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Lockdown Anxiety: ” I’m A Journalist But I Could Barely Write One Line!”

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As the vaccination drive for COVID-19 begins across India, hundreds of frontline workers and health workers are queueing outside the vaccination centres to get the shot. This pandemic was unprecedented, and I know that it has changed everyone’s life. But here I will talk about my struggle.

This struggle started with the announcement of the stringent lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease. I was suffering from a massive anxiety issue which was caused due to depression. In the terms of psychology, it is called an adjustment disorder.

Anxiety and depression have various outcomes but my main problem was regarding concentration. However, my therapist told me that its about distraction and not about concentration. I am unable to read and write because I am failing to focus. Here it is important to say that my professional work is also based on writing and I did not face problems in work-related writing.

But the issue was with my personal work or related to the articles which I wanted to write from my interest. For example this article I am writing after 7 days. During these 7 days, I had planned to start the article several times but could not.

Every time I sat down to write the article, not a single word came to my mind. 

 The Solitude Of Staying Alone And Battling With Loneliness During The Lockdown

With the lockdown announced, movements got restricted and like everyone, I was trying to develop a life inside my home. From 2013, I have been away from family and for the past several years I have been staying alone. I have always loved the solitude of staying alone but I had never really encountered loneliness. This is the first time when the feeling of loneliness struck me.

“The first time when the feeling of loneliness struck me.” Representative image only.

The lockdown was imposed and suddenly I started realising that my world which was centred around my friends who used to stay nearby and are all now leaving for their home towns. Their offices were closed and the work-from-home structure was in place. Till today most of these people have not returned and most of them have permanently (read for the time being) left the city because the work from home in the private organisations will be continued for some time.

The city life was changing, with many privileges which we have the struggle inside me already began. I witnessed my own people leaving the city one by one. And one day came when I realised that there isn’t a single person around me whom I used to connect with daily. (here I am talking about physically meeting friends and not virtual)

My parents who are in Kolkata have been very supportive and they stood by me as usual. They are senior citizens and due to lockdown, the maids were not coming so they had to do every work back home. I was scared with their health conditions but due to my work which demands physical presence in the office, I had no way to leave Delhi.

At one side I was anxious about everything and on the other side, the social media and newspapers were flooded with negative stories. At this point, the news of the death of Sushant Singh Rajput came. I did not realise that this news not only broke my heart but also shattered my mental health. Within a week I started facing issues with reading. I was opening the books but unable to see a word. I thought that this must be due to overuse of my mobiles.

I did not realise but till then not only the struggle with reading started but also oversleeping, overeating and the series of low mood began. I was unable to talk or express my situation to my friends and parents, my sleep cycle was messed up and I started to gain weight.

“I used to stare at blank pages for hours, but not even a line used to come to my mind.” Representative image only.

Within a month I started experiencing difficulty in writing too. I used to look at the blank page or the computer screen for hours, not a line or even a headline used to come to my mind. This is a scary feeling because I have been a journalist and due to work I write every day. 

“In India, Over 30 million people Suffer From Mental Health Problems. But Only A Fraction Seek Help”

The pandemic has been disastrous to everyone across the world. People have faced different kinds of mental health conditions and they are still suffering. An article published at the Wired noted, “According to data from Mental Health America (MHA), however, more people are facing deteriorating mental health. From January through September of 2020, the number of people who have taken MHA’s anxiety screenings has increased by 93 per cent over the entire previous year. The organization’s depression screening has seen a 62 per cent increase over 2019’s totals. Before the year was even over, more people were trying to find out if they were suffering from anxiety or depression than ever before.”

In India also the situation is the same. A report published in The Lancet clearly noted that the mental health condition among youth deteriorated during the pandemic. However, the awareness regarding mental health is not much in India and there are a lot of taboos related to mental health. Till today in India, people are scared to come up and discuss the mental health issues openly.

A media article noted, “In India, over 30 million people suffer from mental health problems. But only a fraction seek help. Most of those who do, belong to urban areas. In rural areas, mental health continues to remain an alien concept. According to a report by Business Standard, in rural areas, the only place for mental disorders is a district hospital. According to the 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey, there are only 0.05 psychiatrists for every 100,000 in central India. The number increases to 1.2 in southern parts of India.”

Does Having A History Of Depression Make One More Susceptible?

Experts say that depression has a pattern of recurrence, so while writing about my current condition I must share that I have a history of depression. During 2013-2017 I was treated for clinical depression and the treatment happened with the help of medicines. Then with time, the conditions improved and I recovered. 

A research article named ‘Risk for Recurrence in Depression’ noted,

“Depression is a very common mental illness that is highly recurrent in individuals. In addition, it is a disorder with substantial personal and public health consequences. Thus, there is great interest in the development of strategies that might reduce the recurrence of depression.”

The article further noted,

“Recurrence rates are over 85% within a decade of an index depressive episode, and average approximately 50% or more within six months of apparent clinical remission if the initially-effective treatment was not continued.”

How I Fought Back Against Crippling Mental Health

The self-acceptance of mental health issue plays the key role and I was under a very tough schedule, therefore, it took me some time to go for the treatment. This time I was willing to take counselling and not medicines because I believed that the change of lifestyle was much needed for me.

I took some days off from my office work and went to Himachal Pradesh where I sat down and wrote a few points regarding my condition. Based on those points I started talking to a therapist. After the primary discussions, I decided to go for professional help.

Immediately after coming back from the mountains, I started seeing a therapist. The therapy started over the phone and also through video conferences. After the initial discussion, my therapist suggested some of the key techniques to deal with the situation. Good lifestyle, exercise, mindfulness and good diet were prescribed by my therapist.

Changing a lifestyle is not an easy task and when you are alone amid such a pandemic situation it is tougher. However, I started focusing on the prescribed schedule and today I am happy to say that the situation is much better. 

I have started reading books with some troubles which are still present and also now writing this article. I know that I am not the only one who faced such a situation during this pandemic. This story is not to inspire anyone but to say that it is absolutely okay to face mental health problems. It is important to accept the situation, talk to people, to a therapist and to fight back.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ananya Sanyal

    This is so well articulated and totally relatable.I too faced the issue of anxiety and depression during the lockdown because of this pandemic, though my trigger point was different.Glad to know you have also come out of it just like me and yes the keyword that I learnt out of this experience was “acceptance”.Stay strong,stay safe.

    1. Sayantan Ghosh

      Thanks a lot for your response.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

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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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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.

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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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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