the last day…?

Today marks the official end of the 8-week circuit breaker period.

It is the first day of June, and the start of the last month for this first half of the year. Five months have ‘Zoomed’ past us, with ‘Zoom’ taking on a newfound meaning in many of our lives as a lot of us were suddenly acquainted with this videoconferencing app/facility which not many of us knew about or use prior to Covid-19. All too quickly, we have been forced to become adaptive to how rapidly the situation evolved and some of us, probably counting myself within the statistic, had been a victim of mal-adaptation.

What happens after today? Is there any palpable difference, with the myriad of advisories from the authorities about returning to the workplace? As much as I am rather glad to be away from the office, because I honestly do not miss my colleagues a single bit, it could be a reprieve from the current state of ‘lockdown’ I seem to be experiencing, forced to put up with ridiculously inconsiderate behaviours of people living in the units around me. I don’t know if the change in scenery, and a renewed routine of going to the office again, will have any positive bearing on my mental health and well-being. I hate being negative and fatalistic; I hate having to be ranting and whining all the time, and dissolving into a sobbing heap of mess when the pressure gets too overwhelming arising from a single email or string of disturbing noises.

Has my psychological state caused the hypersensitivity to noise? I don’t think I ever recalled myself being so prone to feeling irritation and annoyance, or having such a major penchant for quietness and peace. Is it because there is too much ‘noise’ in my mind that any further extraneous sources of noise just makes everything too much to bear? Why can’t people be more considerate and ‘human’? It sometimes feel as though I am living within a zoo of sorts, with monkeys and elephants staying in units surrounding me. Are these not human beings residing in dwellings that were actually built for humans?

I can’t help but to engage in such talk. I admit. It’s deplorable.

So I have been feeling a lot of resentment (as usual) and disgruntledness over the last few days arising from some work-related matters – no surprises there. In our corporate world, it never pays to do something well because you end up being taken for granted and saddled with more work because that’s the easiest course for the boss to take to minimise any pain on the boss’ side to deal with the non-performative ones who were originally tasked to do that thing. Presenteeism is also something our work environment here in Singapore will never get over, despite all this talk about ‘telecommuting becoming a new normal for workplaces here’. To put it crudely, it’s bullshit. Employers love ‘face-time’, and they don’t care that employees may well be putting in long hours at the office engaging in non-productive work as long as they see them physically there which they naively construed as ‘doing work’, as opposed to letting employees work-from-home and feeling all manner of insecure that employees are actually skiving, even if demonstrable higher productivity results.

What happens next? What will I feel next?

We just have to take it a step at a time, a day at a time. I am just glad that I can now visit my parents! Although at this moment, I can only do so without having my brother’s family there since we are not from the same household.

My past posts have all been annotated with photos of that same place which has become my favourite go-to destination during this period. Let me break it up with something more frivolous – circuit breaker “cooking” – which really is just a fried egg. So much for cooking.

sliding

I didn’t realise that it had been a fortnight since I last posted. I thought I would be writing more, either here or on a micro-blogging app I use on my phone. On both counts, I think I hadn’t. It’s definitely easier to post on the app because I can just do it on the go and upload photos directly from my phone, if I wanted to.

But the inertia that I feel sometimes just makes writing elude me. I feel like writing but everything that my fingers tap out is just pessimistic, angry or frustrated. I get so tired of being so angsty, ranty, whiny and sad.

It seems to feel like this is a so-called new normal that we have to adapt to, which is what I keep writing about and advocating or encouraging people to do, in some of the work that I do. Yet, I feel like such a fraud. I don’t embrace change like I should, I don’t embrace this ‘new normal’. If anything, I feel a sense of desolation and aimlessness. It is like there isn’t anything palpable to look forward to at all, anymore.

