| This is the 600th story of Our Life Logs® |
My story began in 1994 in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. I was the youngest child of the family, and the only boy. I had a great childhood, loving family, and wonderful friends that made me unafraid of anything. Growing up, I made sure to be a good son, and good brother, and a good friend because spending time with others is what made my days feel so full and happy. I never wanted to be without my friends. They kept me from being lonely, so I did whatever I could to be around them.
It was December 2019 we first heard the word "virus" on the TV. My friends and I were making plans to celebrate New Year's Eve that day, and we just laughed. I thought, what can a pygmy virus do to the world? Nothing! At the time, it was more important to me to be surrounded by people than it was to worry about some virus in China. My friends and I still made plans to gather at each other’s places to chill all the time because we didn’t think there was any true risk. With everything else closed, those visits were the only form of escape. I used to have a mask in my pocket, but I never wore it. But, with time, the news about the severity of the virus started swirling in every circle.
People began coming down with the virus. It was no longer something in the background that we couldn’t see. It was a real threat. Gatherings were forbidden and nearly everything was closed countrywide. Then, the government announced the closure of all transportation, tourism, public places, academic institutions, hostels, restaurants, and even take-out restaurants. Everyone was bound to their home, and extended families stayed away from each other due to the monumental fear of getting infected.
Despite all this, I was still not taking it seriously. Looking back, I wish I had. Perhaps it was the tried and true (and probably naive) thinking that it could never happen to me. So, I let my life go on as it was before COVID-19 struck the world. But I soon regretted it. I understood the severity of the virus when it hit me firsthand.
I started having flu-like symptoms along with a slight fever, and I got suspicious, so I went to get tested. The results came back negative, so I thought I was all good.
Then in May, my condition worsened. I had trouble breathing and I went to get tested again. I was hoping with bated breath for it to not be COVID-19, perhaps something less severe. But I tested positive, and I officially had contracted COVID-19. My knees buckled when I received the news. Before then, I couldn’t fathom that I could catch it. In that moment, I started regretting all my voguish jerk behavior towards COVID-19. I don’t know where exactly I got the virus, but I think it happened from one of the times I was hanging out with a group at a friend’s place.
Doctors recommended that I be immediately isolated from my family, so I isolated myself in my room. I was faced with my own mortality for the first time in my life. Would I survive this? Sometimes even the young people infected became hospital bound and died. I wondered if I would get to achieve my dreams. Would I ever be as physically or mentally strong as I once was? Alone with all these thoughts, I was in mental anguish on top of physical symptoms from the virus. That time taught me how much worthy life is. I told myself that if I survived, I would take life more seriously.
When my friends learned about my positive result and how I had to isolate, they sent me wishes of good luck. At least at first. After a few days, I wasn’t getting better and messages from friends stopped coming. They started to avoid me. I thought they saw me as a burden, and they were happy to get rid of me for a while. Still, I didn’t want to believe these things either. I thought maybe it was all just my imagination. Then they showed their true colors, and my fears were realized.
It all went to hell after one of my friends tested positive for the virus. Instead of understanding the situation I was in, he immediately accused me of his condition. The sudden shift in his behavior shocked me. He claimed that if I wouldn't have visited all our friends, he would never come across this virus. Which is insane looking back because we were all not taking the virus seriously. We were all taking the same risks. So, there’s no guarantee that he caught it from me. But he wouldn’t see reason, and all my friends agreed with him. I didn’t see it coming when they all turned on me. My texts and calls were ignored, and within hours, nearly all my friends turned their back on me when I needed support the most. I realized that I'm no longer a part of my friend's circle.
Being isolated and then ignored by my own friends was such a heartache. All the memories made my heart hurt. I missed them all, but I couldn’t try to meet up in person since I was still in isolation. The only reason I got through this terrible time in my life was that one friend stepped up when everyone else turned away.
Although I’d lost most of my friends, my friend Hamza stayed by my side in the rack and ruins. Being abandoned like that, I started analyzing the friendships I’d made. I realized that I’d rather have a few quality friends instead of a large quantity of friends.
Me with my friend Hamza
Hamza could not reach me in person, but he used to regularly send me food that I could eat in my condition, mostly broth. He also recommended good movies to watch during my isolation, and he spent all his free time talking to me on the phone. Hamza listened to me and understood the pain of being left alone because he had lost his mother to the virus. Through him, I saw that kindness is the best form of humanity.
It would be rude if I didn’t mention how my family tried to be there for me too, even if it was at a door's distance. My mother used to cook food for me and suggested a few verses of the Holy Quran to read to help me gain strength to rid myself of the virus. The other members of my family were praying for my health.
Having the support of Hazma and my family helped me focus on the positive aspects of being isolated. I started investing most of my time reading books and watching movies, which motivated me and gave me the strength to cope with the symptoms. I took extra care of my hygiene along with my mental health.
After not taking any precautions, I took all the necessary ones once I tested positive. I drank mild warm water. I took vitamin C in every form I could possibly take. I was living on broth and oats only. Fruits and steam were a must. I took steam every two or three hours. That was the key ingredient to cope with the virus. I also made sure I sanitized my room, especially doorknobs and windows and all those things I used to touch more often. It took me over 60 days to fully recover from the virus, but it was worth it to get back to 100% healthy.
COVID-19 was difficult to fight, but it also made me realize who my true friends were. I have fully recovered from the virus, although I still feel weakness and loss of some tastebuds. Since getting better, I kept up all the suggested precautions, no longer seeing the virus as something silly not to worry about.
Since then, I'm doing my best to live my life with the genuine relationships that I have left. I see now that it's not about how many friends you have, but about having loyal friends who are willing to stand by you, no matter how challenging the situation is. I have found that, and in finding this, I also found a new vigor for life and how I want to live it.
This is the story of Taha Mikel
Taha always thought of his friends as his life. He always tried to live every moment of his life with his friends until he came across reality that they were not quality friends. After being quarantined and being abandoned by his friend group, he found that the only one who stayed was one friend, who made him realize the value of true, loyal friends. His COVID-19 experience taught him that the only person lucky in this world is the one who has faithful and loyal friends. Taha’s journey of initial sellout, harborage, nihilism, and then gallant gives us all a message that it’s never late to end toxic relations. He has completely recovered now and enjoys his life with the connections true to him.
This story first touched our hearts on March 31, 2021
Writer: Afifa Sarwar | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker