As a teenage girl living in South Africa, my life has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Born into a humble background, I reside with my parents, younger sister, and brother, with my father being the sole breadwinner after my mom lost her job due to the pandemic. The challenges brought on by the outbreak have affected me academically, emotionally, and mentally, forcing me to adapt to new circumstances and develop resilience amidst unprecedented difficulties. 2020: A Year of Turmoil In 2020, I was in grade 7, trying to find my footing in a new school. Just as I began to settle in, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, turning my world upside down. The loss of my parents' jobs compounded our financial struggles, leading to anxiety and uncertainty about our future. The school's kindness in providing grocery packages helped alleviate our immediate food concerns, but the mental toll was immense. The transition to online classes added to my distress. As a top student at my previous school, my slipping grades left me feeling like a failure. The pressure to live up to the expectations placed on me by my scholarship and my own high standards overwhelmed me, leading to bouts of depression and self-hate. When in-person schooling resumed, I found solace in the company of my classmates, and the support provided by the school helped me pass the year, albeit not with the results I had hoped for. 2021-2022: A Blur of Emotions The following years were marked by a rollercoaster of emotions. The lifting of COVID-19 protocols allowed for more social interactions, but I struggled with anxiety in large gatherings. Balancing my studies, personal life, and the challenges of the pandemic took a toll on my mental health. The disruptions caused by the pandemic led to curriculum cuts, affecting my learning and grades. Facing personal struggles, I withdrew and resorted to unhealthy coping mechanisms. While I found comfort in my group of friends, I was hesitant to open up about my problems, wanting to be the strong support system for them. I joined robotics and coding to find a healthy outlet, but the pressure to excel in these areas added to my stress. Despite achieving relatively good marks, I continued to feel unsatisfied and burdened by self-doubt, leading to a constant feeling of inadequacy. The pressure from school, home, my scholarship, and myself weighed heavily on my shoulders, often making me feel like a failure. 2023: The Journey Continues As I turned 16, life remained challenging, with financial struggles continuing to impact my family. Problems within my friend group added to the emotional strain, causing divides and reshaping our dynamics. Despite coming to terms with my grades, I still grappled with occasional disappointments in myself. Throughout this tumultuous journey, my dogs have become a source of comfort and strength. They, along with my family and true friends, keep me going and give me the will to face each day with renewed determination. Conclusion: A Path Forward The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected my life, presenting numerous challenges and obstacles. As a 16-year-old girl from a humble background, I have been through emotional turmoil, academic pressure, and financial struggles. Despite the hardships, I have persevered, adapting to new circumstances and finding solace in my passions and loved ones. As the journey continues, I strive to embrace my imperfections and learn from my experiences. I acknowledge that my struggles, though personal, are valid, and I should not downplay my emotions. My resilience and determination will continue to guide me towards a brighter future, pursuing my interests in coding and robotics, and supporting my family through our difficulties. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has left lasting scars, it has also taught me valuable lessons about strength, compassion, and the power of resilience. As a 16-year-old girl in South Africa, I look forward to the day when our world heals from the pandemic's wounds, and together, we emerge stronger than ever before.
Just one word to describe this year, and it's a 'hell'. I don't know if it's because of the pandemic or I'm just too tired, but I've been experiencing mental disorders since last year. Something 'big' happened last year, it should've been the start of my brilliant career, but it turned out to be a trigger that caused my depression. That something big was many people's dream job but not my dream job. I got that job, but I wasn't happy with that. I told my parents about how I feel, but they kept pushing me to just accept that job for my future's sake, and yeah, I initially tried to do that and tried to accept my 'splendid' destiny. But at that time actually, I started living in hell. You know, I prefer fighting with other people than fighting with my own mind. That's so freaking hard! I fought my depression, I cried every single night, I couldn't sleep, I didn't eat or drink. My world turned upside down, but no one cared, no one asked me about it. This year my condition was getting worst, I started harming my body, even trying to kill myself several times. Yeah, I was a suicidal who tried several silly methods to end her life. I tried to make myself overdose by drinking a lot of pills, I tried to hurt myself by drinking ethyl alcohol, and the climax was when I tried to kill myself by eating rat poisons. The last trial ended with me being rushed to an emergency room and needed to be intensively treated there for half a day and needed to stay in hospital for two days. Rat poisons were not good, they're the worst! I tell you, my stomach was in extreme pain at that time. I cried aloud because of the unbearable pain, the doctors and the nurses did their best to save my life by doing many emergency treatments. For the first time in my life, I experienced a horrific experience when they started entering a hose through my nose to my stomach. They said that was the method to rinse my polluted stomach. For one day that hose stuck into my nose and that's extremely uncomfortable! I couldn't even eat and only drink milk through that hose. After that ugly experience that felt like a nightmare, I was interrogated by my parents as to know why I did that stupid action. And here we go the drama. I cried while explaining my real feeling and my mental condition, I told them that I couldn't do it anymore, I couldn't do that job anymore. I wasn't a saint, I wasn't a good person, I didn't want to pretend to be righteous by kept doing that job. I thought they would understand, I thought they could see how pathetic I was after seeing me in critical condition, but I was wrong. Instead of feeling pity, my father decided to disown me. Yeah, my father was angry, and starting that day, he ignored me like a plague. We lived under the same roof, but he never saw me as if I was