Some days I reminisce the trips that I made to Tokyo or Hong Kong. These seemed so long ago, yet it was about … 6 months since I visited Tokyo. I don’t know when I will ever get to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong again, even if borders are open would I feel comfortable stepping onto a plane? Would I be willing to pay the expectantly higher airfares and put up with the longer wait times and inconveniences of airport clearances? I don’t know.

And what else is there on the horizon? I struggle to cobbler together a new routine in my life now that I don’t get to attend yoga classes or spinning classes, which were a daily fixture of the recent past that also seemed like a lifetime ago. It has been about 2 months? Since I last had a spin class or a hot yoga class. I try to practice yoga, an hour daily, following teachers on IGTV or YouTube but the motivation is often lacking because I have little discipline in pushing myself when it is just me on the mat, and also because I have not found it in myself to join a Zoom yoga class with strangers ‘zooming’ in for the class. It is silly to sign up for a live Zoom class and disable the video because it is as good as practising yoga with a recorded video. Yet the vulnerability of having several pairs of eyes watching you and the possibility of the video being recorded… I have trust issues in that area.

Everyday as I go about the ‘new’ routine, it just feels like life is slowly chipping and seeping away. I don’t know why there is a constant pounding and stomping from people who live in the units above and beside me, and why the walls of HDB flats are so paper thin that I just cannot bear the continual lack of peace. Maybe only when I wake up at 4am in the morning is the time when there is this silence that feels so breakable and precious, the tranquility and stillness that do not carry any sounds of slamming doors and iron-cast gates, grating voices of neighbours of a certain nationality (it is ok if you think I am xenophobic, maybe I am but I just abhor the shrill sounds of their voices piercing my ear drums), screaming kids who are overly hyperactive and cannot stop jumping up and down.

My mind is a constant whirl of thoughts and yet there isn’t anything grounding or anchoring. Everything seems to be and have spun out of control and I can only derive comfort from the very thing that also bring a deluge of post-consumption guilt as I worry about the inability to control my weight.

My body is breaking from the broken sleep and disrupted sleep patterns. It is breaking from the sudden introduction of a new activity that it is not used to and built for. My mind is breaking from the avalanche of thoughts going in all directions that threaten to tear it apart. I cry. I implore God for help. Anyone. But am I the only one eventually who can help myself?

‘So… How are you?’

I had a call yesterday with my coach. I think it’s safe to call her my ‘career coach’ although we don’t just talk about career but mainly, the topics we discuss revolve very much about what I do, would like to be doing, etc., so it’s something like a life coach perhaps?

She was recommended by a friend, because even though I had initially wanted to approach someone else, I think it matters a lot that the person I engage is suitable for my needs. I am not up for the ‘tough love’ shit. I am just not that resilient and hardy. Even on occasions when some of my closer friends have exacted tough love on me, my immediate instinct was to draw away and retaliate in defence, much like how I would spring back instantly if I were to touch a burning surface.

Back to the call. She sounded really far away somehow. I think it was the poor quality of the audio on my phone, I wasn’t sure why because she said she could hear me loud and clear.

‘So, how are you?’

And at that moment, I was confounded. I didn’t know what to say because there was so much I wanted to say (no thanks to social isolation too) yet there wasn’t anything I could say. There had been no progress. I wanted progress, but I didn’t know how and what steps to take.

This period has made it harder because despite that I may be sending job applications frequently (and randomly – maybe that is why nobody bothers replying because they may have received several applications from me), I don’t think any employers are actually interviewing and onboarding new staff at the moment.

The whole ‘lockdown’ situation is also causing a whole host of other problems and frustrations, as it had led me to re-evaluate my place of residence, if this is not a sign for me to really start house-hunting and relocate, hopefully with God’s grace, to somewhere more peaceful and with human beings as neighbours.

All of a sudden, there seems like so many things I need to tackle and decide and work on. I know that it is only wise to do it one at a time, but I don’t know what to start on first, or what is it that I can actually start on and get it done/fixed/settled/whatever. Everything feels like it is in a state of flux, that I am being suspended in mid-air or floating in outer space, unable to touch the ground and unable to find dry land.

