Updated: Jun 17
by Rehana Bhat
I had always viewed death as a tragedy for those whom the dead leave behind but a liberation from miseries of life and a beautiful spiritual adventure for the departed soul. But then I bore children and my perception changed. The fear of leaving children motherless haunts every mother. This fear manifested when I tested positive for COVID-19 around a fortnight ago. For a couple of days, the despair and anxiety was overwhelming but the love and support I received from my family and friends slowly dispelled my fears. Although being infected with the virus and the despondency associated with it is something that isn't to be shared on a public platform, but I choose to do it for a particular purpose. We, the COVID-19 survivors, need to talk about our experiences because it is through sharing and hearing others' experiences, the taboo and stigma associated with this illness will slowly disperse. The truth stand naked that any person can contract this virus regardless of age, gender, medical condition and other factors. There are several evidences that stigma associated with it leads to reduction in people seeking medical advice and even testing. This can further lead to cases not being reported and more people being exposed to virus which could delay the medical care to the patients and turn things even more difficult. Thus, stigma and discrimination associated with this Coronavirus can put the entire society into a pitfall. Solidarity and empathy and not the stigma can curtail the spread of the global pandemic. Another reason why I'm sharing my experience is that it is the worst cases that makes news — What we are not made familiar with, at least not with the visualization of horror stories, is that majority of the people recover well and don't even require hospitalization. When we are consumed by news all over the social media, fear takes over. Same happened to me. It started with unusual fatigue which I misconstrued. I thought it is due to the sleep deprivation since I had not been able to sleep well because of some urgent college assignments. But I got alarmed, when within a couple of days, I lost my senses of smell and taste. Even normal kitchen chores left me drained and exhausted. I couldn't record my lectures and avoided receiving call due to the feeling of tiredness. It is then, I talked to my sister, and she suggested me to go for a COVID-19 test. My husband too insisted for the same but I relentlessly avoided it due to the overwhelming panic. It was when my sister-in-law came to my place, she motivated me and drove me to CD hospital for medical examination. And to our surprise, I tested positive. Sooner I received my CT Scan report, I googled the results and literally freaked out. It was only after my sister and brother-in-law (a Radiologist) reassured me that the lung involvement was negligible and I regained my sanity. With proper medication, prayers and immense love and support of my parents, family and friends, I'm recuperating and in fact, tested negative yesterday. The joy of being able to get back to the point where I can pick up my three little girls, hug them, and be with them is inexplicable. The key, therefore, is to remain level-headed, sensible and avoid stressing yourself out. I request everyone to refrain from obsessive googling. It does more harm than good and fuels your anxiety. Instead, seek advice from a professional. With the rise in COVID-19 cases, experts predict that there won’t be any ease in the pandemic for the months ahead. So, I believe we need to learn to live with the virus. The thing I learned the most is that building immunity is most important, till a vaccine is available. Our immunity is the only vaccine as of now. Despite diverse roles, the women of today like women of past generations, continue to serve as a backbone to our families. While there is probably no better feeling than being there for your family, it is difficult to care for others while you neglect your own self. So dear ladies, if not for your own sake, at least for the sake of your children, don't skip meals, eat healthy food (dieting can wait ) , sleep well, exercise daily and don't neglect yourselves. Given the unpredictable nature of this virus, I'd also suggest keeping an oximeter device available at home, a device that measures how much oxygen your blood is carrying. This will help asymptomatic people know if they are COVID-19 positive in the absence of any other indicator. As soon as you suspect that you might have contracted the virus, seek MEDICAL OPINION IMMEDIATELY. Finally, I would say always wear a mask, maintain physical distancing and follow all hygiene/sanitation protocols. Stay indoors as much as you can unless it is absolutely necessary to step out of your homes. And remember that a huge percentage of people are in fact recovering well, so STAY POSITIVE and STAY STRONG. Insha'Allah, this too shall pass and as always WE SHALL RISE AGAIN.
(Rehana Bhat is an Assistant Professor at Islamia College, Srinagar)