Tuesday, 24 March 2020, was a very sobering day for me. A simple trip to the shops for groceries turned into an emotional meltdown.
While full lockdown only stated today really, myself and my 2 boys have been at home since Monday 16 March. So we are all ready on Day 12 of Self Isolation. After a week at home with the kids, I felt I needed a bit of a break and we wanted to stock up on some staples so we wouldn’t have to go out too much during the lockdown, so I went to the shops alone.
I went to our local shops just around the corner. First, into Crazy store, I wanted to stock up on some paint and art supplies and get the kids some bubble guns. Off to Pick n Pay next. I was surprised that it wasn’t crazy busy as I thought it would be.
As I walk through the aisle getting what we need I saw numerous senior couples together, many people with their list of things to get. There was a guy who I kept running into, he had a pretty well-stocked trolley, not stockpiling, but you could see it was for the month ahead. He seemed stressed. Twice I heard him on the phone, he was checking in with someone, asking which brand of certain products and how much. By the time we got to the last aisle, the baby aisle, he now did a video call to show the wipes, on the other end was his wife and you could hear a baby in the background.
Now I saw him and many others all just doing their best to cope with this current situation we are in. It kind of went in and out. I was focused on my list and not going to close to others. The line in PNP was long and people were on top of each other, I started thinking that this may not have been the best idea. This shop is a germ incubator at this point. but I was in line and just wanted to get out ASAP.
Lastly to Woolies for a handful of things. I hade 2 incidents while in Woolies, but that is a story for next time. I do think these 2 things also impacted my mental state, but after Woolies I quickly stopped at the second-hand book shop to see if I could find some books for the boys, which I did.
Now from the book store to the exit is about 100m. As I started leaving the book store to head to the car, and weirdly I took a different route to what I would usually take, I suddenly felt very emotional. It was very unexpected, I went from looking at books to just feeling this sudden and massively overwhelming feeling of grief. I tried to hold in as best I could. I walked out and there in the first disabled parking lot sat an elderly gentleman with a mask on. I saw him and I am not sure if he saw that I was emotional, but he pulled his mask off and gave me the biggest smile. I smiled back and as I turned the corner I just couldn’t keep it in anymore, the tears just started rolling, I had to put my sunglasses on. It was this flood of emotions that came over me. At first, I couldn’t understand why I was just focused on getting to the car.
The min I got in the car I just started sobbing uncontrollably. I think the last time I cried like this was when my mom passed. I still could not quite pinpoint why but the more I think of it, the more I realised how we have all become quite Numb to situations like this.
When I was younger I wanted to save the world. I wanted to be a social worker but my mom was against it, she said it would break me, and I get why she said that.
I think over the years with everything that happens in the world we all become a bit numb with regards to our empathy for others. Don’t get me wrong, we still care. I donate food and clothes to charities, I take part in fun runs and walks to raise money. But I think a lot of my empathy has been suppressed. Especially in the country we live in, where seeing poverty is a daily thing, you kind of get used to it, you almost don’t even “see” it anymore.
I remember when I was younger I would see someone on the street or a mother and child on the corner begging and I would immediately put myself in their shoes and imagine what their life would be like and I now notice that I haven’t been doing that as much lately. Is it because I became a mother and my empathy and focus shifted and it is now all aimed at my boys? Have I lost a part of me? I remember planning a fundraiser for a boy with cancer and becoming overwhelmingly emotional a couple of times. But I have realised that I was not AS invested in other’s wellbeing as I use to be.
So why did I have a meltdown at the shops? I think this is due to a lot of things. I am good at suppressing feelings and subconsciously I have been worried about my dad and half-sister.
I didn’t grow up with my sister, she has lived in the UK her whole life and even though I have some contact with her, we are not super close. That doesn’t mean I do not care for her and love her. She was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was 6 months old. For those who do not know, CF it is an incurable life-threatening illness, mainly affecting her lungs. So she is at HIGH risk with his virus. But she has been fighting this illness her whole life, she has an AMAZING mother and grandmother, who take care of her and I know she is in absolutely amazing hands. She has been on 4 months’ self-isolation for a couple of weeks already. So even though I do worry about her, it is my father that I am worried about the most.
My dad has been in Cyrpus for a couple of months now, working there. He was suppose to fly to the UK last Friday but is now stuck in Cyprus for a month.
He is 64, quite fit and healthy for his age, BUT, he is so tremendously stubborn. He doesn’t’ go to a doctor when ill and because of this, his hearing in one ear, for example, is crap because he ignored an ear infection he had. I picked up on what I think are early signs of Alzheimers when he was in SA 4 years ago and the more I try to get him to see someone and do something about it, the more he pushes back saying he is fine and doesn’t want or need help.
So I am very aware that he is not going to take this virus seriously and I am scared. If he gets sick he won’t do anything about it and that is what worries me.
I think subconsciously all of these feelings just became too much.
I did notice the man shopping for his family. He was a foreign national, and I do remember thinking while in line that I feel for him. Because he has probably at one point had to deal with Xenophobia while here. He obviously doesn’t have a lot of money but he is doing his best to provide for his family. So it did touch me and I did put myself in his shoes, even if it was just for a min.
Then seeing all the elderly trying to avoid others but also getting their essentials for the next few weeks. My own worries of getting ill and passing it on to my kids, or my biggest fear (which is a daily fear, not just now) that I will die while my kids are still little. And then the tipping point was the old guy in the car. He was obviously waiting for whoever was doing his shopping for him.
He seemed so happy to be out and maybe smiling at strangers was also his way of coping. But I think I imminently worried for his safety and the thought of “Would he see the end of this?” and that is what caused me to break down.
Another thing that has been on my mind are the people and especially women and children who live in abusive homes, this lockdown is going to be hell for them and they are on my mind quite a bit. What about the people who can’t afford not to work. The people who can’t afford to stock up for the next 3 weeks. The small business who will have to close down. It has suck a massive affect on so many. How will this affect my family financially? So many things going through my head.
It has taken me 3 days to write this because I have just been very emotional. So as lockdown has official start I want to post this and put it behind me. I am sure I will have more moments like this in the next few weeks, but I am going to try and see the positive in this situation and focus on that. I am going to try and keep busy, spend time with my boys and just enjoy life for a bit. I know it is hard to not worry, but for my own sanity and for my kids I am going to try and not worry so much. I am going to try and be positive and have faith. I am going to be calm. That is all I can do right now.