I did not lose a loved one.
I did not lose a friend.
Yet, COVID has forever changed me in ways that I cannot even begin to rationalize.
I feel old — my body, my soul, my heart.
It has been one year since I have hugged my parents.
It has been one year since I have hugged my sisters.
It has been one year since I have hugged my nephews and nieces.
How many lost memories, how many birthdays not celebrated, how many dinners not shared? The list can go on and on. How much loss: Lost jobs, lost incomes, lost businesses, lost classrooms, lost lives.
The daily death toll still nears 2,000 per day. However, this staggering statistic is not even a part of our daily headlines anymore; instead, I fear that some of us have started to become desensitized to the numbers. How can this be OK? How have we reached the point where over 530,000 people have died within our country alone? The numbers make me sick.
They make me sick with fear.
It is the fear that haunts me.
The fear that COVID is always lingering, hiding in the shadows, ready to pounce at any moment. Even with proper PPE, even with vaccinations, and even with the potential to reach herd immunity — I just cannot shake the fear.
Will I bring it home? Will I give it to my kids? Will they be okay? How long can I “safely” spend time with my parents? Is it really okay for my kids to hug their grandparents?
I know children who have lost their parents.
I know children who have lost their grandparents.
I know parents who have laid next to their children in hospital beds for days – terrified of the possibility that their child may have contracted the mysterious and potentially lethal post-COVID inflammatory syndrome.
Kids are suffering.
Teenagers are suffering even more.
Parents are suffering.
While the COVID pandemic may eventually leave us, the mental health pandemic will undeniably rage on. Depression, anxiety, and suicides continue to rise with no end in sight — with access to equitable mental health services still a struggle versus a right.
First-line responders, health care workers, and all essential personnel are suffering. We are fatigued. We feel defeated. While we remain grateful for our daily lives, we cannot muster enough energy to live each day with sufficient joy and enthusiasm.
When will this end?
Will it ever end?
Will we ever be able to go back — really go back?
These are my questions.
These are my fears.
And still, I remain hopeful.
Angela Mukherjee is a pediatrician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com