Quarantine Diaries | Pakistan : Coping With Mental Health

Guest post by Muhammad Abeer from FMW

Hello World! Since we are all stuck in a somewhat similar situation at the moment regardless of where we live, I want to give you a short image of what we are facing here in Pakistan and then how I am handling this lockdown. 

Alright so Pakistan is a country in South Asia which shares a border with China. Since that’s the case, I expected Covid-19 to reach Pakistan much earlier than it did. In the beginning, the steps our government and the army took were pretty decent. Almost every major airport did screenings of the people coming to as well as going out of Pakistan. Temporary check posts were put up by the army which ensured people only went out if there was a genuine need. 

I remember discussing the situation with my cousins here and they gave these precautionary measures a week or two max, which is exactly what happened. A couple of weeks later, people started to become careless. Observing social distancing became just another order by the government which made people feel ‘enslaved’ and frustrated. 

Fast forward to May and the government was torn between whether to observe strict lockdown or gradually start reopening small businesses so that the economic fall could be made softer. The majority of people were fed up with staying at home so they were pushing the authorities to ease the lockdown. Now a part of that is understandable since the majority of our population lives close to the poverty line. Low-income families were finding it hard to get the necessities. But an even bigger problem here is the number of people wearing tin-foil hats.

We blindly believe the rumours but completely disregard what the authorities tell us.  

One of the reasons for this is sadly the number of scholars using Islam for their motives and since religion plays a huge role in people’s lives in this part of the world, these scholars are followed blindly by many. For example, the majority of reputed scholars around the world are telling people to follow the guidelines of the authorities and stay home. But many scholars in Pakistan want people to join congregations for one reason or another, which as far as I know, has no basis in Islam its self. Anyways, this along with little understanding of the religion, poor education, extreme frustration, etc has made it difficult for the authorities to make everyone observe social distancing and take safety measures. 

I have highlighted the negative side a lot I think so I would like to praise the work done by the frontline workers, army, and the NGOs in helping those in need and even giving their lives for the safety of the people.

Their efforts cannot be undermined at all since they have done everything they could and saved countless lives. 

Since May 12 many shops and businesses were given green light to reopen and people went in herds to buy new clothes for Eid and other non-essentials. Now this might get some of you confused since I said earlier that the majority lives close to the poverty line and were having a hard time getting food and other essentials, whereas now I am saying that crowds went to buy clothes and other stuff as soon as the markets reopened. Turns out around 4 Million rupees were spent on clothes and accessories alone between 12th and 15th May. It doesn’t make sense does it? Well it simply shows the mindset of the people as to what they consider a necessity these days.  

The biggest scare for me is that the number of tests done in Pakistan is around 500,000. That is just above 2K per million and yet we are seeing such a rise in the cases. That number is pretty close to India surprisingly and I think both these countries need to take some drastic measures to save the majority of their population. 

I pray that we as a global community can get rid of this pandemic soon as many people are facing financial as well as mental health issues due to this. 

Mental Health during Covid-19 

Now let’s talk about how I am handling this lockdown and discuss some tips that might help you as well. 

Last November I started noticing problems that were hindering my ability to work and complete my daily chores. It was a familiar feeling because I worked hard to get myself out of Chronic Anxiety and the mid-2018 to mid-2019 was relatively peaceful and … normal. My biggest nightmare was falling back into that depressive pit but that’s exactly what happened.

Moreover, this time the depressive episode was even stronger than before. My studies were severely affected which in return made my mental health even worse, my social life after finally getting better was now going downhill once again, my physical health was getting worse than it had been in the last 4 years and one of the new problems I was facing was Suicidal Ideation. I’m not going to go into its details to avoid any triggers.

Since my mental health hit a new low around mid-January, I decided Ito get help. Thank God we have a therapist at university (not all institutes have that here btw) whom I already knew so I texted her and met her after my lectures. She understood my situation was bad and I guided me to get help from a psychiatrist. Long story short, I was put on anti-depressants and anti-psychotics along with a weekly therapy session.  

Since I have become a lazy bum and I sleep 12 hours a day easily, not going to the university has been a really big help. It is not only about sleep as it also helps me avoid any negative gatherings, the 2-hour travel to and from the university, the constant pressure to fit in, and some of the triggers I was getting exposed to daily.  

The first week or two at home weren’t that good and I don’t even remember how they were spent, to be honest. But after that, things started to turn green. The progress has been slow but positive signs are there. The lack of energy that comes with poor mental health is what disturbs me a lot. So simply getting out of bed was becoming a mountain that I had to climb every day. 

