My Journey with Family, COVID and Mental Health.
Flash warning: the article talks about sensitive mental health issues from a person who is still learning what it is and apologies for any factual errors or (unintended) offense or triggers. If you find something that requires change please @ me. Criticism is appreciated.
With the second wave of COVID in the country and another strong season of death and despair, mental health, checking up on our friends and helping out everyone and anyone in need is the new trend. As we shift the trends from dalgona to LUDO King to Tiktok to Maldives pictures to finally being understanding and helpful, we have come a long way. So here’s my share of the trend.
I came back home happy and carefree, what I saw was a 15 day holiday to work on myself, workouts, career moves, networking and everything solid. While things were trendy, I might have also experimented in the kitchen, learned to bake or fooled around with cheese and pizza dough. The 1st wave was all fun and games for most, wasn’t it? Well not so much for me. My family is a survivor of the first wave of corona virus including the hard conversation about mental health. What most of the country is facing now, I, with a lot others, faced it about almost a year ago. Maybe telling my story might help another, or just me, but I finally want to vent. When my family was diagnosed with the infection, there was a complete lockdown for the first time in the nation. COVID was relatively new; no one knew what we were up against. My mom (like every Indian mother) was jumping to the worst conclusions, local doctors weren’t even sure what the right course of action was and the elders were telling us that everything was going to heal with jaadi-buuti and a miracle mix of spices. There was no COVID toll-free number unless you wanted to end up in the poorly monitored isolation centers. No cook or house help, no food delivery or grocery delivery app (a small town thing), No home-cooked meal systems for corona patients (Although I do have an amazingly awesome extended family).
We were the firsts amongst everyone I knew to get infected, and while everyone wanted to know how I felt, I could never say it. So I got on a video call one day with all my friends sitting in different parts of the world and sneakily dropped the bomb. At first non of them believed me, because “oh I have corona” was still a joke people played along with back then. So that’s exactly how I treated it like, a joke. I pretended that I was good. I pretended that it was funny, because all I have is a fever and I can still get out of writing assignments for my online classes. I pretended that I didn’t feel scared that I’d die and had my “I love you 3000” recorded (a very touching one though). I pretended that the breathlessness I felt was just a reaction of overeating. I pretended that the weight gains were a response of me being a foodie and not eating my stress away. I laughed every bit of the trauma off in front of my friends because that’s all it was back then, a meme.
Twenty six days after, the results came in negative, and everything was supposed to turn around. I wasn’t supposed to feel shitty anymore, my house shouldn’t have felt like a place I wanted to run from and my mom wasn’t supposed to be crying at three in the morning anymore. That’s what was supposed to happen. But none of it happened as it was supposed to be.
I was scared and desperate and helpless. Every one of us were. I’d call up an old friend and have a conversation, but was never really brave enough to tell them the real reasons. My mother was affected the worst, and seeing her like that was the most heartbreaking thing I ever had to watch. But we had an understanding that we’ll get though this together. We, the woke Gen-Z lot, broke open the conversation of mental health, anxiety and depression in the house where we understood things but never discussed them. My parents sat down with us to understand and fight better. The battle of thoughts and therapy was closely joined in with faith and pundits. But we met half way, the young ones validated their elder’s faith and the elders accepted the young’s progressiveness. And no matter how different we thought ourselves to be from our parents and siblings; we always kept in mind that all our actions and words are out of love and care.
To sum it up, yes it felt crappy, even long after we tested negative. We sometimes still do. A year later, we’re still processing it but three things that I believe was the moral of my story; One, there is an immense amount of power and strength in the love around you. I saw my family care for each other like no other time. Two, my parents and a lot of the older generation have finally started accepting and talking about it. When a neighbor was going through a really hard time, this time instead of nazar and rings, my mom suggested therapy. Three, the millennial and the generation-z who are helping their parents through these things are also the ones not asking for help. I have been terrified to tell my friends how scared I was. I’ve felt guilty because I thought only my parents deserved the help not me and I did manage almost a year believing I was right. But with the second wave, I saw a 20 year old boy lose a loved one, juggling between doctors and hospitals while the rest of his family was still infected. I saw a college girl being torn up between her mother’s anxieties, her father’s medical bills. And as I see them struggle, I understand the conflict between their want to seek help but also their guilt of attracting sympathy; or simply understanding the intentions of the person who say they care. I understand this struggle because I have felt those emotions overtake me. I understand because everyone around you is overtaken by the same, you just really have to see.
The second wave has really increased the numbers on screen, and the new mutations are getting dangerous. But know that you have the right(although scarce) medicines, research and insights and you have people who understand and are ready to help but most of all, you have people like us to grieve together.
Because what is grief if not love persevering?