Viewpoint: Remote learning hasn’t come without health risks
The COVID-19 pandemic redefined the word “normal” for not just our country, but for our world. Our everyday lives were subject to many changes and these changes occurred suddenly and drastically. As a teenager, the lack of social events and the move to online instruction affected my happiness and mental health. It’s critical for kids of all ages to have an outlet when going through life-changing events. Even more importantly, parents need to take the time to listen and try to understand what living through a pandemic is like from a younger perspective.
The end of my sophomore year of high school was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. The naive, younger me figured that COVID would be long gone by the time I was a junior. I think it’s fair to say I was sorely mistaken.
During the peak of the pandemic, I was a junior in high school. At the beginning of the year, my school year was not looking too bad. Of course there were changes but they seemed somewhat manageable. My school was offering hybrid learning, so I was able to attend in person for most of the week. The work was doable and everyone seemed to be very understanding. As we slowly drifted into the colder months, however, my hopes of a good school year came crashing down.
The week after Halloween, a couple of students, including myself, tested positive for COVID-19. Most of the kids who got sick were asymptomatic. However, I was definitely not. The first symptom I noticed was the loss of taste and smell, which felt extremely alarming and unnatural. Soon after, I began to have migraines all day, every day for the next week. Then all my muscles became sore and I felt 200 pounds heavier. Everytime I stood up, a terrible, dizzying feeling came over me.
As I reflect on my experience with COVID-19 though, I realize that the physical symptoms were not even the worst part. The effect the virus had on my mental health was more significant and difficult to deal with.
The only way to describe the feeling of isolation is to think of it as if you are in a glass box and you have to sit and watch your world and your life go on without you. And on top of all that, there was a lot of school work to catch up on. I missed a total of two days of online school and by that time I had 10 missing assignments, three of them being essays. I started to feel very overwhelmed and anxious. I reached out to my teachers to explain the situation and each response was sympathetic, but it still felt like I had a weight hanging over me. My No. 1 priority should have been to recover and focus on my health, but instead it became school work. Sleep became a rarity. How could I sleep when work just keeps piling up and putting me further behind?
After about a week, I began to recover physically. I soon realized that my reality for the next week was online school. I was sad, anxious and lonely. I was starting to feel claustrophobic in my own home. There was nothing to do and slowly I fell into a sad, boring and depressing routine.
I woke up, ate breakfast, then joined all my classes on Zoom, ate dinner, did homework, and went to sleep. Each day, I was staring at a computer screen for what felt close to an eternity. I began to feel like I was losing myself and my personality to this routine. I was becoming a little too accustomed to having a lack of enjoyment in my life, which is an extremely unsettling feeling. All I wanted – and still want – is for our lives to return to normal and to find our way back to a happier and healthier place, mentally and physically.
Mental health is often overlooked and downplayed, however, it can be just as disabling as an illness. Moving forward, I believe that it is critical for high schools to shed more light onto mental health and give students an outlet to feel safe and heard.
By Eden Cottone
Eden Cottone is Delaware Business Times’ summer intern and a rising senior at the Wilmington Friends School.