When Yasmini Irfani, an LA based mental health advocate/educator learnt that she along with her beloved dada and dadi had been diagnosed with COVID-19, her initial response was naturally a state of panic, she says she resorted to trying every totka floating around in the whatsapp-verse, from steams, to hot teas, to kalonji she did it all, but what was truly harrowing was when she had to call the emergency line for her dada, whose condition worsened. This was followed by weeks of no contact, looming news of the increasing death toll and hopes and prayers that she get to see him again, which she eventually did. Thankfully today Yasmin and her entire family have recovered completely.
Yasmin realises that for most, the effects of the coronavirus on our physical health may be mild, but dealing with the condition may ravage our mental well being. The looming uncertainty, and also incase of many, just the guilt of being in a better position than others too can deeply affect our mental peace in such tumultuous times.
Yasmin while in quarnatine.
Yasmin has been kind enough to put together a few notes that we can be mindful of, incase, godforbid we too find ourselves in her shoes.
Handing it over to Yasmin, so she can narrate her learnings in her own words.
Salaam, I’m Yasmin Irfani and i recently recovered from COVID-19, along with both my dadi and dada. Everything I share is based solely off my personal experience. Does it come from a place of privilege? Absolutely. My heart goes out to all those suffering due to the consequences of covid-19. May we use this time of quarantine as a way of reconnecting to the oneness of humanity.
Yasmin with her family after being tested positive for Covid-19
Covid-19 has definitely woken me up from many illusions I’ve been living in. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
My guilt does NOT serve anyone
As a highly sensitive person, I have always struggled with feeling guilty for having so many privileges. During covid-19, I was invalidating my experience because “I have it so much better than others.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it comes from a place of care. Yet, I felt that my guilt was truly a waste of energy. Now, I try to acknowledge that it is there, and then transform it into some form of service instead. What helps? “What am I good at and how can I use this strength to serve others?”
Yasmin at a mental health awareness walk with her friend.
Self-compassion helps everyone
Growing up, I never felt good enough. I subconsciously felt that I would only be worthy of love and acceptance if I met certain requirements. Not anymore. I strongly disagree with these messages in our desi culture of “you need to be selfless” or “self-compassion is selfish.” Research by Dr. Kristen Neff finds that only through being loving towards ourselves can we have the capacity to truly be there for others.
Yasmin facilitating youth group at masjid
As Elsa from Frozen 2 states, “You are the one you’ve been searching for all of your life.” What helps? Putting a hand over my heart and repeating “This is a moment of difficulty. Difficulties are a part of life, that everyone faces. May I be kind to myself”
We are all going to die
Just when I thought my symptoms were gone, I was startled by this shortness of breath that I had never experienced before. I felt panic flow through my body, realizing how real death was. This vulnerability led me to promising Allah and myself that if I can just have my health, I will not take any day for granted.
Young Yasmin with her grandparents.
Thinking about death is liberating to me, not depressing. Sheikh Suhail Mulla taught me that both science and Islam finds that reflecting on death leads to increased life satisfaction, higher intrinsic motivation, and a greater capacity to forgive others. Covid-19 has helped me feel a greater sense of urgency to live life now, rather than postponing it to one day or inshallah. If not now, when? What helps? “How would I engage in the world if today was my last day?” All Praise is to Allah. As long as I am breathing, I have hope. Service to others, self-compassion, and acceptance of death are some things that have helped me cope. About Yasmin: She currently serves ast the Youth Programs Director at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-SFV) in Los Angeles, California.
She received her M.S in College Counseling and her B.A in Psychology. She is passionate about bringing up conversations about mental health in the desi, Muslim community. She loves nature, animals, books, and meaningful conversations.