Having spent a total of 47 days in quarantine this year, I feel qualified enough to write this article. A lot of studies have been done to understand the physical implications of contracting covid but not much has been spoken about covid’s evil twin- quarantine. Just like covid physically drains you, quarantine drains you mentally. At a time when you need your loved ones the most, you find yourself left to fend for yourself. Of course, it's not so dramatic; your friends and family are still there for you and care for you…. but only from a distance. You have everything you need, no doubt- your favorite foods, unlimited freedom to watch Netflix without mourning the loss of productive hours which could have been put to better use, liberty to ask for an extension on any/all deadlines, and to say anything to anyone and get away with it cause well you have covid and last time I checked we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. But trust me, playing the victim card gets old, and soon these perks start to weigh you down heavily; you start thinking that you have no right to be angry or upset because you have everything you need while countless others don’t have the same privilege as you to heal and recover in a safe environment. It's the same as feeling guilty about wasting food while millions starve in your country, except it is much more profound because so many of your friends, family, or acquaintances have lost their lives and livelihoods due to this virus and you’re whining about staying in your room for a couple of weeks. As most mothers would argue- "How many times did you even get out of your room anyway."

I am in no way taking my privilege for granted but my only purpose of writing this article is to share some of the emotions I experienced during quarantine to remind those currently going through it that we can be in this together while being alone, and that all your emotions and feelings while dealing with this unfortunate and awful situation are VALID. During my two stints with covid, I experienced a host of emotions but mostly, I just felt really helpless. There were days when I’d wake up and all I wanted to do was to go out and feel the wind on my body and sunshine on my face. I never thought I would crave something so basic. My second time in quarantine was particularly stressful because I spent a total of 33 days at one go while being away from home. Days and nights all felt the same, merged into a very long day that just wasn’t getting over. I thought about going home and didn't even care about missing out on the campus life I had been craving for so long but then I realized that I didn’t really miss anyone at home, at least not as much as I should have anyway. On the one hand, it’s been a month, but on the other hand, it feels like just yesterday that I saw my friends and family because while they have been getting on with their lives, for me it's been like living different versions of the same day over and over again since then.

So in my experience, getting through quarantine is a five-stage process just like getting through grief cause let’s be honest, what can be more sorrowful than being trapped alone with your thoughts for weeks on end.

STAGE 1 - “I’m positive phase,” a.k.a ACCEPTANCE

Maybe you got the test done as a precaution and had the good fortune of not experiencing any symptoms, or maybe you started experiencing symptoms first and got the test done for confirmation. Either way, when you see the positive flash in your test report, there’s no denying that you have the virus. There’s legit a scientific document proving it, and at first, you don’t entirely mind being positive because everyone is just so much nicer to you now that you have covid. Concerned parents and friends reassure you that you will get through this and they’re there for you in case you need anything. Your mother doesn’t even seem to mind your online shopping addiction anymore and entertains all your absurd food requests while dad is constantly checking up on you and siblings are instructed to be nothing but kind. It seems like a good bargain considering all you have to endure is mild muscle aches and a fever or two. Added bonus: you get to tell your future kids that you were one of the fortunate ones to survive the biggest pandemic of this century yet.

STAGE 2 - “I'm going to get a new hobby phase,” a.k.a BOREDOM

So you’ve binge-watched whatever the trending show on Netflix was and even rewatched all your favorite movies, you’ve also started reading a new novel to make up for the death of countless brain cells lost during aimless scrolling on Instagram... so now what. You try to do the most obvious thing - get a new hobby or cultivate a new skill. Painting, learning a new dance routine, practicing origami, taking an online course in your area of interest will all seem really interesting at first but if you’re like the majority of us, after a while doing these things just won’t give you the same satisfaction. What’s the joy in painting if your mom doesn’t interrupt you midway to give her suggestions and you can’t show your pieces to your friends or family and see their reaction in person? What's the joy in taking an online course if you can’t share your learnings with anyone or reward yourself afterward by going out for coffee with friends? These pursuits are supposed to fill up your free time but what do you do when all your time is free.

