Thami Kwazi
Lifestyle Print Editor
3 minute read
26 Mar 2020
3:58 pm

Mental health – a personal account of preparing for 21 days in lockdown

Thami Kwazi

For many South Africans who suffer from mental illness, the concern is how they will cope with complete isolation under lockdown. Thami Kwazi speaks to Gosiame Legoale, who lives with bipolar disorder and depression.

Picture: iStock

There is an air of anxiety and uncertainty as tomorrow we begin our 21 days of lockdown.

For many South Africans, it could be an opportunity to get a break, but for some who suffer from mental illness, the concern is how they can cope in complete isolation.

Gosiame Legoale has been diagnosed with manic depression and anxiety, and often has suicidal thoughts, including three previous suicide attempts.

Legoale says one of these attempts was while medicated, and that he is certain it will never happen again.

“Social distancing is the new wave, but for many introverts, this is just a retro take on our everyday lives,” he said.

“We just didn’t have a term for it, so thank you for the contribution.”

He gives a first-hand account of living with mental illness in uncertain times.

“South Africa, like the rest of the world, is facing and attempting to deal with the outbreak of a pandemic, while the axis on which the globe we inhabit continues to do its thing unbothered. I could not come up with a better metaphor, but this is what it feels like being manic depressive, an introvert, and having to have to breathe every day.

“To forcibly tick along, minding my anxiety and act like each rising sun doesn’t bring threats of an existential crisis.

“Then the world decided to have us try Covid-19 on for size, and I did the only thing I could do… buy booze.

“I can only speak for myself but I’m in [a] healthy space: I’m dating in and as much as social distancing and FaceTime will allow. I have daily morning calls with the people that help pay my bills, and I keep my step count up with regular trips to the bathroom and the fridge (this is mostly for the purpose of adding ice to the whisky). So, a routine, a habit, my new normal during these weird times. Importantly and what I don’t take for granted is that this helps give me balance, it keeps me occupied and for a being consistently stuck in a loop of his thoughts amidst a chemical imbalance, this keeps me sane.”

This isn’t to say that regular stresses and anxiety don’t exist, though.

“They do and I’m just as weary and uncertain as the next being. I have to remain cognizant of any change in my moods, manage potential triggers, consistently having to ask myself if my highs are extreme or if my lows are lower than low. I talk to myself and I own that, it’s my way of journaling my thoughts, running through plays and variants of how I imagine many conversations would go.

“My biggest fear during the impending shutdown isn’t the isolation and loneliness, it’s human beings. My greatest fear has always been human beings, so in as much as things change, for a socially awkward ambivalent such as myself, they’ve pretty much stayed the same.

“There is also a quiet comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone in all of this. There are many out there like me and like this pandemic, with a little bit of compassion and selflessness, we can overcome this”.

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