Personal Essay / Writing

Afloat

WhatsApp Image 2020-12-18 at 1.51.18 PM

Featured Artwork by Ellen Von Wiegand

        In January of 2020, I took a week off from college because I couldn’t get out of bed. I would eat junk food all day, feel sorry for myself and pretend to sleep when my flatmates came over to talk. I missed several deadlines for my final year thesis submissions and it was supposed to be the most defining year of architecture college. When I thought about work, the walls of the room started closing in. On one of the long days of the week, I couldn’t sleep all night because I had been sleeping way too much. So, I just got up and went to college the next day. I bargained for my absence and felt stupid for missing work- it felt easy. Until two weeks later, when I couldn’t get out of bed again. I took a day off and then another and another. It was only after another week of the same depression slump that I dragged myself to therapy because I was unable to function. I couldn’t make it to therapy regularly but by March, I was only beginning to settle into a place of no depression slumps, when the lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic was announced. I was at home, and something very strange happened. Through the coming months, I was waking up at 7 a.m. following a morning routine, working out every day and generally prioritising myself, while living at home. One day as I began to write the date on an assignment, I registered three months had passed- I had had no idea that I had been living on auto-pilot.

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Made during a depression slump, pre-pandemic

          I have lived with mental health issues, which includes depression and anxiety for the past three years. I’ve been in therapy, on and off, even tried medication. To say that I understand my mental health is an overstatement. There are days that look seemingly perfect and, yet, I feel completely unable to indulge. Other days, the world is falling apart around me and I tick off everything on my to-do lists. Although, this is not a co-dependent situation since, on most of my worst days, it is the outrageousness of the world getting to me. I was beginning to understand how much the outside contributed to my inside when the pandemic had utterly changed the outside.

          During the initial days of life completely changing, it was hard to imagine how much of it all will exactly change. There was a lingering gloom in every space and a foreshadowing fear in all speech. The slow, scary process of befriending this dread felt uneasy. Everyone around said the same things, everyone believed in hope. There wasn’t much to do and my brain’s response to freeze didn’t seem so surprising anymore. A pattern started developing where once every few days, my body revolted. It stopped negotiating with the new world order, when the pieces of this new puzzle were not only missing but didn’t seem enough. Sometimes when I tried really hard, I could find a new piece that made me want to keep looking. Almost always, that new piece was beyond me — a connection to the world, a text message from a friend I’d stopped remembering, inadvertent touches, collective sighs meeting eyes on screens. Eight months have passed and I’ve stopped putting the puzzle together because it just keeps changing. 

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Made during the pandemic, when I wanted to touch colour

          This year has been about many things but mostly, it has been about grief. Grieving the loss of people, of survival, of a life not yet lived but seized. Grieving the absence of safe spaces, coping mechanisms, conversations that were a refuge. Grieving the illusion of whatever little control we had over our lives, dismissed and worse, confronted with the reality of not having any. This year has been about the profoundness of loneliness, of losing people to it, of losing yourself. Isolation was mandated, being alone meant safety, and it has been the most terrifying thing to do, aching together for not being together. Sometimes, the loneliness was so loud, I couldn’t hear myself screaming. This year has been about the past because the present was too relentless and the future too daunting. When my grandmother was alive, she used to tell the same stories of her past over and over again and I assumed it was because she didn’t remember much. As I desperately held on to my past ‘normal’ life telling my life stories to anyone who would hear, I understood that I didn’t want to remember anything else. Life had moved from land to water and our instincts told us that being underwater meant you’re drowning. We would struggle to come out of the water, gasp for air in an attempt to not let go of what our past life felt like. The water has continued to rise but our feet have not touched the ground yet.

          Through all this chaos unfolding around, the only relief I’ve found was in the monotony of a routine. My mental health was too fragile to exist on its own and it demanded to be grounded. I made time to pause, to hurt, to do all the silly little tasks that didn’t seem worth doing. I let my days be uneventful, I let myself daydream. I found my way back to therapy and sometimes, I live from one session to another. On days I can’t sleep, insignificant details about the past plague my mind but also put me to sleep. I yearn to hold hands again. I’m not surprised by how my body has made auto-pilot my comfort zone. I’ve stopped trying to make sense of it. I didn’t know how to swim but I think I’m learning now.

By Krati Mittal
Krati is sadly an architect but happily a writer. She doodles, yearns and writes but mostly is still figuring herself out and you can find her work in progress on Instagram: @atablefor_one. 

photograph_KratiMittal

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