‘I am losing it; I think I am about to go crazy’. This is a thought that would have probably crossed your mind if you ever got a panic attack. I realized I was having one, I felt my heart drumming onto my rib cage, my legs felt jelly and I was gasping for breath at a place where one is supposed to be most comfortable, at home, surrounded by family. This was when the first lockdown was announced in Mumbai and I was ‘stuck’ at my home about 300 kms away, not being allowed to travel back. It was 2 in the night and nobody could understand what was wrong with me, because panic attacks usually lasted for a few minutes, while mine lasted till about 7 in the morning. In desperation I called up my dad’s friend who happens to be a psychiatrist and he told me that it's normal for people to feel this way in the middle of a pandemic and prescribed me some anxiolytics to calm me down. Things just kept getting worse, I was having intrusive thoughts and was anxious almost all the time. I was worried I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was told that maybe some yoga and meditation would help. I practiced that religiously with @headspace and even consulted a therapist and followed up with regular sessions. I started painting and cooking. Two months passed, although I had the best support system in my parents and my cousins but nothing seemed to be working, I constantly felt like a fish out of water. Till I finally figured out what the problem was - I hadn’t taken a break in years, since I started med school I hadn’t gone home for more than a week at once. In the last three years, apart from my regular duty at the D Y Patil Hospital, I had been the Medical Officer for the Justin Bieber Purpose World Tour, The FIFA U17 World Cup, The One Plus Music Festival, The U2 Joshua Tree tour to name a few. While here I was now, like this powerful source of energy and resources just rolling my dice to an online Ludo game. I wasn’t at home, because home for me was where I belonged, at the frontline, doing what I had been doing for all those years. The next week I returned back to Mumbai and joined COVID duty.
For most people working those long hours at the hospital might feel stressful, but for me it was liberating, my serotonin was through the roof, all the anxiety that had clogged my mind in the past few months started to fade. Running around in the PPE felt so much more rewarding than pacing up and down with anxiety. While the rest of the world stood still out of fear, I couldn’t stay still because of fear. I have completed a year now with a mix of COVID and Non-COVID rotations and I can safely say that this was the year of most growth for me. For years I was too busy to stop and think about mental health, but when I did, it struck me like a rock. Along with the help of my family and the most supportive friends I have managed to gain control over that often-overpowering feeling and am moving on in life, but I take breaks more often now, pause for self-care and emphasize on overall wellbeing. I recently got accepted into University of London for my Masters, and I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to serve my people during this doom. I understand that due to the restrictions not everyone can go out to work, but I urge you to keep doing something even if it’s the littlest routine you have going. For, when you can’t go out, go in. Create some headspace and work on yourself. Please believe, the sun will go up just like it always has, and we shall rise from this even stronger and better. Lastly, I feel there is a parallel pandemic of poor mental health, so please be more kind and understanding with people around you, because in a time like this humanity is our strongest weapon.
Stay Safe. God Bless.