When the Movement Control Order happened in March, I was secretly happy. The skies were blue, the birds were chirping in the background, and there were no traffic jams. Furthermore, the construction behind my house halted due to the lockdown, which reduces the noise pollution in my neighbourhood. Before the halt of the construction works, I was bothered by the clanking, mechanical sounds, which drove me crazy.
I planned a few tasks to keep myself occupied to keep up with the momentum. Firstly, I joined a few art challenges on Instagram to practise my art skills. Secondly, I learnt new courses online for job preparation for next year as many jobs came to a standstill this year. Thirdly, I wrote a lot of drafts to be published on Medium. After all, I love expressing myself through writing and creating art.
However, I began to be very disillusioned as the government slowly lifted the restrictions. The crowds and traffic jams came back; the developer resumed its construction behind my house, and the birds stopped chirping in the morning.
Despite reading about emotional health and productivity in times of pandemic, I became unhappy. The doldrums continued and exacerbated by the feedback that I received from my examiners. I received major revisions for my dissertation. While the feedback was constructive, it was a massive blow to my soul. I kept breaking down almost every day for a month. The crying episodes were so bad that I collapsed in the bathroom.
Worse still, I stopped writing and create art due to the dissertation feedback. I write to understand the diverse meanings around me, and I create art because I wanted to find my purpose in life. However, I lost interest in these activities during the lockdown. Writing caused me so much pain. As my dissertation topic was about art history in Malaysia, I stopped creating art because I felt my core and ideals of being an artist shattered. I felt unworthy, and regretted that I ever took a Masters in the first place.
I have followed suggestions from books and articles about keeping my emotional health in check. Here are the things that I have followed daily, but it failed me at that point:
- Write a journal — Done.
- Acknowledge my emotions — Done.
- Continue writing and doing art despite whatever I felt — Done.
I could not function and wanted to drive to a place away from the busyness of the city. Despite the government allowing interstate travel, my husband did not allow me to drive out initially because the pandemic is not over yet. My husband was concerned because I might accidentally contract COVID-19, especially now both of us are helping out the underprivileged. He wanted to reduce the risk of both of us affecting the disadvantaged. If they get COVID-19, they will have no salary for 14 days.
However, I resented being stuck in my house with my emotions crippling me. I fell into bouts of tears again and drove alone to a place 57km away from my home. I told myself that if I do not get better from this trip, I seek professional help though it is uncomfortable and scary.
I am thankful that I took that trip. The change of environment was good for my soul, though it was a short trip. I was able to process the feedback from my examiners and freed from the darkness that surrounded me. Besides that, I am slowly getting back into the momentum of writing and doing art.
I remembered being scared when I stopped expressing my emotions through my writings and my artworks. I wanted to give up on my goals as I felt that I was not good enough. It was such a dark period of my soul, and I almost contemplated seeking professional help. In the end, I did not seek help because I managed to reframe my perspectives while I took a drive to another place.
This post is not the best that I have written, but I am putting it up as the first step to get back to what I have set up to do. I may have missed some personal goals, but I am going to heal and do things at my pace.