STAGE 3 - “Wait.. the world hasn’t stopped because I am stuck in a room phase,” a.k.a ANGER WITH A HINT OF FOMO

You call up your friends to distract yourself from the endless myriad of negative thoughts cluttering your brain, and as they describe their day, you come to the realization that the world around you hasn’t stopped. Just because you’re stuck in a room doesn’t mean others aren’t getting on with their lives. Sure they feel sorry but what can anyone really do except feel sorry. They try to console you by saying, ”I understand what you’re going through…”, it doesn’t matter how the sentence ends, but that particular string of letters is enough to pierce through your soul and send you into a blinding rage because no one could possibly understand what you’re going through after all they haven’t been trapped in a room for the same number of days as you. They still get to see their family in person and touch and hug them, they still have the freedom to go out for a walk to clear their head whenever they want, they still get to be around people instead of watching life pass by through their windows. Every time someone shares details of their day with you, it feels like a mockery- like being described an eight-course buffet meal when you haven’t eaten in days. Even though you know your friends and family want what’s best for you, you find yourself withdrawing from them. The second time I contracted covid and was informed that I would have to spend 17 days in isolation, the first thing I did was block my parents and friends. I just couldn’t bear the thought of hearing their pitiful words because I knew no matter what they said, nothing was going to change the fact that they get to be outside and live their lives while I am stuck… again.

STAGE 4 - “Why did this happen to me phase” a.k.a REGRET

You’re likely to redirect all your rage into rearranging the furniture in your room. When I was quarantined for the second time in my college hostel I noticed that almost everyone stuck in quarantine with me at one point of time or another ended up doing this. The physical release of pushing around heavy pieces of furniture in your room surprisingly acts as an excellent outlet for anger. Now that you’re exhausted and left with a new arrangement of furniture pieces that don’t really make sense, you decide to target the one person who has stuck with you through literally every situation in your life no matter how good or bad- yourself. You start retracing the entire chain of events that ended up with you being locked in this room and start cursing yourself for sharing food with a friend who later turned out to be positive or using the metro the one day you were very late or attending your friend's wedding function all the while knowing that the threat of the virus still persisted. “You are in quarantine because of your own actions and no one else’s”, you’ll say this and other such rubbish things to yourself before realizing that this could have happened to anyone else and then a small part of you will also wonder that why didn’t it happen to someone else, why me? At this point in time, you’ll notice and ponder over the interconnectedness of one's actions and how our lives are inextricably intertwined with those around us and other such things. An existential crisis is likely to follow soon after this.

STAGE 5 - “It’s just a couple of days more, right” a.k.a BARGAINING

You realize that there is nothing that can be done and you’re just going to have to get through it so you try to trick your mind into thinking that everything is alright by setting up a routine you can follow, and eventually one fine day you aren’t pretending anymore. You make peace with the remaining number of days you have left and try to make the best of the current situation. Any/all symptoms you experienced have likely gone by now and you know you have recovered. You’ll most likely try to negotiate the remaining days you have left in quarantine with your captor which will, in all probability, prove to be futile leaving you somewhat frustrated. But nevertheless, you try to get back to your normal life as much as possible- catching up on your work and with friends, making plans for all the things you’re going to do once you’re finally out. You’ll also experience a fleeting moment of appreciativeness for the time you got to spend by yourself because under normal circumstances you never would have gotten time for this kind of extended self-introspection which really helped you put things in perspective. You clean yourself up and get ready for the freedom that awaits you on the other side.

Currently, I am in the last and final stage of this process, still waiting to experience that fleeting moment of gratitude. I think it’ll probably take a while considering it’s very hard to look on the bright side when you just spent a month of your life in a room due to mismanagement on some other people’s part but nevertheless I got through it. This experience also reminded me of a very important lesson I had forgotten over the years, “At the end of the day, all you really have is yourself”, and I don’t mean that in a morbid way rather in the most beautiful way possible. If anything, this experience has helped me get to know myself better, and if for nothing else, for this I am grateful. 

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