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The Emotional Turmoil of COVID-19

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

By Arlene Nagtalon

Image via ASLM

“Wearing a mask isn’t cute.” “The virus isn’t as serious as the news says it is.” “I don’t care, I’m still going to live my life without a care as I always have.”

Since the Stay-At-Home Order was announced on March 13th, 2020, closing down various schools and establishments across the nation, these are just a few of the common, yet ignorant phrases I’ve heard. For 178 days, most of us have taken more precautions than ever before to stay safe from the virus. It simply baffles me how people choose to remain uneducated when there are numerous resources all around them regarding the latest information about the crisis at hand.

While physical health may be the main topic of discussion we hear nowadays, a lot of people tend to forget about the emotional turmoil that comes with the consequences of COVID-19.

You see, I have a confession to make: I used to not believe in wearing masks. One day comes to mind, in particular. I’ve recently become an avid follower of Instagram’s thrifting community, so a person I bought clothes from delivered my items to my house. Despite my dad urging me to “wear my mask,” I disobeyed his wishes because I knew I’d only be outside my house for a few minutes. No harm in that, right? Wrong. What made matters worse was the fact that the person who came over wasn’t wearing one either, yet I didn’t think of it much at the time. For an asthmatic, I am more susceptible to the virus, and it was so thoughtless of me not to take this into consideration. As soon as I stepped foot back indoors, I was met with a terrible scolding by my father, who bombarded me with hurtful phrases like “You’re so stupid,” “What’s wrong with you?” and “Don’t you care about your family?” Of course, I love my family, with all my being. Yet, at that moment, I didn’t realize that the most necessary display of affection came in the form of a piece of cloth that covers my mouth and nose.

For some context, just a few days prior to that incident, my father, who also has asthma, was admitted to the ER for having shortness of breath. He feared that he had COVID, but luckily, he came back home negative. My mother works as a pediatric nurse at Kaiser Permanente, where the environment is stricter to adhere to new safety protocols. Still, all this escaped my mind when I purchased a secondhand flannel from a complete stranger. I didn’t realize how selfish I was to not wear a mask, even if it was just for a few minutes. Not only would I be endangering myself, but my entire household, if I were to contract the virus. I could have put my father at risk for yet another hospital visit. I could have made all my mother’s efforts at work pointless and in vain. I could have endangered my little sister, giving her a virus that ruins your lungs forever without a way to cure it.

Image via Washington Post

Nowadays, it angers me to scroll through my Instagram feed and see countless posts and stories of teenagers hanging out in large crowds at parties without masks or any signs of social distancing. I continuously compare America to every other country that has actually followed these new procedures and listened to scientists and medical practitioners. Every time I do so, I’m left in disdain as China gets healthier and America gets sicker. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if this stupid virus weren’t here in the first place, and all that crosses my mind are the what-ifs and what-could-have-been's if we just united against a common goal and put other’s needs before our own, just this once.

I’m currently a high school senior, and I could have spent my last first day physically at school, rather than having to adapt to distance learning. I should be excited to perform at pep rallies being on my school’s auxiliary team for my first year, but even that possibility has been stolen from me. Playing on the badminton and academic league teams for my last year is no longer a given, just like every other senior’s opportunity for their last game, dance, and chances to be with their friends for the last time before we part ways. Staring at your crushes will merely be a game played from behind a screen, trying to admire them from wherever you are while trying to pay attention to a lesson. Having side conversations with your friends while you’re supposed to be paying attention has become nothing more than sending them a text. Study sessions at the library are nothing more than a video conference between you and a group of friends, trying to do all you can to cram for a test the day before. The Class of 2021 will have to endure the process of applying to schools amidst a global pandemic, a process that no other class ever before had to undergo.

My sister, just starting middle school, could have had the chance to see what it’s like to walk to different classes and live her junior high years as I once did with my friends. We could have been excited about back-to-school shopping, but with adjusting to virtual learning, she is more stressed than ever about passing the sixth grade and wonders when she will ever hang out with her friends again. It’s difficult helping my sister navigate her online classes while simultaneously trying to listen to my own virtual lectures, and I can only imagine other older siblings doing the same for their younger brothers and sisters. Learning the ropes of middle school is one thing, but doing so online is another battle adolescents are forced to endure.

My father wouldn’t have lost the job he’s held for the past fifteen years, just as the other 20.6 million other Americans have during this time, and I wouldn’t have to feel as stressed to find ways of becoming more financially independent and help my parents pay for college. Others less fortunate than I wouldn’t be worrying about how to make ends meet to pay off their bills and debts or provide a meal for their family.

