It all starts towards the end of February for me, when my ‘nothing-ever-worries-me’ sister sends me a WhatsApp message telling me that she is very concerned about the current situation. In northern Italy, Covid-19 seems to be stronger than expected and hospitals are struggling to cope with the increasing number of patients admitted. I had had a busy week and had forgotten to check the news; the virus was still far away, was it not?
I frantically start googling and realise that some cities in northern Italy have been put under lock down; the city in which my parents live is not yet too affected, but the net is closing. I contact my friends who say that soon these measures could be extended to the whole country. My, and that of many people whose loved ones are far away, worst nightmare begins. Will what happened in Wuhan happen in Italy, too? I struggle to sleep, I have the worst nightmares, my family needs me, my parents are struggling, they need their daughter to take care of them and I’m not there. I keep waking up in a pool of sweat and tears. We are worried in Canada but not many of us really think that it will hit us this way … or maybe we think so, we are just too afraid to rationally consider the possibility. My colleagues are worried about me, they ask how my family is doing. I started at NSCC only in October, yet, never in my life have I worked alongside caring and loving human beings like them. From a shy and concerned ‘how is your family doing’ to a small box of chocolate given to me instead of a hug (to respect social distancing), these small but powerful gestures of love keep me going. My small world is crumbling at my feet, my mind is elsewhere and my habit of checking the news every 5 minutes is feeding my angst and terror. I am unable to distinguish what is credible news from what is fake.
We start working from home. My body is so tense that my shoulder is in excruciating pain and I have to take painkillers to alleviate the inflammation. My parents tell me that a person very close to us got the virus but is on the mend; my partner, instead, receives bad news, an old friend passed due to complications of the Covid-19. I mentally start preparing myself that I could lose someone I love. My hair starts falling out and I have a horrible skin rash, I sleep perhaps 4 to 5 hours a night. I now understand the meaning of ‘being worried sick’.
Then, everything changes. I decide that if I want to feel better, I’ve got to go back to my basic needs and be thankful for what is going right in my life. Food is still being delivered and I can still afford it, I still have a roof over my head, my partner and love of my life is at my side and my family, for the time being, is all safe. I will despair when I have reason to do so, for now, I still have so much to be grateful for. And I start all over. I delete my Facebook, Messenger and Gmail accounts from my phone to make a clean break with what is feeding my anxiety – news all over the places and posts from all sort of sources. I find out that I have extra time to sleep as I haven’t had to catch the bus and extra time to cook. I cook from scratch every day, simple and quick meals that prove that I can still take care of myself. I look back at my notes from a year before, when I went into therapy to cope with my anxiety and I study them again. I know I can manage, somehow, I will. I finish my books in German and read for entire weekends. I sit close to my window and spy on the birds sitting on ‘Matilda’, the tree right in front of my place. The woodpecker is adorable and I start learning a bit about this animal. I ‘discover’ the radio and make the habit of listening to CBC and BBC programs before going to bed, from current news to older pre-Covid-19 podcasts. I drink camomile tea and keep exercising daily. I’m asked to ‘stay the blazes home’ and I manage to leave the house for less than 10 hours in 6 weeks. It’s tough, but I can do it. I hurt when Nova Scotia is swept by incredible tragedy and I never feel prouder of my adopted country, Canada, for the love and courage that is showing. I laugh with my partner as we binge-watch Netflix series in Spanish and we pack my 33 plants (and more belongings!) to move to a new apartment. Parks and trails open again and it’s the most beautiful surprise ever – I go to Point Pleasant and hug a tree. Since then, I indulge myself with daily walks, fully maintaining social distance yet enjoying the fresh air. I see smiles on peoples’ faces, children biking around. We are slowly taking our lives back. What an unforgettable couple of months.
Coordinator, Housing and Arrival Services