It’s Okay to Not be Okay

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A few days ago, I had a cold; my chest and head hurt badly, my throat was sore and my nose ran intermittently. In light of the current situation, I wondered if I could have been in contact with anyone who could possibly have the virus. However, because we have learned that the virus is transmittable, even when you are asymptomatic, I couldn’t be sure.

So I took some painkillers and medications for cold. It’s been a few days and I’m better. In interacting with people, I’ve realised that there are quite a lot of people with similar symptoms that ‘look’ like COVID-19. A lot of people are even afraid to speak up about their symptoms for fear of being stigmatized. My dear, we are in the rainy season and the weather is cold; so many people have the flu. Some have also imagined the COVID-19 symptoms even when they don’t have the common cold.

Then there’s the mental health implication of COVID-19. There are those who have to live with their abusers – my heart goes out to them. I have seen a few NGOs and CSOs reach out, asking to be contacted as necessary. If you qualify for this, please reach out.

There are those who had pre-existing mental health issues and the current situation cannot be easy on them. At the very basic, for people who need some form of order in their lives, the disruption to their daily lives, livelihoods, routine and all will not be easy.

Then there are those who are alone at this time. I cannot imagine the difficulty of having to be indoors, all alone.

On the flip side, there is also the fact that some ‘regular’ families were able to coexist because they were not in each other’s space 24/7. Funny as it may seem, this will also be a difficult time for those. News out of China is that the divorce rate has increased as a result of the lockdown. Indeed, for some, this is a difficult time to be alone while for others, it’s a difficult time to not be alone. Whatever side of the divide you fall on, remember that it is okay to not be okay.

Beyond the physical and mental health implications, there’s the economic impact of all this. Many have lost their sources of livelihood already, many will – post lockdown. All over the world, economies are wobbling and it’s affecting everyone. Many organisations were unable to pay salaries for the month of March, many will not be able to pay April’s. Nigeria has a large number of SMEs, petty business people who absolutely need to hustle daily to put food on the table. Having them locked down cannot be easy on them.

I know someone reading this is saying- where there’s life, there’s hope, health is wealth, keep an open mind, and all that. I agree. All the positive words don’t mean everything is going to be fine and dandy. For some, it will. For others, it will not. Truth is – the world as we know it will change post-COVID-19 pandemic and it’s okay to be anxious about what the future brings. It is possible to acknowledge the peculiarity of the times and still stay positive. We shouldn’t sweep our feelings under the carpet of positivism.

Although we want to believe that after this lock down, we should have been able to flatten the curve, identify all positive cases and people can go back to their business as usual, we still are not sure if the shutdown will extend beyond the initial two weeks. Other nations have been on it for months and aren’t sure of when life will return to normal.

As an employer or employee, a function head or a team member,  this cannot be easy on anyone. If you’re wondering if you will get paid at the end of this month or worried about how to pay your staff, your fears are valid.

Nigeria does not have an adequate social welfare system to take care of its people. Your rent will still be due when it ought to be – regardless of how your finance has been impacted by the pandemic. You and yours still need to eat and the cost of staple foods has skyrocketed,

For those of us who still have to go to work (essential workers), there’s the fear that you are putting yourself at risk daily. There’s the fear that you’re exposing your loved ones by exposing yourself. You’re conflicted between duty and self-preservation.

In all of this, it’s okay to not be okay.

I don’t have any answers, but here are some tips that might get us through this:

  • Acknowledge the situation for what it is. It’s totally out of anyone’s control; we are all just trying to find our way through it. Nobody has it figured out, including those sharing beautiful videos.
  • Keep a healthy mind, read and meditate. Your mind is your greatest asset, so feed it with positive thoughts, books, and meditation.
  • Rest, relax, unwind, play. Listen to music and see some movies.
  • Talk to someone – a therapist, trusted friend or family. Just stay connected
  • Exhale: There’s are lots of content out there for entertainment, pick and choose what works for you and lose yourself in it for a while.
  • Strategise for a comeback: The lockdown will be lifted eventually. Make plans to resume your normal routines, prepare for post-COVID-19.
  • Learn a new skill: You can learn any and everything online and some are free. Use your data wisely and upskill yourself.
  • Eat healthily and drink water: Adding weight is a major concern in this period. Lol. Eat healthily, practice social distancing from your fridge (or the kitchen). Drink water, not sugary or alcoholic drinks, exercise and generally try to stay active. Don’t be a couch or bed potato (like me on days when I don’t go to work). Haha.
  • Stay healthy through this period, wash and sanitise your hands, don’t touch your face, don’t self-medicate.
  • Stay home if you don’t absolutely need to go out. Don’t spread the disease further, help by not pressuring an already strained/ inadequate health system. The disease doesn’t spread – we spread it

Special thanks to our health workers; from the security personnel to the janitors to the admin staff, doctors, nurses, etc. We see you, we appreciate you. Our appreciation also goes to other members of society working to keep the world going at this time – the food and pharmaceutical manufacturing and trading businesses, the supermarkets and street shops, the fast-food restaurants and the roadside buka. The downstream petroleum products, the law enforcement agents – we see you all, we appreciate you.