Hopeless.

Helpless.

These were what I told her I think. Frustration started to creep into me, but gradually I exhaled that feeling away as I considered and shared other things that had been going on these few weeks, sharing the lighter side of things that are inane and not too related to what we were discussing.

It wasn’t meant to be an actual coaching call anyway. She was sending out a nice gesture to offer an hour of her time to help. And for that I really appreciate the connection, that hour, to speak to someone who listens, and tries to ask some probing questions in a gentle manner, perhaps gingerly trying to guide me to delving deeper into what I need to do.

I don’t know. I am so tired.

And I’m just so useless, can’t do anything right, can’t do anything at all.

I can’t bake, I can’t cook, I can’t even control what I eat because restlessness just seems to cause my mind to automatically zero in on food to fill the void.

Is there anything I can do at all, like just do something properly?

pages from the D file

When I read about others’ accounts of how they went through bouts of depression that were either short-lived (thank God) or protracted and expressed their heartfelt gratitude for having so-and-so people in their lives to get through those episodes (for those who have walked out of it, usually postnatal depression), I truly feel happy for them that they had a support network who was able and willing to lend a hand to pull them up and out.

Why “up and out”? Because depression somehow just connotes a mental image of being cast into a deep dark and endless well, a pit of quicksand that sucks you in and renders you completely helpless on your own to get out unless someone proffers a helpline for you to grip onto and either then you somehow climb out while hanging on to that line, or they yank you out from the viscosity that is the quicksand pit.

Depression is a lonely condition. It is a condition that no one can emphathise with and understand because it is unique to every sufferer of it. Nobody can guess or know what goes through another person’s mind, and even two persons who are depressed cannot profess to say that they understand exactly what the other is going through because each of us are just wired very differently. Our brains function differently and react to stimulus and thoughts differently.

In such times of social distancing, circuit breakers or lock-downs, the effects of depression are accentuated. We experience the depressive episodes more, particularly when we lay encumbered by living spaces that may not be the best conducive environments for staying in for long periods of time. Over the last few weeks especially, when we are not supposed to be out of our homes unnecessarily, I have undergone more episodes of breakdowns and meltdowns because the noises that are ringing all around from inconsiderate neighbours make me just want to open the window and haul myself over the parapet. I cry and I scream, I lodge complaints with the authorities, I post on social media, but nobody seem to be able to offer any help.

Back to the support network. Over the years when I have sort of come to the terms that I may actually really be depressed, I have shared fairly openly about it with people around, close enough, in the hope that I can be able to build that support network and have them understand that some of the things that I do or say are due to the this condition. Some friends have unfortunately bore the brunt of my sharing and I am eternally grateful for their presence at certain times when I really needed someone to talk to.

Yet… in my own supposed closest circle of family, nobody was willing to ever offer any support. I had not told my parents about it because being traditional parents who never understood my frequent job switches, this would probably break their hearts and I wasn’t sure what they could and would have been able to do. I told my sister-in-law, I told some of my cousins, who may also have been able to guess as much from the posts I make on social media, but nobody wanted to acknowledge that. They took it as ‘ignorance is bliss’ and that what isn’t mentioned isn’t acknowledged and isn’t there. It hurts. And it feels extremely lonesome. I wished I could also be a testimony where I give my gratitude for people who helped me out of it. Sadly, I am not out of it. I don’t know if I will ever be out of it.

And also… there is no empathy. There are some people who may know that you have a condition of sorts and they can’t begin to understand why you do some things you do, or say some things you say. They start to judge you, and hurl allegations about what you may be trying to do. They don’t understand that sometimes it’s just a way of coping, a way of reaching out, but that it was construed as something else that was negatively received and that therefore then earned me/us a bad impression. Well, it certainly isn’t a case of ‘it takes one to know one’ in this situation, and yes although it doesn’t matter what others think of us because that isn’t something I can control and instead I can control how I react to that, but I can’t deny that it hurts to be wronged. It always hurts to be thought of negatively.

