The coronavirus pandemic has affected the world in many very clear and undeniable ways — ranging from loss of life to the devastating economic impact — but one of the less visible ways it has truly taken a toll is on a lot of people’s mental well-being.
From the fear and anxiety that comes with this much uncertainty to the feeling of loneliness that has been exacerbated by self-isolation and social distancing, we asked seven Nigerians to share how the virus has affected their mental health.
Halima, 29 — My Meds Aren’t Working
My mental health has been in shambles for a while now — I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. At least before the virus, I was seeing some improvement because of my meds. I was actually hoping to go off the drugs by the end of this year, but it looks like that won’t be happening.
My drugs don’t even seem to be working because I am always anxious. I struggle to get out of bed and carry out my daily tasks. I try to dance to one song at least once a day and I’ve stopped working out. If I’m going to die, I might as well go out with a fat booty and food in my belly.
Sarah, 32 — I Attended The AMVCA
I attended AMVCA, so I’ve been anxious for a while now. I was at work when the news that we could have been infected officially broke. I had to keep working even though my chest had sunk to the bottom of my stomach. I’m pre-diabetic, so I started panicking about my chances.
It also did not help that 7 days after the event, I had a fever, sore throat and dry cough. I called NCDC’s Lagos team and they promised to come to take my sample the next day, but they didn’t. I got a call, instead, asking for my symptoms. They said it was mild and told me to self-isolate.
Self-isolation itself has been easy since I like staying at home. My anxiety has also mostly disappeared. It started with the rumours, got worse with my symptoms and peaked with the announcement. Right now, all that really keeps me up is whether I’ll still have a job when all of this is over.
Tolu, 25 — I’m Scared I Will End Myself
I’ve been struggling with depression for the past couple of years, as well as recurring suicidal thoughts. I’ve also attempted to take my own life in the past. This experience has definitely worsened it because I have no way to escape my own head.
I feel trapped and sometimes I can’t breathe — I call it existential claustrophobia. Too much screen time makes my head hurt, and I’m stuck isolating with my parents, who are prayer warriors. I’m afraid that if this doesn’t end soon, I will end myself.
Jimi, 30 — My Anxiety Is Back
I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life — I used to be a chronic nail-biter and I’d always sweat profusely. It finally reduced when I told my family I was gay and dropped my unhealthy dependency on drugs. Since this pandemic started, my anxiety has been back up.
I had the stomach flu the other day. It turned into diarrhoea and a slight pain in my upper stomach — not even my chest — and I was fully panicking. I started thinking about my life and cried for almost 30 minutes. This whole experience has really put a lot of things into perspective for me.
Ada, 23 — I Had My First-Ever Panic Attack
I had my first-ever panic attack last week. I was on the HouseParty app with my friends when I started struggling to breathe. I walked to my balcony to get air, but I still couldn’t draw in enough. My heart started racing, and I was certain that I was going to die.
Luckily, my friend helped calm me down. The next day, I learned what it was. I’m meant to go for my MBA in September, and I’m worried it won’t happen. I’m also very lonely because my family is far away. So, I’ve just been worrying a lot more, and I think that’s what caused the attack.
Deola, 31 — I’m The Calmest I’ve Been In Years
In the past, I’ve suffered from anxiety. I tend to call it high-functioning anxiety because it was never crippling to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed. My symptoms were an inability to sleep or shut my mind off, worrying that bad things would happen, memory loss and constant fatigue.
I saw a therapist a few years ago and was diagnosed with anxiety and moderate depression. I was told to make lifestyle changes, and I have been working on that for a few years. It’s not been easy, but I see progress. I’m now able to tell when a funk is coming and work on it before it escalates.
Surprisingly, while I am concerned about the virus, I am the calmest I’ve been in years. I’m a germaphobe, so I can finally let my freak flag fly. I’ve also been working remotely since January, so I’m used to that too. This pandemic has taught me I can’t control everything, and I’m ok with that.
Folake, 27 — My Brain Went Into Overdrive
I’ve always struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression. So, with each new update about the virus, my anxiety kept rising and I couldn’t function at work. I also just moved to a new place where I don’t know anyone, so this made me feel even lonelier. I was sure I’d get it and die alone in my house.
My brain was in overdrive. I was scared of how a full lockdown would breed criminals, and I’d definitely be robbed, raped or killed. Thankfully, I called a friend and he basically calmed me down. Then I started contacting more friends, and the more relaxed everyone seemed, the calmer I got.