Lockdown – It forced me to seek counselling for the first time in my life

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All was going well in my life until this lockdown happened. I was moving to a better-paid job in a multinational in the first week of April. After working for 7 years in various start-ups, I felt I can finally bury all the insecurities of working in small companies by moving to a multinational. But the lockdown played spoilsport.

I was just a week from finishing my notice period when the lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic was announced. I immediately send mails to my current and new employers. I send mail to my current boss, asking if notice period can be extended. And then I send another mail to my new employer asking if the onboarding can be done online and I can start work on the scheduled joining date. But both my mails went unanswered.

It threw me into a state of panic. If I had been a bachelor, I would not have cared a penny for this lockdown, and would have welcomed this break to stay at home, and binged on movies and books.

But being a husband and a father of a toddler and most importantly, the sole breadwinner, this lockdown send shivers down my spine. I would have still managed with my savings to run the house, but I have EMIs to take care of, and that takes away a major chunk of my monthly income.

I kept mailing both the employers, seeking help. After consistent emails, I finally got a reply from each of them. Their replies were similar, direct and as expected.

“We will let you know.”

Fortunately, I got my salary, and could manage for at least a month. Bu thinking about losing income and how to deal with EMIs and monthly expenses in the next month gave me sleepless nights.

I started searching frantically for part-time and freelance opportunities and all I got was offers that asked me to pay registration fees in thousands to get work. It looked more like a fraud rather than a real work.

I kept trying though. I gave one test after another to grab at least one part-time work.

Luck smiled, but the work offered nothing but peanuts.

I would struggle to get sleep at night. Sometimes, I would just stare blankly at the wall, looking at an uncertain future.

My last boss was not willing or was unable to help maybe, and there was no guarantee my new employer would honour its commitment. And jobs have dried up in markets thanks to the lockdown.

If I opened Linkedin, I would get terrified, checking my wall. Posts of people losing jobs, companies firing left, right and centre, made me even more sickening.

I would check news channels every day, looking for news that would say situation is improving, and people can get back to work now. But every time, I surfed the news channels, I heard more depressing news – “More new positive cases, the numbers have crossed 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000…” –  and the more I saw, the more depressed I became.

My wife was supportive, stating we could borrow from relatives to deal with the crisis, but I have had always been a self-made man, and I have never asked anyone for money. I had financed my post-graduation course with my own savings earned from my previous jobs. Hence, asking money from friends or relatives was out of the question.

I would have to do something, quick and fast, I thought. But I kept dwelling on my helpless condition that led to more frustration for being in a situation that is not at all my fault.

I was almost on the verge of nervous breakdown. And then I came across a poster.

‘Counselling for free amidst lockdown’. I filled up the form immediately and forgot about it.

One fine day, I missed one call and then saw a message, “Hi, I’m your counsellor, you want to talk, call me at 5.30 pm”.

Although I texted yes, I was still not sure if I wanted to talk about it as it means I’m suffering from a mental illness while I used to take pride in being mentally and physically strong.

But something told me inside, let’s give it a shot.

I moved to the balcony to make the call as I didn’t want my wife to know what I was doing or what I was going through.

I poured my heart out to the counsellor. I told the counsellor the lockdown had affected me greatly due to the loss of income. It was making me feel helpless, frustrated, anxious and depressed.

The counsellor told me to first tell myself that it’s not my fault for the current crisis. She told me to be grateful that I at least have an offer that may be honoured by my new company while others are getting sacked, and staring at an uncertain future.

She told me to be grateful that I can have three meals a day and could manage with some help with friends or relatives. She told me it’s no shame to seek help, and asked me to help others in such times.

I felt better after talking to the counsellor and told her, “I would change my attitude and look at things positively.”

I started doing online volunteering, recording audio books for visually challenged people and it made me feel better. I got one more freelance work. I started doing yoga, and cooking dishes for my family.

Although the job situation is still in limbo, I’m no longer the depressed and anxious person. I’m taking one day at time now and imbibing gratitude in my daily life, thanking the almighty for the good life, food, and shelter and promised to do all I could to support my family, even if it means shedding a few of my egos.

This lockdown has definitely made me a better person, and I look forward to the future with optimism.

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