Studying from home was easy at first since all the triggers that would jump in my face the moment I entered the university gates were gone. But online classes pose a different challenge as many teachers still aren’t used to explaining stuff virtually. I don’t blame them though as they are doing what they can and it’s a new challenge for all of us. Other than that, load-shedding and poor internet have caused many of us problems. I even missed an exam due to bad internet last week which caused me problems for a day or two, since failure is a massive trigger for me.  

Now since most of us are facing some sort of financial setbacks, the government announced institutes to cut the fees by 20% at least but my university is private and they don’t want to be restricted by the government. Especially when they are in the middle of building more infrastructure ‘for’ the students.

Since I come from a middle-class family, paying full fee + tax in this situation has been a source of worry for me as well as my parents. 

Another thing I am constantly keeping my mind involved in is learning new skills. And to be honest it is starting to go out of hand as whenever I see something interesting, I feel the urge to learn it. It started with blogging, then came learning some illustrations, then came making comic strips, and now I see illustrations and UI designing calling me towards its self. I think I’ll let my mind go in whatever positive direction it wants for the time being.

Now apart from working on my blog, I’m also learning to play guitar as that too keeps my mind busy. It’s something I love, it requires mental and physical effort, and most importantly, it is fun!  

Identifying a few things that you love and getting immersed in them is one of the first suggestions I give to anyone facing Depression or Anxiety.

And if your mental health isn’t too out of control, meditation and workout can be of great help as well. A better working brain produces healthy amounts of Serotonin and Dopamine which gets you motivated and increases energy in your body. Workout decreases the level of Oxytocin in your blood which will help you feel good. So for me, workout and meditation go hand in hand, and especially in a time where anxiety and frustration are on the rise, this will surely keep you sane. 

Lastly, my suggestion to everyone reading this is that work on your health, but don’t forget to help your family and friends as well. Spend whatever little energy you can in showing love and acceptance towards them. After all, we’re in this together.

About the author

Muhammad Abeer is a lifestyle blogger who wants to share solutions for problems people are facing now-a-days especially related to mental health, along with helping the society learn more about and accept those suffering from them in a light hearted manner. He blogs over at FMW. You can also find him on Instagram and Twitter!

Quarantine Diaries is a blog series where bloggers from different countries share their quarantine stories to narrate their experiences and remind us that we all are in it together.

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  1. Vinn

    I hope and pray that situation will be controlled in Your country with the efforts of government and the citizens. Please continue to hang on and glad to know that you are helping yourself to stay afloat in these challenging times. Thanks for sharing and inspiring others.

  2. Alexandra

    It’s good to hear that meditation and workout helped you. I believe that finding some new activities and reviving the old ones are crucial for maintaining our health during these hard times.

  3. Jade

    Thanks for being honest about your mental health in these challenging times. You’re right, finding things that one is passionate about is a good distraction from certain thoughts and triggers. I’m trying to get into meditation slowly, want to make it a habit eventually. Here’s hoping the world recovers from this nightmare virus and we get back to our new, hopefully better normal

  4. Hannah Louise Blog

    It’s good to hear you found some things that worked for you, i’ve never really been able to get into meditation before but i think now i’m at home a lot more it could be the perfect time!

  5. Amber Page

    This is such an interesting post, I love to read about how other people are getting on. I’m glad you have found this!

    Amber – The Unpredicted Page

    1. Post
  6. Tyas

    I think the situation is not much different from that in Indonesia. There are still many people who wrongly use Islam to justify what they are doing. They still go out and go to gatherings with friends and families, neglecting what the authorities suggest, saying that they only fear the God and if they die because of the virus, that’s their fate. But that’s very irresponsible because many people will get infected because of those ignorant people! 🙁 I hope the situation in Pakistan, too, will be better.
    And I’m glad you are coping with your mental health during this difficult time. Doing something that we love really helps, doesn’t it?

  7. Muhammad Abeer Khan

    Yes there are similarities in the mindset of people when it comes to religion in South and East Asia. Many here believe in having faith without the right actions, that’s not what Islam teaches. I too hope that the situation gets better all around the globe.
    And you are right, doing something we love that’s not harmful to anyone and is morally right as well helps a ton. The only problem is finding the motivation. I hope u find that soon, if u haven’t already.
    Thank you and good luck! 🙂