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Nope. Stop telling me to ‘embrace the new normal’. Hugs are off-limits anyway…

When I first heard about the ‘virus’ that was raging through China, I had a fleeting thought. It went something like this: “What if I look back at this moment in a few months’ time and realise that THIS is the beginning of the end of life as we know it…” and I quickly tucked the thought away behind all the other junk in my head, and got on with the day.

But the feeling lingered.

When I went to the dentist to book an appointment with the hygienist, I scheduled a follow-up for four months down the line. Another fleeting thought: “What if I lose my job and I have to cancel…”

I’m a fairly anxious person. The attic in my head is pretty cluttered. When it’s windy, I worry about everything from the tiles falling off the roof to birds falling out of their nests, and the homeless who have to sleep on the streets. If it’s windy, I don’t sleep. Even though the wind and its effect on the world around me is something I can’t control, I still feel the need to try to mitigate the destruction.

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That’s why the coronavirus pandemic has had such an impact on the mental health of people around the world.

“Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown,” states the World Health Organisation. “So it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Added to the fear of contracting the virus in a pandemic such as COVID-19 are the significant changes to our daily lives as our movements are restricted in support of efforts to contain and slow down the spread of the virus.”

It’s the ‘invisible enemy’ that targets the sick and vulnerable

It’s coming for those we love most, and there seems to be so little we can do about it.

“Wash your hands, wear a mask, and don’t touch anything… if possible, don’t even breathe around other people!”

Seems simple, except we also have to try to earn a living, educate our kids, and eat. We can’t live in disinfected bubbles for the foreseeable future while the pandemic rages. This is even more impossible for those involved in essential services. The people who are on the front line, facing the devastation of the virus on a daily basis.

And I’m not just talking about medical staff and their support services. In a country already overwhelmed by extreme poverty, the most essential workers are the ones who are using their time, resources, and what little energy they have left to feed and care for others. To try to meet the most basic needs of the people who call South Africa HOME.

The people who have been so utterly failed by government and its greed that they continue to live in abject poverty, with meagre resources to battle Covid-19.

If anything, the pandemic has highlighted the dismal failures of those in power

While billions have been lost to ongoing corruption, schools have remained dilapidated, and lacking in the most basic of resources. How now, can these schools have ANY hope of keeping their learners and teachers safe?

The government wants one student per desk. They carelessly assume the students have desks. Or classrooms. Or transport to get to their run-down school buildings.

While hard lockdown was necessary to equip healthcare services, and “flatten the curve”, the economic devastation it caused will outlast the pandemic. Thousands of businesses have been battered by the effects of lockdown, with some being forced to close, or implement mass retrenchments. Citizens have lost everything that they’ve worked so hard to build.

Our lives have been turned upside down and inside out, and you’re telling me to ‘embrace the new normal?’

NO!

I’m angry. I’m p*ssed off that this is the world we live in now. I’m heartbroken for everyone who is suffering. I’m mourning everything that’s been lost. And I’m desperately trying to find some hope for the future.

I do have a new perspective. I have certainly reprioritised my life. Without the support of family and friends, this entire situation would be unbearable. And I do have hope that South Africa will thrive again. We are resilient, we are resourceful, and we have always been a nation that defies the odds.

But there is NO WAY I’m going to ‘embrace the new normal’. This is not ‘normal’. This is war. And I’m ready to fight.