During this quarantine, my mental health has been all over the place. I remember thinking, when they announced the lockdown, “how am I going to survive with myself?”. But you know what? I have figured it out and want to tell you my story.
Like the increasing population of young women and young people in general, I’ve also been struggling with mental health these past few years. I have a bad tendency to overthink everything. Normally, in order to quell these thoughts and bad feelings, I’m always looking for a distraction. Most of the time, I take refuge in the company of others. If I am with someone I do not have time to dwell and it allows me to let go of my fears and anxieties.
A friend of mine recently said to me, “Yasmine, you have to learn to live with yourself and be alone. You have to become your own best friend because you are the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with”. Though I did not like it at the time, I would later go on to realize that this was the best advice I could have received.
I remember thinking what a strange idea it was to have to become my own best friend. I could see the logic in it and part of me deep inside knew she was right, but I took advantage of ignoring it because it is difficult to get rid of bad habits and was easier to live how I had already been living.
And then the lockdown arrived.
Total panic. These two words most appropriately described me and my mental state.
I had a long list of anxieties, but these thoughts were the ones that kept repeating in my head:
- We’re going through a global pandemic and it’s getting very serious
- Everything I was planning on doing and all of my projects are being cancelled
- My entire life is in standby
- I will have to live with myself (and all my repressed anxieties), for an indefinite period.
I feel like after that I went through a bunch of different phases.
First, I was trying to stay calm and practise positive thinking: I can’t stop this anyway so let’s appreciate what we have. I was happy to be back home in my country and be with my mum, eat good food, etc..
Later, when they started enforcing stricter restrictions concerning the lockdown I started freaking out. I was obsessed with the news. I wanted to have all the information about how long we will have to stay confined. I didn’t know what to do. Even concerning university. I started worrying about how my exams were going to be since I was in a different country and when I was going to be able to see my friends again.
Then came the productivity stage,
After a week of watching people on social media, I found myself very pressured to be productive. I saw a lot of posts promoting the idea that we need to use this time to do all the things that we never got the time to do before. Like learn a new skill or find a new hobby. I panicked since I was doing none of that so I started reading a lot, painting, baking, and journaling so I could feel I was using this time correctly and wasn’t being the only lazy person.
I also saw a lot of posts promoting diets and the idea that by the end of the lockdown we should look a certain way. This really got to me and I started feeling very bad because, even though I was picking up new skills, I was eating more than I usually would and not getting as much exercise than normal. I became very obsessed with my eating habits and started to exercise a lot more.
When I realised what I was doing, it freaked me out even more because I was being very mean and harsh to myself. This started what I like to call the beginning of my healing stage.
First, I realised social media was becoming toxic for me. I was spending way too much time scrolling down my Instagram feed and I had enough of “you should do this” or “you should look like this by the end of the lockdown” posts. It was making me more anxious than anything else so I decided to take a break from social media and other news forms.
Then, I slowed down.
I allowed myself to get as much sleep as I wanted, do nothing for a couple of hours, and eat whatever I wanted without feeling guilty or tracking it. I think this is the point where I become not a best friend but a good friend to myself. We are already in a very difficult time right now, so putting restrictions and adding more things to be anxious about was not productive for me.
I learned to take a moment to be grateful for all the things I had instead of worry about the variables I could not control. I am very thankful for my family, the fact that I have a roof over my head for the lockdown and for myself. I realised that I was becoming more comfortable being by myself without outside distractions and I am proud of myself for it. I had to face one of my main fears and it went better than I expected.
I still struggle with creativity and productivity but I think that is just life. It is okay to not be perfect, struggle with things, and to take a moment to breathe, especially now.
So who cares if I’m struggling to learn a new language or finish an essay? The world is facing a global pandemic and it’s a lot to handle for everyone.
I’m still very excited about when I will be able to go outside and see my friends again, but I am also happy with myself. This is the best time to reconnect with yourself. Reflect on where you are in life, what you’ve been through and what you have overcome.
Most importantly, It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed. It’s okay if you can’t study or work properly. Your feelings are valid. No one can blame you, so don’t blame yourself.
Remember to be kind to yourself. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Whether from your family, your tutor, or your friends. Sometimes finding comfort in feel-good movies or eating what you want is all you need.
And for the first time in years, which is funny considering that is happening, I started to feel as if everything was going to be okay. I stopped being anxious about the future because if there’s one thing you can learn from this, it is that you cannot control it anyway.
But take care of yourself because you are the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Little by little you’ll become your own best friend.