To help us spread messages of support from our family to yours, we recently connected with Justin Anantawan, CANFAR National Ambassador, and asked him to share his experience living through the pandemic.
How is your mental health right now? What are you doing to manage/cope?
My mental health goes up and down. There are days when I feel positive and hopeful that life will return to normal. However, I also have days when I feel depressed and despair about the uncertainty of the future. In a matter of one month, I have gone from working four jobs to becoming completely unemployed.
I also experience anxiety. I worry that my allergy symptoms are signs of COVID-19 or that my parents, who are elderly, will become infected and end up in the ICU. I also worry about my friends in Kenya, who are not receiving the same social supports as we are in Canada and who are in danger of losing their homes or starving because they are in quarantine and cannot go out to work.
To boost my mental health, I have been exercising a ton. My daily workout normally consists of a 30-minute jog, 30 minutes on the elliptical and about 30 minutes of either ab workouts, push ups or weight training. It is helpful for me as it eats up a couple hours of idle time. As well, physical activity stimulates the body to produce mood enhancing endorphins.
How are you staying in touch with loved ones/your community?
Thank God for technology. I have been staying in touch with my friends in Kenya through WhatsApp and Zoom. Interestingly, one of my very good friends has been teaching me Swahili through Zoom. That has been fun, keeping in contact with him as well as keeping myself productive by learning a new language.
How has COVID-19 impacted your daily routine for medication(s)?
It has not impacted my medication routine except now I am only allowed to get a one-month supply of my HIV medication at the pharmacy instead of three months due to new government regulations.
How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the pandemic?
To keep myself occupied, I volunteer two to three days a week. My main work has been food outreach to the homeless community in downtown Toronto. The pandemic has had a more negative effect on this community as many social services have been shut down, shelters are overcrowded, and many folks are now unable to panhandle for financial support as pedestrian traffic has come to a halt. So, twice a week, I prepare meal packages and walk around Toronto handing them out to these individuals. I hear some very sad stories. For example, a meal I gave to a 70-year old woman two days ago was the first food she ate in two days. She was not accessing a shelter because as a person who is more vulnerable to COVID–19, she would not be able to practice social distancing there.