COVID-19, mental health and the vast knowledge test

6 months ago

I grew up loving life despite its many challenges: I had failed myself several times in my estimation of what life required, I had been betrayed by loved ones and rejected by benefactors, but had remained resolute.

As an adult, the harsh reality of life had been a regular guest: joblessness posed as strange bedfellow, needs mocked me to my face, rejection held me in cold embrace, and I had been lonely in the crowd — but not for once did discouragement lead me to the doorstep of suicide.

Whenever I hear the news of people taking their lives, my heart bounces with hate for the deceased – never apologetic for not being sympathetic – and loathing their hate for the smallest things life could offer. I see death as victim in their hands, and getting the blame for their weakness.

But if I must feel a thing for them, their story must hit me as a demonic trajectory. Yes, some enemies must have inflicted this on them diabolically, because no one in their right senses takes their own life.

I was right and wrong: Indeed, no one in their right senses takes their own life, but the day I knew the real meaning of depression, the latter became my score. I had failed the vast knowledge test.

Travelling, they say is part of education. The wind that hit me in a new land changed my understanding of life. A flimsy rash around my neck region soon took over the entire body — a strange illness in a strange land — and I became a course of concern for public health.

When the paramedics arrived my hotel, I felt like a culprit led away by the cops: the shameful escort, the undue attention, the hush and gaze from guests at the lobby overwhelmed my malady for a while. Once in the emergency section, and put alone in a negative pressure room for close to an hour, the dead silence exhumed a torture of rioting thoughts.

And when a Chinese-looking doctor arrived, kitted to the teeth, I feared for the worst. After a brief examination, he said to me, with a steady gaze, “You have chickenpox.” Derailing my line of thoughts, I do not know whether to jump for joy.

Thank God it isn’t Ebola. But what do I know about Chickenpox? I was a carrier of an airborne disease; I was a health risk — to be isolated from normal world.

The next two weeks was hell on earth: the rash (now everywhere), flu, fever, fatigue, ache, headache, redness, blisters, sores, and crusts – they prey on me like messengers of death, leading to a point of despondency. Life appeared to be failing me, albeit slowly, and the thought to speed up the process filled my soul.

Starry eyed, dejected, lost to myself, I began to see peace at the other side of life — how I longed for it. Not only did I look like a ghost in its first chapter of skin spoil, not only was I hurting from itchy painful rash, the hives formed finger of embers in my throat — to snuff what is left of life. The following mornings were a miracle.

The persistent feeling of sadness was made worse by stigma. Home was far away, and it was impossible to return in that state. Understandable but painful, no one around wanted to touch me. I hid my hurt each time I spoke with family.

I love them, but it was difficult to feel anything other than discomfort. I lost interest and emotion for everything, it was just I; myself and whatever will be, yet I was far away from myself — lost in thoughts – without the zeal to fight for anything, the least of all, life.

As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on and self-isolation becomes the new normal, I hear stories of depression around the world. The world complains of hunger, but I lost appetite for two weeks. The world complains of lockdown, but I was locked up for two weeks.

The world doesn’t want to stay at home for a week, but I was confined to a room for two weeks. The world is worried it cannot socialise, but I was stigmatised for two weeks. The world is worried it cannot meet friends, but I was alone without family.

I think I understand better, that depression is a mental health problem and there is need to show empathy to victims rather than curse their feelings.

I understand better, that depression is not an emotion but an illness. I understand better, that depression is not simple; it is more than being sad. I understand better, the need to support someone during Covid-19 and at other times.

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