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When The PM Announced A 21-day Lockdown, I’d Been In Self-Isolation For 2 Years

ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

Self-Isolation is just no fun.

Everyone I love right now is going through probably the worst thing they’ve ever gone through. Life has become an endless cycle of work from home Zoom conferences, cooking tutorials, grocery lists, cups of tea, jumping jacks in the balcony and obsessive tracking of the global pandemic.

Who knew?

I’m ‘quarantining’ right now. That’s the catchphrase. You’re probably reading this in between breaks after watching yet another Instagram live chat. Maybe you got into a Twitter fight about the government’s healthcare package. Maybe someone posted on their Facebook wall about an extended curfew and you started freaking out.

Dibrugarh: A medic official uses thermal screeing device on a passenger in the wake of deadly coronavirus, at an airport in Dibrugarh, Saturday, March 7, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Maybe you just donated to UNICEF or WHO or Oxfam, trying to get PPEs to Doctors and Nurses. You could be straightening your hair, putting on make-up and wearing your best shoes, knowing all the while you’re not going to go anywhere. You just want to feel better.

An apocalyptic world under attack from a virus. We’re at home, we’re staying safe, we’re being clean. We don’t know what the hell happened, or what to do to survive this or if things will ever be OK. Life is like the movie Groundhog Day. Like Bill Murray on a loop. You do know who else lives like that right?

People with mental illness.

I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety in 2019. By the time our Prime Minister announced a 21-day lockdown on national television, I’d been in self-isolation for two years. Right now, you’re wondering when you can go out again. Maybe go dancing at a club. Karaoke with the family. A date to a fancy restaurant. A movie with friends. Catch the bus. Turn up at your office. For you, this is an emergency period. It’s temporary. It will lift, you will come out, you will move on. For me, it’s life.

But for now, we’re in the same boat. So I like that we are getting to know each other better; we have compassion for one another. I for you, because I know how it feels to be you. And you for me, because you had no idea how it felt to be me.

I have a routine, believe me, that’s the only way to get by. I wake up at exactly the same time every day. I drink lots of water. I have breakfast. I check in with my therapist. I meditate. Then I put on something on Netflix like Love is Blind so that I can vamp about it with my friends on text. Then I start client calls.

I’m an activist and I work from home, WFH before it got trendy; I run an independent legal consultation and counselling business. My clients are victims of domestic abuse, sexual harassment and sexual assault wanting to know how to stay safe from violent husbands or build trust with a partner in a new relationship.

There are kids in their late teens or early 20s having breakdowns because they’re sad, lonely, and afraid. Then I go shopping for groceries and medicines. I don’t look at anyone and I stay away from everyone (this wasn’t normal before the pandemic, but now it is). I come back home and cook my meals. Then a nap because I’m always in energy-saving mode.

You’re just trying to get through it, one day at a time. Representational image.

In the evening, I check in with my support group. I run a support group for women by the way, which oddly enough, is very much in vogue. We’re all talking about how we feel and it’s actually quite nice. Then there might be a session with an advocate or a mental health professional where we come up with legal and psychological strategies to handle a difficult case. That might be followed by a quick conference call with my best friends where we’re just checking up on each other and talking about our coping mechanisms.

Then dinner, while binge-watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S, romantic comedies or thrillers from the 90s. Whatever I need I order online. Clothes. Electronics. Appliances. Cosmetics. Books. Vegetables and frozen meat and fish. There’s an App called Wysa, that keeps track of my mood. Another called WordsWithFriends where I play scrabble with complete strangers, and Happy Glass where I try to fill up a glass of water using the law of gravity. I use Skype and Google Hangouts whenever I want to see a friendly face or go out on a virtual date. Buzzfeed to do random quizzes that determine your personality type. Google Pay because I’m going cashless.

I listen to podcasts frequently: Unqualified, Clear+Vivid, Off Camera, Today In Focus, Directionally Challenged, Curiosity Daily, My Dad Wrote A Porno, The Guilty Feminist, ID10T, Global Pillage, Happy Sad Confused, Modern Love and SuperSoul Sundays.

I’ll make a playlist on Spotify and listen to one song over and over again- right now I can’t stop listening to I’m Coming Down by the Dum Dum Girls. I read before I go to bed: Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Gavin De Becker’s Gift of Fear or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

When I sleep, I wonder what I’ll dream about tonight. I kind of don’t want to wake up ever again. I don’t know what the next day is going to bring so I’d much rather stay in this sleepy universe where you could be leaping off a building and taking flight or you could be skinny dipping with a boyfriend.

I don’t want to wake up, because everything is uncertain and unknown with mental illness. You have good days and bad days, but there are never any great days. You’re just trying to get through it, one day at a time. Waiting, wanting, hoping, to go back to normal.

A friend asked me the other day: How did I feel watching everyone else go through exactly what I’d been going through all this time, quietly? Was there anything that I was grateful for during self-isolation?

But for now, we’re in the same boat. So I like that we are getting to know each other better; we have compassion for one another. I for you, because I know how it feels to be you. And you for me, because you had no idea how it felt to be me.  Representational image.

Yes. Before, I was just your annoying friend always asking you if you had the time to talk to me.

Now I’m that wise friend who always has time for you whenever you want to talk to me. Because whether it’s my friends, my family, my colleagues or my clients, I say “I know what that’s like; you can talk to me”

I promise you will make it out of this alive. I will not give up on you or walk away or ignore you just because it’s too damn hard. I will do everything I can to get you through this.

I just have a small favour to ask of you.

Don’t forget me, when all this is over.

Featured image for representation only.
This post is a part of COVID Diaries, a special series under the #ReimagineTogether campaign. Tell us how this lockdown and pandemic has affected you! Join the conversation by adding a post here. here.
You must be to comment.
  1. Deepanshu Saini

    Hi! Sorry, not sure if it’s the right way. How can someone contact you, and what are the consulting time?

    1. Abha Thapliyal

      Hi Deepanshu! You can send me an email at
      Hope you’re staying safe and well. Regards.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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