Oh boy. If someone told me what the fourth quarter of 2020 would have looked like when I wrote this list, I wouldn’t have believed them.
It’s been nine months since Covid-19 impacted our lives on this little island. And as we all know…a lot can happen in nine months.
March honestly feels like a lifetime ago. Or rather, a different lifetime altogether. I forgot what it feels like to hug a friend. What it feels like to let my daughter run, carefree, at a park. What it feels like to not think about illness, daily.
I didn’t know it at the time, but back in March I was about to live the most eye-opening nine months of my life. Here’s how:
The greatest challenge I have had to deal with over these nine months has been the decline of my mental health. As I write this, I feel like I need to make an important point. I realise that I can say this from a place of privilege. That, amidst all the other heart-wrenching problems many people were/are facing, it stood alone. That being said, it has taken a lot for me to arrive at a place where I’ve finally accepted that there are no suffering Olympics. That I cannot and should not negate what I am going through because other people are going through worse. That I must instead use my experiences as fuel for my gratitude, humility and compassion.
I didn’t always think this, of course. I favoured guilt over acceptance for the longest time.
You are not a frontliner. What are you afraid of?
You are at home. What is there to worry about?
You are not pregnant. Your child is not at school. Why are you concerned?
This was the daily conversation I had with myself. Did it help? Not in the slightest. It only made me feel worse for feeling what I was feeling.
But I kept this conversation up, until my body told me that enough was enough.
As I lay in bed about to fall asleep for what I thought was going to be an ordinary night, I had my first ever full-blown panic attack. I didn’t know it was a panic attack at the time, of course. My mind immediately went to ‘heart attack’, because the symptoms, I am told, are quite similar. I won’t go into the details of what I experienced here, but it ended with an overnight at hospital and numerous medical tests until it was finally confirmed as anxiety-induced palpitations.
Anxiety. A word we throw around so often. Something that can mean so little to some, and so much to others.
The days following this episode consisted of me trying to distract myself, keep myself busy and avoid having an idle mind, because that’s when the palpitations would start. My nights revolved around me trying desperately to get to sleep and not allow my thoughts to consume me. I quickly decided I couldn’t do it alone and sought professional help by the way of a therapist. I practised gratitude daily, clinging to my faith as a beacon of steadfastness amidst the waves in my mind. I hoped, longed and prayed to return to the ‘before’ version of myself, where I wasn’t ever worried, where I could talk about trivial things without realising just how trivial they were. I cursed my anxiety, over and over again in my mind, for what it robbed me of. It was a confusing, difficult time for all of us.
Today, as I write this, I’m in a new place.
In this new place, there is still anxiety. In this new place, I am learning to navigate it without crumbling under its effects. In this new place I am choosing to focus on what it has given me, and not what I have lost because of it.
In 2020, the decline and subsequent rebuilding of my mental health has taught me just how precious life is. What the real important things are. That patience is always the right route to take. That there is no such thing as too much time with your loved ones.
That even though we talk about 2020 as being the year everything slowed down and we put everything on pause, it was actually the year we saw life in its beautiful, fleeting and heart-wrenching entirety, speed forward before our very eyes.
So today, as I write this, I’m in a new place. The naivety I had at the start of the year has been taken, along with many other things, with the tide of 2020. What’s left? A roaring desire to love the people around me with every single fibre of my being.
Could this mean that I’ve come full circle and actually achieved resolution #10? Wow, fancy that.