27 Mar What’s going through my mind pre-lockdown
I wrote this yesterday. It’s a diary entry of what I was feeling.
I’ve had a myriad of emotions since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that, from 12am this evening until 12am on 16 April (forgive me if I don’t have the time right – things have been quite a blur recently). I’ve experienced more panic attacks than I have in the last 20 years. So before I get into why I experience panic attacks, let me give you a glimpse into some of my history.
When I was 17, I suffered from a brain tumour. It was the start of many other medical health complications to come – but more about this in a later post: I don’t want to bombard you all at once…
The unfortunate result of the brain tumour was that I lost the vision completely in my right eye. I had always had limited vision in my right eye owing to a spidery growth that they discovered – when I was about 8 or so. But when the brain tumour came, the vision in my right eye went totally.
Now, at 17 people are usually doing weird and wonderful things, experimenting with things that they probably shouldn’t be and figuring out who they are and who they want to become. For me, 17 wasn’t a stepping stone into adulthood – it was rather a step back into childhood as things that I had been doing for myself for years, I had to be supervised doing. For example, as I had suffered a grand mal seizure I was put on anti epileptic medication – Tegretol, if I remember correctly. This meant that I couldn’t swim on my own and had to have someone watching me.
There were a number of other instances in which I was held back – I won’t mention them here as it’s not relevant to what I’m trying to say. What’s relevant is that when I finally went to university, I wasn’t of the same mental age that my res mates and classmates were. I was scared to join in the fun, make friends and do things that ‘normal’ first year students did. Although I excelled academically, socially I isolated myself because I was afraid of what people would think of me given the limitations that the brain tumour had left me with.
Half-way through my first year of study, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Not the type of depression where you feel unhappy for one day and then get out of it the next day. No, this type of depression is debilitating. The best metaphor that I can use to describe it is a fog – one of those thick ones that you typically see in English movies. It’s so thick that you can see the shapes of things and the lights that they emit however you don’t know where to grab onto it because you can’t see it. Because you can’t grasp onto anything, you end up getting frustrated and are brought to tears because you don’t know what’s real or not. It’s incredibly frightening.
I was 20 when I received this diagnosis. I’m 38 now so for nearly the past 20 years I’ve had to deal with the impact that this diagnosis has had on my life. There have been years in which there were a number of patches that I struggled with managing this disease. There were other years where I really got my sh*t together and was productive, successful and healthy. (I’m happy to say that the last two years can be described by the latter description – and I’m determined to make this an ongoing trend.)
I’m freaked out about this impending lockdown. Especially since we’ve been informed by our body corporate that we are not allowed to walk or jog around our complex. I had a room in res in first year and my desk looked out the road where I could see happy students going about their business. I so wanted to part of them but I didn’t know how to do this. Would they accept me? Would they be understanding of my limitations? I saw that room as a prison – I could walk through the door but I couldn’t bring myself to do this.
The dictate that we can’t leave our homes – and for us in flats and complexes are confined to a piece of outside area the size of a postage stamp – has turned my house (which I love so much) – into a prison for me. It brings back those feelings of utter despair and isolation, and watching life passing me by without being able to grab onto it with both hands.
Yes, I realise (in my head) that the measures that have been implemented in South Africa have been put there in order to arrest the spread of COVID-19. Yes, I realise that this is a serious disease and drastic steps need to be taken in order to halt the rise in instances of infected cases. However, this is how I’m feeling at the moment.
So, I implore you to please only share stories of positivity on your social media feeds. People who are in the unfortunate position of suffering from mental difficulties, such as I do, will blow this out of proportion in their minds – and may even go as far as ending their own lives because they feel so desperate.
I’d like to leave you with a positive thought from Christiane Ebert, who is a life coach and Pilates instructor.