It’s only been a few days since the Duterte administration put all of us in the island of Luzon on lockdown due to this pandemic, and yet I already feel my anxiety going through the roof. It’s not the “normal” kind of anxiety that I’m used to: the rapid, sharp sensation that may persist throughout the day but eventually dies out. It’s the kind of anxiety that slowly wraps you in its claws, the creeping sense of dread similar to anticipating a jump scare at the end of a movie scene.
It’s a foreboding reminder that things are just going to get worse from here, or even worse, that things aren’t going to change.
“Makati nako. Text ko na lang kayo kung kelan ako uuwi. Ingat kayo” (I’m in Makati City. I’ll text you when I’m going home. Take care).
That was one of the last texts I sent before the first COVID-induced lockdown befell Metro Manila; a reminder to my parents in the bordering province of Cavite that I intend to continue my weekend visits home after all this is over. I normally send texts like these when I’m too lazy to leave my rented unit for the weekend, but this time it feels a little heavier. It almost feels apocalyptic knowing that my family, who should be at least two hours away, are suddenly impossible to reach due to the government’s military barriers and the virus’s invisible ones. Even though it’s just for a month, this lockdown made me realize what it really means to be alone. (READ: PODCAST: Battling depression and anxiety)
Shortly after the implementation of community quarantine and the 8 pm to 5 am curfew, public transport was banned. Now it’s really looking like a bad start to dystopia. I can’t take my nightly walks anymore, the restaurants are closed, and the streets are empty. People are doing the stuff I’m used to doing on a Friday night: browsing the web, reading, watching movies, staring at the ceiling. I’ve even mastered the whole work-from-home thing because I previously spent more than a year doing freelance work.
It feels surreal seeing everyone stuck in the sort of struggles I learned to live with growing up: staying at home, avoiding everyone, isolating. As someone with both anxiety and introversion, I grew up being told that I should put myself out there and that I should socialize more. Now, everyone is doing what I’ve been doing all these years not out of comfort but for safety. (READ: Dealing with depression and anxiety: My saving graces)
Instead of being comforted at the sight of my peers becoming like me, I feel uneasy. Because of COVID-19, I am reminded of how unnatural it is that I have few friends, that I prefer staying home to partying, that I don’t date, and that I tend to wander off and isolate no matter who I’m with.
I’m reminded that in order to survive in society’s rat race, some of us have to go out and protect whatever’s left in us with what little we have because we’re not privileged enough to have things handed to us.
As I write this, I get a text from my dad telling me to sleep in total darkness to increase the melatonin in my body. My dad’s a doctor, so I’m used to getting unsolicited health advice from him. I decided to keep reminding myself to take dad’s advice even though my roommates and I always sleep with the lights off.
There’s darkness out there in the streets too, but the lights never go out. – Rappler.com
Andrea Rivera is a writer based in Makati City. Her Twitter handle is @andreyeaah.