An interview with Maariyah taking about how she has managed to survive Covid-19, her mental health, life in lockdown and creative ways to help her get through thepandemic

It's OK. I can I'll just carry on. Yeah. Um, yeah

So just start from where? If you wouldn't mind just reiterating how, How? Because covid has been such a difficult time for so many people. Um, that for you, specifically, if you'd like to just give us a bit of an insight into how it's affected you, Um, you, you you you specifically perhaps your family members. You as a community

It's quite a general question, but so yeah. No, that's fine. Um, I mean, for me personally, um, I have struggled quite a bit

Um, I mean, initially, um, it's all a bit of a blur now, but initially, it was a case of Well, because I'm a carer, I I care for my father and I live at home. So, um, I tended to kind of stay in any way. Um, but all of the essential stuff that, you know, like the shopping and all of that I wasn't able to do because of my own health

I have asthma, so I didn't want to risk my own health in kind of going out and about, um so it it kind of it kind of became almost like a hibernation kind of feeling. Um, So, um, but when? When? Gradually, um, I suppose the longer I kind of stayed in that hibernation. Um, I did start to struggle mentally because as in, like, you know, I wasn't able to go out

I wasn't able to catch up with my friends. Wasn't able to do the things that I was doing, Um, and and that kind of, um it kind of almost feels like enclosing. Um and so I had to kind of think of things to do to get me through that period

Um, for instance, I was I was doing a lot of arts and craft. I was doing a lot of up cycling. I was trying to do a lot of creative things, because that's I I mean, I love doing any kind of creative activities, so I found it very therapeutic just to, um, kind of get through that time

Um I mean, uh, towards the end of october, I managed. I ended up, um, having covid, um so that kind of resulted in me being hospitalised for six days. Um, and after I had caught it, my parents had caught it and my sister and nieces

But initially it was through my niece's school that they kind of carried it over. Um, and it didn't affect them until after all of us had got affected, which was a bit bizarre. Um, so so that was that was very difficult

I mean, I know I've spoken about this in, like, you know before as well, but I feel like my my main concern was definitely my parents. Um, and and and because, Well, my father's elderly and my mom's had a liver transplant, so they're, like, high up on the vulnerability list. Um, but, um, yeah, it was me that ended up in hospital, Um, which was a bizarre experience

Um, you know, I didn't really think it would happen to me, but it kind of did. And you just kind of deal with it. I mean, within, like, one hour of calling 111

They were like, You need to get to A&E. I was like, Oh, ok. You know, I I I was just calling them for advice

I'd already tested positive, but the way that my health was, I was just like this. These are good signs. I need to speak to some material, so, you know, and that it it was what it was

But, um, yeah, you know, I mean, my family have also kind of struggled with it like, but the way that we've dealt with it is internally rather than, I suppose, in a communal kind of way. Um, which is, I mean, culturally. That's how people deal with, um, illnesses

And, you know, health issues or whatever. It's a. It's a very kind of communal experience because people will be helping out

Normally, people would be like cooking food and sending it over of this. Um, and initially, that's what they did when I came back from hospital. A lot of the people, like my family friends they, like, cooked a lot of food for us

Bless them. And so they sent it over. So now when I think back, actually, it was very communal, of course, Yeah

I mean, as soon as I came back from hospital, obviously my parents were had still tested positive, so I kind of had to pick up my strength so that I could look after them. So even though I was still a bit wobbly on my feet I kind of had to think. Right

OK, well, I can't keep relying on other people making meals for us, so I need to, you know, kind of take that on it once again. Can I Can I ask? It was, um yeah, yeah. I was just going to ask you

You seem to have an awful lot of, um, inner strength there in, In. In what? What do you think gave you that inner strength to be able to carry on Because you you you manage to do so much in extreme circumstances. Um, I would say my faith more so than anything else

Um, I kind of knew that, you know, I wasn't scared of ever getting covid. I just thought, OK, it's a thing. It's gonna happen if it happens

If it doesn't, it doesn't. Yeah, people die, and I you know, we're all gonna die one day. I know it's quite a bleak way to look at it, but it's the it's the truth

And so, you know, I kind of I didn't fall into that fear of Oh, my God. You know, you know we can't catch covid and we can't be, you know, over kind of sterilised things, you know? Yes, we do it to a certain degree, Of course. But I didn't want to go the very extreme end and and, you know, So, um, yeah, it was definitely in my face

