How ornamental fishes helped this young expat from Kerala survive COVID stress

Pet fishes
Pet fishes help Kerala youth overcome the stress induced by the pandemic.

COVID 19 was first reported from China towards the end of 2019 and had spread its deadly claws around the world in 2020. People were scared of the invisible enemy and had been trying hard to survive the bleak times that followed. Many expatriates settled in the foreign countries didn’t inform their families at home even when they had tested positive. Meanwhile, diabetes and mental stress have been identified as the most common post COVID side effects. A Keralite youth, who had tested positive during the initial days of the pandemic, opens up to Manorama Online’s Kashkashree feature about how his pet fishes helped him recover from the COVID-induced stress. The youth, who is settled abroad, still hasn’t informed his family in Kerala about his tryst with the pandemic. So, his identity is protected in this article.

The COVID days in March 2020

“As the pandemic situation worsened, partial lockdown was announced and the flights were cancelled. Masks, gloves and sanitizers became part of our lives. Every day, one of our colleagues would test positive for COVID 19. Cases had been reporting in the neighbourhood too. Even when I called my friends and family, all they had to talk was about the pandemic,” says the youth.

He says that he was beginning to get stressed when his friends and neighbours had tested positive. He complained of headache, insomnia and stress as he began to worry about his mother, wife and kids who are in Kerala. His room-mates too were worried about their families. Soon stress began to get on their nerves. Quarrels and squabbles became a daily affair. People got annoyed for silly matters like sharing the chores or waiting for their turn to use the washroom.

“The first case in our room was reported in the first week of April. Ironically, it was the person who had been quarrelling, the most, about cleanliness. Everyone was scared and they began pressurizing the health workers to shift the infected person to the hospital. All of us began to look for ways to get tested as we got scared even if someone just sneezed. The next day, another person tested positive. We began taking extra care and precautions. However, by that time, most of us were infected. The next to test positive was me,” recalls the man.

He says he was running a fever and had felt extreme fatigue. Head ache, cold, fever, sore throat, suffocation and lack of taste and smell were some of his other symptoms.

More than the physical uneasiness, he was bothered by the severe mental stress. He was worried whether he would see his wife, kids and mother again. His eyes would fill with tears whenever he thought about them. Sleep evaded him; even if he managed to fall asleep, nightmares haunted him.

Seeing him severely distressed, his room-mates didn’t have the heart to send him away to the quarantine centre. They told the health workers that they would take care of him and would inform them in case of an emergency. By that time the quarantine centres were overcrowding with patients.

The room-mates made sure that he wasn’t alone at any time. They sat on his bedside, taking care of him and offering him mental support. Sometimes, he even chided them for putting their lives at risk. “I am fortunate that I have such great friends as I had heard news of people locking up a COVID 19 patient in the balcony or throwing them out of rooms and residences. The most difficult part was to manage everything without revealing the truth to my family. I hadn’t informed my family or friends in Kerala. I was becoming more stressful. I became short tempered and would break down into tears when no one was watching. Though my symptoms subsided within a week, it took more than 24 days for me to test negative. I got tested again, 14 days after I had tested positive. But, I had to wait another 14 days to finally become negative. Soon, I got back to my regular life and began going to the office,” recalls the young man.

However, the real ordeal began after that. Many of his colleagues ignored him for months as he had been a COVID 19 patient. People were even scared to talk to him. He admits that these behaviours had hurt him. He tried hard to make himself stronger and resilient. He thought that his colleagues were scared because they were worried for their safety. He slowly learned to relax when he began looking at things from others’ perspectives.

Two months after testing positive, his body began showing signs of post COVID side effects. He began experiencing fatigue, lethargy and sudden weight loss. As these were symptoms of diabetes, he decided to consult a doctor. After running a few tests, it was found that his blood sugar level was sky high. The doctor told him that 5 -6 out of ten COVID 19 patients are likely to get diabetes as an after effect. The doctor prescribed him insulin shots.

Within two weeks, he could regulate the blood sugar through medication and strict diet. However, he had to continue the insulin shots and other medicines for the next 4 -5 months. He says he is grateful to the doctor for the latter’s amazing support and timely diagnosis. The dosage of the medicines was lowered gradually, as his condition began to improve.

Now, he has recovered completely and leads a healthy life. Though he has stopped taking medicines, he still follows a healthy diet and life style.

“A friend of mine had gifted me a small fish when all these stress was making me severely ill. It was a beta fish which swam around in a cute little fish bowl. Beta fish is not too big and is commonly known as the solider fish in local parlance. I fed it every day and took care of it. I noticed that I was feeling positive when I was watching the fish. I made sure to spend some time with the fish before I went to the office and after I came back,” he says.

Impressed by the little beta fish, he purchased a brand new fish tank the next month itself. He then filled it with beautiful ornamental fishes. He began learning more about the different types of fish feeds, their breeding and medicines too. Tending to the fishes made him active and busy. Slowly, he felt that his mind was relaxing. “I am really enjoying my life in the company of my beloved fishes. I can’t even express how happy I am when I spend time with them. Now, I watch Youtube only to study more about the food, medicines and various breeding techniques of fishes,” the young man signs off. 

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