Carrying On in the Dark and Lonely Hour

by Susie Chege, age 17
Carrying On in the Dark and Lonely Hour Susie Chege is an author-illustrator living in Maryland. While spending her days daydreaming and playing with her dog, Maisie, she constantly dreams of the future where she can create things that will make the world a happier place.

“It was an emotional relief whenever I cried, but at the same time a giant tree breaking from the impact of this storm was at the brink of crushing me.”

Last year, I had many plans. My mom and I had planned to go to Japan sometime during spring break this year, and my excitement was as large as the island nation itself. There would be so many attractions there: sights which cause curiosity to bloom amongst the country’s cherry blossoms; food with delicious scents and tastes that dance into the nose and mouth; and a vibrant culture which awakens even the saddest person with pure felicity. By January, though, COVID-19 had already terrorized multiple countries that included Japan, so my mom was forced to put this destination in the backburner. We thought of other destinations, too—from far-away South America to nearby Boston. But as the demon of a virus spread farther around the globe, one by one these plans were no longer a possibility. Sure, I was sad, but there wasn’t a flood of sorrow in my soul; I still had things I could do around here in my little home in the DMV. Little did I know, however, that COVID-19 would continue to spread its torture across the United States, hurling me into a dust storm of anxiety, sorrow, and insanity.

The reality of this pandemic didn’t hit me until my sister, Jess, made me stay at home. Originally, only my mom and grandma—whose health conditions and ages made them vulnerable to the illness—were forced to stay put, but the fact that I could spread COVID-19 to them forced me to go into lockdown in my own home. I always loved the apartment I lived in since I was born, despite the ice-cold marble floors and germ-infested kitchen that I hated. But the fact that I couldn’t go outside—not even for a simple five-minute walk—soon led my happiness to go into hiding. At some point during isolation, the flood of sorrow that hadn’t been in my body before was now there, and my mind was sinking within it faster than I could say my own name. I couldn’t even bear looking at my beautiful caramel-colored chihuahua, Maisie, who my family and I took home in July 2019. I was with Maisie every single day, and the fact that I was being imprisoned in a jail cell and was falling deeper into sadness made me not love her anymore.

But the sadness wasn’t the worst of this storm. I had anxiety stemming from school pressure long before this pandemic, and the fact that we were trapped in a frightening new era left me in the No-Man’s Land of emotional vulnerability, therefore worsening my condition. The vulnerability came about whenever I heard or thought about the tragedies of this pandemic, such as people dying, hospitals being overwhelmed, and grocery store shelves running empty. That was when the crying fits came. Just the stress of school and hearing pandemic-related things—like not being able to leave the apartment—caused me to shed so many tears, I could have created a raging river in my home. At one point during isolation, I cried once—maybe even twice—a day for a whole week. It was an emotional relief whenever I cried, but at the same time a giant tree breaking from the impact of this storm was at the brink of crushing me. Sometimes, things seemed so hopeless that I considered suicide. The thoughts weren’t new, but the fact that the world was a non-stop raging hurricane just because of a virus made it difficult for me to control myself emotionally, and I believed that the rain would never stop to reveal a beautiful rainbow. And I wasn’t only concerned about my own life. I worried about the people I loved getting COVID-19, such as my mom, who literally saved me from suicide and comforted me in my darkest days; my grandma, who always made me laugh with her Puerto Rican grandma antics and silly jokes; and especially Jess, who’s currently on the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients even as her stress grows exponentially. 

However, as the days went by, the sky began to clear up a bit. Doing things such as listening to music, focusing on personal writing projects—including this essay—and even schoolwork and playing with Maisie (who I’m starting to love again) has brought me some sense of stability. In fact, just cutting out the news from my life has made a huge, positive difference. I am thankful to say that even though I still have my worries, I don’t cry as often now, and the anxiety, sadness, and suicidal thoughts have decreased substantially.

As things continue to improve for me, I have hope for the days ahead. Maybe society will change for the better; love for all will filter the polluted air, and we will appreciate more than ever those who are currently doing so much for us storm-weary people. There will be a day when this virus will reduce to a microscopic minimum, and life will slowly become normal again. I don’t want to give up on life just yet, because I want to be here to experience that day. So until then, I will continue to stay as strong as I can up to the day this storm passes and beyond. And besides, we all have to go through rainy days in life, don’t we?

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