Writing has been absurdly difficult lately. I find myself wrestling with many thoughts and struggling with ways to self-communicate them. Like most people, the situation we are in has had a tremendous effect on my mental well-being. I have not been okay. The first few days of lockdown I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating from anxiety, have panic attacks on the mornings of the days I planned on doing a grocery run, sleep all day from my inability to do anything and lie awake all night thinking about the worst case scenarios. But… Today is a good day. Today marks exactly 14 days since I’ve returned to work; that is twenty thousand one hundred and sixty minutes of being okay. I was not okay in every single minute but I have made it through them all to be okay in this very moment.
When I received my work permit 3 weeks ago I was as grateful as I was terrified. I kept thinking about 2 years ago when I had bronchitis and how it took me 3 doctor’s visits in 5 months to clear my lungs. How on Earth was I going to survive catching this virus? Where would I catch it; in the taxi on my way to work, or in the office kitchen while making tea or on site doing a site survey? How would I pay for the medical expenses? How much would it even cost? How would I get to the hospital when I suddenly have difficulty breathing? How would my funeral processions go? Would I be buried or cremated? Should I write down all the details for my family to find? Is it considered a will or a suicide note when I’m the one who can’t stop thinking myself dead?
The last time I felt as anxious as this was in varsity, where a multitude of worries had me seeking smiles at the bottom of bottles. This time though I couldn’t just walk into PnP and get another 750ml bottle of communion juice to help quiet all the voices. So I learnt to ration my portions and that meant I could never truly feel numb. I had to feel it all and summon all the strength I could to rebut every brain cell that made me believe I would succumb. I had to be like Peter who although began to sink, had just enough faith to believe he could actually walk on water. So despite sometimes still sinking in anxiety and paralysing fear, I know now that it is not always the smiles hiding at the bottom of bottles I need. Sometimes it is just one minute of being okay to remind me that I am strong and brave enough to feel it all and still survive.