Day 28.

Today was supposed to be the last day of the Circuit Breaker. Slightly less than 2 weeks ago, it was however announced that it would be extended, and that was to be for another 4 weeks. What was supposed to be a 28-day/4-week pseudo-lock-down doubled in duration, that I suppose caused some to grimace and some to rejoice.

There are people who are thriving, some are coping and some are just tethering on the edge of collapse. No prizes for guessing which bucket I fall into.

But I suppose even in the darkest times, there are always some bright and light spots. As much as I wish for the circuit breaker to come to an end soon, I am not really looking forward to returning to the office. Somehow, after having being away for 2.5 months now, it feels almost foreign and throughout this period, I have not once missed interaction with the colleagues because, to me they are just co-workers. I miss social interaction, a false sense of belonging to stretch it, but other than that, I am more than happy to stay away for a protracted period if not forever.

They just aren’t people I want to liaise with on a closer-than-necessary basis after various instances that have left me hanging high and dry.

So anyway, staying at home and supposedly working from home without many places to go to since many businesses/shops and the likes have shuttered during this period, I have been doing a fair bit of online shopping – much more than usual. I still don’t buy clothes other than yoga wear, since that’s something I can never have enough of for now. I have also started to buy things for the home, that included a small digital clock, seat cushion, and a new spin mop! Also, I decided to be ‘Santa Claus’, and have placed an order for some food to be delivered to Mum since I can’t celebrate Mother’s Day with/for her this year. I didn’t know what to get for her because we all feel that flowers are just a waste of money, and a cake wouldn’t really be practical because there is no one (other than her maybe) to eat it. So I ordered… pau. Yes, it’s weird but these are supposed to be highly-raved, and although the quantity is much more than what she, dad and my brother would be able to consume, I told my bro that she can offer these to the neighbours if she likes!

I should also start playing Santa Claus to some friends, to spread some cheer. And after all, giving is often said to be better than receiving? Maybe it will bring me some joy too.

May 4 – May the force be with you. I used to find that clever, now I just find it cliche and lame.

Trying to cope.

I’ve just been cursing and swearing a lot, at people who are sharing the same surrounding environment but are creating too much noise and disturbances beyond my threshold that’s being stretched dangerously thin especially in this period of needing to be cooped in this tiny space for almost the entire 24 hours of a day. The lack of solace coupled with a predisposition towards a sudden intolerance of or heightened sensitivity to noise, is wreaking havoc on the mental state that I hadn’t had the chance yet to bring back to a level from years before I descended into that dark and deep abyss, it almost feels like I’m sinking even further into where I was before…?

I’ve been crying more often I think I haven’t cried so much and frequently in my whole life ever since I was a baby. I feel sorry for myself and I cry, I feel frustrated and helpless and I cry, I feel an abject loss of control over every single aspect of my life and I cry, I feel aggrieved and angry with everyone around who is trying to drive me to the end of my sanity and I cry. Because there’s nothing I can do. Why have I sank to this state and why am I in this situation? Why do I have such neighbours who are inconsiderate, unhygienic and above all, obnoxious? Why can’t anyone exercise some thoughtfulness and civic-mindedness and think of people who are living around them? Why am I so unfortunate to be in this situation and why is this happening to me?

I struggle when it seems like most other people are managing fairly well, filling up and spending their time productively and constructively, be it cooking, baking, crafting, cleaning, learning, exercising, meditating, bonding with friends and family online, rekindling past or forgotten hobbies… except me, who is only able to stuff myself with an excessive amount of unhealthy and sweet snacks and food, leading to a vicious cycle of weight gain and further depletion of any ounce of self esteem or positive body image that I may ever have had. The insecurity, or the fear of not being able to control something that I used to be able to wield some semblance of control over, is fueling even deeper distress, adding to a lot of unnecessary noise in a mind that’s already highly disturbed by the constant knocking and hammering from the neighbouring units. Why can’t anyone help me and why won’t anyone help me?