invisible. Do you know the pain in my heart? That's beyond painful, I don't even know how to describe that. My mother was a saint. She hugged me at that time, saying that I just need to do what I want to do and that I don't need to force myself to do something I don't want to. Do you know? That sounds like Calum Scott's song titled No Matter What, and that's my favorite song anyway. I lived in hell after that. The place that once I called home, now it's a hell. I was jobless so I stayed at home all day, doing nothing. The anxiety attacked me so many times that I cried over the smallest things. The smallest things like when my internet getting slow, I cried. When my computer mouse stopped working, I cried. When my sister didn't answer my call, I cried. I cried every day and that's tiring. My depression wasn't different. I felt so depressed, I completely changed my habit. I used to be a clean freak, my room used to be ant-free, but now my room is ants palace. I didn't even want to take a shower, I didn't do the skincare routine, I didn't even eat and drink. I was a complete mess. You know, there's this guilty feeling inside my heart. I've disappointed my parents. I don't blame my father for his cold treatment towards me, I know he's just very disappointed in me. I just keep blaming myself for everything. I don't know whether it's caused by my depression or not, but I really can't stop blaming myself. My family was poor, I should've given them a better life, but I failed. Lately, I have also experienced a worse physical condition every time the anxiety attacked. I experienced breathing difficulty, my chest was stuffy that I couldn't breathe properly. I'm also scared when I'm outside and meet people. I'm afraid that they would judge me. That's suffocating, that's terrifying. I know I need to see a professional's help, but now I'm jobless and penniless so I can't do that just yet. I can only distract myself by writing since originally I love writing. Writing is like an escape, I feel safe when I'm writing. I hope one day I will be able to get through these tribulations and proudly say, "Once upon a time I lived in hell, but now I'm happy like in paradise."
As a senior in high school, introspection has become increasingly prominent, and a specific period of time that I have not deigned to think about in detail since its occurrence has been brought to mind. Thus, for the purpose of not only sharing my experience with the reader, I will do so to bring closure to myself. Like many others, my entrance into high school was marked by the formation of opinions of my own and the realization that certain things that I had been taught to believe were perhaps, not so at all. This alone caused a series of conflicts that were both internal and external, and brought about a slew of upsetting personal and family matters. However, it was in the tenth grade when things really started to go downhill. Perhaps my memory eludes me now, but I cannot pinpoint how or when exactly my mental health began to decline: not even an in-depth review of my past journal entries can give me an exact date or play-by-play of how exactly I fell into the grasp of an illness that trapped me for almost two years. What I can recall, however, are flashes of specific memories. For example, if I close my eyes, I can still remember the cold yet vague feeling of the unfriendly bathroom floor digging into my back, increasingly familiar when it shouldn't be. I can still recall that nauseating feeling of loneliness, sinking into me even when I was around others… I can still remember the overwhelming hollowness that was too much nothing and still not enough substance to fill that ever-growing lump of nothingness... I can still taste the bitter aftertaste of frustration and disgust on my tongue…the sharp tang of metallic anger, a lingering ghost of a memory. There would be stretches of time when it seemed that I was numb to everything including myself. There would be times when I was sensitive to the point that one snarky little comment would tip me over the edge and everything would collapse unto itself. There would be times when I could give a little smile and convince myself that I was doing alright, and then suddenly, I would have a sort of emotional collapse and find myself taking refuge in a bathroom stall, overwhelmed with shame. This cycle occurred again and again, and to be honest, it didn't seem to make any sense at all. I was fortunate in my circumstances and extremely privileged. I had never once been deprived of my basic needs or individual rights. I had everything, recognized this indisputable fact, genuinely was grateful for it, but the rest of me could not seem to follow my rational mind. I was still completely and utterly desolate, only now, I was only more disgusted at myself for feeling so. How could I claim to be suffering when there were those who were suffering with much less? These questions attacked me everyday, and those who have not experienced this feeling cannot truly understand the terribleness of this personal dilemma where one is suffering, knows that it is irrational to suffer, but still suffers. Now, of course, I know that depression itself is somewhat arbitrary in the selection of its hosts, quite similar to a virus. It's surprising how many overlook the obvious; that it really is an illness in the sense that it grips you often without much reason and changes you. Like a fever, it leaves you incapable of doing and feeling and enjoying, and the recovery is slow, and often uncontrollable and unpredictable. For me, this was certainly the case. Months crawled by with ups and downs, and often rock-bottoms but slowly, almost unnoticeably so, I improved. This might not be what you expect or want to hear, but I found it significant to accept that I was alone, not necessarily because others were unwilling to help, but because ultimately, they simply did not have the ability to. Though this might seem incredibly counter-productive, and for a while it was extremely debilitating, the realization that no one could truly help me except for myself became strangely empowering over time. In the end, I learned to not only love myself, but to also like myself. I turned my pain into wisdom, directed my focus outwards and focused on helping others, which gave me a greater sense of purpose. My own experience has opened my eyes to the importance of seeking to understand instead of to criticize, and I want to communicate that you must not undermine, or let others undermine your suffering. Be warned; I don't mean that you should barrel ahead in an oblivious state — you must recognize and have gratitude for what you have, and have deep empathy for those who have less, but suffering is suffering, and through it, we can learn more about the world and ourselves. Yes, my greatest enemy is myself, but in being so, I am also my own greatest weapon.