It it got me through. You know, thankfully, I I have I have that kind of connection with God for me that I just knew that it's the best thing for me, even though it might not appear that way on the surface. But, you know, ultimately, there was some blessing within that that carried That happened

And so it carried me through, um and so, yeah, so it's definitely, definitely Yeah, I think it's interesting. And and it's a good good to know that you have got that. So, yeah, I was gonna say you also mentioned, um the the the support from, um other members of the family and the friends and the cooking

Was there any, um, opportunity to talk to them to have that opportunity to talk? Because I know we get very caught up with being so isolated and you talked about it being you felt like you were in clothes and as if you were hibernating. So did you use things like, um, social media to connect with family and friends in order to just have that connectivity to many other people? Yeah. My mom is a social butterfly

She is on the phone all the time, So she kind of was giving updates to people all around the world as things were happening. So it wasn't just in Huddersfield. It was like in Pakistan in, you know, Dubai, where our family is

It's just like everywhere. So, um, yeah, I mean, I had so many messages and, you know, calls coming through, making sure I'm all right. Even whilst I was in hospital, I was like, video, calling my aunties and be like, Yeah, I'm fine

Don't worry. I was going to be Yeah, sorry. Sorry to interrupt

I was saying you you when you talked about it earlier? I think you know what sort of support have you had? But you seem to have had a wonderful network to keep you going, which is which is important. Yeah, you also mentioned, um the creativity side of things. You know, you were up cycling and using your arts and craft

Would you like to tell us a little bit more about that and how how that specifically helped you. Uh, yeah. I mean, the upcycling was great because, um I mean, my sister was moving house, so she was trying to, like, get rid of a lot of things

And I was like, Well, don't throw that clock. I will upcycle that. And don't throw those drawers because I can make something out of that

So I ended up with a lot of kind of, uh what may have appeared like junk to others, but it was definitely treasure for me. Um, yeah. And I was just experimenting with, like, chalk paints

And because I mean, the theme of my home that I'm trying to create a lot of these items for is like a beach themed, uh, kind of, um, you know, a beach kind of themed house. So for me, um, you know, even the clock was like a compass I made into, like, a compass with north, south, east west. And so I took out the face of the clock and and did it all myself, um, and painted the outside with, like, chalk, paint, um, and then put like a rope around it, you know

So for me, I really wanted to embody, like, in every item, that kind of themes that I'm trying to encompass. Um, so yeah, So I was quite busy in the acting, just going away with, you know, getting making all sorts of things, but, um, yeah, yeah. Did Did you think obviously that helped sort of time to fly back? Because I know a lot of people sort of said time was really slow

But once you find something that you can get impassioned about, did you find that that helped the time to to disappear more quickly? Perhaps? Absolutely. Absolutely. Because I was having fun

I was having fun. I found my joy, you know, again. And I was like, painting shells and and all of that

So that definitely did, you know, make the time kind of just disappear. Um, but this is all prior to me, actually, having covid so after covid, things kind of changed a bit, So I wasn't able to be, uh, lost in my creativity as such, because I had a lot of responsibilities to kind of get on board with, so that that kind of became like, you know, it kind of got sidetracked a bit, but, um, either way, you know, I still managed to find my creative side in, like, baking and like my cooking. So I was using Pinterest quite a lot to get inspired

Um, so So for me, you know, that is that's that's kind of helps me to keep on track with, um, kind of doing, like, the self care element. Um, because because for me, that's the kind of thing that I know works. Um, so, yeah, although I might have Netflix from time to time or whatever, but where I find the joy is when I'm creating things, um, so, yeah, it definitely in that moment, the time just kind of where they go

And I suppose it links a little bit to them to my next question or the next sort of, um, train of thought for me. Anyway, um, is you mentioned your your your mental health, which, you know, covid has affected so many people. Um, I think, you know, there'd be very, very few people who would say it hasn't affected them

So do you think the creativity and the fact that you've had that support, um, helped you to to find, um um, a journey, Because I know many of us have this What's called, like, lived experience, But was it probably a bit of a a pathway, a journey way to you recovering or at least finding a way to get through Covid? Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, had I not been doing all of these activities, you know? I mean, I suffer from anxiety and depression, so I know if I don't have these projects in place, that it has a negative effect on my mental health

Um, so I need those to keep me going. I find that if I don't, um, schedule these projects in even no matter how big or small I have something to look forward to, I have a purpose. And so so, yeah, definitely

It's it's It's definitely helped me kind of maintain my my mental health. Yeah, that's lovely. Thank you

