By Fajar binti Benjamin

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“Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it: it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.”

–  Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

For 7 weeks now, we have been under the Movement Control Order. Some of us are stuck in residences crowded with housemates whom we barely know and managed to avoid for years before this. Some of us are stuck alone without a single soul to judge us as we waltz around the communal area in only a towel. Some of us are at home, either cooking and baking – having the time of our lives; or hiding away from toxic interactions, praying for escape. Some of us are taking the time to learn new things, while some of us are having trouble finding any meaning to waking up in the morning. The situation for every person is unique in its challenges and pleasures.

There is one thing we all have in common, though. We’re all thinking about how things could’ve been. Whether it’s, “this time last year I was…” or “right now I’m supposed to be at…” or “now I will never get to…,  the grief of our individual lost plans weighs upon us, on top of the concern we have for the COVID-19 victims and frontliners. After all, we’re only human, and it’s not something to be ashamed of.

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It is not a good time to have poor mental health. Anxiety, depression, OCD, and all the shades in between are easily triggered in the best of circumstances, let alone the worst. 

My own experiences remind me of how everyone else is struggling. I was standing in a grocery store, alone, next to an empty pasta sauce shelf, desperately trying to pull myself together against the wave of panic I could feel threatening to overcome me. The overhead speakers were replaying the same message over and over again: “Please speed up your shopping time as a courtesy to the customers waiting outside”. The products I couldn’t find on my two-paged shopping list, my mum in the car outside, the narrow aisles, the harsh lights, the one-hour queue I just waited through, and the mask obstructing the freedom of my breath… I wanted to curl up in a ball on the floor of that aisle and lose myself to the wave. 

Necessity drew me out of the spiral in that instance. But when I reached home, it started once again. Intrusive thoughts, the feeling that I’m not handling this as well as I should be, the tears and the weights in my chest that come with it. No matter how much I rationalised with myself that everyone is struggling, and that many people have things much worse, the despair is just quicksand: the more I struggle, the more it drags me down.\


“Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.”

–  Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


So what helps? What can we do to stay out of the dark recesses of our minds? Video calling friends? Drinking as much Dalgona beverages as humanly possible? Endless distraction in work, TV, and games? 

They work like a bandaid over a wound that needs stitches. 

I read the book Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, and the answer came to me. Jane Eyre overcomes the endless tragedies in her life through a mixture of faith in a higher power, and faith in herself. She takes each challenge as a test from God that holds its own meanings and benefits, no matter how distant those benefits may be. And she respects herself, even when she’s in despair and destitute upon the doorstep of others. This keeps her strong. And this is what has kept humans strong for millions of years.

Science says religion is good for your health. But what aspect of religion? I believe that the main factors are the communal spirit we share with our fellow believers, the rituals that give meaning to our actions; and most importantly, the trust that everything that happens, happens for a reason. 

With faith, we can find solace in the silver linings COVID-19 has brought about: the largest ever reduction in carbon emissions, the acts of kindness, small and big that have been displayed by individuals across the globe, the amazing work of our leaders in the health sector (barring a certain warm water person). the humour we find in these trying times, the torrents of rain that scent our rooms with petrichor. 

The beginning of the end is near. And by that, I’m referring to how this Monday, all businesses were permitted to reopen in Malaysia. And we may be seeing more and more restrictions lifted as we roll into the festive season. We will still have to practice social distancing measures for several months to come, but for better or worse, the isolation period seems to be drawing to a close.

As this chapter in our lives ends, we must aim to come out wiser, stronger, more appreciative of our blessings and cautious of our footprints. We must come out with perspective, and there’s no better perspective than one that is full of self-love and communal love. So find your faith, in yourself and in whatever you believe in: God, gods, or something else entirely. To get through this year and ensure more tragedy doesn’t befall our world, we’ll need more strength than what mere distractions can provide.


“What necessity is there to dwell on the Past, when the Present is so much surer – the Future so much brighter?”

– Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre




P.S. If you have unused allowance from the past two months, please consider donating a small part to any of the charities that need it on

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