It has been over six months since the pandemic led our world to implement lockdown and isolation. It has been tough ever since, but for an international student, even more so. A few weeks after moving houses, my flatmate was asked to self-isolate, leading me to experience my first real isolation. Her work-mates had also tested positive for Covid, scaring everyone in the house. She broke down when she came home and told us.
To maintain safety, I decided to self-isolate as well until her test results came back. In a lockdown, isolation is scarier than one might think. The constant anxiety of jeopardizing the safety of the people around you, especially if you are locked in a room for 14 days feels remorseful. One could pass the time in their bed binging away the television shows which have been on the watchlist since forever, but at some point, the lifeless, inanimate screen will start to agitate them.
Introversion, germophobia, trauma and isolation do not mesh well; especially if you are an international student. The most effective support system I had was made up of my friends, who I couldn't see anymore. I'm not a phone-person per se, so initially, the communication was very little. My mental health definitely took a beating, even with every bit of unbelievable optimism I forced myself to adopt.
Isolation made me realise that even though I am a person who thrives on solitude, I need communication and companionship to keep myself from being driven insane. Communication and socialisation are crucial to human well- being, and after all, we are social animals. The study of isolation has led the scientists to the conclusion that without social interaction, human brains start to shrink. So, isolation doesn't just take a toll on your mental and emotional health but also on your anatomic structure.
Isolation doesn't just take a toll on your mental and emotional health but also on your anatomic structure.
Isolation also meant my morale hitting rock bottom. After having finished my Masters and with minimal hope of getting a job, I had nothing but free time to worsen my overthinking capabilities. I was waking up late in the day, didn't feel hunger or wanted to move from my bed because all I kept thinking about was the pointlessness of making an effort in a world pitted against me.
This is where I realized that even though I condemn using technology all the time, I required it more than most. With my family oceans away and me locked in a room, being able to talk with my friends was the only thing that eased my mind. One must always be reassured in themselves yet, in times of need, the company of another person works like medicine. Although my friends could no longer be around me physically, their words were. One of the significant things which kept me from getting constant anxiety and panic attacks was being able to discuss with the situation with my friends.
In times of need, the company of another person works like medicine.
Finally, the test results of my flatmate arrived, and it was negative. I don't think I have ever felt more excited to be outside than I did that day. The fact that I could go sleep knowing that I would wake up healthy seemed nothing short of miraculous. So, of course, the first thing I did was to inform my friends and family and mostly, thanked them repeatedly for being there. The fact that they took time out of their days to chat with me and make sure that I didn't go spiralling in fear meant more than the world to me. I felt like I had gained friendships for a lifetime, which couldn't have been forged if all I had shared were the happy times. For someone to willingly step into the frightening reality of a pandemic with you and be there for you is not something I take for granted.
The isolation period restored my faith in having a beneficial support system, reminding me how nurturing genuine friendships can be. In the past, I have suffered from toxic friendships with people which traumatised me to the core. But, my PTSD of toxic friendships could only have been healed by growing increasingly vulnerable in healthy and conscious companies, even if it took place through a screen. Moreover, it made me realise that even though I flourish in solitude, sharing my energy with the right kind of people could make me prosper just as much.