Dear Thelma: Everyone seems fine staying home but I am struggling

  • Mind
  • Sunday, 03 May 2020

I'm an extroverted teenager, and I'm stuck at home due to the MCO. Most people seem to be able to take staying at home very well, and lots of my friends have picked up new skills such as cooking, crocheting and other things. Everyone is making the best of this time, except for me.

My friends and my school were the centre of my life. I'm the leader of a club in school, and I enjoy brainstorming with my members and getting to know them better. I miss my friends, who would always support me and make me feel happy. I even miss my teachers, who would always crack a few jokes in class when we weren't paying attention.

I actually have a very happy temperament naturally – I used to love life and I used to have big dreams for what I would accomplish this year. Now I'm stuck at home, far away from being able to reach my dreams, worrying over my exams as everything is now online. I feel very discouraged, and when I wake up every day I have no motivation to get out and do something.

I've tried getting a hobby (cross stitch, which is going surprisingly well), limiting screen time, and even playing games with my family to feel better. I tried to confess to my mum about my feelings, but she played them off as nothing. I don't blame her, as I'm the only extrovert in the family, and everyone else is perfectly happy being by themselves.

What should I do? When will this end? Is something wrong with me? I really don't want to go on for the next few months feeling like this every day. Please help me.

Missing life

I'm so glad you wrote in because your secret fears are shared by lots of people who are too shy to say so!

We're in the middle of a global pandemic. As part of the fight against disease, we're under voluntary house arrest. That's an incredibly unusual situation, and yet we're pretending as hard as we can that we can deal with it.

Pretending that's we're OK is a good thing because it prevents panic, but it has a downside because it makes it seem as if we shouldn't be anxious.

That's the first thing to unpack: when there's a global pandemic, it's perfectly proper to be anxious.

Second, when there are big changes, we tend to examine our lives. You had a very good time just before the pandemic, as you enjoyed school and had lots of friends. So for you, comparing what was before the MCO and now offers some sadness. You miss how things were.

Again, that's OK.

However, you believe that "Everyone is making the best of this time, except for me". That is very definitely not true.

If you go online, you'll find tonnes of people sharing that they haven't picked up a new language, or written that novel they always talked about.

The thing is, most of us had fantasies about what we might accomplish if given lots of time. Some of us had a go and decided we actually prefer just hanging out. And that's OK! Many more of us have found that we can't enjoy the free time because we are anxious about the future. I suspect you are in that situation.

A few weeks ago, you were happy in school and you knew exactly what you had to do to succeed. The pandemic has interrupted that. For at least the next few weeks, there is no structure, and you don't know what is coming next. That's scary stuff!

Because you're a bit afraid of what happens next, and this fear has been pressing on you for weeks, you've become a bit depressed. Depression is awful because it puts a really nasty twist on your emotions.

Depression is fuelling the false belief that everyone else is doing great and that you're secretly failing.

The truth is that you are coping well and being very sensible but you're a bit down. The best way to talk yourself into a better mind space is to re-frame what is going on.

You're missing school and your friends, which is perfectly understandable. What you should remember is that the MCO is not permanent; it's a temporary measure put in place to protect against a really unusual situation. You will see your friends again.

You're worried about your exams, and that's also understandable. For the next few months, teaching won't be the same. There will be changes.

However, they affect everyone. It doesn't mean that suddenly you won't do well; it just means that things will be a bit different.

You are still going to do well because you are still you. You're the girl who likes to get to know people, who can lead a club, and who enjoys getting along with others. That hasn't changed, and when the MCO is over, you'll slip right back into being a happy extrovert.

Apart from the re-framing, I think you should show this letter to your mum. As you're the family extrovert, she may not have realised the impact of the MCO on you. Go over these points with her so that she can comfort you. Also, ask to play more family games so you feel a bit more connected.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11,46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Please include your full name, address and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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Covid-19 , MCO , stay-at-home , lockdown , depression


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