by Casey Ludick
In the beginning, quarantine seemed great for an introverted person such as myself. Limited interaction, long stretches of silence, the pleasures that come with the constant supply of free snacks and lastly my beautiful baby boys - the boys are my dogs, btw. I went literal weeks without feeling the need to engage in any sort of unnecessary conversation. I spent the first few weeks in lockdown editing articles, finishing assignments, exercising, reading as much as possible, playing with my dogs and leaving the room every time one of my family members entered. The peace came to an end when I became restless, I scrolled through Tiktok, Twitter, Instagram and texted on WhatsApp. The first problem I encountered is that, I had to speak to my family every day. The knowledge that I would have to converse with people without any reasonable explanation was a complete bummer.
The second problem I encountered, was the complete lack of independence within my household. There was no avoiding any of my family members, there was no choice in when chores got done and when things happened around me. Over the weeks I began to remember why I chose to leave in the first place, my home is a dictatorship rather than a democracy although family game nights have grown on me.
My mental health suffered because of limited interaction. Quarantine affected me the most out of everyone in my family because of how many people were now around me all the time. My agency and independence were restricted greatly as a result of my home situation. However, being in quarantine meant I had a lot more time on my hands. All of the things I wanted to do at the beginning of the year suddenly seemed like a good idea and something to keep myself busy. My journey through quarantine changed to absolute stagnation in every aspect of my life, as my motivation stalled, my schoolwork suffered and my journal had run out of pages for me to fill up with my thoughts. During this period of time, I realised that I get so much faux social interaction from my phone and so my social battery would “die” very early on in the day. So, I often ended up doing something creative simply to avoid being on my phone as well as to avoid talking to anyone for longer than necessary.
The first point of quarantine reform for me was trying to stay active. I had the same journey most people had when they first entered quarantine in this regard, I set out to change my body by exercising with Chloe Ting for two weeks. Although, in the beginning, this was a good use of my time in that I was healthier and happier for it, following a strict workout regimen began to lose flavour and I opted for the more fun and less intense workouts. During quarantine, I exercised for not just the physical benefits but the mental and emotional benefits that came with being active. I was and am in it for the improved mood, improved body image, and best of all decreasing the symptoms of depression. The backyard workouts double as playtime for me and my homeboys (also my dogs) regular squats turn into fetch for Toby and occasionally, the smallest homeboy Prince turns into a weight to up my workout game.
The second point of quarantine reform was finding ways to relax when I have anxiety. My anxiety seemed to have peaked as soon as I realised the gravity of the situation we are currently facing. The virus was spreading quickly, and the anxiety that came with knowing the number of cases had gone up so much that the government was enlisting military police to help keep people inside their homes. Along with all of the horrible things happening in the world, including the events leading to Black Lives Matter, Gender-Based Violence, target policies launched by the government in the Western Cape, along with corruption. My anxiety is constantly at a high, so high I sometimes struggle to breathe. Those first two months, I struggled to cope solely because my anxiety had me paralysed. The things that helped me either process my thoughts or clear my head were journaling, drawing, organizing/cleaning my room, baking, listening to music, and watching calming YouTube videos (also involving the things that kept me calm).
[I also actively avoid reading academic emails or Covid-19 updates because I’m already a nervous wreck who does not enjoy being around most people and so there really is no reason for me to endure such high-stress levels while at home.]
My kitchen explorations range from baking easy cookie recipes to more complicated baked goods such as cinnamon rolls and bread; I also occasionally make pasta. This helps me calm down because of the movements and because baking requires my full attention. I also get to decorate a cake or cupcake afterwards, which lets my creative side run wild. Lastly, the result is some sort of baked good and so I get to eat sweet treats after I calm down.
Quarantine with my family means I can’t focus without some sort of background noise anymore, because the dead silence causes my anxiety levels to go up and for my heart to race. With this in mind, I really can’t do anything if everyone is unnaturally quiet and so I have to listen to music; a podcast, or watch a YouTube video. And so, I have gotten really into real-time “Study with Me”/ “Draw with Me” videos, which run anywhere from an hour to ten hours long meaning I then don’t end up having to switch between videos while I work, draw, or journal. The videos use super soft music or the natural sounds that come with being outside or simply existing. Sounds like cars driving by but really softly, people talking in the distance, buzzing electricity. These sounds calm me down a lot because they give the impression that people are present and like I’m spending time with a friend - except I’m not.
My journey through quarantine went from a small midterm holiday feeling to depression and heightened anxiety and now to the current phase, and hopefully, the last phase before I return to campus. This phase has been filled with activity, including schoolwork, art, baking, music, reading, dancing, cleaning, learning, and tons of writing for self-help. So far, it has been the most enjoyable and yet the most tiring part of my quarantine journey. It has helped me tremendously in dealing with my depression as well as my anxiety thus improving the quality of my sleep. As such, this has increased the amount of time I spend smiling and laughing with the people I love. My personal forms of therapy have lasted about a month now and hopefully will last until the world opens up again.