Article originally published on Bellanaija.com

Social Distancing? What’s that?

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As the world navigates its way through the coronavirus pandemic, there are a few words that have become buzz words in a bid to prevent the further spread of the virus: there’s social distancing, tele-commuting (working from home) hand wash, sanitizer, etc.; previously existing terms, products and practices but magnified by the virus. What’s even more interesting is that some of the ways to protect ourselves are ‘basic hygeine’ practices, which we have ignored over the years because- something must kill a man or germs cannot kill a Nigerian.

It’s become current practice to wash our hands at least every hour for about 20 seconds with soap. For a people who most walk out of a toilet without washing their hands- it’s certainly taking some getting used to. Let’s not get started on the sanitisers- something previously thought to be used by the germophobes and those who are just ‘extra‘ have now become mainstream and common place. Everyone; male and female are carrying their little jars of sanitizer and covering our entire existence with the blood– sorry- anti-bacterial sanitisers. We are submitting to temperature checks at various locations and all round just trying to be careful not to expose ourselves to the virus- because, remember; everything in Nigeria will kill you– like Ayo Sogunro says.

So, we’re learning and evolving. I feel like we should be grateful to the virus for enforcing or embedding good hygiene. There’s always an upside to this things. The one precaution we haven’t been able to imbibe however, is social distancing. Ki lo’n je be? I doubt if you can literally translate that into any Nigerian language. It’s so un-Nigerian. How can you ask us to practice social distance when our very existence depends on our communal relationships? What is social distancing: we need to avoid: group gatherings, sleep overs (and other gum-body activities), play dates, concerts, etc.

However, in situating all this into our circumstances, we need to include hugging and other gum-body activities on this list.  But,…. Covid-19 will go, and when it’s time to pay school fees, uncle Bolaji will remember I rejected his handshake because- social distancing! Or big mummy will forever hold a grudge because I flinched and moved a few steps back when she tried to pull my cheek fondly- which equals me saying she has coronavirus! Or, when I send my asoebi to my aunty, she will remember how I rebuffed her hug in the name of social distancing? Let’s not even get started with the pervs who are constantly touchy-feely because- as Africans we love to show love.

The wahala coronavirus will cause will transcend our collective health, health infrastructure, the economy and even affect our personal relationships. I’m sure most clerics have had to really rehearse not asking people to touch their neighbor’s in any form over the past few weeks.

I saw a video which explained social distancing and how it stems the spread of diseases- the illustration with the burning match sticks- my first thought was rara, this match stick isn’t Nigerian. It would have run into the fire if it were- either in a bid to save its loved ones or in a bid to get first hand gist to share. While the latter is fast becoming a societal problem, the former is the very structure upon which our society is built. Eniyan laso mi– literal meaning: people are my covering– our strength is in our network. Even our people are constantly rising above the limitations of the nation- Nigerians as a collective are arguably greater than Nigeria the country.

So how do you want to teach us social distancing? You want to teach an old dog new tricks? When we have our religions, herbs, and the fact that very little thrives in Nigeria- diseases inclusive. After all, our weather is too hot for it to survive or Africans cannot get the virus and other such tales that have been disproven.

Las las, this too will pass, but we need to ensure we don’t destroy our relationships before it passes, right? Let’s not peddle fear and destroy ourselves before the disease gets to us, right?

Guess what? Maybe this is a good thing. We all need to learn to love from a distance. Take this as a lesson and perhaps learn to be less in people’s personal space. Doable?

It has to be, because as we have learnt- the virus is still contagious when the carrier is asymptomatic. There goes your excuse of- but he/she isn’t sick.

Truth is we need to situate what we’re used to versus what we need to do to ensure this virus and other communicable diseases doesn’t continue to spread, because for us- prevention will always be better than cure. Let each do a frank assessment of our health infrastructure and contemplate if it can withstand a viral outbreak. We haven’t eradicated malaria, it’s now coronavirus!

Prevention is key! I’m repeating it for those at the back. We all learnt that in primary school. We need to follow the preventive measures as advised by the public health specialists- wash our hands frequently and thoroughly with soap, in the absence of soap; use an alcohol based hand sanitizer; cough and sneeze into a disposable tissue or your elbow; if you’re sick, please go to a hospital; avoid high traffic and public areas, and please maintain some distance.

Article originally published on Bellanaija.com.