here is a bloody stain on my perfectly white wall. An accident happened. I was not drunk or drugged, I was just in a state of absolute and morbid desperation. It was around 11 a.m. when I finally crawled out of bed. My movement didn’t resemble a human’s.
For a few weeks now I have been more like a beaten animal crippled by a cruel owner. Deprived of the basics: water, food, circulation, human contact, touch, and, most important, hope.
I walked to the wall, where I had hung a special calendar. It was a present from my favorite employee.
It was large enough that I could list work events three months in advance. Since the lockdown I tried to avoid looking at it, because it represented everything I’d lost. All the flights I didn’t take, all the meetings I didn’t attend and all the money I have not made. The life I had built up against all internal and external odds.
Through tears I looked at all the wasted days behind and ahead of me. I gently took the calendar off the wall, folded it, and put it on the table. Then something snapped inside me. I felt an unknown, hostile energy coursing through my veins, a cold fire. All the anger I had toward the ignorant, the politicians, toward clueless doctors and indoctrinated society, came welling out like an avalanche down a mountain. By then I was hitting the wall so hard it seemed like my life depended on the blows. I felt no pain when I bled, so I kept striking the wall until I heard a crack, after which I was overwhelmed by pain. With my back to the wall, I slowly slid down to the floor and let the heavy tears flow. I was relieved, if just for a moment. Finally, my physical pain matched my inner one. I could touch it, taste the bitter blood mixed with salty tears.
I wrapped my hand gently with kitchen towels and band-aids, popped a few ibuprofens and drove myself to a private clinic. Thank God and Americans for inventing automatic transmission. The weather was sunny and beautiful, and finally there were more people on the streets. Whenever these people felt no one was looking, they’d take off the alien masks and ignore social distancing. Some were kissing and hugging. After so much time, some normality, I said to myself. But your life will never be what it was, it will never be normal, a voice whispered into my ear. It was right.
I parked at the private clinic.
My car, a Volvo lacquered the color of sophisticated anthracite, looked like it had just left the showroom. This is the life I am losing. From now on I will be depending on public health care and transport. Perhaps a 9-to-5 job I always dreaded. I pressed the cracked knuckle bones, so again physical pain could take over.
A friendly young doctor took care of me. I had two knuckle fractures, one was nearly entirely broken. He evened them out using a metal plate and put a soft cast around the injury. What happened, he asked, looking me straight in the eyes. Somebody did it to you? I looked straight back at him and said: No, I did it to myself. Should I call a psychologist? No, thank you, I am not sick, I am just grieving.
That is not completely true, though. I know it, he knew it, but we left it there. He asked me to wait and brought a prescription for Xanax from his friend next door, a psychiatrist. I also got heavy painkillers, which I used to take to calm myself down at stressful moments.
I have always struggled with my mental health, that should be clear by now. But I’d find ways to function in the day-to-day world. I never believed in therapy, I saw it as intellectual and emotional prostitution. I didn’t want to be the client. Figuring it out on my own terms was a matter of pride. Success drove me, money eased the existential pain, anxiety made me forget about the darkness inside me. I was never a natural born winner, hardly a conqueror like my businesswoman mother, but I managed and this gave me inner strength. Now, faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, I have turned into a shadow of a human being.
The lockdown damaged my company and shattered my mental health to the point that I can no longer recognize myself. I am also suffering from neurological problems like blurred vision, constant and pulsating migraines that I have never before encountered. Sometimes I can hardly move and I hardly leave the bed, even if I’m thirsty. I am losing the thread. I forget words.
We need to save lives, we need to save lives, we need to save lives. That is the line I have heard and continue hearing. The medical experts repeat it. Commentators harp on it.
But what about my life?
I know I am a drop in an ocean of collective pain. Every day the news broadcasts horrifying stories from mental institutions. In some cases, patients who’d been in group therapy were suddenly locked up in their rooms and were forced to continue on Skype. The daily contact with the therapist and other patients was disturbed and months of treatment erased in a second. Some of them were making great progress, they were feeling safer, less disturbed. Many psychologists and psychiatrists say the forced confinement has ruined much of what they’d worked months, even years, to accomplish. The coronavirus will not kill these people, depression will.
But the lockdown is not only ruining the health of the already mentally disturbed. Healthy people can also start falling apart. Young people of 20 may suddenly acquire joint pain, cheerful teenagers become despondent, beautiful women get acne out of the blue. My mom has a friend who is a renowned doctor, a professor at the Warsaw Medical University. She told her that her husband, a journalist, and their 23- year old daughter, a medical student, are physically crippled. She was the only one leaving the house. The difference between them is that they are shuttered.
The mental contamination became worse than the disease. Deadly perhaps.
I wonder if the politicians and doctors who prescribed this remedy will ever come to apologize for the damage they have done. Or will they continue their stories about how every life must be saved? Well, sirs, you have undone mine, for sure, so add me to your death toll. I hope you are proud of yourselves.