Fear, anxiety, uncertainty, guilt, helplessness - these are the emotions we all have been experiencing ever since coronavirus hit the world.
We thought 2020 was bad given the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, but 2021 has been a nightmare for many of us. India has been worst affected by the second wave of COVID, with thousands dying and hospitals facing severe shortage of medical oxygen, beds and medicines.
The Quint spoke to few celebrities - Genelia D'souza Deshmukh, Sameera Reddy, Shweta Tripathi, Dhvani Bhanushali, Vipul Roy - who shared their lowest moments during the pandemic.
"Toughest Part was Being Alone" - Genelia Deshmukh
Genelia and her family left Mumbai last year when the lockdown was imposed. They didn't step out, took all the necessary precaution but still Genelia tested COVID positive. The actor and a mother of two tells The Quint that the first few days she was just in shock.
"When I had COVID, I was in absolute shock because I thought I had taken all the necessary precautions. We had left Mumbai and gone to the village. I was in the house and I still contracted it. For the first couple of days, I was just in shock because I had no symptoms at all. But I had to be in isolation, obviously."
She talks about what was the toughest part during these difficult times.
"For me the toughest part was to be alone at home. I felt my house would fall apart, I was wondering what my kids would do. They are small, they were doing their classes online and I would wonder how they would manage without me. And then I would thank God every day that I didn't have any symptoms. But I found isolation really, really, really tough. At times I felt, 'What's going on? I wish I could see my children. I wish I could see my husband.' You know, all of these things".Genelia Deshmukh, Actor
Genelia says it was only because of her friends and husband Ritesh she could deal with the quarantine period.
"At the same time you don't want to meet anyone and spread the infection. I got COVID last year and at that time there was this huge stigma surrounding the virus. People were just abandoning their own and not wanting to help. You felt like you've done a crime. And the whole thing is, you don't know how to deal with it. I was isolating for 21 days. During those three weeks, I had a friend call me at different times of the day and Ritesh call me throughout. That really helped me go through those 21 days. In normal circumstances when we're alone and sick, we always want the comfort of our loved ones. But with COVID, you really don't get that. So I think it aggravates the sickness."
The actor adds that even after recovering there's a lot of fear and anxiety.
"When things were getting a little better there was so much of fear, anxiety. So much of your day is spent by worrying. And there's no way out. Everyone is going through a similar thing. Someone like me, if I'm at home, I'm constantly worried - 'Are my kids okay? Are my parents okay?' My dad is is a three-time cancer survivor so I'm always worried. My mother-in-law, she's alone. There is this constant battle that you are fighting. I just feel that we should be there for our loved ones in whatever way we can. And when I say this, I don't mean that you put your guard down.Genelia Deshmukh, Actor
"Dealing With Constant Fear & Anxiety" - Sameera Reddy
Sameera, her husband and two kids shifted to their Goa farmhouse when the second wave hit India. However, some time back Sameera announced on social media that all four of them had contracted the virus. The actor tells The Quint what followed next.
"On the 19th day, which was this weekend (1-2 May), my body just shut down. I think for the past three weeks of trying to be strong, I was fighting physically as well as mentally. When both the kids were diagnosed with COVID at the same time, we did not sleep for nights. Despite knowing that both me and Akshay are coming down with the virus, we didn't let it get to us. Nobody could help us also because you have to stay in isolation. Added to that was the constant fear and anxiety looming over us. Both my parents live in Mumbai, and with the oxygen crisis deepening everyday, I felt helpless that I wasn't being able to help people around me".
Sameera adds how she felt after recovering.
"I went through such a gamut of emotions that when I recovered I just broke down. Because I almost felt guilty. I kept asking myself, 'Are you doing enough?' It caught up with me later because for almost three weeks Akshay, the children and I recovering from COVID affected me a lot. I cried a lot. Imagine the stress".Sameera Reddy, Actor
Acknowledging that it is an extraordinary situation, Sameera says that though she was trying to keep herself occupied through her recovery period there were times when fear, uncertainty would catch up on her and increase her anxiety.
"I am such a positive person, and through the quarantine I was trying to reach out to people. I got so many parents worried because I think I was among the first to speak about COVID in kids. A lot of people were reaching out to me. Throughout my recovery period I was trying to collate information, making fun content, but eventually the stress caught up with me. For the first time I broke down. This whole weekend I just sat down and reassessed my behaviour, because no matter how strong you are this is an extraordinary situation".
