The virus on our minds | Aysha Taryam - GulfToday

The virus on our minds

Aysha Taryam

@ayshataryam

Editor-in-Chief, Gulf Today News and Media.

Editor-in-Chief, Gulf Today News and Media.

Zayed-Road

Sheikh Zayed Road during the National Sterilisation Programme in Dubai.

As the world continues to fight what has proven to be a universal threat to humanity I shall begin from the end. The coronavirus has been eradicated and after months of fear, uncertainty and isolation the world staggers on its feet once more to assess the damage, to rebuild and reclaim what has been lost. Analysts and statisticians calculate and predict the physical and financial damage that this virus has cost us but what of the immeasurable? The damage inflicted on one’s psyche and its implications on societies across the globe?

That which we have read about in fiction, that mass infliction of pain that the world has been warned of in every holy scripture, has manifested itself during our lifetime bringing the entire globe to a complete halt after centuries of hurtling forward at lightning speed. Humanity has always raced towards an unknown future with a blatant certainty over its outcome. Socio-economic projections and global predictions allowed nations to see fifty years into their future and even when margins of error were factored in, ones that allow for the occurrence of an uncontrollable external factor, these remain nothing more than forecasts that can never account for the worst because at times the worst can be unfathomable, something that one paper would sound fictitious and yet here we are.

Aloneness seems to be the greatest byproduct of this invisible enemy for whether or not a person has been infected the condition is one of separation, a self-imposed isolation. Be it out of fear or guilt you are expected to stop your life in its tracks and confine yourself willingly and against all natural instincts to the walls that house you.

Plagued with a ruthless virus that can infiltrate our lives undetected remaining dormant for weeks before rearing its ugly head, turning any one of us into a contaminant spreading its risks to the ones closest to us. Its strongest hold remains on the weakest of us, the most vulnerable and once it takes over the infected face not only the agony of its symptoms and the uphill battle for survival but they do so knowing that it would have to be done alone with no loved ones to alleviate the pain and death, if it is written, would also happen among strangers with no familiar faces around. This virus is shrewd in its camouflage and unabashed in its cruelty.

Aloneness seems to be the greatest byproduct of this invisible enemy for whether or not a person has been infected the condition is one of separation, a self-imposed isolation. Be it out of fear or guilt you are expected to stop your life in its tracks and confine yourself willingly and against all natural instincts to the walls that house you. This isolation is bound to take its toll on the social creatures that we are, people liken it to imprisonment but what makes this even harder is that one is expected to adhere to it voluntarily. The mental struggle that humanity is going through in order to respect this virus’s wish is no doubt going to have an impact on one’s character the longer it lasts. Social psychologists have likened the effects of COVID-19 to that of the great World Wars for the characteristics are all there down to the sirens and curfews; it is after all a life-altering event that has blanketed the world with uncertainty and an unfathomable restriction on personal freedoms. The ambiguity shrouding this whole crisis makes it all the more difficult for the mind to adjust to, runners can only pace themselves if they know how far the finish line is and yet in this race our finish line is just a prediction, an educated guess.

There is no doubt that the world after COVID-19 will never be the same, it has forced on us a form of survival of the fittest but in this case, it would be the fittest mind which is able to withstand this challenge. This traumatic episode in history is proving to be one twisted psychological experiment on a massive scale, a testing whose effects on the mind will be studied for years to come for we know that after trauma comes the post-traumatic episodes and the world needs to be ready to help those of us who will need to be mentally supported once the worst is behind us. The physical ailments will be cured but the mental ones will linger long after, the young generation growing up through this ordeal will require all the assistance needed to adapt to normalcy once again.

This proverbial wrench in the machine has brought with it some seemingly personal spiritual advantages, ones that come with the immediate removal of distractions. People are learning to slow down, to reevaluate their trajectories in life and to look deeper into the authenticity of the connections they have forged with the people in their lives. One dares to say that only a pandemic of this scale could have slowed down the rat race yet this too will prove beneficial to some of us and a sheer torture to others for the mirror that COVID-19 has forced us to look into is one that has no cracks, it reflects reality in its harshest form and unless we truly look, and come out the other side changed human beings, all this agony would have been for nothing. If you are blessed with your health in these times, then embrace the feelings that you are faced with, try to deal with them for there is a blessing in every tragedy and we must find it in order to endure.

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