what is this ‘phase 1’?

It has been a week since the circuit breaker officially ended. We are in Day 7 of ‘Phase 1’ of the new normal. What is the new normal?

Everything feels almost exactly the same, except that when I am out for my essentials, there are definitely more people out. And I am still befuddled and mildly annoyed that my boss is blatantly trying to get us to return to the office despite that the default mode as advised by the authorities is to continue ‘working-from-home’ for those who have been doing so during the circuit breaker. No doubt that split-team-arrangement has been implemented, but the fact remains that even though we fall into a category where we can reopen in this Phase 1, what we do is ultimately ‘non-essential’, and I would dare say at least 80% of us do not need to be in office because there is no specialised systems so to speak that we need to access. I just do not get the thing about local employers and their hang-up about presenteeism and ‘face-time’.

I could be sitting in the office staring through the computer monitor while my mind is a million miles away but I guess they just find comfort in seeing that you are physically there, not out gallivanting or spending the time that we are supposed to be at work engaged in some other form of activity personal or professional, regardless of any productive work resulting from warming the office chair.

Anyway… so that’s that with my usual grouses about work. I still feel a sense of dread and hopelessness when it comes to life, when it comes to work. There just does not seem like there is any reason, purpose or meaning to life. The feeling had always been there, but the virus situation and the emanating lock-down kind of amplified it. Some days I sit staring out the window, wondering what lies beyond and what happens next. It is a case of feeling lost and directionless.

A new routine was formed. Human beings are adaptive in that way. When their usual routines and habits get disrupted, the urge and desire for structure – something I realised that I badly need – would cause new habits and routines to form. Some have advised that having a routine helps to give a day structure. It does, to a certain extent, but beyond a day, it still does not offer any clarity on why I am going through life. There does not seem anything worth going on for, because taking another breath, living another day, just feels like a torment that is not worth the pain going through.

Some days, I miss travelling. I reminisced the last couple of trips that I had taken. Maybe we had all taken travels for granted. The spontaneous impulse to buy an air ticket, book a hotel room in a city thousands of miles away, and spend a week there languishing in being anonymous in a foreign land. I don’t know when I would feel comfortable to travel again, pay the expectantly higher airfares and put up with the longer times associated with airport clearances and the likes. It just seems like too much of a hassle to go on a trip.

What is the real point of this post? There does not seem to be one.

I find that I need structure. I find that I need to not be disliked. I find that I need to be accepted. I find that I need to know a purpose. These seem to be things I cannot identify with or find in this role.

Yet even with what I know, I know not what role is out there for me to take on. Countless applications sent with nary a response. It just feels more and more hopeless and disheartening, especially so in the current dreary economic climate where many are losing their jobs and it would probably serve them more to land a job than me who has a job but am unhappy every single breathing moment.

Life just likes to make a sport of us, doesn’t it?

Death… is an option, not?

Sleep does not come easy. I tried melatonin and I am not sure if it helps but there seemed to be side effects arising from taking it so I stopped. Broken and short sleep patterns contribute to splitting headaches. A compulsion to stick to a routine has wreaked fatigue throughout my entire physical being yet it doesn’t promise sufficient exhaustion to plunge me into deep slumber.

Sigh.

Let’s see what goes on next.

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.

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?

Mental health in circuit breaker times

Ever since Covid-19 came into our lives and turned the world upside down, so many changes have happened so swiftly in ways that many of us never expect and are not prepared to handle.

At the beginning, Singapore was adopting a more laissez-faire approach where the authorities have tried to rely on the civic responsibility of its citizenry. That did not work with a populace that has grown accustomed to freedom and developed a strong sense of self and entitlement. Stricter measures were meted out and they got progressively tighter that started to make it really difficult to live a life like normal.

From the middle of February, I had been put on an arrangement to work-from-home. It worked fine for me for a while because suddenly I had flexibility over my working hours/time (although that was not how it was supposed to be but I think my employer trusted me to be responsible and I endeavoured to deliver over and above which somehow I think led to issues for me now).

I don’t think I spent 8 full hours or more working in a day, but the work I was asked to do, I did it quickly and spread it throughout the day during my waking hours, as I scheduled my other usual ‘outside-work’ activities within those hours. That arrangement benefited me for a while, because I hadn’t really enjoyed sitting in an office where I didn’t feel a sense of belonging with the colleagues, and where I spent countless moments trawling the web aimlessly.

Until it came to a stage where we were being told to stay at home, and eventually the circuit breaker was implemented where we weren’t supposed to head out with a few exceptions.