The actor continues by saying that it is okay to let go and not try too hard to put up a brave front.
"Everybody is feeling this pressure and everyone is being affected somehow or the other. At times like these, you have to allow yourself to go through and address the deep-rooted fears. Because if you are trying too hard to put up a brave front that can be detrimental".Sameera Reddy, Actor
Praising the volunteers and other people who are going out of their ways to reach out to people, Sameera says that just trying to keep afloat is also okay during this crisis.
"There are a lot of people trying their best to help those in need and reaching out in their own ways, so this is not the right time to judge anyone. Even if you are just staying afloat I think that's also something you have to respect. We are all playing our parts, we are all trying to give back, but we are all going through this deep sense of grief. People should be allowed to go through it".
"Self Counselling is the Best Counselling"- Shweta Tripathi
Actor Shweta Tripathi, who tested COVID positive in February, shares how she got it and how it started taking a toll on her.
"I was shooting at Madh Island and on my way back my body just told me that I am positive because I have never felt like that before. At that point I just wanted to get home. Reaching home I checked the temperature and it was fine, so I thought it was the exhaustion because I was shooting after so long. Then at night I came down with fever, and immediately got tested the next day. Even before the results came I quarantined myself. We don't know where we got it from but few of my friends also contracted the virus. We had gone to a restaurant and all of us tested positive. One good thing was I had friends in this. We weren't staying together but were constantly checking on each other".
Shweta says that during isolation she felt terribly low at times.
"I also had my breakdown moments. It happened during the time I tested positive. One of my lowest moments was the isolation. I love staying alone, but when you can't get out of your room, when you are watching content or reading books because there is nothing else to do that gets to you. Because I don't like to be told that you can't do this, you can't do that. The fourth day of isolation was really bad. But self-counselling is the best counselling".Shweta Tripathi, Actor
She emphasises on the fact that one needs to take cade of their own mental health during these difficult times.
"Your cast, sex, age nothing can save you. Everybody is on the edge. Of course, a lot of people are helping out but at the same time it's very important to protect your own peace of mind and concentrate on your own mental health. So do as much you can but don't burn out in the process."
"Feared I Won't Be Able to Recover" - Vipul Roy
TV actor Vipul Roy, who tested positive on 1 April, speaks about the physical pain that he went through and the fear of never recovering from this infection.
"In one word it was nerve cracking. After 2020 was over, & people who didn’t get it till then (including me) thought they won’t get it. We thought either our immunity is so strong that we had COVID and didn’t even know about it or there's no chance of it happening now. Then when I contracted COVID, it shook the whole system. I had fever and pain like I never had before. My face turned a pale yellow and the weakness was such that I had to make an effort to even move my hands".
"It was a difficult time. The fear of not able to recover was paralysing. I can say that the anxiety & fear to fall sick is very much there now. People are losing their near & dear ones. It’s a different kind of sadness mixed with fear, anxiety, confusion".
Talking about the after-affects of coronavirus and the uncertainties Vipul says,
"It’s been over a month now for me, but the energy is still low & I am experiencing a lot of unusual things. Doctors say it will take time to recover. But the question is how sure can doctor be? This is a new virus for everyone."
I Remember Being Extremely Scared with My Thoughts: Dhvani
Popular singer Dhvani Bhanushali shares the times when her whole family tested positive and how music helped her heal.
"Last year, my sister & parents had tested positive for COVID-19 and honestly, it was one of the toughest times for me. I used to pray to God each day to make them better and hope that they would be okay. I remember being extremely scared with my thoughts, which were racing to the unthinkable and I had never felt so helpless before."
It's really difficult to put words to the emotions I experience at the time. I used to talk to them from the hall and keep them company, while there were many a times where it simply got lonely. It was easily one of the toughest times that I have had to go through in life and I thank god each day for making my family recover from the virus.Dhvani Bhanushali, Singer
"It was during this phase that music played a key role in bringing peace to my thoughts, kept me positive and motivated. It was one thing to say to be positive and a whole other to actually be positive and apply it to life. It is difficult but not impossible & we all just need to have faith in God, take care of our loved ones and take immense precaution."