I mean, I was thinking as well in terms of, um, the the same community. Um, the support from from do you think there has been It's quite a sort of a stark question, actually, in terms of, um, support from other communities or from other organisations. Do you? How do you feel about about that? If if if at all

Sorry, Molly, I missed that question. Was yes. Sorry

Um, my my question is it's quite a big one. Um, in terms of the the bame community, Um, because I'm just wondering if there were other outside support for members of the Bain community. Myself included, Um, we've got support from our family and friends

Um, we've got our you know, your own internal support from what you've told me so far, which is amazing. The fact that you've got your well being tools to keep you going. And I'm just wondering if there were any external organisations or charities, um, that would have contributed to helping you get through as much as we can

What's happening with covid? Um, it's a bit of a tricky question that one isn't I didn't quite prepare you for that. Yeah. I mean, I don't know specifically if there's any

Um, yeah, Well, no, it's good, because, actually, it's just making me think, like, specifically, if there were any kind of asian, um related Kind of, you know, help out there. I don't I don't think for me personally. There was

I mean, I'm sure. I know there was a lot of food, banks and stuff happening. Um, but for me personally, that wasn't something that I needed

And and I'm sure, obviously that that might have helped others. But for me, I think, um, I'm struggling to think that if there was anything, um I think the the thing is, I've been part of a lot of, like meditation groups, even like on WhatsApp. Um, so they've helped me, but I wouldn't say they're specifically for, like, the Asian community

I think that was quite a general. Um, I think I was probably the only Asian on that group to be fair. Um, but yeah, specifically, I don't I don't I can't recall anything that that would help me personally, Um, which is actually quite a shame now that I think about it

Yeah, it's a question. I hope you don't mind me asking. I mean, I'm not black British, and and like you, I've had my support from my family and and and my immediate family, my friends and things

And I think just thinking about God forbid, this never happens again. God, forbid, but what else we could possibly do in order to support each other. But perhaps we're fortunate that we have such a close family network and friends, which suffices for for you, perhaps for me as well

Maybe people out there it was just something that I think is is is an interesting question to ask people if they there might be somebody out there. I mean something. Perhaps

So you have to set them back. I'm just thinking, like obviously Sorry. Keep going

No, Keep going. It's just the delay, OK? No, I was just thinking because I've got a family, you know? And my mom is that, like, Social Butterfly? I mean, she's really good at keeping those connections with people. So, um, I suppose what What we were doing was helping those people that perhaps don't are like living by themselves

So we have, like, an auntie that well, not an Auntie Auntie, but like a an elderly lady who lives down the road. So we would like my mom would, like, call her. Do you need anything? You know, my So my sister was going shopping for us

So, um, you know, do some milk or whatever. So we were kind of like checking up on people as well, whilst obviously going through our own thing. Um, but yeah, you're right

You know, had we not had that connection with the community and and and our families, like, if I was on my own or if there was, like, an elderly, vulnerable person on their own, You know, I'm sure that they would struggle. So So it's it's good to. Well, it would be good if there was something in place, you know, just to check up that you know, that everyone's surviving, OK? Yes, it is

It's good again. I mean, I'm sorry to hear that you were in hospital, and and And it's good to see you here now, and and you've come through, um how how has, um, the effects of covid affected you? Is it still affecting you, or do you feel your more able to continue as as you did before you contracted covid? Um, well, my asthma is obviously the main concern. Um, I mean, obviously, I've had a change of medication to adapt to to life after covid

Um, but yeah, I I I do find like I'm out of breath quite a bit, you know? And so I have to pace myself in in comparison to before having covid. Um but yeah, I I think I think I'm doing a lot better now. Um, I mean, I've had the vaccine, so that makes me feel a little bit braver to step outside and be a part of the world once again

Um, whereas before, you know, I was very hesitant and and very protective of my family. Um, from doing that, because, I mean, there's been a quite a mix of views, um, with regards to the vaccine itself within the Asian community. So it's like my mom would get lots of mixed messages, and so sometimes she was She was like, I don't think I want the vaccine

And my sister was like, I don't think I want the vaccine. And then I was like, but I really want the the vaccine. So you and it's something we have to put, you know

Well, get in place so that we're protected. So, you know, luckily, we're all vaccinated now, So I was just going to ask you. I just asked, Was there a lot of big debate Or did you suddenly just think Well, I don't know

And then just said, you know what? In order to be safe, it's a good thing to To to have it in my from my point of view, I was ready to go from the get go. Um, I mean, my sister was kind of encouraged because you can't travel now without, you know, the covid vaccine certificate. So she was like, Well, OK, I'm gonna have to put it all out the window and get the vaccine

