Being forced to distance socially during the covid-19 outbreak has not been as easy as I thought it would be for a socially anxious recluse.

Most of my life has been spent in fear of society, after witnessing the cruelty of humanity. 

As a black, queer woman with mental illness, I fall into marginalised groups that are not only discriminated against, but also forced to do emotional labour for the people that are uninformed (and inexcusably so).

This compilation of taboo traits is a big contribution to my social anxiety. Communicating with people has always been a struggle because of my assumptions of what their judgments may be. 

This leads to anxiety when combined with my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and a lack of self-love.  

Being a student journalist, I have found myself constantly anxious, because of academic pressures, and I rarely get the chance to meditate or enjoy my solitude. I have an attachment to solitude because, in my mind, it equates to a sense of safety. 

Now that we have to exercise social distancing, I imagined that I would enjoy it, because it is well within my comfort zone. However, the feeling is now tainted with the fear that I am not growing as a person, as much as I would if I were at the Wits newsroom. 

I have to learn to drop the unhealthy coping mechanisms that I had adopted in order to mask my anxiety and depression. 

This is a large part of acquiring mental strength and self-dependence without self-isolation.

Meraki Research conducted a survey in the first week of lockdown among all age groups, monitoring the mental health of South Africans during lockdown.

Seeing that this survey was conducted online, the data was representative of a higher income group that is more likely to have internet access, said CEO of Meraki Research Frances MacMahon, in an interview on eNCA on April 6.

“The overall score at the moment is sitting at around 61 out of 100, obviously with 0 being very unhappy and 100 being very happy,” MacMahon said. 

Another finding by Meraki was that people living with their family or living completely alone are more likely to be on the unhappy end of the spectrum, whereas being with a partner or spouse can be seen as a “happy medium”.

This is not true in my case, because I find comfort in knowing that my family is with me during this lockdown. 

I imagine that I would feel more crowded if I was spending lockdown with only a partner, because there would be more of an obligation to socialise with that person. 

Young people tend to be more dependent on their social lives, and according to the Meraki survey, they are finding it difficult to cope during the lockdown.

“We do see that younger individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 are a lot less happy than older individuals, ”MacMahon said.

I was able to strongly relate to this observation, even though I am a recluse, because it feels as though my autonomy has been taken from me. 

Being under lockdown has made me realise that I have taken day-to-day university life for granted. 

When normal university routines commence, I would like to learn to embrace every moment I spend in social and professional spaces, instead of allowing my mind to cripple me.

FEATURED IMAGE: Thobekile Moyo, student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: File