It’s OK to be Selfish

Season 2 Episode 6 special edition during COVID-19 pandemic

Selasa, 26 Mei 2020.

Saat cerita ini saya tulis, masa pandemi di Indonesia, tepatnya di daerah ibukota Jakarta dan sekitarnya, sudah berlangsung dua bulan lebih. Anak saya belajar dari rumah sejak Senin, 16 Maret 2020. Suami saya malah sudah sejak seminggu sebelumnya menjalankan sistem “Kerja dari Rumah”.

Di awal-awal masa pandemi, saya sempat mengalami serangan panik beberapa kali. Pemicunya adalah serbuan berita lewat media sosial, terutama Whatsapp Group. Bukan hanya berita-beritanya saja yang mengganggu, tapi juga respons teman-teman di WAG. Reaksi panik mereka, komentar yang berlebihan, asumsi yang tidak berdasar, hujatan, keluhan, dan masih banyak lagi bentuk respons negatif terhadap isu Covid19 yang membuat saya terganggu. 

Sebenarnya, apa yang mereka lakukan, reaksi yang mereka keluarkan, komentar yang mereka tuliskan, mungkin sah-sah saja. Wajar dan bisa dimaklumi. Sangat bisa dimaklumi. Saya saja yang tidak bisa menyikapinya dengan baik dan untuk ini, saya punya alasan tersendiri. 

Saya adalah seorang penyintas kanker. Tepatnya, kanker nasofaring. Selama beberapa bulan saya menjalani perawatan medis dengan melakukan kemoterapi, radiasi luar, dan radiasi dalam. Operasi tidak menjadi pilihan dalam kasus saya karena posisi sel kankernya yang tidak memungkinkan. Letak si sel kanker ada di rongga hidung belakang, dekat mata dan otak.

Puji Tuhan, sampai saat ini saya masih diberi kesempatan untuk hidup di dunia. Tapi, meski sudah lewat bertahun-tahun lalu, efek dari pengobatan kanker saya masih terasa sampai saat ini. Salah satunya adalah tenggorokan yang menjadi sangat sensitif. Saya sering sekali mengalami radang tenggorokan. Sekarang saya juga memiliki sinusitis. Misalnya tak sengaja menghisap asap rokok, hidung langsung terasa tidak enak, bahkan napas menjadi sesak. 

Di awal masa pandemi, banyak berita yang menyatakan bahwa salah satu gejala Covid19 adalah mengalami sesak napas. Bisa dibayangkan kalau dalam sehari saya mendapat puluhan berita tentang Covid19 diberbagai grup Whatsapp. Saya jadi seperti diteror. Seringkali sehabis membaca berita-berita itu, tiba-tiba saya merasa kesulitan bernapas. Begitu saya merasa kesulitan bernapas, kecemasan semakin meningkat. Kalau merasa cemas, napas juga jadi sesak. Ini seperti lingkaran setan.

Belum lagi berita atau opini yang menyatakan bahwa penyakit Covid19 tidak berbahaya. Kalau tertular, pasti bisa sembuh. KECUALI bagi orang-orang dengan sejarah penyakit berbahaya, seperti diabetes, jantung, hipertensi, kanker, dan lain-lain. 

Untuk penyintas kanker, pernyataan seperti itu tidak enak untuk dibaca atau didengar. Seperti mendapat vonis mati untuk kedua kalinya. Mungkin kalau hanya membaca atau mendengar satu dua kali tidak akan terlalu mengganggu. Masalahnya, jumlah Whatsapp Group saya ada banyak dan pernyataan seperti itu mondar-mandir berkali-kali, berhari-hari. Berisik sekali.

Saya sudah merasa sangat terganggu sejak hari-hari awal pandemi. Saya tidak mau gangguan itu terus terjadi. Saya tidak mau terus menerus diserang kecemasan atau kebingungan. Apalagi kita tidak tahu sampai kapan pandemi ini berakhir. Karena itu, saya harus melakukan sesuatu!

Langkah pertama yang saya ambil adalah keluar dari beberapa Whatsapp Group. Selain itu, saya juga mulai membiasakan diri untuk tidak membaca atau membuka pesan yang bernuansa negatif atau berpotensi membuat saya emosi. Begitu ada unggahan tidak jelas atau dengan judul yang kurang mengenakkan, langsung saya lewatkan.

