Moving in a World that has Stopped Moving: The Do’s and Don’ts
...time was not passing...it was turning in a circle...
Gabriel Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
The Truth is, Loneliness is Terrible
How long can you withstand it? A minute? An hour? A day, a week, a month, a year, a hundred years? Where is your breaking point? When does the silence become insufferable? No matter what your answers to these questions may be, the point is that you will, most likely, have answers. Every single one of us can withstand only so much solitude. Too much of it is certain to break the mind and will of even the strongest among us. Take, for example, correctional facilities such as prisons. Around the world, solitary confinement is deemed to be the worst punishment (besides capital punishment) that can be inflicted upon an inmate. Even the most ill-behaved of prisoners dread the idea of solitary confinement. In essence, all this punishment really does is take the individual away from their community and place them in a room by themselves. But that simple act of inflicted solitude is so unbearable that people are liable to lose their minds. Our situation today is not much different from solitary confinement. True, we have our families, and the restrictions holding us captive within our homes are arbitrary, but loneliness is not always that simple. To not be able to do what you truly want to is also a form of loneliness, and sometimes solitary confinement might not be all that ‘solitary’, but the feeling may be identical. Simply to feel as if you have been confined is enough to bring about the mental distress caused by actual confinement.
So, what should you do?
Honestly, I have no idea. You and I are in the same boat here. This is the first time in both our lives that the world has faced a ‘quarantine’, and the word ‘quarantine’ itself just sounds so fictional. How is this actually happening? How is any of this real? I do not think I have fully gauged the gravity of this situation.
To be honest, I am still a bit confused about how COVID-19 actually works. Did you know that ‘COVID-19’ means ‘Corona Virus Disease of 2019’? I thought it was some complicated medical term. I do not know why I thought that. In fact, I do not know much about virology, or, for that matter, even human biology, and I think most people are facing the same predicament. One thing I do know about (or at least I like to think I do) is mental health. I have known loneliness, and loss, and grief, and coping with grief. And from that experience come the following Dos and Don’ts. Perhaps my experiences are not much different from yours, and perhaps a part of you is already aware of all these Dos and Don’ts. But sometimes hearing them come from someone else is all we really need.
Note: These tips come from the author’s experience and do not constitute as medical advice. In case you are suffering from mental health issues, please reach out to the Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at LUMS. For answers to any personal questions about psychological and emotional issues from one of the CAPS counsellors, you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a student, and are interested in making appointments to see a therapist via Zoom for one to one counselling, please email email@example.com. Office hours are Monday-Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Suddenly Become a Hyper-Motivated Person to the Point of Insanity
‘Learn a new skill’
‘Don’t waste this opportunity to become a better you’
‘Come out of this pandemic a winner’
‘While in lockdown, build your dream body’
‘Find true love!’
Are you tired of hearing these generic motivational tidbits? Because I am. I have absolutely had it. Why has a global tragedy suddenly become the breeding ground for self-proclaimed pundits and hyper-motivated motivational speakers? Everyone has always been telling us to ‘do more’. To become a better version of ourselves, to learn more, to become a habitual winner. And even now, while the world practically burns, people are telling us to do more. Well, I say, no need. Do not be forced into doing any of the above (unless you really want to). Instead...
Take it easy, man. You do not need to become a ‘better version’ of yourself. At least not right now.
Go ahead, eat some junk food, watch some movies, call up some friends, stay up late. Relax. Do whatever puts your mind at rest, whatever gets you through this. Even though the situation is quite sad, it may also be a blessing in disguise. When was the last time you got to spend 4-5 straight months doing, basically, nothing? Remember that you might never again be as idle as you are now. Is it not amazing, to have no real responsibilities? Or, at least, a bare minimum of responsibilities? The world (at least the part of it, which is not locked down) is your oyster. Be free! You do you!
(no pressure, though)
Close Yourself Off
How were you feeling today? How were you really feeling today?
And what about yesterday? And the past week? And the past few months? I, for one, have been feeling all sorts of things. I am sure you have, too. In the past few months, although we have been living in our own separate homes, with our own separate lives, you and I have shared an experience. You, me, and the rest of the world, are all in this together. It is quite likely that our feelings throughout these past four months have been highly similar. That is why it is important that you realise that your words will not go to waste. When you tell people what you are going through and how you are feeling, they will understand, they will listen. So, do not just lock yourself inside your mind and disappear on people. Instead...
Speak your Heart out
Say what you want to say! How were you feeling? How are you feeling? Need someone to hear you rant? Grab a trustworthy friend, tell them you are about to go on a rant, and then just do it. Just like that. In return, you might have to hear their rants, too, but that is what friends are for. Even though I am not too big a fan of generic tidbits, ‘Communication Is Key’ is definitely true. Talk, talk, and then talk some more. Do not be afraid to talk to people. If you think you need a professional, such as a therapist, go for it. Do not let societal pressure hold you back from being honest about how you feel.
Lose Faith in a Better Tomorrow
Life, as we know it, is based on hope. Human beings thrive off of hope. Hope of an improvement is perhaps the only thing that keeps us tolerant of dismal circumstances. It is quite easy to hope, it is an innate human tendency. However, loss of hope also comes just as naturally. Sometimes, after losing the day for one too many days, it is hard to even imagine a day which will be your day. You get pushed deeper and deeper into an abyss of hopelessness and start thinking that the universe hates you, in particular, and that all the world’s burdens are yours to bear, that you will keep losing forever.
Hey, man, turn that frown upside down! Do not think life is a perpetual bad-guy! Instead...
Be a Professional Optimist
I like to describe myself as a ‘professional optimist’. Sure, there are forceful bouts of pessimism in the middle, but, on the whole, I’m optimistic to an annoying extent. Some people might call me a dreamer, but I think optimism is merely rational. Think about it. Up till now, the world has gotten through everything it has faced. We have seen wars, plagues, earthquakes, terrorism, nuclear weapons. And, yet, we are still here.
Generation after generation, the world moves forward, refusing to be put down. And what is the world, after all? Just collective human will. This human will to preserve, proves stronger than any tragedy that comes its way. On a more micro scale, let us look at you and me. We have probably faced our fair share of burdens and our fair share of hopelessness, and yet, we are still here. Still striving, still wanting to move forward. And that is why I am an optimist. Not because I am a dreamer, but because believing in the human will is the rational thing to do. Keep on hoping.