We often put the word “happy” in front of “anniversary”… but not this time. 27 March 2020 seems like a distant memory, even though it was exactly one year ago.
During those 365 days, a lot has happened. Many people have lost their jobs, their businesses, their homes. There was the vaccine saga and the PPE corruption. Many have succumbed to a life of poverty, but most devastatingly, many people have lost their lives.
“Last December was the worst month for [me],” said Jason from Cape Town. “. . . I would never have expected to lose my father to the disease, we took a lot for granted.”
Jason admits that he was at first shocked when he heard of his father Johan’s diagnosis. “…you hear about it and see what it does to people and [their] families, but [you] don’t expect it to hit your family.” Johan was 53 at the time of his passing.
He added, “…there’s a big gap. Everything reminds me of him . . .There’s times I feel lost. I do speak to him each and every day but I just want him to be with us [and be] in our presence.
“The legacy my father left behind is a great one, especially the way he lived his life . . .” Jason proudly stated. “I will never be able to live up to it but… each and every day [I try] to be strong.”
As a nation, our lives are irrevocably changed – the way we interact, work, think and feel. We’ve spent a lot of time isolated from friends and family. We’ve experienced an alcohol and tobacco ban. We’ve been using 70% alcohol sanitiser on our hands (some of us use it on our groceries) and not wearing a mask became a punishable offence.
Like Jason, we all try to be strong in such a difficult time. It is no secret that the pandemic and lockdown has taken a toll on our mental health.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown.
Keegan, also from Cape Town, shared his experience and how his mental health was affected during the lockdown.
He stated that he had “many mini breakdowns.”
He also stated, “I am a very social person who loves seeing their friends and not being able to see them in person just got to me a lot. I’m very talkative so that was hard [too].”
Rhodes University student Jody also shared how her mental health was affected. “I suffer from anxiety. All the uncertainties revolving around the pandemic took a huge toll on me. It made me really anxious, worried and stressed. I didn’t know how to handle it for a very long time. I think it’s only now that I’m able to . . . navigate through it.”
Jody then spoke about the trials and tribulations of transitioning from contact lectures to online learning, something many university students faced. “Adapting and adopting this whole new way of doing things was quite a challenge.
“The environment that I live in wasn’t always conducive for me to do my work… There were cases where there was no network. There was a case where my laptop broke. If I was on campus . . . I wouldn’t have had to stress . . .”
Jody also shared what it is like to be a resident of a small town such as Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) during a national lockdown. “We constantly have loadshedding and watershedding which is a problem, especially seeing that we are supposed to be washing our hands at all times… How do they expect us to do that if there’s no water?
“There would be times when… the municipality would send water trucks to give us water. Everybody would be [gathering at the trucks] and there would be absolutely no physical distancing.”
Even though there have been hardships this past year, our fellow South Africans continued to persevere. With the vaccine in full effect, there is a sense of hope for not just our country but for the world too.
“…things will get better. It might not be now, it might not be next year . . . but it will get better, eventually,” stated Jody.
For now, let’s continue to keep the faith, wear our masks and sanitize.