Underestimating the Effects of the Pandemic


When the pandemic "officially" began last March 2020, I was quite confused on how I would be able to cope with the restrictions alone without my family and weak social network as an working immigrant in Norway. I had some unresolved personal problems with my family, friends and even at work. I was working full-time as a health care provider, as well has begun my Masters degree in Norway to further open more opportunities for me in the future. I had actually experienced a lot since I was young, but since the pandemic "has ended", I can now conclude that I underestimated the effects of the pandemic, and this blogpost is all about my pandemic experience.

No man is an island, but select carefully who surrounds you.

Humans are social beings. This is a fact. However, being alone as newly-established immigrant in Oslo, Norway. I really do not have so much alternatives. I knew few people because I was quite selective on who I will communicate with. This is something I learned since I started working. People can just limit social interactions to people who one trust with. However, I gradually experienced the disadvantages of my decision. I felt like I was too few individuals to connect with. Not long enough, I was searching for people to fill that need for me. I was accomodating whoever who could do that for me. That was unfortunate. It became unhealthy and toxic in the end.

Suffering can be experienced from outward to inside.

I was working with the most vulnerable in the society - the elderly. I was having patients, infected and even dying with or because of the Corona virus. I witnessed the suffering, the claustrophobic experience being in isolation and even wearing suits that make us depersonalized and even irrecognizable. The worst part of it was being part of a long outbreak in my work that lasted for over a month. One by one, we health care providers were infected, and I was one of the few who remained non-infected. Gradually, I felt bad of not being infected. I felt bad being alone, and have to assume all the responbilities that should be shared with many, but I did not have the choice but to continue and work, given that I am healthy. The outward stress began manifesting internal psychological symptoms. I was feeling more numb and stoic whenever some get infected or even died of the virus.

Unresolved issues no matter how small are magnified alone.

These was the most challenging of all. I actually though I could get away for my unresolved conflicts during the  pandemic. I was thinking I could just postpone everything until the pandemic is over. It did not go as I planned. The unresolved issues insiduously become worse. It became complicated and changed the way I think and prioritize things. I was losing my identity and self-worth. Suddenly, one day I could no longer cope with any kind of stress without depending on something or someone else. I was becoming helpless, and the situation became hopeless. I no longer recognize who I am, and even my significant others made similiar observations. At the end of the pandemic, I tired, mentally-exhausted, isolated and making no progress in life. I was stagnant and felt the need to give up everything. This is very unfortunate.

Living in uncertainty keeps one focused on what is important.

I was taught to prioritize four aspects of life: physical, emotional, mental and social. So during the pandemic, I did activities directed towards these aspects. I engaged myself in intermittent fasting and learned how to cook. That kept me healthy I guess. I was talking less though during the pandemic, I was becoming more isolated but I never really felt the need to be more social. The consequences of being infected are more severe in my head than being social. I might get unnecessary attention from everyone if in case I infected one of my patients for example. That would be catastrophic. I even managed to change workplace and apartment during the pandemic. That was a feat. No one would dared to do that. I was focused on what I want.

Humans need need new and varied experiences.

The first year of the pandemic really did not matter. I was uncertain as well as to what the pandemic's consequences to my work and even my income. I was busy trying to seek for information and looking for solutions to my worries. Time went so fast. Then, everything seems to be stable and certain. It seems I just have to live and do the routines at home and at work to survive the pandemic. However, things were becoming monotonous. I was tested for Covid every 3 days. I was literally free to meet other people on the second day, because the first and third day were allocated for the testing and long wait for the results. I was at work most of the time during the second day, so I have limited to be social, and I was still cautious not to remain healthy and non-communicable given that I work directly with Covid patients. I was barely existing, and gradually losing life's essence and purpose.

Introverts managed the pandemic better, but...

The first months of the pandemic, as an introvert, I really did have no problem to whatever being alone at home. I actually loved the experience. I learned many things and routines. Although, work ate much of my time, I continued learning new languages and even learned how to cook. I became good in budgeting and planning my finances ahead. All of these are not possible without the extra time at home. However, suddenly people dropped their facial masks. I remember that day, I did not go out. It felt so weird for me. It was a symbol now that we introverts have to deal with the extroverts' world again. I suddenly asked to be more social since literally I have no longer have an alibi to be at home, That felt awkward, because I do not want to admit that I just want to continue the life I had. I can change some of it, but I would definitely retain most of it.

How did I actually realize that I underestimated the pandemic? It was quite subtle, and finally made it to my consciousness several months after the national restrictions were lifted. Everyone is supposed to be free, but never did I get comfortable with that idea. I was feeling laging behind others. I was feeling everyone will now forget how we, health care providers have suffered silently during the practice of our social obligations during the pandemic. We sacrificed our social lives, especially those who live alone just for work. Very few even dared to ask us how we are, given that we have retained our work and income. We were supposed to be in better situation, but honestly, I know many of us have reflected on the experience. Worse, some of us feel that our efforts were futile and worthless in expense of our sacrifices.

Being a nurse, I have been taught that the first step in process is always self-awareness. Yes, I write this blog to sort of summarize what has happened. I never expected I was weak enough to be alone. I was not prepared to tackle the internal conflicts I had. I should have more courage to put closure to situations, not serving me good since the start such that I was well-equipped to move forward with or without the pandemic. I should have realized my self-worth better that I could be more resilient whatever the challenges that confronted me during the pandemic. At last, I should have maintained my self-respect that I had clear direction to where I am heading and where I want to be. Thank you for your time.


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