Coping with COVID Away from Home

When I first left my home country to come to the United States I was not sure what exactly to expect. I was about to start a new chapter in my life. I was both nervous and excited, a feeling that somehow reminded me of Jonas in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, but I wasn’t afraid. Home, the Commonwealth of Dominica, was only a plane ride away, I had nothing to fear and was enjoying the opportunity given to me. I was so happy when I started university at DePaul, I finally had an idea of the direction of my life, what I wanted to do, granted I had to keep editing bits and pieces here and there. I was content. This isn’t to say that it was without ups and downs, even though I was happy in Chicago, I still missed home. 

The summer before I started school I went back home for some well needed TLC and was happy to be surrounded by family and friends. I went to the beach almost every single week, enjoyed my mother’s home cooked food, and spent some quality time with my grandaunt whose health had begun to fail. Dominica is so much a part of who I am, that at the time I could not imagine not ever being able to return whenever I needed. This last winter break I returned home and surprised my mother, who thought she would not have seen me that year. It was such a refreshing time for me. I had originally planned to work part time at the pharmacy I use to work at but I decided against it, instead taking this time to relax after a very difficult quarter. 

I had long struggled with anxiety and depression and had begun seeing a therapist to help manage the way I was feeling especially with the added pressure of university. It was nice to speak with someone and not have to keep the way I was feeling constantly bottled up. When I’m home, my mother, though far from a licensed therapist, would always listen as well, making me feel heard and validating the way that I feel. I was able to return to school for the winter quarter, refreshed, re energized and ready to tackle work ahead. Things were going great till March. I had been monitoring the progress of COVID-19 not just in the United Stated but in the Caribbean as well. At the time, there was nothing to be too concerned about. If everyone adhered to the suggestions by those in charge, things shouldn’t be too bad I thought. But as the number of cases began to rise I wasn’t so sure anymore. 

Now DePaul had closed its doors and told students to not return in the spring. I was faced with two choices, stay in the United States, or go home. I wanted to choose the latter but I also wanted to assess the situation. There was no straight flight from Chicago to Dominica, I had to pass through several COVID hospots and wanted to make sure that I would not catch it because I have underlying health issues. I started to put things in place and decided to travel, however, as airports in the Caribbean began closing I had to be constantly re-planning the routes I would take. Three days before I was to travel, Dominica closed its borders to everyone. The reality set in that I now had to deal with this pandemic 2,403 miles away from home. 

The first couple weeks were not fine if I’m being honest, I was worried and anxious, sad, distraught, every negative word under the sun! And my feelings were valid! It’s hard not being anywhere near a support system in these trying times, however after weeks of sulking, I realised that the world was still going on around me. I didn’t want to stay in a time lapse montage anymore. I began calling my mother and other family members more frequently. My friends and I soon began coming up with ways to make up for this distance. We started playing online games while on call with each other and having movie nights or even just chatting. Without these types of activities, I don’t know how I would have been able to make it through thus far. As the days began to blur together I began making a schedule and setting mini goals for myself throughout my day.

Some days are harder than others, but I try to approach each day with a positive mindset.I also incorporate self care into my schedule weekly, and have learned to listen to my body when I’ve been overworking myself or worrying too much. Practicing mindfulness, breathing techniques, and just reaching out to people who have been willing to listen have been very beneficial to me during this time. I was already planning to go home in the summer but I don’t know if that’s possible anymore, so now I’m just waiting but keeping a positive mindset.

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