In January 2019, the news of the virus and the complete lockdown in Wuhan, China had me triggered. I’d been working for a private tuition class for ten months and had saved a part of my salary to survive the two unpaid vacation months of April and May.
When I heard of the breakdown of the healthcare system there, I knew I’d have a significantly less chance of survival if the virus were to reach me in India. How do you tell someone to stock up ration and other essentials when all they’ve known is daily survival?
I didn’t know what I should’ve been buying and how much, given that I had minimal savings. I wasn’t prepared, and to be honest, I wasn’t trying to “manage” anything — I was hoping we’d be spared the infection.
But I soon found myself at sea. To add to my emotional distress, I lost my job the day the government declared the lockdown. I’d been into a guy, and he suddenly decided to slap me with reality! There was a chasm between us–the discrepancy between our sexualities–but I’d been hoping things would be “fluid,” that he would be fluid.
My depressive phase started with the distance between us and the distancing of ordinary life from me. I’d had anxiety issues, but it was then that everything started coming to the surface. I completely forgot how to walk in the streets, as if the stares of strangers were a knife’s sharp edge waiting to kill me if I stepped out so much as to even buy medicines.
To have a mental illness was a curse; I wasn’t privileged enough to access the care I needed. But one of my friends suggested that I start somewhere. They introduced me to a therapist, Mr. Ashish Korday. My friend often told me that Ashish was open to giving therapy on a sliding scale, but I found myself ashamed to ask for monetary help from anyone except for this same friend.
Things started making sense after some sessions with the therapist. I took the MCMI (Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory) test, and Ashish helped me understand the severity of my mental issues. The next task would be to visit a psychiatrist and get prescriptions for my illnesses.
It was May. The lockdown was still lurking like a strange ghost in the street, with no vehicles plying to even the nearest government hospital. Then one of the psychiatrists from Sion hospital helped me over video/audio calls. I started on the medications he prescribed, and I began recovering. I started seeing normalcy amidst the absurdity of life. I started recovering the self I’d lost in the compulsion of pleasing the guy I was into. I’d been attempting to possess a love that wasn’t even there.
Everything was gradual, but I began seeing a “better” side to life. Even as I survived, I was barely living. There were financial hurdles, my exams, a mother to look after, and a pregnant cat to take care of. Some folks helped me with cat food; some helped me with the rations; some others with my medicines, even while many chose to dig up my poverty in their project to find out if my victimhood was “authentic.”
I wasn’t blaming anyone. People were expecting me to look for a job. Or a WFH gig: the new acronym of millennial lingo found floating around on social media. I even had an internet pack that one would require for WFH, but how would I have worked, served, and earned my living when I was uncertain about the lives of everyone around me? A paralytic and hypoglycaemic mother of 62. A stray cat with imminent childbirth and puppy-dog eyes. Empty vessels on the shelves. The masked depression.
Whom would I have prioritized, and would I still have managed to do a job? So much for when strife and survival become the same face of a coin!