Guilt, the Overlooked Effect of COVID-19

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COVID-19. The virus which has disseminated across the globe in a fashion never before seen or imagined. The symptoms, akin to the typical common cold but the effects - life-threatening. The ripples that the novel coronavirus will leave on our planet will be felt for generations to come. It’s a point in time that individuals will look back and ask each other. “Where were you when the world went into lockdown?” For me, that answer is India. To read my journey from escaping the pandemic in India click here.

Since returning and being out of self-isolation for around two weeks now, I’m adjusting to the western world. As expected life over here has continued, the friends that I have reconnected with from high-school and university have been through their life journeys in the time I’ve been gone. Hence I am acutely aware I can’t treat them as the people I knew a year ago. Instead, it’s like reconnecting with old colleagues that I haven’t seen in a long time.

It’s a confusing situation to be in. One, due to having not spoken to people in person that I have an existing relationship with for a year. Two, my eyes recognise these people are my friends but also acknowledge the subtle new nuances to this individual, which feels like I’m getting to know the person all over again.

Just last Friday I went out with some of these friends to a shisha lounge. Ecstatic to be able to catch up further in an intimate setting, to dive into the nitty-gritty of what they had been up to and reminisce over some of the good times we had before I decided to pack my bags and head off to India. While chatting away, I found myself having an out-of-body-experience. A wave of guilt overcame me. I wondered why I had the stupidity to be in a shisha lounge in the middle of a pandemic. Which is possibly one of, if not the, worst place you could be—a melting pot of germs that can quite easily be caught in a single breath. Looking around to see if anyone had realised the danger that we were all putting ourselves in.

I’m now grappling with the compulsion to leave the house. While I do want to catch up with my friends, the convenience of being able to visit people, puts my family at risk. Having already lost my grandfather recently, I’m not sure how I would cope with the death of another family member. In addition to this, I realise a significant number of the people in the UK aren’t accepting this pandemic is life-threatening, treating the situation we find ourselves in as if it’s normal.

Yet on the flip side, I keep comparing the situation in England to India, where the chances of catching COVID are significantly higher, the sheer number of people, resulting in their daily number of cases being 78,512 compared to the UK’s 1,406 according to Google's COVID-19 alert (at the time of writing). But maybe I’m wrong to compare, and I should be assessing the landscape of the pandemic respectively before I make a reckless decision to return to an extended self-isolation for the foreseeable future. I also consistently find myself asking, doesn’t life have to go on. I should be able to venture out of my home to rekindle friendships, without having to second guess everywhere I go and everything I touch and everyone I see. Right?

Whenever I’m asked if I want to meet up, I have to negotiate with myself to assess if the risk is tolerable. But by choosing to go out, I have to cope with the mental toll this incurs. To say I’m just existing at this point in time would be correct, and I hate merely existing. It’s a horrible feeling of self-entrapment, as life passes you by. To me, it would seem I’m at a crossroads, where I can choose to have happiness now in the form of in-person friendships but risk the wrath of COVID. Or, settle into the new normal as I had done in India and rediscover my relationships utilising the wealth of digital channels we have.

Whichever I choose, one thing is sure.

It’s imperative to banish the guilt weighs on my conscience to do more than simply exist in these unprecedented times.

Do you feel a sense of guilt in the pandemic? Let me know in the comments or drop me a message on any of the following social networks. I would love to hear from you! — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, Youtube.