Graphic drawn by Natasha Leong
My family lives in Hunan, the province directly next to Hubei, which is where Wuhan is located. So when I first heard about COVID-19, my reaction was to just constantly talk to my family. I was anxious to make sure that they were doing okay and I wanted to get the necessary resources and information to help them. Early on in the pandemic, my parents stayed home every day, only choosing to go out for grocery shopping. They were fortunate that the gated community we lived in took measures to arrange purchasing groceries for our neighborhood.
Although I wasn’t physically there with them, as I was at school in the USA, I could tell how stressful the situation was for them through our phone calls. This affected me emotionally as well. There were many times where I had to remind myself not to overreact or over stress about the anxiety I was feeling for my parents’ situation. I started to get really worried about getting all the information and insight I could find to help my family. I slowly learnt not to obsess over every piece of news out there because it only stressed me out more. One thing that really helped me was talking to other people that were going through the same experience as me. I have a friend whose family actually lives in Wuhan and we often share our worries with each other. We talked about the importance of not over-stressing and it helped alleviate some of the emotional burden we carried for our families.
My dad is in the foreign trade business, exporting and importing goods, so since a lot of countries and ports closed down it has been so much harder for him to do his job. And this wasn’t just a week or month long obstacle he had to face, but something he will potentially have to deal with for the rest of the year. I also experienced some of the repercussions of travel. When I flew back to China, I had to go on three different flights just to get home. During my layover in Beijing, I was unable to find a single hotel room to stay in. I had to stay at the airport instead.
Because this virus was something so literally close to home for me, witnessing other people’s reactions made an impact on me as well. In my opinion, some people went crazy and overreacted, which led to unnecessary stress. On the other hand, I saw some who really didn’t seem to care about the severity of the situation. They neglected themselves and other people by ignoring the social-distancing warnings and continuing to go outside. There needs to be a balance between the two. I tried to find that balance by being invested in the severity of COVID-19, but not obsessing over it to the point where my mental health would get damaged.
I was, and still am, very grateful to the people who tried to contribute by sending masks to hospitals, but at the same time, I have also witnessed a lot of negativity. I was hearing and seeing so many xenophobic and discriminatory comments online and in real life. I tried so hard not to listen to their voices because they’re not at all helpful in combating the current issue at hand. A big crux of the problem is all of this misinformation that’s going around. I wish there were more accurate news reports rather than just accusations, pointing fingers, and trying to put down each other’s collective efforts. Hopefully, this experience can serve as a lesson for everyone to be prepared early, and to maintain a balanced mindset that won’t be detrimental to your mental health, and to truly take care of one another.
Written by: Debi Chakrabortti