When this started, the rising numbers created a panic across the globe. The novel coronavirus was rapidly engulfing its victims – two-fold, three-fold, multi-fold.
But now, as we watch and read the news day in and day out, the empathy and restlessness has faded for some. This is called compassion fatigue, where one becomes indifferent to the sufferings of others when exposed to the same kind of news all day and every day.
As a result, the time we spend talking about the calamity – the deaths, fake news, the deprived, donations – reduces. We learn to come to terms with the fact that this isn’t going to end anytime soon.
As much as we romanticise the idea of getting some time off the daily hustle and spending some time with family or hobbies, this lockdown has also forced us to confront things that we were running away from. The thoughts we either did not get the time to process, or chose to ignore over a distraction.
There was always a meeting, an assignment, or a new activity that kept us from thinking about the trauma, or that wrong decision we took in the past, or incidents that we have locked somewhere down in our subconscious minds.
The subconscious state of mind, and those sidelined thoughts are finally breathing.
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Confined spaces remind us that there is no escape. We have no choice but to deal with everything that we have experienced: incidents or moments when we let ourselves down, or were put down by others, all the dark thoughts deeply embedded in our conscience.
As we sit alone, tired of binge watching shows on Netflix, past memories – which may or may not be good – occupy our minds. And with all the time that we have, there is no way to escape that sinking feeling, which has haunted us for years. In a way, the lockdown has made us realise that our traumatic experiences are an integral part of our lives.
However, this time isn’t necessarily about making ourselves better, or getting back at someone or rectifying our mistakes. Instead, it is about processing those random thoughts and accepting them the way they are.
“Things are not fine… what I have done to myself isn’t okay..whatever I have experienced is something no one ever should… and I know I have always focused on everyone’s evil side, but maybe it was my fault to have myself treated so bad.”
It took me a lot of time to pen down these words, a lot of sleepless nights when I forced shut my eyes while trying to sleep. But the thing is, I do not have to wake up early anymore and look forward to a schedule to follow. I have to face the emotions up and close.
I am finally alone with my thoughts.
Yes, I have been through trauma, and no one can tell me otherwise. No one can tell me things like – “Don’t think about all this, it’s all in the past, let’s go get some food, or drinks, or watch a film,” because I am tired of watching them distract my mind every time.
Anything can leave trails of trauma: an incident of bullying, a sudden revelation, death or separation, harassment, deceit, mental abuse and so on – and you can’t resolve these through tangible means. It’s almost like hiding your belly fat underneath a tight pair of pants as you head to office or college.
Here I am, holding this belly fat with both my hands and accepting the stretch marks of the trauma. No, I don’t want to start a weight loss programme. I don’t want to change myself to become better. I just need this time to face the trauma and cry over and over about it, before sleeping or while bathing.
I was so occupied with the new experiences, and my routine that I didn’t get any time to be sad about my trauma. And as Kurt Cobain said, there is a “comfort in sadness” but we tend to lose touch with it in our daily lives. It is important to be comfortable with it and around it to move ahead in life.
When this lockdown ends, life will wheel back to the same pace as before but I believe, getting this time to deal with our trauma, will perhaps make us realise the importance of mental health and acknowledging our experiences – especially the ones that leave scars.
I am still not strong enough to find out a way to make my personal growth a priority, but I’m happy to finally accept that I am weak and fragile from the blows that I faced in the past. And this time, and this space has helped me internalise that.
Ankhiyan Ranjan is pursuing media studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.
All images provided by the author