OPINION: Dealing with the trauma of lockdown

Columnist Phiri Cawe

The effects of trauma and my inability to cope in difficult circumstances have now shown up in the past six weeks.

It has been difficult for all of us to be locked down in our homes. I faced a mental challenge during this time.

The period caused insecurity in me and other stresses that at some point resulted in pent-up emotions bubbling up.

But every time I saw or talked to people I showed a brave face. Basically, I lied to myself. The psychological aspect of lockdown is most difficult to overcome. I can attest to that now. I am no expert on this issue but the first thing I plan to do when this thing is finally cleared is see a psychologist.

The period that we are in right now looked or sounded like a rehabilitation, or for those who schooled in my years, the initiation by the bully big boys when you reached high school. Those initiations were most traumatic.

The bullies would lock us, the newcomers, in the toilets and let you out after a long time, usually a few hours. We were made to sing, looking down at the toilet seat with no one on our side. This is what we are in now. There is no one on our side. Imagine the after-effects – not a nice experience.

We are in “self-rehabilitation” for doing drugs and substances. Our politicians are not making it easy for us too.

At some point I felt like I was paying for the sins of drunkards and smokers. There are times that I thought, this is no longer about the coronavirus but about the egos of the politicians. Some of the statements they make are far from my personal expectations on managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their focus on alcohol and tobacco made me feel there’s this person they wanted to prove to that kurhuqa isende labo ngoku (they rule). That was made worse by one Sunday newspaper report that said at some point Police Minister Bheki Cele lost his expensive whiskey to thieves.

Get me right, I would never promote alcohol or tobacco for that matter although I have no problem with both. But the noise about it during this period stressed me to hell and back.

I expected the health practitioners (trained people) to make statements and conclusions on the two, not a mere politician like me and you, who knows not about the effects of the two. I also find the same minister recklessly promoting thuggery when thugs in Langa broke into an alcohol store, he, on live television (April 7), condoned that by indirectly saying people need to break into food stores rather than in alcohol stores. Was that really necessary? You are the judge but it was a no-no to me. For the whole period on this, he spoke as if he is the law.

There are also education ministers who kept on contradicting themselves now and then. I forgive them under this stressful period. Like me, I guess the traumatic effects are kicking in for them too. This shows the bad state of affairs that we are living under. But I have realised that I am not alone. Just last Monday I went to one of the big banks and the guys who were assisting me asked about the period and how I was doing. I shared my view.

He nearly collapsed, and told me he is about to divorce, putting the blame squarely on lockdown. He said a lot of relevant issues and some things that are unprintable.

When we finally defeat this enemy, I plan to go on holiday and talk to people. I will ignore stereotypes around Covid-19, such as that the virus is “made” in this province. Have you thought why in such a long time there was tribalism and ethnicity ? It was caused by people who refused to think.

People like some in the Eastern Cape provincial government who were just reckless and said stupid things about people from the Western Cape. They never thought of the meaning of airborne – to them Covid-19 came from the Western Cape. So unfortunate.

The trauma experienced from living through a pandemic is immeasurable. We need a stress response system in the country right now. #StayAtHome