Art by Tanya Eden

It has been a whole year since the first known case of COVID-19 was detected in China's Wuhan province, and eight months since the WHO declared it as a pandemic, leading to a worldwide shut down of economies and societies in an unprecedented manner.

The crisis and subsequent lockdowns have distorted our lives in more ways than one, urging us to re-evaluate our lifestyles, choices and everything in between and beyond. There were flurries of freshly-minted rules meant to contain the spread of the contagion — rules that stunted our interactions with the world and curtailed mobility. And where there are rules, there are transgressions, ranging from the innocuous to the severe.

At Firstpost, we initiated 'Lockdown Secrets' in the month of July. Through an anonymous survey on social media, we asked people about the fears and secrets they have been living with over the past several months — things they felt uncomfortable sharing with others, perhaps apprehensive of being judged. Survey-takers were informed about selected confessions being featured on our website and social media accounts on the project's culmination.

Out of the numerous responses we received, we chose the ones that most poignantly capture the predominant moods and anxieties experienced in the lockdown. Most confessions were centred on feelings of stress related to evolving work environments, changing relationships with family, friends and partners, and a renewed focus on mental health.

The responses traversed an entire range of emotions, the more prominent among them being those of guilt, boredom, loneliness, and on rare occasions, exhilaration. The survey reveals that while trying to cope with the 'new normal' of indefinite confinement, many of our respondents had finally been afforded a long-due pause for introspection during the pandemic. Largely, the lockdown seems to have laid bare the social cracks that kept people from healing and reaching out for help.

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Trigger warning: The following article includes mentions of suicide and may be disturbing for individuals struggling with mental health issues. Reader discretion is advised.

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There was a hand-held neck massager I'd bought years ago. One day, during the lockdown, I suddenly began to consider its merits as a vibrator. I'd never used any sex toys before, and was not particularly interested in them either. But this was right there at home; so, one night, I tried it. And it was mind blowing.

No sex I've ever had has come close. Needless to say, it's my favourite gadget in the house now!

— 32, she/her

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I had a panic attack on a day when the lockdown was at its harshest. I was anxious about getting arrested for breaking the rules, but I also desperately needed some air. I pocketed my mum's prescription for heart medication and went out for a walk. I obviously got stopped a mere 200 metres from my house, but I showed the prescription and got away.

Technically, I could have told the authorities the truth too, but imagine explaining anxiety and panic attacks to a police constable. There was every chance I would have been detained for making shit up.

— 30, Lucknow, she/her

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I am an extrovert through and through, who loves to stay in touch with and remain close to my friends. But I had to move back to my hometown during the lockdown and stay with my strictly vegetarian parents, while I am now a meat-eater. They don’t know this about me.

Once a week, I sneak out of the house to eat pizza or some other meat dish, on the pretext of going for a jog. It’s not the same though, because I desperately need company, and eating in solitude is all I have now.

— 26, Jaipur, she/her

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I have been married for three years now, but the lockdown has really taken a toll on our relationship, because we can’t run away from each other. We are always locked up in the same space, and have nowhere to go when things or conversations turn sour – which is quite often these days.

Once, I said I was going to the supermarket, but ended up meeting my ex, who I have been in touch with and with whom I’ve been friends all along. My husband knows this and is okay with it. But what he doesn’t – and will never – know is that I ended up having sex with my ex on that day, and on three other days in between.

I’m not sure if I feel guilty, but I definitely feel better for blowing off some steam. I don’t feel regretful about this interaction I had with my ex; I honestly feel good, because it made me feel alive.

I have chronic depression and I’ve been on the verge of killing myself quite a few times these past months. My interactions with my ex keep me alive, because he makes me feel like there’s a world beyond the four walls I live in, and there are people besides my husband with whom I can interact.

My husband and I haven’t been having a lot of sex, and that bothers me. The sex has been average, and largely unsatisfactory. At this point, stepping out of the house for sex and other forms of recreational release involve a lot of logistical trouble.

— 29, Kolkata, she/her

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I was in touch with my abusive father who left us when I was 12. I met him once, and then we were in touch over WhatsApp. My mother caught hold of my bank account statement and found out that he had been sending me money. She was devastated because he had left her bankrupt – and I ended up taking money from him.

This happened while I was in therapy, and it was confirmed that I had abandonment issues. My mom felt betrayed because I backstabbed her for nearly eight months while living under her roof.

Divorce really fucks you up when you liked one parent as a kid and they leave, and you’re no longer allowed to contact them.

— 20, Mumbai, she/her

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— With inputs from Anvisha Manral