Illustrations: Jacob Komesaroff

‘You have to be your own cheerleader’: staying positive in COVID Analysis

‘You have to be your own cheerleader’: staying positive in COVID

If you’re looking for a strong, resilient and resourceful mother, look no further than domestic violence survivor Meena*.

The single mum, who lives in social housing in Melbourne’s South East, is squarely focused on staying positive and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic so she can best care for her four-year-old daughter, Sienna*.

Meena has experienced immense hardship in recent years, enduring domestic violence that led to post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, as well a permanent disability in her right knee. She was also made redundant and lost her father, who had dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

“I’d hit rock bottom mentally – and having to look after Sienna (and) still be cheerful, I think brought such a lot of resilience in me,” she says.

“I said … you know, if I’ve survived the worst, everything else is a piece of cake. So I’ve got myself out of that sort of place.”

Meena says that, although COVID-19 has been devastating, it has given her a chance to pause and map out where she wants to take her life.

“It’s also given me a time to reflect on what’s really, really important with everything that’s happening. And so I said, ‘I’ve got to turn things around’. The thing I was most passionate about was to use my strengths to help other men and women facing family violence.”

She will start a Certificate III in Community Services this year and hopes to continue her studies through a Masters of Social Work in 2021.

“I said … you know, if I’ve survived the worst, everything else is a piece of cake. So I’ve got myself out of that sort of place.”

Meena is on a strict grocery budget but is determined for her and Sienna to continue to eat healthy, fresh food during the pandemic.

During the first lockdown and panic buying, her grocery budget was stretched due to the lack of usual special offers from the supermarkets, and Meena would cut her own portion sizes to manage.


Now, she has resumed normal portion sizes because she wants to stay fit and healthy, adding she often uses YouTube to do ‘P.E. With Joe’ exercise sessions with Sienna.

“If I fall sick, there’s no plan B looking after Sienna, so I have to look after myself,” Meena says.

“Eating junk food is so much cheaper. You could get a massive bag of crisps for say maybe two dollars, but every avocado costs about two dollars – two or three. So healthy living comes with a price. I look at it now as an investment into my long life.”

The 38-year-old says her contact with friends is less frequent than before the pandemic but she enjoys chatting on Zoom, adding she thinks online catch-ups will become the new normal and are safer, cheaper and more relaxed than heading out to restaurants.

“You buy yourselves the best bottle of wine you can and have girls’ night and you’re safe,” Meena says.

“You don’t have to drive anywhere either – you’re at home; you can just flop down on the couch and that’s it. So I think it’s going to change things for the better.”

Every night after putting Sienna to bed, Meena watches uplifting TED Talks and listens to the likes of Oprah and Brené Brown to boost her mood.

“Staying in isolation… especially with someone who’s separated, there’s not another partner you can bounce things off of or, you know, cheer you on,” she explains.

“So you have to be your own cheerleader.”

 

*Names have been changed

 

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Words:  Melissa Jenkins. (CC-BY-NC.)

Illustrations:  Jacob Komesaroff. (© VCOSS, 2020.)