Someone asks… “How are you?” And it feels like it was just an absent minded message sent, because I don’t know what they were expecting in response or do they even care what the response is?

extended.

It was announced earlier in the week that the Prime Minister would address the nation. That instantly brought about an ominous feeling in the pits of my stomach because it does not usually herald anything good, not that I think badly of him but usually such addresses were made to announce some negative news, in light of the virus situation.

Indeed, it was announced that the circuit breaker, that initially had 2 more weeks to run, would be extended for a further 4 weeks until 1 June, effectively prolonging the misery that I am facing to a grand total of 6 more weeks. It really made me want to cry because I had been looking forward to a little more normalcy, hopefully having a little more freedom if fitness studios are allowed to operate again, and people are allowed to start social interaction once more.

It has been trying. It has been challenging, not just dealing with isolation, not just coping with noisy neighbours, not just struggling with sleep and the resultant brain fog during the work days that cause lethargy and an inability to focus on anything, but also a deepening anxiety and reversion to disordered thoughts that I hadn’t had time to climb out of ever since they began to fester in my mind from… 2014?

During those few years, my life underwent a series of major changes that I wasn’t able to cope with, and the loss of control led me to spiral into a mess. At some point, I thought that I could be making headway in recovering but the last two years, and then the last months particularly with the sudden changes revolving around Covid-19, has pushed me back into that abyss.

There are moments where the build-up of pressure from frustration and helplessness has made me breakdown into a sobbing mess, and there are nights I lay on my bed after being jolted awake by sounds created by the neighbours, tears streaming down my face. I cried out to God, wondering why He is putting me through this hell that I wished I could just put an end to by ending my life.

The abundance of time coupled with a general lethargy of not wanting to do anything productive like learning a new skill, reading a book, cleaning and decluttering the home, or even just calling up my folks, led to a deep sense of boredom that made me keep pacing back and forth the home and also foraging the fridge for food to keep me entertained. That created even more anxiety within that the overall lack of activity and increased consumption of unhealthy, processed food will cause a weight gain that I would not be able to shed thereafter.

I am not dealing with this well, I would admit. It isn’t as simple as whether one is able to ‘work-from-home’ or not. This isn’t ‘working-from-home’. This is almost like being put on a pseudo house arrest, with little activity happening outside in the community as malls are deserted, fitness facilities are shuttered and many so-called non-essential shops and businesses are being made to close, including businesses that cater towards comforting us in gastronomic ways. I have a sweet tooth, and was dismayed to learn that shops no longer can sell things like cakes and cookies because these are non-essential. True. But in such times, nobody really has the mood to ‘eat clean/healthy’. Everytime I am queuing to make payment at the supermarket, everyone has some kind of snack in their baskets/trolleys, whether chocolates, chips, ice cream or cookies. The tidbits shelves have gaping holes where popular brands are out of stock, and baking supplies like flour and yeast are also in short supply.

Furthermore, at a time when many countries in the region are starting to consider re-opening their countries and economies, suddenly we are seeing 3-digit and 4-digit daily increases in confirmed infections, it almost feels like we are the Spain/Italy of this region. Granted that we do not have that alarming rate of fatalities as them, it is just depressing when the regional countries are showing signs of the virus tapering off but we seem to be experiencing a huge wave of infections as the measures to restrict our movements to curb community spread becomes progressively stricter and make us sink deeper and deeper into depression.

And during this time, I still wonder why psychiatric/psychological consultations are not deemed as essential services.

Today marks Day 20. It is April 26. We have another 36 more days to go through. What will I become when 1 June comes? Will I still be around? Will I still be me?