Status sebagai penyintas kanker menjadikan saya orang yang rentan terhadap Covid19. Karena itu, saya perlu memikirkan cara untuk bertahan hidup. Bukan hanya sekadar hidup, tapi hidup dengan bahagia. Dengan penuh sukacita. Dan supaya bisa begitu, saya harus menghindari stresor atau hal-hal yang menyebabkan saya stres.

Selain keluar dari beberapa Whatsapp Group, saya juga membuat satu keputusan penting lain. Sebelum menyebut apa keputusan penting yang saya maksud, izinkan saya bercerita dulu tentang latar belakangnya, ya. Ini masih berhubungan dengan status saya sebagai penyintas kanker. 

Sebelum kanker, saya berprofesi sebagai wartawan. Tapi, setelah kanker tiba, saya memutuskan untuk tidak bekerja kantoran lagi. Selain menjadi penulis dan editor lepas, saya juga beberapa kali menjadi moderator atau MC (master of ceremony) di berbagai acara. Tapi sebenarnya, waktu saya lebih banyak lagi terpakai untuk berkegiatan di komunitas atau organisasi nirlaba. Istilah kerennya: menjadi sukarelawan. Saya merasa lebih bahagia, lebih fulfilled saat melakukan aktivitas yang tidak menghasilkan uang.

Kembali ke masa pandemi. 

Di masa-masa ini saya tahu pasti, di masyarakat akan banyak sekali kegiatan sosial yang dilakukan. Termasuk di lingkungan-lingkungan sekitar saya. Kalau dalam keadaan biasa, saya pasti sangat bersemangat untuk ikut berperan. Tapi kali ini situasinya berbeda. Sangat berbeda. 

Karena itu, meski berat, dengan penuh kesadaran saya memilih dan memutuskan untuk tidak ikut ambil bagian di kegiatan-kegiatan sosial ini secara aktif atau secara total. Paling-paling saya hanya ikut menyebarkan info donasi ke grup-grup Whatsapp, sekali dua kali membantu membuatkan flyer atau video, memberikan rekomendasi atau informasi tentang APD (Alat Pelindung Diri) untuk tenaga medis atau tempat membeli bahan pokok murah ke orang yang membutuhkan, dan hal-hal sederhana lainnya.

Memilih untuk tidak ikut dalam kegiatan donasi inilah yang saya maksud sebagai keputusan penting lain yang saya ambil, selain keluar dari beberapa Whatsapp Group. Ini bukan keputusan mudah karena terlibat dalam kegiatan sosial membawa banyak kebahagiaan bagi saya. Bahkan saya lebih bersemangat melakukan kegiatan-kegiatan nonprofit ini dibanding kegiatan-kegiatan yang menghasilkan uang. Mendapat kesempatan untuk membantu orang lain adalah bentuk rezeki yang saya harapkan dari Tuhan. Tapi, tidak saya pungkiri, di kegiatan sosial atau nirlaba ini banyak dramanya. Banyak masalah yang kemudian bisa menjadi stresor.  

Saya tahu batas kemampuan saya. Jika di masa pandemi ini ikut aktif dalam kegiatan sosial atau donasi, saya berpotensi kelelahan secara fisik dan psikis. Kalau sudah begitu, penyakit pun mudah datang. Karena itulah akhirnya saya memilih untuk tidak banyak berkontribusi di kegiatan-kegiatan sosial. Demi menjaga kesehatan diri sendiri. Terdengar sangat egois, ya? Saya pun merasa demikian. Akibatnya, saya sempat diserang rasa bersalah. Melihat unggahan kegiatan-kegiatan sosial yang dilakukan teman-teman, hati saya menciut. Tak berdaya sekali rasanya.

Tapi, di sisi lain, saya juga merasa tidak adil kalau “hanya” karena ingin ikut merasa berdaya saya jadi mempertaruhkan kesehatan saya. Kalau saya kenapa-kenapa, yang kena imbasnya bukan cuma saya, tapi keluarga, terutama suami dan anak tercinta.

