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“My life has always been about surviving rather than thriving”

Sunitha‘s #MadCovidDiaries 02.12.2020

TW: Bereavement

My week has been intense and I’m struggling to figure out when the intensity will stop. I wish that it would be over and I could truly rest but I feel like this is an ongoing struggle and I need to carve out some time for myself. Even sleep doesn’t give me the rest that other people benefit from as I sometimes struggle with the physical symptoms of anxiety resulting in shaking in my sleep or overheating. On top of that, I experience huge amounts of tension that ends up in my body as a result of living with an anxiety illness. Even a bath every so often doesn’t help as within hours, I can feel it all appear again. Since lockdown started, I wanted to do some sort of exercise at home but it still has yet to materialise because actually the truth is that I am a master procrastinator especially when it comes to the physical wellbeing of my body. My life has always been about surviving rather than thriving though I imagine that happens when you experience trauma as a teenager. My teenage ambition was to leave my parents’ house and then everything would be okay. Little did I know that in fact, without proper therapy and support, I was awaiting some kind of disaster.

On Friday, I broke down into tears, almost unable to breathe as if the tears were suffocating me. The last week has been as if the drought of crying of the previous nine months has finally been lifted but my body has forgotten how to process the physical experience of crying. I know that I needed to let go but I was unable to find the emotional and physical space in this duration. It started to worry me as I felt like I was dissociating particularly given that I barely cried after my uncle died and I was unable to shed a single tear at his funeral. At the funeral, I instead remember looking at a magpie and just chuckling at it, wondering whether it was watching us thinking we must be strange beings carrying out all these rituals. In some ways, I know that my connection with that magpie was more to do with needing an escape from the people around me at that time than escaping the reality of the death of my uncle. Even now, I know that each time there’s been a death of someone I know, I find myself just accepting it and having to move on, which makes it hard for me to relate to others that are grieving. Whilst I’ve been concerned about the dysfunctional behaviour, I think I know two things. Firstly, that certain people in my life are far more important than others and secondly, that I have no clue how I will react to someone’s death until it happens.

Yesterday, I was awake for less than five hours. I really struggled to wake up at a reasonable time and it took me several attempts to actually get out of bed. There was this overwhelming urge to just hide and when I finally made it out of bed it was late afternoon, I ate a very unhealthy meal of Lucky Charms and milk. My partner decided to order takeaway and even that meal was particularly disappointing because I just felt miserable about everything. Once I’d eaten an early dinner, I watched a bit of Star Trek : The Next Generation and fell asleep almost immediately. At some point, I woke up in confusion and realised that if I didn’t immediately get into bed, that I’d end up waking up later and being unable to fall asleep again. It felt like days of the past when just existing was too problematic and I could feel the rot eating at me from the inside, stealing away all the happiness. These months are hard but the pandemic really adds to it.

Pandemic life is just far too long and I think it’s really getting to me in a way recently that is making things unmanageable in a different way. When I spoke to my dad a few weeks ago, I said to him that we’d definitely do Christmas apart and at that stage, I was expecting that my mum would be far more upset. However, it’s my dad that seems to be the one who is struggling to understand that maybe I won’t see him over the Christmas break. My mum told me when I went up to visit them in the summer, that he was getting so excited, made sure he’d planned what we’d do and had ordered from a local restaurant that had started doing these special meals during the pandemic. Although growing up, my dad and I were always close, I think this whole experience has made me realise how much my dad misses me on a regular basis. We speak every few days, sometimes, every day but he loves me in a way that has grown since I made the decision to try and repair our relationship. The worry that he must feel right now, knowing that my partner is battling with his anxiety illness and depression and being unable to support either of us, also feeds into that feeling.

The other day, I completely snapped at my mum when she brought up the topic of my partner’s health and I did something similar when a close friend suggested that I need to help him get therapy. At this time, I know that I would like to have the support of our family, our friends and just our community but it doesn’t exist in the same way. Truthfully, the only way that I am surviving is by compartmentalising him in my life so that I only interact with being able to support him when my plate has space, which is becoming increasingly rare. The rest of the time, the only way that I survive is I go to work, keep myself busy and try to forget that he’s in this situation. When this last happened, I was barely existing and so there was no capacity for either of us to help each other, yet we both tried. This time around, I’ve acknowledged that unless he wants to get help, there’s nothing that I can do. It’s a strange but valuable lesson that my dad’s drinking and my resultant codependency taught me, but I really need to protect this sentiment at all costs. I need to survive so that I can fight another day for me because I do know that I have value.

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