VIRUS DIARY: Try to work while the mind is working against you

VIRUS DIARY: Try to work while the mind is working against you

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – This is for you who have found it difficult to deal with. You who dutifully tried meditation, yoga, baking, knitting, growing plants and general self-care even before the pandemic and envied the people they now embrace and seem to like.

Yes, you who are worried are working against you or already have the evidence in writing.

Hey. Right there with you.

What do you do if you consider contacting nowadays, but everyone is rightly stressed? I have no idea.

You with anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction. You perfectionists who see little but fail. You who prefer to roll in a blanket like a burrito instead of facing the world, but go on with things. You who are afraid to show ‘weakness’. You feel the wheels loosen a bit as the lockdown days go by.

That’s right. Relate.

There is a lot of talk today about mental health, how many people are struggling, what can be done. That kind of openness is welcome and we need more.

But you might be thinking about it, because no surprise there. You wonder if friends, colleagues, therapists are already overloaded and you would be a burden. You’re afraid you’d bring them down. You see people grieving, endangering their lives, scrambling to feed their families, people with “real” problems and you feel ashamed.

On the other hand, you might be looking at the cost, the paperwork, even the emotional energy it takes to simply make a human connection and … just don’t.

Nice to meet you. I understand. I wish I didn’t.

I don’t have good advice here. No judgment either.

As we stumble quietly through this incredibly weird and challenging time, there might be a little comfort in considering how much we are there. In the millions, we may not realize it because we are too stubborn or afraid.

Here’s how I try to make ends meet. Here in Johannesburg we have at least sunny days, and when the lockdown widening allowed us to run again, I hit the streets and trails. Running is my medicine. It is far from a cure.

But I also spend a lot of time chasing away the biting inner critic, the central voice in my life. I’ve been a social spacer for years – something that now offers mixed benefits:

No Netflix. Do not read a book. You are a journalist – why do you stop doing this important story? Why don’t you learn new skills? Why can’t you be normal this time?

So much scolding.

This is an extraordinary time meant to ask philosophical questions and even transform ourselves. Instead, a parade of worn-out insecurities set up and started our camp in our brains.

A little tiring? Just hear about it. So we say to ourselves, “Better not say it then.”

This morning started like any other, fixed in place and mind. But then I started typing – this, in case anyone finds it helpful.

Or maybe it’s a way to reach out while trying to save your face, always a delicate act.

I admire the many people who seem cheerful or serene during this elongated mist, who have simply moved their lives online, who kindly offer “I hope you’re okay” without a question mark.

How to achieve this smooth resilience is a mystery the rest of us would like to unravel, at least if we all have the luxury of doing more than just surviving.


Virus Diary, an occasional feature, shows the coronavirus saga through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world.

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