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Lockdown Diary: Confronting the Mental Health Monster Again

The coronavirus lockdown led Aekta Kapoor to confront the psychological demons from her past.

This article is part of our ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown.

Early on in the lockdown, my fingers began itching uncontrollably, and I’d often get up at night having scratched them raw and bleeding. It wasn’t any external rash or infection, it was related to my state of mind, a fact I could recognise as I had been through it before.

Over twenty years ago – when I was in a marriage I did not want to be in, trapped in a home full of strangers, with no close family or friend in town to vent out to, burdened with unfamiliar duties and uncomfortable roles, and with no understanding of myself or my purpose in life – my fingers had itched this way for the first time.

It was not a coincidence that the second time this happened to me was also related to being “locked in”, stripped of freedom, burdened with work, and anxious about the future, though I am in a happier space in my life. My body’s sympathetic nervous system was reacting to a situation where neither fight nor flight was a possibility. It was making me aware of a problem, which only now I can see was due to gaps in my belief system and thinking.

A handful of light (photo: Elia Pellegrini / Unsplash)

Mental health is a vast subject, and the mind is a mysterious abyss of past experiences, fears and desires. Though the quest of personal development is self-knowledge and self-actualisation, this is an elusive goal and all of life’s endeavours are just part of the process. We can never truly ‘know ourselves’, even though we may spend a lifetime trying.

At the same time, since the universe is in a constant state of expansion, we may perhaps progress from one point to another, and then another, in painstaking degrees, either of our own volition or when nature forces us to change and evolve.

The coronavirus pandemic is one of those instances.

It has brought to the fore our faultlines, our deepest fears and desires, our haunting insecurities and doubts. It has also given us an opportunity to count the many blessings in our lives, to expand our ability to give and receive love, and to bring our attention to the present moment as acutely as the single-minded focus of one trying to thread a needle.

Observing myself through the selfie lens

I observe myself with much wonder, and some consternation, these days. While there is gratitude that my husband and two children are with me at my home, and my parents, in-laws, family, friends and helpers are safe in theirs, I am also crabby about my increased workload, irritable about the change in my routine, aggrieved about the daily-wagers and self-employed out of work, and worried about waylaid future plans. The fingers itch at night, when I am alone with my demons in the dark.

But I am not unprepared for this second round of ‘lockdown anxiety’. I have my tried-and-tested healing tools this time: my chanting, my yoga, my breath-work, expressions of love with the family and pet, and drowning myself in a cause greater than myself – my magazine eShe, where I encounter inspirational stories of women every day, stories that often leave me with goosebumps.

The itch is somewhat in control, surfacing mildly as a warning sign every alternate day, reminding me to breathe, activate the parasympathetic nervous system response, and let go of my stress and fear.

Personal growth is a lifelong process and, forced by a pandemic to stop and look within, this moment is significant. If each of us can take that one tiny baby step forward together to heal ourselves, we may just end up healing the world.

First published in eShe’s May 2020 issue

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