So you know, so I mean, even on the day, my mom was quite reluctant and she was hesitant, but because she's had a liver transplant, her consultant was like, Well, you have to have it, you know, there's no choice. So it happened. We all we're all we're all sorted

But, um, yeah, there was a debate and that, you know, within the community, like I say, some people are still very adamant that they don't want to in the Asian community, especially, um so each to their own, you know, if if it comes to a point where we're gonna have to get it, then it's just gonna have to be that way Because it's not just about ourselves. It's about protecting other people. Yes

Yeah, exactly. That's an interesting one, isn't it? I mean, I've heard that debate a lot. Um, I'm totally in agreement with you

I've I've had it, Um, And it was a bit like you. I have a lot of, you know, um, underlying conditions. So, yes, it's it's better to have it

Um, but as you said, everybody has to make their own choice based on the information that's out there. Um, I was just thinking. I mean, you've given me so much information here, we could talk forever and ever, and it's really interesting, and I It's great to kind of See how you managed to, um, to lift yourself up and keep going, because I think, you know, that's probably what we all have to do

Um, I have a question. What are you most looking forward to when we can get out there in the big wide world? What? What? What would you most like to do? Mhm, um, probably having picnics in the park with my friends. Absolutely

Just catching up with them and just No, no, no. Just having, like, picnics in the park with my friends and just kind of chilling out and, you know, just breathing freedom once again. I think that's what I'm most looking forward to

Definitely. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think I have to agree with you

I'm looking forward to, um, hugging my family and my friends and just like you were just just being with sorry. There still seems to be in DeLay again. So again, I'm agreeing with you

That's what I'd like to do. Is kind of meet my family and friends and things. I mean, I I've been I would love to ask more questions

Um, excuse me. Um, but I'm kind of conscious of of, of, of of time. And, um, is there anything else you'd like to to add? I mean, you've given me such a lot of information about, um, one other question in, In in, in terms of the how did you schedule your days? Because you're looking after your parents and you're doing all your up cycling and your meditation and everything

Did you have a specific routine throughout your day? Well, my morning start quite early because of prayer time, because that's before sun rise, you see? So once that happens, then I'm just going I'm just kind of on the move, and I'm making sure everyone's sorted. I'm kind of like the mom of the family, even though obviously I have my parents, but I kind of have to manage everyone, Um, and don't get cranky. So then this way, everyone sort of, Um but yeah

And I think I think the early nights I had to I had to get my own rest in as well. And and sometimes just taking out an hour here or there just for my own, you know, sake, Because again, especially after covid, I was very short of breath, you know? So I have to pace myself. It was a struggle, and, you know, and I think back to that time it was it was it was a real struggle

Um, I mean, I was still getting cramps and things which I was told by the physiotherapist that that is also like an aftereffect of covid. So I ended up pulling a muscle in my chest in my leg in my eye one time whilst I was asleep, and I woke up through the pain. So, you know

So she was She kind of told me to have lots of, um, tonic water. So I have tonic water, which is very bitter to drink. Diluted it

It is very good for crash so that Yeah, so So that's what I've been kind of, you know, surviving on at the moment. Because, like I said, there have been lots of aftereffects. Um, from from covid

So, yeah, I've had to kind of manage as best as I can. Um, but the main thing that has probably helped me also is that I've been having therapy. I have private therapy

So my therapist is a godsend, So I probably wouldn't have been able to cope without her being by my side over the phone, you know? So definitely it's just been a big part of my kind of Saviour through this time. How how often do you have your your therapy sessions? A weekly. A weekly session? Yeah, that's good

Oh, I'm so pleased to hear that, because I think that that is important to find. As you said before, you've got all these well being tools, your meditation, your crafting and and having somebody to to to talk. And perhaps somebody outside of the family who's not got that connection can sometimes be a really good help, because they are

Um I can't think of the word I want to use. Um, they're sort of disassociated from you so they can give a more. Um oh, my words have gone out really valuable

Yeah, yeah, yeah. No. Goodness, I've lost the word I want to use, and I think, OK, look, I mean, I think, you know, I think that talking about, you know, having therapy and that kind of thing, we need to break that taboo anyway

You know, it shouldn't be like, Oh, no, someone's mentioned a therapist and kind of thing. No, because I think we all have been have kind of gone through things that we need help dealing with. And there's no shame in that, you know? So I will, like, I know this is public, So I'm happy to say that Yeah, I am having therapy because I need it

