When I think about COVID-19, I think about how it affects the body.
You touch a tainted surface, and it begins. The virus takes a deep dive into your system, and chooses the lungs as its village. It invades and rummages through the cells, taking them prisoner and holding them hostage, going as far as killing some of them when it sees fit. The immune system sends soldiers to fight, but not all battles can be won.
Housed and comfortable, the virus multiplies and colonises the rest of the lungs. Your lungs – they don’t like this. They’re hurting and inflamed, and before you know it, you’re gasping for oxygen like a fish out of water. They tell you it’s pneumonia, and they help you breathe with ventilators, until you either get better or you don’t.
It’s easy to understand how COVID-19 can kill, right? Let me ask you if you can understand how another type of ‘infection’ can kill, one that isn’t easy to see.
Seeds of pain are dispersed by life and planted in the recesses of the heart. Maybe it’s the loss of a job, or failing an important exam and getting punished for it. Sometimes it’s just a chemical imbalance. The pain is left unattended, until eventually, it germinates and grows in and around the heart chambers, twisting its black vines around your stressed heart.
Such pain is difficult to ignore. Afraid, you seek help; you tell your closest ones that there is this haunting nipping in your chest, day and night. ‘Oh, just cheer up. Think positive. Other people have bigger problems than you.’ They brush you off, so you retreat back into yourself, thinking you’re just being melodramatic, and you should just get over it.
Leave any sickness to fester and it’ll break down your body. In the case of Depression, it’ll take your mind and your soul, too.
Eventually, this sickness metastasises. The vines that are wrapped around your heart begin to consume. When it’s finished, it moves to the lungs, the stomach, the limbs… Until you’re numb. You’ll feel your body beginning to ache, seemingly without a cause. It’ll hurt to breathe, and the pain causes you to sleep too much, or lay awake all night, shambled and drained. You’re alive, but not exactly living. Depression devours your reservoir of motivation, and your love for things that once brought light into your life, draining you until you’re nothing but an empty shell. Until you… end it.
Mental illnesses can lead to death, too. It can obliterate you, just as much as a physical illness.
So, the next time someone tells you they have a mental health illness, don’t slap them on the back and tell them to stop being sad. Or anxious, or overdramatic, or stupid, or ‘it’s all in your head’.
You wouldn’t tell someone with COVID-19 to stop being sick.
Kay is a 22-year old living with depression and anxiety. She has learnt to cope through the creative arts, particularly via narrative writing. She writes poetry and short stories as a way to release her emotions, to connect with other people living with the same pain as she does. She hopes to let them know that they're not alone.
A passionate mental health advocate, Kay hopes to be able to spread awareness about coping through the use of creative arts, and how it serves as a safe and therapeutic channel while healing.