Isolated and unwelcome, it is the mind that is most challenged when Covid strikes
As I sit down to write these words, it is day 10 of having tested positive for the coronavirus. I offer no remarkable insights, nor do I bring to the conversation any profound piece of advice. But as the world sees Covid roaring back to life, with daily cases and deaths on the rise, and with the very real threat of winter exacerbating current circumstances in Bangladesh and across the world, it felt right to reflect upon my own (ongoing) experience.
I must note here that I had been, particularly compared to most of my friends, colleagues, and peers, a model citizen during the times of Covid, both during the period of lockdown and indeed beyond. I remained indoors, hardly ever stepping foot outside. Thus, when I did test positive, I couldn’t help but feel that the world was unfair and I had been dealt a really bad hand.
Indeed, I had friends and colleagues who laughed (not maliciously, I must add) when they heard the news, while others appeared as dumbfounded as I was, with one singular question: “How on earth did you of all people test positive?”
So incredulous was I that the results must have been a mistake that I tested once again, because I was simply not ready to admit that I, one that had been a dutiful citizen for the lion’s share of close to eight months, was now bedridden with a fever, a cold, a loss of appetite, shortness of breath, no sense of smell or taste, and fatigue and exhaustion, while others who ventured out every single day were doing so with no regard, with reckless abandon. It was simply not fair.
To top it all off was the fact that two of my best friends were getting married, after being together for close to 13 years, in a small and intimate home ceremony that I could no longer be a part of. I had no say in the matter, and I was, at that particular point, as unwelcome as a murderous villain.
Of course, I tested positive again, the perfect right uppercut after doubling me over with a gut punch. No surprises then that I was reeling, the possibility of being knocked out imminent.
My thoughts had no inclination of remaining static, however, and inevitably, they veered towards the territory of death and mortality. With two elderly parents, one approaching 80, I was (and remain) deathly afraid (pun intended) of being a Covid-positive person within the confined walls of an apartment in Dhaka and with two elderly people right outside my door, keeping my meals and drinks.
Yes, I am fortunate to have a room to myself where I can stay shut, but am I to be blamed for being fearful? After all, I thought I had followed through with all precautions and yet had tested positive. How is a door to save my parents from a disease that has been shown to be airborne?
Of course, as any human being, my thoughts eventually shifted inwards, and I began wondering about myself and the possible consequences that could befall me. Being what I can only describe as “sickly” growing up, with an immune system that is as weak as our cricket team in Tests, and having a couple of recurring issues, to say I was afraid when I first received the email that I tested positive is an understatement.
While I mostly retain a cool demeanour and exterior, the knowledge that I had a disease that could potentially cause me incredible suffering and possible death certainly made it very difficult to, at least internally, keep my composure and remain positive.
Indeed, it is the mental component of Covid that, at least in my experience, is far more taxing. Of course, this could simply mean that I have been blessed and the physical discomfort has been manageable, for which I am thankful. But it is the novel nature of this virus, the horror stories of recurring symptoms for months on end, the sudden and dramatic deteriorations which lead to organ failures and deaths, and the incessant worry that I may, inadvertently, kill my parents by merely co-existing with them that weighs heavily on the mind -- at least, on my mind.
So, as I struggle to write these words, with a tired body and an even more tired mind, I suppose I can finally empathize better with the hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives and the millions who have been affected. There is much that remains unknown about Covid, and it is this uncertainty that eats away at those affected. I can only hope that the world can work collectively and find a way to reduce the suffering that this pandemic continues to bring to the world.
AHM Mustafizur Rahman is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.