Jhilmil Shah

Apr 7, 2021

5 min read

Blog 2 — The 14 months of Mental Quarantine

When Life Brings Pain, it also Brings Strength

In my previous blog, I sketched the emotional tsunami I went through over my break-up and how it coincided with the start of the first Covid lockdown in India. This effectively started a mental and emotional lockdown for me too.

But as they say, when life brings pains, it often brings them in twos or threes. My mother had undergone an unsuccessful operation in 2019 for the treatment of first stage ovarian cancer( a disease that affected my mom physically but all of us mentally). In March 2020, she was set to get operated once again, this time in CMC Hospital in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. I was emotionally quite hollow and broken but somehow gathered myself and flew down to Vellore, near Chennai, to be by her side. My brother also joined me from Pune.

It literally was a matter of life and death for her. My mom — a true warrior and my biggest inspiration — was mentally stronger than all of us put together. She was so positive that God was with her and would not let anything wrong happen to her. We all prayed as she went into the operation theatre. Those few hours were nerve-wracking and was heart skipping a beat every minute. We were waiting outside and praying continuously until we lost patience as the hours dragged on.

After three hours, the doctors came out and said the operation went well and she would regain consciousness after a couple of hours. We thanked God and showed our gratitude. After some six odd hours, my mom was brought out in a stretcher and we were so ecstatic when she said she was fine. I felt like a ray of joy and happiness had smiled on me after so long.

We stayed there for another week before going back in our own directions. Mom and dad headed back home to Jamshedpur, brother to Pune, and me to Gurgaon. My return on the 13th of March 2020 coincided with the onset of the Covid pandemic in India. My office shut down and the country went into lockdown shortly thereafter, something I was just not prepared for at all.

Isolation amidst Lockdown

Thus began the worst three months of my life so far. I lost 15 kgs and sank into depression, with nothing to do, no one to meet, even no house help. And I was shut in a house filled with memories. I got insomnia too — would often be awake the whole night, killing time (or was it time that was killing me?) watching movies, doing some online courses, talking to friends and crying incessantly for most of it.

I didn’t feel like cooking for myself so I was starving for much of the time, typically eating only one meal a day. Looking back, I can say that I was just breathing and surviving, not really living. I was waiting for the lockdown to get over and work to start, which didn’t happen.

God had sent a friend for me to keep me alive who was in the medical profession and who would spend evenings with me, and help me fight depression. But beginning July 2020, even she couldn’t do this as movement became increasingly difficult due to increasing Covid cases in her locality.

Birthday Blues and a Flight Home

Along came July, my birthday month. But there was nothing I felt happy about. The day and month went by amidst my tenuous hope and faith that a semblance of normalcy would return to my life. But of course, life can’t be so simple.

My previous landlords who contracted Covid, did not even have the humanity to tell me but just locked all doors and gates, thinking only of themselves. I lost my cool and booked tickets to fly home. I flew off on the 30th of July. I don’t know why I didn’t think of going home earlier though my parents were calling me for such a long time.

The initial few days were tough because I tried to home-quarantine in a room. But then I fought back and told my parents that if I wanted to be isolated, I could have just stayed back in Gurgaon. Well, every freedom is achieved through a battle and so did I get mine.

A New Door Opens

While I was going through this emotional rollercoaster, I had gotten certified as a life coach in December 2019. However, I had not been able to start practising with clients yet. At home in Jamshedpur, I started putting my skills to use and begin my practice (due partly to the fact that having lost my job, I had little else to occupy my time).

Of course, things didn’t just fall into place so easily. Even though I would keep myself as occupied as I could, the underlying pain of separation from my ex had not gone away. I would randomly start crying, which affected my parents.

A little ray of happiness shone when I launched my own initiative called CreateHer with a friend of mine. A program to empower women and help them create their own identity beyond being a wife, mother, daughter or partner. I tried my best to focus my energies in the right directions. I also got featured in the local newspaper for my initiative and felt a little proud about myself. I spent about three months doing this and decided to return to Gurgaon post-Diwali. But like always, God had other plans…

I met with an accident and fractured my right foot. Did God think that I was not going through enough already? Anyway, the one thing I cannot tolerate is my freedom being restricted. So I moved about the house on my crutches, contributing to my house renovation which kept me busy.

A month later — 28 days to be precise (as the doctor said 4 weeks plaster, i couldn’t wait a day longer ) — I went to the hospital to get my plaster removed and my freedom back! I was so happy that that night, we lit an air lantern and let it off in the sky to celebrate my freedom.