In this installment of Our Stories, we will share how the COVID-19 pandemic affects Remzie’s mental health. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!
Meet Remzie Boisrond – Pre-Med Student
Remzie, like many persons born in the later 1990s, looks like your average Joe. Healthy, social media- active, and like many Millennials and Generation Z youths, he doesn’t deal with stress very well. Before there was even the Corona Virus, Remzie was an anxious person. He often likens himself to ‘being mentally older’ than he actually is because he has had to grow up rather quickly because of the living situations he’s been brought up in. Remzie, who is a final year Pre-Med university student, controlled his anxiety somewhat by sticking to his very structured plans. Since the Corona Virus hit Jamaica, those plans have been shot to hell. He now knows nothing but the feeling of uncertainty during this time. The quarantine had forced him to be alone more often with his thoughts which aren’t always so positive. He had time to “stress over ‘stress’ that didn’t even start to stress him yet.”
Remzie had a lot to say when he was interviewed about how the Corona Virus affects his mental state.
- Did you have any pre-existing mental health issues before Covid-19?
Yeah, I’m already a pretty anxious person even without the extra stress of Corona Virus
- How did you deal with that anxiety before?
Well, I like to plan things and stick to a schedule to keep all the things I have to do in order; like school, work and my own personal time and I think the fact that I was in control of that helped to keep me pretty sane.
- Now that the Corona Virus is here, how has that affected you?
Man, my anxiety has increased tenfold; school is on break now, but before, I don’t think I had such a good grasp on my online classes. You know how hard it is to learn chemistry online? Sometimes the internet would be shaky and it’s hard to have to learn some of the information on my own. Then because of that, I started to stress about having to redo classes, extending courses, and failing the semester. Online school is definitely not for me.
- Were you doing better in school before the global pandemic?
Definitely! When you’re at physical school you can ask as many questions as you want to you lecturers and you can talk to them and get an even better understanding and everything is so hands-on. I feel like I learn better at school than online. I feel more comfortable.
- Did you or do you work?
Yeah, I worked part-time at a hotel when I was going to school but now I work full time because I’m an essential worker.
- How has work been for you during this time?
It’s super stressful having to be the sole bread-winner for your family. I had to worry about making sure there was food for all 5 of us, I had to take on extra hours, I had bills and I was concerned about just providing for my family in general. This was because my parents stopped working but my sisters had to attend school so for about 3 months. I was the only one working. It was really hard. Luckily, my mom recently resumed working so we now can share the load.
- Do you feel less stressed now that she’s working?
Definitely; I feel like we can share the load now and that the survival and responsibility of our family doesn’t solely rest on my shoulders.
- How have you coped with all this extra stress from Covid-19?
I’m the type of person that likes to talk about what is going on with me so I talk to my church counsellors a lot, I journal my thoughts and sometimes I write poetry and I recently took up kickboxing to help relieve my stress.
- How do you feel when talking to your church counsellors?
You see I’m aware that I have an overly active mind and sometimes my thoughts can be a little unhealthy. I like talking to them because I feel because they are able to respond, I won’t feel like I’m drowning in my own thoughts. They are able to answer all my crazy and challenging questions knowledgeably. I know that every answer will be biblically sound. When I talk to them I just feel relieved, safe, calm, and comforted because I know they care about me and want me to have a better headspace. I especially like to do this because sometimes I feel that I’m too smart for my own good and I’ll talk myself out of being calm by overthinking everything.
- Why kickboxing?
If you knew me, you’d think it was so out of character because I like to think of myself as a pacifist. But kickboxing helps a great deal. I like to take out my frustration on the punching bag which helps me to feel more at peace and tires me out too much to overthink anything.
- Have these coping methods helped you with school stress?
As it relates to school stress, they do help me a lot. I feel a whole lot less pressure and I’m reminded that nobody is perfect and that even if I don’t pass a course, it’s not the end of the world and failure just teaches me that sometimes I’m just not ready for whatever challenge life threw at me in that moment, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be ready. Failing means that I’m really learning lessons; it’s just a kind of reality check sometimes. Being able to recognize failure that way has really calmed me down.
- How did you come up with your coping methods?
Fortunately for me, coping mechanisms were not hard to come by. I didn’t have to look too hard to find ways to help with my mental stability. I got recommendations from my church counsellors and friends on how to positively cope with my anxiety. I was even inspired to start using kickboxing as a stress reliever just from watching T.V. I was watching CREED and they were saying how it was a stress reliever and when I looked it up, it was in fact recommended to persons who needed stress outlets. I also found some breathing techniques online which help activate parasympathetic nervous systems… which forces me to stay calm.
- Are you concerned about catching the Corona Virus?
No, I’m not. My family and I adhere to the government rules and regulations and we take the necessary precautions to stay safe.
- Do you know anyone in a similar situation like yours?
Yeah actually, a lot of my friends are in situations like mine. They’re the sole providers for their families and I always like to say that even though we’re in our early 20’s, we’re like late 30’s mentally. We’ve all had to grow up faster and take on a lot of responsibility in our youth because of our various living situations. It can’t be all fun and games when serious things are going on.
- What would be your advice to other youths who might be dealing with similar mental issues?
I know it might seem hypocritical for me to say this because sometimes it’s a challenge for me, but find help first and foremost. No one is asking you to do this on your own. It’s not an embarrassment to admit that there are just somethings that you don’t know how to do especially when it comes to mental health. Also, persons need to speak up about the struggles that they may be facing because you can’t be helped if no one knows about it. Don’t assume that you can do it all by yourself or see it as some kind of weakness if you ask for help; it’s not. I wish that I had come forward sooner about my own issues and removed myself from the fear and judgment I feel that comes with asking for help. It would have saved me so much time from stressing out and feeling overwhelmed or that the weight of the world was on my shoulders to where I am now; where I have those people I can go to when I feel over-burdened and I’m not judged or misunderstood.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Remzie and all the best with your studies!