Name: Mishael Martineaux
Location: Trinidad and Tobago
I sit in my room thinking about how suddenly circumstances could change. A twinge of anxiety tightens my lungs and in a split second, an image of the world in shambles flashes across my mind. Poverty, looting and selfishness are rampant. The streets are dirty. The glass front of the grocery store is broken. The alarm screams in futility. In this world, it’s every hungry, hopeless man for himself.
When I will myself to breathe again, the subsequent inhale invites the prospect of a “what if”. What if we’ll be okay? What if, despite all the recent global developments, it’ll all be okay? My lungs relax. Not many people know this, but I deal with anxiety and intrusive thoughts daily so it’s easy for me to psych myself out at the slightest threat. Yet somehow, I feel like I’ve been preparing for this pandemic for the past three years. In 2017, I had a misdiagnosis in my third trimester. This led to three failed, premature inductions and eventually my son was delivered via emergency C-section following a two-week stay at hospital. After going through the trauma of healing and being aware of the risks involved. After dealing with anxieties about his safety and my personal wellbeing. After weeks of panic attacks almost every night around the same time that my son was delivered. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t save everyone from everything. I’ve learned to cope with the anxiety of not being in control. Also, considering that hand washing has been one of my major coping mechanisms for anxiety since before my son was born, I’d say that I’ve been well trained to face some of the uncertainties this outbreak.
If I tell you that I know exactly how long we’ve been in self-isolation, I’d be lying. It hasn’t been that long, I’m sure. Maybe just over a week. I just don’t care and have never cared to count the days. The past few months have been mentally and emotionally challenging for me. I had to take a break from school. I quit virtually everything. I didn’t want to go out except to see my boyfriend. I didn’t want to do much. Basic self-care became an energy-consuming chore. In November when my Granny got ill and my grades were dropping, I knew I needed a change of pace and scenery. I only told a few people outside of my family about my decision to take the semester off. From November to January, I spent a chunk of my time at home with my grandmother and my son. During this time, I was more than content with avoiding most social interactions. In January, I found a seasonal job and was satisfied with having a distraction and a sure stream of income for at least six weeks.
So, oddly enough, the quarantine came as a source of relief to me. My contract with that job had just ended so I’d been at home for about two weeks. I no longer had nine-hour daytime or overnight shifts to worry about. I was back to spending days caring for my grandmother and my two-year-old son. I was surprised! While I was at work I knew I wanted to be at home, I just didn’t know how much. When Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley announced that schools would be closed for one week, I was immediately overwhelmed with excitement. The closure inspired a vision of having my two teacher-parents and my younger siblings at home with me for 7 whole days! They’d be available to pop popcorn and watch movies with me anytime during the week. I felt so much like a child again. I didn’t realize how much I craved familial interaction until that day, but the effect on my mood was noticeable.
On the very first day of the one-week closure, I rediscovered the will to comb my hair. I must be honest, I’d neglected myself. I knew I was depressed but I didn’t realize how much of that depression was caused by loneliness. As soon as I found out that my family would be home, my motivation for self-care and self-love drastically increased. I walked around the house chatting with everyone and combing my hair in small box-plats. Showering no longer felt like a chore. At one point, I even considered painting my toenails! My appetite opened and my mother’s daily home-cooking tasted like pure happiness. I’m grateful for the family time. I don’t even feel the need to go out. Everything that I’ve ever needed to feel wholesome is right here at home. I just find it ironic how, amid a global crisis, I finally feel like I’m not just surviving the days. I feel like I’m living.
Please share your #QuarantinedCaribbean stories with us. Have you lost your job? Are you now doing your job in different ways? Has it changed your social dynamics? How? Have you spent more time with family? How do you feel about all of this? Do you plan on gardening more after this? Are you playing more board games?