches on. As there’s almost no one around at that time of the day, it’s quite special and I don’t feel as overstimulated as I often do during the day. We’re close friends anyway but there’s something kind of vulnerable about just wandering around at night sharing your hopes, dreams, worries and fears openly. More than that, it’s kind of helped me enjoy the winters in a unique way when I’m usually dreading it.

Last week as I was walking home, I overheard a group of people walking past me questioning how terrible 2020 has been for them. Yet when I overheard them, I realised that compared to 2019 for me, this has been so much better. In 2019, I genuinely believed that I would never work again and that feeling stayed with me for a good chunk of this year especially since the pandemic hit. There was an overarching feeling in my life that made me know that all I needed was someone to give me a chance as well as maybe acknowledging that my employer would have to understand that I lived with mental health illnesses, which was an impossibility in my mind. Evidently, though I have received some good fortune, I’m devastated that people have lost their life, that for the vast majority of people, their quality of life has diminished during this pandemic and often this keeps me awake at night. On a personal level, I know that with my partner struggling, I don’t have the usual distractions of seeing friends or singing at my choir. On top of that, since my uncle died, the grieving process has been complicated by me forgetting that he’s no longer alive because I hadn’t seen him for months and being unable to attend any of the rituals. The other night, I closed my eyes and I saw his smile and laugh, which I think was because my mum and I had been rewriting something about him.

As I had mentioned, at the wake, I didn’t feel comfortable reading my speech aloud because the setting felt wrong and I wasn’t in the headspace to edit it for safe consumption of my family. In spite of that, whilst I was sitting at his wake, I made the decision that I needed to make sure that either I sent the message to his kids, who are my age, or I put it in his booklet. In my mum’s case, we had already written a lot of her content before we had to cut it so that it neatly fit into the time at the crematorium so I was able to help her edit it relatively easily. The booklet is something that we distribute on the 31st (31 days after the person’s death). Usually we would have family, friends, the community as a whole meeting together to honour the death of that person as well as eating food and generally having a catch up. Obviously covid has scarpered that. Anyway, when it came to editing mine, there was only one person in the world that I trusted, which was my best friend from childhood as I knew she would understand that I wanted to be considerate without diluting my intent. When I read it out to my mum again, I felt distraught because I still feel like he deserved better. In my heart and maybe I only knew this after he died, he was someone I felt close to in a special way, remembering how he was so concerned for my well being when he found my antidepressants for the first time. I think it’s the shared pain that bonded us and he always thought I was such a pure person, I am not sure where he got that idea from but I think it’s the same way I felt he was pure. Pure of heart.

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