Mental Health COVID-19

Why Empathy Will Keep You Sane During and After COVID-19

A vital way to keep yourself Zen during and post pandemic

“All the world needs now, is love, sweet love”

Is it just me or does anyone else see that in the current and potentially post COVID world, the majority of the people are unable to keep their cool. It’s not that the pandemic itself is the main issue. Vaccines are underway and researchers are working around the clock. No, I’m seeing the trend that humanity as a whole is definitely turning into the tofu generation.

My mother grew up in a post-war era. What this means is that all through my childhood, she would tell me about the time she had to walk miles to school in a pair of sandals being held together with safety pins that slowly peeled her skin as she walked every day. She then continued to tell me how she was unable to buy books for school and in fact, only had one book given by the school which she took notes in and after that book had been filled to the last page, she would have to erase page by page everything she had written to be able to write new materials in the pages. These are just some of her childhood stories which she shared with me. There are plenty more of course such as how she had to wash her clothes in the river and would often encounter river snakes. How she was only allowed to eat one chicken egg in a year. These struggles were not unique to my mother, the entire country went through what she did since it was the post-war era. The government imposed a curfew at night and tanks lined the road. Times were tough no doubt but for some reason, my mother’s generation was more resilient than we are today. Why is that? Could it be that they had a higher EQ and practiced empathy whenever they can?

Hardship is hardship no matter what. But why is it when one person goes through them, nobody cares but when everybody goes through them all of the sudden it becomes a topic of conversation. Does our empathy only apply to large groups and not individuals when in fact it is the individuals themselves that make the group?

When my mother passed, the common sentiment I heard from people was merely “Sorry for your loss”, “We will pray for you” and “Don’t cry too hard, it’s against our religion”. As an only child, you can imagine that losing a mother is literally losing your entire world. Where do I go, what do I do? these are daily questions that I have to deal with. Did anyone feel sorry for me at the time? of course not, everybody was too busy going about their daily lives, attending parties, hanging out with their families, and drinking artisan coffee somewhere. I had loneliness and darkness as my friend.

Nowadays, I see constantly in my news feed, YouTube, and social media about the impacts of loneliness due to social distancing. How mental illness will also be a pandemic on its own. Commercials saying that “even though you can’t be with your loved ones close by, you can be with them virtually”…..again I would like to ask why was it when I was in the dark and everyone I knew spent their time with their families, declining my invitation for a short coffee since they were “busy with family” it was fine, but now when it is literally their turn to go through what I and many other single child or orphans or victims of war have gone through with our darkness, battling our demons, the world expects us to care about those who never cared for us in the first place?

All of the sudden friends who have ignored me for years are reaching out, sending food to my house and these were the same friends who would not give me the time of day pre COVID. In times like these please understand that the orphans, the single moms, the war-torn children, for us, solitude, tranquility, struggle, and pain are no stranger. This is our daily life. And for “a normal person” to all of the sudden be gasping for air because the comfortable suburban carpet and family support are no longer accessible to them please be reminded that when you were busy declining our calls, not returning our text messages and ignoring our emails for better and shinier things, we were harnessing our strength of independence. Which is why I find that those who were considered to have performed poorly during normal social times (a.k.a Pre COVID, staying home every weekend, no family brunches on Sundays) are now thriving in these darker days.

I find that people who never showed any empathy to others are finding it hard to live in the new normal. The social distancing, the limitation of access to places, products, and facilities are slowly killing them like a bird in a glass cage slowly being immersed in water inch by inch. Had people been a little more empathetic and thought “I wonder what it is like to walk a mile in her shoes. What does she feel spending weekends alone with no family? How does she feel not having anywhere to go during the holidays?” How many actually asked those questions? The answer to that would be slim to none. Most would say “oh let me do two or three hours of volunteer work in the orphanage and then go back to my pristine, privileged life” How many actually said “Come to my house for dinner, you look like you can use a family during these times”

I am a firm believer of you get what you give and the saying “Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you”. I saw a woman crying in the hospital once because her loved one just passed, everyone just stood around her, even her own family members and everyone there ignored her despite her sobs piercing through that hallway. So I walked up to her and I gave her a hug. Will I ever see her again? probably not. But I knew what she was feeling. I knew what it’s like to stand in the middle of a cold hospital hallway not knowing what to do, feeling as if somebody pulled your insides out with a pair of tongs and you can’t breathe. Did my hug help her? I hope so. And now in my tranquility that is relabeled as Social Distancing, I have no issues. No anxieties, no uneasiness. What is the new normal for people, have been the normal for me for many years. This is the normal for the orphans around the world, overworked single moms, children in a war-torn country. This is what we have to live with on a daily basis. If more people in the world showed empathy during normal times, then there would be no mental issue in today’s COVID 19 New Normal world because everyone would know how the other half feels and would have known how to thrive in these difficult situations.

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