How I learnt to deal with anxiety while living alone during lockdown
There's no right or wrong in how you survive a pandemic in isolation
Over the last few weeks, a lot has happened. You know, unprecedented escalation of a global pandemic, an extended nation-wide lockdown and all that jazz. Much like the rest of the world, I’ve spent this time in a haze of anxiety, uncertainty, and general confusion. My flatmate is stuck in Mumbai and I live in Delhi, a city I shifted to less than a year ago. But I’m not entirely alone—I live with anxiety, both general and social. There are a hundred different voices that accompany me in everything I do, almost like a national news channel debate, except that the host and the debaters are all me. Nonetheless, these 42 days (of course I have been counting!) have taught me more than all my therapists combined could.
I’ve spent this time to and fro-ing between my balcony, bedroom, and kitchen, snacking relentlessly in the hope that it will force my brain into reasoning and making sense of the situation, working from home, and communicating with a family that lives thousands of miles away in Kolkata. It was a 48-layer tiered cake of problems that I had no semblance of clue to handle. While my Instagram feed was bombarded with pictures of friends and acquaintances having Netflix parties with their family and partner at home, I was talking to my indoor plants for a break from video calls and telephonic conversations. It felt a lot like being stuck in a small island from where you can see your loved ones in other islands, except that there’s no boat to take you to them, and the water is poisonous.
Amid stocking up on essentials, figuring out an effective schedule, doing household chores, and working from home, if there was one thing that never left my side, it was anxiety. And right about the time when it led to chest-tightening, stomach-ache, and migraine, I realised just where I was going wrong. Instead of allowing an avenue of expression for myself, I was sliding it all under the rug, only to stumble upon it later, face-first. You see, living with anxiety for a long time teaches you two things, essentially: you are either a pro at dealing with it till you have it in control, or you suppress it, push it aside, dump it in the back. But, being left to my own devises, I took the extreme end of expression—voicing my confusions out in the minutest of details (often to admittedly obnoxious degrees) writing down the questions that were hovering in my head (often in bulletin points, mind you), and most importantly, comparing my situation with everyone else’s. I realised that the answer lay in physical distancing, and not necessarily actual isolation. I’m not saying that the electronic voices, faces on screens, and the acute loneliness doesn’t get the better of me still. But, I know how to show it the back door when it does show up.
At a time when reality seems like the plot of a dystopic fiction and nobody has a memo of how to deal with it mentally and emotionally, it is easy and natural to feel confused and lost. But, instead of letting it reign over me, I’m finding solace in letting it co-habit peacefully. After all, there’s no running away now.