And that's something that I'm not, you know, gonna hide because that's she's been an you know, like a amazing, amazing help for me. Um, thank you very much. for

I think it's something that many, many, many people have to look at because it's the thing with mental health that people tend to think, Oh, my goodness, I've got to hide it away. People must know that my my mind is not what it should be because we don't really know what our mind should be. Particularly, um, it's interesting

I was just thinking from a generational point of view with your parents, How have they accepted the fact that you are having therapy? Do they have an opinion about it? Absolutely. They're so supportive of that because, you know, I've what I've relayed. Um, you know, it shows them that that it has been having such a positive impact on me

Um, so they're so supportive of that? Um, yeah. No, it's It's it it was. And I say to them, It's like if I'd broken a leg my leg, I would go to a doctor, you know? And here I've got so much happening in my mind, I need help to sort through it

So, you know, for that reason, definitely been. It's been good. That's a really good analogy, isn't it? Because we we many of us still have this stigma about mental health

And yet, I think particularly after the pandemic, we have to face up to the fact that this has affected. As you rightly said, it's affected all of us in such extreme ways. Um, and unless we can talk it through, it could trouble us for quite some time

And we don't really want that, you know? So it's it's it's it's good to hear you advocate that therapy is is vital and things. So, Maria, I I I I could ask some more questions. I am so conscious of the dime and everything and, um, to talk to you for for for a very long time

Um, I'm glad you've recovered or you are recovering, and you look great and, well, not that I think I've only seen you on zoom a couple of times. You're looking good. I'm glad

How are your parents? I was gonna ask how your parents doing. Are they They doing OK, that everyone's fine? Yeah. Good, good, good

They're so much better. But thank you. I mean, like I said, they weren't really affected to that level

Um, and my dad went into hospital just for one night. Um, because his oxygen reduced. Um, but and he was back the next day

Good, good. And so he was doing really well. My mom was doing really well, even though, you know, she had struggles, but yeah, I'm I'm so proud of them for for getting through that time

Definitely. Yeah. And I think, you know, as you said, from the very from the very, very beginning, we've all had as a family, this sense of community and togetherness

Um, again, I I think I know what the answer would be. But, um, was that perhaps one of the most important aspects of you getting you and your family getting through what has been a really difficult time? Mhm. Yeah, I The question What I said was, yeah, so the question was, um, again a fairly obvious one

But the fact that you are so strong as a family um do you think that that was probably one of the most important factors that helped you to get through what has been a very, very difficult time? Did you get that again? Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We kind of We all hands on deck at that point

So sorry. I think we've crossed over again. Keep keep going

It's just very odd on the, um, on this zoom. But anyway that No, that's That's fine, Maria, I think I think we've asked. I've asked many questions

Um, I don't know if there's anything else. I don't know if there's anything else you would like. Like like to add about, um, you know the experience, um, of of of covid

I think, um, I I've got pressed in my head. It's kind of like, um um one. I was gonna ask you this question, and this has been asked of me before

One of the best things that have come out of Cove out of that situation. Interesting question, I think. How would you answer to that? Um, I would I would say I would say, um probably the realisation of how much I am wanting my independence

I know that sounds quite bad when I say it like that, but it just it shows me that, you know, I've got so much life to live and you know, I want to make the most of that. I wanna I want to kind of fulfil my purpose. you know how whatever that might be

And however that might develop. Um, but definitely. I think it's given me that zest for life where I know I've got things to offer to the world, and I want to embrace that

And so so, Yeah, definitely. That has been the most kind of positive, um, outcome, I suppose, from all of what's happened, I would say, Yeah. Maria, thank you so much

It's, um it's been really, really good. Thank you for being my first. Um, I hope we've recorded it

It's still saying record and record. Um, it it's it's been an absolute pleasure. And thank you for sharing

Um, and it it it it will inspire a lot of people. Um, so I just No, not at all. Not at all

I think, um, you said at the very, very beginning as well. Excuse me that we've all been through something so big, so huge, um, to varying degrees. But we've all been affected

It has impacted on all of us. Excuse me. Um, and I think what you've you've shown is, um, resilience, and, um, I don't know, a tenacity, and you know as well, but this this desire to live and the fact that you've had the vaccine, the vaccination, it is

We've got so much to do out there, and it's lovely to have that message put across, so thank you very much for that. That's lovely. Thank you so much

We've done it. I'm gonna stop record now. Um, but thank you so much again, But we're not going to sit


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