My mother wouldn’t be coming home from work as tired, stressed, and overwhelmed as she is dealing with impatient patients who refuse to adhere to these new protocols. She wouldn’t have to worry about a lack of personal protective equipment and having to stock up on those essentials herself, like many other medical practitioners are. The dark circles under their eyes wouldn’t get darker, the pressure and discomfort they feel underneath all the PPE wouldn’t become more overwhelming, and the risk of developing anxiety, depression, insomnia, wouldn’t constantly be on the rise.

Teachers teaching physically wouldn’t have to worry about being infected by one of their students or vice versa and bringing the virus home to the people they love. Schools would no longer be a death trap to its faculty and students and would no longer be a controversial topic. Sports would be a form of entertainment, enjoyment, and physical exercise rather than a question of whether or not you’d be at risk of catching the virus. Club meetings and get-togethers would take place inside classrooms instead of virtual conferences that we must adapt to, whether we like it or not.

The Class of 2020 could have had a traditional graduation like they’ve dreamed of when they first entered high school. However, they were forced to celebrate the completion of thirteen years of American schooling through online ceremonies, apart from their friends, family, and others who have supported them to get that far. No words from the president, a celebrity, or other influential figures can give them the experience they’ve been longing for all these years. It’s unfair to the students, their parents, their families, and the school itself that they were stripped of this momentous occasion.

Freshmen in high school had their normal first days stolen from them. Instead of physically being onsite campus, they’re forced to learn the ropes of new learning environments through a screen. They’re unable to attend orientation, meet their teachers up close and personal, and get the full high school experience they’ve been expecting. It’s difficult to make connections with new friends and teachers through a screen, and who knows how long it’ll be until they can return to campus.

It’s even worse for incoming college freshmen that paid thousands of dollars to live on a beautiful campus, become accustomed to their clubs, fraternities, sororities, or other groups, settling for learning through Zoom at home. Their dreams of trying new foods at their school’s cafeteria, settling into their dorms, partying with others, and becoming accustomed to a new school environment will be taken away. Physical barriers now stand in the way of interacting with others who sit at the same tables in class or lecture halls. College sports may or may not happen, depending on the sport and school, and some may not even go on at all. The academic calendar has been changed, most likely shortened, to everyone’s dismay. Those who wanted to attend secondary schooling or out of state might change their plans to stay closer to home, enroll in a community college, or be a guest student, depending on their circumstances. Factors such as these have inevitably changed the college experience one may have envisioned.

Nearly all couples wouldn’t have to deal with the hardships of long-distance relationships and being apart from their significant others. Still, many find ways of showing affection and showing the world that love conquers all, even during quarantine.

Expecting couples wouldn’t have to fear for the health of their newborns as they are welcomed into the world amidst chaos, fear, turbulence, and uncertainty.

People should be celebrating their birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, and other significant life events surrounded by family and friends. Instead, they're left confined in the walls of their homes, forced to make do with what they have by viewing them through a screen. If worse comes to worst, they cancel their plans or even postpone them indefinitely until a vaccine is found.

Those living with their grandparents or others with underlying medical issues wouldn’t have to feel guilty knowing that they did all they could wearing masks and social distancing, yet still brought the virus home for them to contract.

All people would be happier knowing they could hug and spend time with their loved ones without a six-foot distance between them, and are now wondering how long it will be before physical contact can come without risk.

Those infected with the virus wouldn’t be wondering if they are spending their final moments all alone in hospitals, without their loved ones.

And above all, everyone would be happier living without a virus that brings nothing but stress and anxiety for what is yet to come in the future. Instead, the rates of depression are only getting higher for those feeling lonelier at home by the minute.

As you can see, all aspects of life have changed for everyone during this pandemic. We’ve all had to sacrifice something during these times, whether it be the precious time we spend with our loved ones, how much toilet paper we use, or simply the normality of life we once took for granted. Don’t be that person who isn’t doing the work in a group effort. Wear a mask. Distance yourself. Be patient with others and yourself. Now is not the time to be hanging out with friends or going to parties. As Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton best said it, “the fact that you’re alive is a miracle,” so spend it nobly, serving the common good.

To finally put an end to the virus and lessen the direness of its consequences, it’s going to take a lot more than just a few people contributing. This is our new normal, and whether you like it or not, we will all be affected by the ignorant’s mistakes if action isn’t taken now. Be angry and hold others accountable. Adapting to these changes is the best way to ensure not only our survival, but the survival of future generations, as we see it.

Written by writer Arlene Nagtalon

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