Thursday 21 Oct 2021

My tryst with Covid & the importance of mental health

Derrick Pereira | JULY 31, 2021, 09:36 PM IST
My tryst with Covid & the importance of mental health

The past two months have been humbling, to put it lightly. Today I wish to share some experiences and hope something good comes out of it if you are reading this. 

Alike many of my countrymen and people around the world, I had contracted the dreaded Covid virus. It never hits you, till it really hits you, I guess. It started with a hot day when I had drunk a lot of cold water, a pain in the throat and then the dreaded report telling me I was indeed Covid positive. 

All kinds of tests swiftly followed. And then the second big punch. I was told that I was to be immediately hospitalized. 

I have been a strict disciplinarian. Football had ingrained that into me. It had kept me in line all these years and I had always felt strong because of it. All those feelings went out of the window when the ambulance arrived. 

To be honest, it was a kind of a shock to the system. 

Luckily, because of my son’s service in the navy, I was admitted to a naval hospital that had some of the best facilities available. Now, this was a time that the country was wreathing in pain as the second wave of the pandemic. 

I stayed positive, at least as positive as one can be in these situations. However, staying back alone in a hospital bed away from your loved ones does take a toll. All around me were reports of how people were falling like mosquitoes. 

In those moments all kinds of thoughts creep into your head and manifest into something unimaginable. For me, it was the same. 

I started thinking about all the people that I knew that had gone to the hospital to never come back again. To tell you the truth, I was scared. 

If you are reading this somewhere going through the hard times, I want to tell you, this is normal. I am praying for you. You are not alone. 

A few weeks into my fight, I yearned to hear the good news whenever the reports came back. I grew ever anxious. 

I remember the feeling quite well when the report finally came back negative. It was sheer joy. I had not felt like this since - I guess when I cleared my board exams. Not even a trophy in football ever gave me such emotions. I cried in joy. 

A few weeks later, I would be crying again. This time it was not so pleasant

The hits kept on coming

Shortly after I was admitted to the hospital, I had come to know that my mother had fallen ill. It was like a never-ending nightmare for me. 

My mother had been a rock in my life. She never saw me play a game live on the ground. However, I could always feel her presence every time I took to the field. 

In the early days, when sports medicine hadn’t made such advancements, she was my one-man medical team. Her greatest fears were always attached to my injuries. And while I tried refining my game on the pitch, she would go out of her way to know about all the kinds of different herbal remedies that would be available to treat me if needed. 

She was also the first one to greet me whenever I came back from a game - always inquisitive about how my game had gone. On occasions, I would lie just to not have her upset. A loss for me was like a loss for her. 

And here I was, unable to help her in her time of need. The feeling of helplessness is a bad, bad thing.

My mother breathed her last on May 18. I was not able to see her during her final few days.

Like all Goans, coming back home was always special. At heart, in whichever profession we might be in, family is everything. Seeing my mother again would be the crowning glory of my return home time and again.

Stepping back into my home would mean getting back to the people I love, and my mother’s fish curry and rice. That’s something that will always remain special to me. 

It’s not only me. The world is ailing. We have been forced to live in compartments, told to ‘adjust’ to some of the most grieving circumstances. 

We are all humans we have always learnt to live together, in communities, helping each other - with love and support. And these are times when you truly understand the importance of the people around you, the importance of family, friends and the worth of a smile on your face. 

To my mother who was my bedrock, I want to say thank you.  

To the millions, who I have not met and are ailing, you are in my prayers every day. Stay strong. Take care of your mental health. We shall overcome.

(The writer is Technical Director of Indian Super League club, FC Goa)

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