The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.
For the first time in life, I was excited to go back home. College had left me feeling overwhelmed, and the idea of eating proper meals and sleeping on a double-bed felt like a cool breeze in Delhi’s burning heat. So much so that I had forgotten the very reason I escaped from the three people I call family.
Bags packed, I wasn’t crying on the metro this time. I could finally take a break from being “a mature and responsible adult” and be the ‘extremely spoiled and not-so-bright’ kid who just lazes around all day. Comfort was not an option anyway, so why not just go where there is at least good food?
Breathing freely, I reached home unaware of the big surprise awaiting me. I was greeted with smiles and warmth, a luxury I hesitantly accepted. “I made your favourite sabzi beta” (I made your favourite dish) my mother exclaimed, her age-old way of expressing affection. Everything was good, “I will be okay” I reassured myself. A week passed by and it was almost time to leave for college. Unlike earlier times, I wasn’t very eager to go back, and as if the universe heard me in a very unfortunate way, came the coronavirus pandemic.
After the initial alarm of the virus, everything that followed is a blur in my memory. I remember checking Twitter the first thing in the morning like it was news.
Threads after threads talking about the life-threatening virus and how there was no cure. From “just wash your hands and wear masks” to “stay at home at all times,” everything around me started making lesser and lesser sense. Time wasn’t going slow or fast, it just didn’t seem real anymore.
I woke up in cold sweat at night, thinking I had caught the virus and was about to infect my whole family.
Trembling, I told my mom “Last night I cried because I don’t want you guys to be sick because of me,” “Really? I thought you were more sensible than that,” she said laughing at my exaggerated concerns. I really was alone with my paranoia. It wasn’t the first time I realized that I was a misfit in the neurotypical world, yet the realization always feels like being hit by a car. My anxiety in the initial weeks knew no bounds. There were times when I wanted to disappear, excessively sleep or just die.
This was new for everyone, so there was no way anyone could console me in the slightest way. I spent sleepless nights thinking about all the ways I could catch the disease and infect someone. There was nowhere to run and hide. Sharing my thoughts with my family was the equivalent of being declared “mad” and losing the little dignity I owed to my otherwise high grades. It felt like my world was turned upside down. Everything I knew became redundant. All the guards I’d put up surrendered before the changing times. There was only so much I could absorb. Soon, I reached my threshold.
I stopped reading anything related to the virus and distracted myself through different things. I had accepted things as they were and was ready to face anything that happened. However, it wasn’t so easy. I couldn’t pretend like everything was normal. I couldn’t be productive or use the quarantine to improve myself. As the lockdown was extended and the news became routine, I could finally get a grip on myself. However, it was of no use, because my family had started losing theirs.
I don’t live in a necessarily happy family. Rather, we are a dysfunctional, conflict-ridden group of humans pretending to be a happy family. This was my third panic attack. A normal argument for my sister was a deathlike situation for me. The lockdown didn’t feel as much of a blessing as before. The fights started escalating, sometimes turning violent. Some times with one member and other times, with all members at once. As the youngest, and being the only one burdened with the task of breaking generational curses and trauma cycles, living in a toxic household isn’t easy.
The virus has now started seeming less suffocating than living with my family. The constant nagging, anxiety-inducing statements and indifference towards my mental illness along with the ongoing pandemic, and my own insecurities about the future have started getting to my head. My bad days have become extremely bad and the good ones are rare.
While there are all sorts of information on the virus and spending time in quarantine, there is very little on surviving abuse. I believe that the suffering’s been long enough now, for the rose-coloured glasses have made their heroic appearance to save the world from the evil reality of quarantine. Everyone seems to agree with what the hero shows them, to the point that they have forgotten that their reality is altered and not perceived through their own eyes. They want me to see it as a lucky opportunity and prepare for my future, a future that is more uncertain than ever.
However, as difficult as it to live in a toxic household with a mental illness, it is not impossible to be happy. Sometimes, doing little things that you love, like painting or listening to new music can be your healing place. You can always talk to your favourite people and escape the world for some time.
And, when it gets too much, it is better to open the windows and take a deep breath and believe that it will all end soon, that this too shall pass.