With a large part of the nation ‘working/study-from-home’, it meant that all the neighbours are at home, the whole day long. I have had issues with all the surrounding neighbouring units – next door, and the 2 units above me. I don’t know why sounds that they make, whether walking (I don’t really think they walk but rather they stomp), closing (slamming) doors/gates/toilet seat covers, talking… the list just goes on. It doesn’t help of course, that all of them have young kids and I don’t get why kids have voices louder than adults and seem to weigh like elephants because they have so much energy they spend the entire day jumping around. Each jump and thump reverberates and sound like an atomic bomb landing on my unit, that I wonder if by the end of this circuit breaker with us all being cooped at home for almost 24 hours a day, would I go crazy, or resort to suicide?

My body clock has been screwed up and for the last few days that make up about half of the circuit breaker period thus far, I have woken up at 3.30 am despite going to sleep at about 10-ish or 11 each night, waking up intermittently during the midst of that slumber. With that little sleep I get, and without any peace that I can get during my waking hours, especially when I have calls to take during the daylight hours, my sanity is wearing dangerously thin. I have been breaking down into tears each day because I feel so sorry for myself and I don’t know what to do. I have went upstairs to speak to both units once each, but the situation hasn’t changed. Months before, I had already written to the town council who had referred my email to HDB but they just weren’t very helpful. I went online to check and found that the police can’t intervene either.

Each day I pray to God that He will turn the situation around for me and make things better for me but with each day that things remain the same, I just get so hopeless and helpless the only thing I can do is to cry and scream at the air, not caring if anyone actually hears.

Right now I just wish that I could die.

Week 1 done and dusted

7 days have passed since the restricted movement measures were put in place officially, with stricter measures being announced and implemented with immediacy progressively, because of blatant flouting of rules by people who were trying to find loopholes around them. I guess it all stems from the fact that in Singapore, it is hard to make people stay at home for a protracted period of time. It can be said that we are privileged and spoilt, because in times like these, we are still being self-centred and thinking only of our own needs to be out and about, to live life as normally as possible, despite the gravity of the situation.

I am not absolved from that. Before circuit breaker kicked in, I was still insistent that I wanted to go for group classes, although the studios were doing their best to adhere to prevailing advisories to ensure the safety of everyone. Even now, the anxiety pertaining to being cooped up at home, without getting my 10K steps logged daily, without getting any kind of exercise or activity daily because my hot yoga and spinning classes that have conditioned me to think that those are the ways I can sort of try to keep my weight in check, is too much to bear. Plus the uncertainty with which the duration of this period could be stretched beyond the original target date of 4 May, exacerbates it. As the number of infections hit record highs, 4 May seemed almost improbable, and for those of us having that kind of anxiety in us, our hearts start to sink deeper, and each impending video message that the PM is about to make further raises the trepidation we experience – are the measures going to be tightened even more?

It helped a little that there was a public holiday on Friday. Not that it made much difference now that all of us are supposed to stay at home as much as possible, and days just seem to melt and blur into one another – there are days I would need to check my phone’s calendar to know what date it is. Not many plans could be made, but without the need to power up the laptop to check work emails, or think about work – which is the furthest thing from my mind now, on a daily basis no less – it meant that I could be a little more flexible with my timing to head out. Yes, I still need to go out for movement and fresh air, but I try to do that at a time and place where it wouldn’t be too crowded.

Perhaps, the good thing about this is that it forces me to break some habits and routines to make new ones, or adjustments to the original ones. It hasn’t been easy for sure, and I do not know if and when I will ever get over that anxiety during this period. But it has made me explore the outdoors more, and instead of sweating copious amounts of perspiration in hot yoga (which should not be an indication of how hard I have worked in class or how many calories I have burned) or pumping my heart rate up in spin class, I am forced to walk, because I am not used to running/jogging outside or regularly, and it will no doubt take time for my body to start getting conditioned to it.

Other than logging some of my thoughts about the week that has passed, I don’t know what else this post was meant to say. Maybe I should try to write more instead of once a week, for then I can perhaps put more of my thoughts here.

In this period of uncertainty, it kind of feels like everything is in a huge state of flux and work-wise, there has also been a state where I’m not sure what exactly I need to do because there are some things pending and there are days when the mailbox is suspiciously quiet. It doesn’t help of course that I’m just impassioned about it even though I’m trying hard not to keep complaining about something I’m not or unable to do anything about the situation. Day to day, I really don’t know what lies ahead and I can only just put a foot in front of the other as I take one step at a time.

Sigh.

This is the sunrise we’re all waiting for?