My Fight with Covid-19 (Part II): Mental Health and Coronavirus

In my previous post, I spoke about my ongoing battle with Covid-19 from an Asthmatic’s perspective, wherein I went on to extensively list down some simple activities and home remedies that may be at least a tad bit helpful to individuals out there suffering from similar conditions, especially those with already plummeting lung function levels such as myself. It goes without saying that the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown conditions have disrupted our daily lives in many ways, but it is important to understand that these conditions have also taken an unfathomable toll on the general population’s mental health. Yes, the emotional distress in affected populations is, in fact, ubiquitous and this detrimental impact has a lot to do with a couple of broad categories –

What needs to be gone: Stigmatisation and Social Exclusion

Stigmatisation & Social Exclusion: Early on in March and April when we didn’t know any better and were far from understanding the whole picture, there was a presence of evident stigmatisation and social exclusion of the people who had survived the virus attack. It’s more of a basic human tendency that people tend to fear what they don’t understand. But imagine having fought a three-week battle with severe Covid-19 conditions in the hospital, only to come back and realise that your landlord has asked you to pack up your things and leave the premises on immediate basis. Imagine being alienated by the people close to you just because you tested positive – what does it say about the humanity in all of us? The need of the hour at the time was to maintain social distance and personal safety, not attack the survivors who were already suffering from extreme weakness in the aftermath of a life-threatening disease. Thankfully, as time went by and the numbers went up, the stigmatisation reduced and acceptance increased towards what has now been termed as ‘the new normal’. But it is important to realise how our actions are affecting the people around us, for each individual has their own threshold point of breaking down.

What needs to be dealt with: Depression, Panic & Anxiety

Depression, Panic & Anxiety: “What do you mean Mrs. Rodrigues is no more?! I saw her perfectly healthy just a few days ago!” More often than not during the looming crisis, people have found it hard to accept the sudden deaths of family members, friends, relatives, colleagues or even mere acquaintances. What follows, is a continuous stream of panic, anxiety and depression for some people, who are suddenly faced with the tough task of accepting the concept of ‘mortality’. It is our job as fellow human beings to accept the presence of such conditions without bias and help these people find their way back – a process, which must never be rushed into.

So how do we deal with the present situation? Let’s say you have recently tested positive or have simply experienced certain symptoms becoming more prominent in the last few days. Depending on the severity of your condition, you will be advised on what steps are to be taken by your medical professional. Assuming that the worst has passed, and you are trying to simply find your way back, my only request to you is that you do so with patience. Here goes:

“Don’t make this an Ego thing” – You’re better than that!

Don’t make this an Ego thing: I mentioned in my previous post that unrelenting weakness is a common experience in the recovery phase, and that if you happen to be someone who used to take a 45-minute run every morning back in the day, you should know that it is perfectly alright to settle for a 7-minute walk right now in recovery stages if that’s all you’re able to do. I have come across many people who say “No, this isn’t going to stop me. I’m going to push myself even harder and get back to normal in an instant!” The key is not to push yourself too hard in the current state of the unknown, but rather to let it pass through patiently and then bounce back to normalcy. There have been reported instances of young athletes who experienced fatal heart-attacks somewhere between four to six weeks into their recovery phase simply because they were pushing themselves too hard. We don’t know how vastly this virus affects our organs and immune system, and what life-changing lasting repercussions we stand to face – hey, we’re all still learning. Like I said before, this is more of a psychological battle. You need to realise that you keeping yourself physically healthy is only one half of the recovery process. The other half requires you to keep yourself patient, as well as motivated. You may be experiencing a plethora of emotions given the state you’re in, but it’s important not to give in to any of those. Trust me, I’ve been on the other side. You need to be strong, but also logically sound.

“Engage in those good ol’ Hobbies” – Some light reading, perhaps?

Engage in those good ol’ Hobbies: Ever since I entered my corporate life a few years back, I feel like I had forgotten what it was like to sit down on a breezy Sunday afternoon with my palette-canvas-brush set. This is the best time to explore new hobbies, and throw in some old ones into the mix too. Take this as an excuse to do some light reading, discover your creative side, indulge in some activities that seldom seemed possible before – but do them ensuring that they don’t cause any physical or mental strain.

“Annihilate Your Murtough List” (with the doable things)

Annihilate Your Murtough List: Unlike a certain protagonist from a 2000s sitcom, I actually chose to base my Murtough list not around over-the-top crazy shenanigans that would be impossible to do in my current situation, but rather around simple things that I had outgrown over the years. For example, my last entry on my list was on 17th December 2019, when I wrote “Never watch the new godforsaken Star Wars Sequel Trilogy ever again”. Recently, to take my mind off things, I decided to give this new trilogy of films another chance and cross them off my ‘doable’ Murtough list. Did I change my mind about them? Hell no, but it was one day when my mind was less focussed on other things, and I had the satisfaction of knowing that I did give ’em a fair shot. My very first entry on the list about a decade ago was “Never read the Chronicles of Narnia books ever again, especially The Last Battle”. Let’s see what we’re able to do about that one in the coming days. The point is, whip out your list and start crossing off the doable things and who knows – maybe the list won’t exist by the time we bounce back from this.

“The Recommendations List” (Finally start crossing things off!)

The Recommendations List: It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re an ardent cinephile or a ‘show-binger’, everyone gets recommendations from friends, family and colleagues. And while you may have had the excuse of “Not having any time” earlier owing to your busy schedule, I wonder what’s stopping you now from slowly and steadily crossing off all the entries from that list. Granted, it does require patience and you may be trying to reduce your screen-time, but if it doesn’t mentally exhaust you, I would urge you to start utilising those streaming services lying at your disposal. (I’ll be putting up a Recco series for a number of underrated gems on this site soon, so stay tuned).

“Filter your News & Screen-time” (Responsibly)

Filter your News & Screen-time: If I have realised anything this year, it’s that news and content needs to be consumed in adequate refined doses, and that too with a grain of salt. This was the year where some issues were dragged on for far longer than one could fathom, some important stories were never able to see the light of day and every other story related to Covid-19 seemed to be a stimulus for panic, anxiety and depression for a fraction of the population which was already directly affected. By no means am I generalising or asking you to give up on news headlines altogether, I’m merely asking you to take a responsible stance in ensuring that you consume news in adequate quantities and maintain a sound mind all throughout.

“Staying Connected” (At least with a handful of people)

Staying Connected: This is something I’m guilty of not being able to do much myself. Everyone should stay connected to at least a handful of people on a regular basis in such situations, if not for the sake of your mental peace by having normal conversations, then at least for the fact that sometimes, all the motivation you need happens to be just a ‘phone call or chat-screen’ away. Granted, some people may find it difficult to have conversations in their given situation and would not want to be pestered on a regular basis for health updates (myself included), but it is something one needs to ease into. On the journey of trying to find your way back to normal, this does happen to be of paramount importance.

So there we go – those are a few simple things to ensure that we find our way back stronger than we ever were, not just physically, but also mentally. At the risk of sounding like Optimus Prime giving the same monologue every time, I’d like to re-emphasise – “Please keep in mind, you’re not alone in this. Not now, not ever. We will bounce back together, and we will be stronger. Why, you ask? Because I’m sure we’ve all endured so much in our respective lifetimes – this isn’t our first battle, and it sure as hell won’t be our last.” Feel free to reach out to me anytime in case you have some questions or even if you want to have just a passing conversation at prakharprabhakar@gmail.com, I’ll make sure I revert at the earliest. That’s all for now, folks! Until next time, take care. PP Out. :’)

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