Post-Pandemic Stress Disorder 0 766

Remember the days of lockdown where it seemed like there was no end in sight. Living within the confines of our homes, just dreaming of the moment when it was all over. How we would live life to the fullest, the plans we would make, the friends we would hug and all the adventures we were just yearning to have. For so long those plans seemed so far out of reach, just fancies to get us through the uniformity of lockdown life but now, with a solution and plan in sight it seems like those dreams, those plans and those hopes are slowly coming within reach. But why the hell am I too tired to live them out?!

In the past few weeks, we’ve been allowed a taste of regular life again and I have been enjoying every bit of it. I am mindful that we are still in a pandemic but within reasonable means I am socialising at a much higher rate than I have over the past year and a half. As an extroverted 25 year old, I am finally feeling more like myself again. I feel more productive, I feel more happy, I feel like I’m finally actually living and not just existing. However, in the back of my mind there’s a nagging urge of just wanting to go home, curl up and do exactly what I did all lockdown long. I can’t quite understand this feeling, but at times it overwhelms me. Why do I want to put myself back in that place after it being the thing I hated the most? Has the pandemic had more effect on me than I thought?

“Maybe having all our basic needs met allowed us to feel more, and in feeling more we felt guilty for even doing so.”

I think back to my sister’s 24th birthday. Our family is big into birthdays, it’s the one day a year we really go all out and celebrate each other. My sister, who lives on the other side of the world in Los Angeles, shares the sentiment – go big (no other option stated). But then Covid came into play and all birthday plans were shot, in the city of LA cases were at their highest and she had to celebrate her birthday via zoom. We made the best of it and she had a great day nonetheless, we both hoped that this would be the only zoom birthday our family would have. Technically, it was. This year, restrictions loosened right in time for my birthday and I wasn’t filled with the usual joy and excitement, I was filled with dread and anxiety. I just didn’t want that day to exist, it felt so stupid to even care after all we’ve been through and despite spending months hoping and praying that I would physically get to be with my friends, I almost wanted to just be home and have a lockdown birthday. Now I know, this is an extremely privileged problem, people were worried about basic survival and here I am worrying about my birthday but that’s exactly the point. Maybe having all our basic needs met allowed us to feel more, and in feeling more we felt guilty for even doing so. 

I’m not the only one who feels this way, when I talk to my friends and peers we all to a certain degree are feeling this. We’re so happy to be in the presence of one another again but extremely exhausted at the same time. All of us have faced an immense trauma living through this pandemic. We may not have always indulged the fears, but to a certain degree we were afraid that if it didn’t kill us or someone we loved, it would just never go away. Living for so long with a universal fear is an experience we are not familiar with. We don’t know how to regulate our thoughts or process these emotions. So now that we’re back to living our lives and we know for a fact that there is going to be an end, we are finally able to face the residual emotions from that fear. Maybe we’re going through some kind of collective post pandemic stress disorder. 

This made me wonder, when the global collective is put through trauma what are the long-term side effects? How has it affected our mentality? And will this experience leave lasting effects that we’ll never see coming? If even now we are facing this deep exhaustion, I’m not sure how things are going to play out in the long run. I’m not here for answers, I’m here to put forth my experience in the hope that someone reading this will maybe be feeling the same way. My inability to mediate my wants and needs within these “unprecedented times” may not be just an individual problem but a collective one.

Only time will reveal the effects of all we’ve been through and although I am feeling the exhaustion, I am also feeling relieved. The thought of this past year and a half being a distant memory keeps me hopeful. One day we’ll wake up and not hear the word pandemic again, it’ll be like it never even happened – just a drawn out bad dream.

How have you all been dealing with the ever-changing new normal? Are you feeling exhausted too?

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Being The Eldest 0 638

A love letter to the older siblings who always felt they fell short

In my family, I am the oldest of just two, with there being a fourteen-month age gap between myself and my younger sister. We had an incredible childhood filled with laughter and fun, our parents were kind and present, pretty much all you need as children. For most of my childhood and adolescents, I was constantly reminded of the fact that I was the eldest. I had to set an example for my younger counterpart in addition to always having her back. It wasn’t something that particularly bothered me, it was just the requirements that came with the job.

Only when I was in my twenties did I realise how much this older sibling narrative had weighed heavy on my shoulders. It was a subtle pressure that had been around my whole life and it always made me feel like I had to be strides forward of my younger sibling – I had to be more mature, more put together and have things more figured out in order to be the best at the job I was born into. It had never occurred to me that having this pressure on me, and the expectations that came with it from both my parents and my sibling were almost unfair. Because the fact is, I’m only just over a year older than my sibling. 

Yes, that makes a difference when you’re three years old vs two years old, but not so much when you’re nineteen vs twenty. This standard that I had been held to, especially by my younger sibling had strained our relationship because it was so difficult for me to live up to. She wanted me to be the perfect older sister who had the patience and advice to aid her growth. She wanted me to be the storybook big sis and I always fell short. I felt like I was never mature enough and never knew what the right thing to say was. I wasn’t like the elder siblings you see in movies who are akin to a second mother. I was equally as unfinished as my sibling.

It’s hard for me to mediate this because I understand where she comes from. She too believed the narrative of what having an older sister was supposed to mean. She too didn’t realise that the expectations she put on me were not exactly fair because I wasn’t a sibling who was years older than her with years of experiences to share. I was merely a year ahead. She had friends who were my age, and I had friends who were hers. But we didn’t see those friends the way we saw each other, I saw her as my baby sister and she saw me as her big sister – not people who were just a year apart. 

Even now as adults, this narrative and the experiences that came with it can be tough to manage. I know my sibling hasn’t forgiven me for all my shortcomings growing up and that’s okay. I can understand that those things are harder to let go of because it was something she really believed in and wanted. I sit now at twenty-five and feel like I can finally be the older sibling I wish I could’ve been when I was growing up. I understand myself better and have had the right experiences to be there for her. 

It’s not easy being the eldest, you’re the guinea pig to the parenting style of your mother and father and you’re the example to your siblings. However, I do believe that if you are able to get past the resentment which can come from being the eldest and understand that both parents and siblings are following pre-ordained societal narratives on what you ought to be, you can redefine what it means to be the big brother or sister. You forgive yourself for where you fell short and understand that there is a lifetime to make up for those years where maybe you weren’t ready to step into the role. 

Life is long and if you’re lucky, you can cultivate a relationship with your sibling that is rooted in a deeper understanding of one another. Letting go of the hurt that comes with not being the ideal version of younger, middle or older siblings and accepting one another as they are. Easier said than done because ain’t no one that can push our buttons the way our siblings can. Nonetheless, I believe that if you genuinely want to, these relationships are worth the tears, anger and forgiveness. And maybe then the realisation will come that being the eldest sibling is one of the best jobs you’ve had the privilege of being born into.

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