Akhirnya, setelah mempertimbangkan banyak hal dan dengan memikirkan banyak faktor saya mantap mengambil keputusan ini. Sebuah keputusan yang sangat saya syukuri. Banyak teman yang mengalami stres saat melakukan kegiatan donasi. Tapi, mereka kuat menghadapinya. Saya belum tentu. Karena itu, saya bersyukur tidak harus mengalaminya.

Selain itu, tanpa terlibat aktif di berbagai kegiatan sosial pun, di masa pandemi ini waktu saya sudah habis tersita. Tersita untuk urusan dapur, urusan rumah, dan hal-hal lain. Tetap merasa lelah, tapi terukur. Terkontrol. Stabil.

Efek baik dari kelelahan yang terukur dan terkontrol itu, saya jadi memiliki banyak energi positif. Buktinya, selama dua bulan lebih tidak ke mana-mana, saya merasa baik-baik saja. Tidak bosan sama sekali walau hanya di rumah saja dan hanya ada kami bertiga: saya, suami, dan satu anak. 

Hubungan saya dengan suami dan anak sangat menyenangkan. Kami menikmati kebersamaan ini, menikmati kehadiran satu sama lain. Kami bertiga sering bercanda, lalu tertawa terbahak-bahak sampai sakit perut. Tidak pernah ada istilahnya kehabisan bahan obrolan. Bahkan kadang saya dan suami mengobrol sampai dini hari.  

Masing-masing dari kami mencoba keahlian atau kegiatan baru. Saya mulai mengikuti video-video yoga di YouTube (level pemula tentu saja). Anak saya mulai belajar bermain keyboard. Lumayanlah, sudah bisa memainkan beberapa lagu pop kekinian. Suami mencoba bermain alat tiup, warisan dari almarhum ayahnya.

Setiap malam saya tertidur dengan perasaan penuh syukur dan di pagi harinya terbangun dengan perasaan nyaman.  Saya tidak yakin bisa mencapai ini semua kalau kesehatan fisik dan/atau psikis terganggu.


Periode “Tinggal di Rumah Saja” ini sangat panjang. Sampai saat tulisan ini dibuat, belum terlihat garis finish-nya. Menjaga asupan energi positif menjadi sangat penting agar bisa bertahan hidup. Bukan sekadar hidup, tapi hidup yang penuh sukacita, hidup yang berbahagia.  

ENGLISH VERSION

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

When Helen wrote this story, the pandemic in Indonesia, specifically in the capital Jakarta and its surrounding areas, had been going on for over two months. Her daughter has been studying from home since Monday, March 16, 2020. Her husband had even started work from home a week earlier.

Early into the pandemic, Helen experienced several panic attacks. What triggered them was the surge of news through social media, especially through Whatsapp Group. Not only were the news disturbing, but more so the responses from her friends in the Whatsapp Groups. Their panic reactions, exaggerated comments, baseless assumptions, swearings, complaints, and many more negative responses towards the Covid19 issues really bothered her.

Actually, what her friends had done, their reactions, the comments they wrote, maybe were still considered normal. Reasonable and understandable. Very understandable. She felt that it was she who could not handle it well and for this she had her own reasons.

Helen is a cancer survivor. To be specific, nasopharyngeal cancer. For a few months, she had undergone medical treatments with chemotherapy, external and internal radiation. Operation had not been a choice in her case as the cancer cells were in a position that did not allow an operation to be done. The cancer cells had been located in the back cavity of the nose, near the eyes and brain.

Thankfully, Helen was still given a chance to continue with her life. But even after years had passed, the effects of the cancer treatments are still felt even until today. One of the effects is that her throat had become very sensitive. She often experienced throat inflammation. Now she also has sinusitis. For example if she unintentionally inhaled cigarette smoke, her nose would immediately feel uncomfortable and she would have difficulties breathing.

In the early stages of the pandemic, numerous news stated that one of the symptoms of Covid19 was difficulties in breathing. You can imagine how many times within a day Helen received dozens of news about Covid19 from various Whatsapp groups. She felt like she was terrorized. Often after reading those news, she suddenly felt like she could not breathe. Once her breathing became difficult, her fears increased. On the other hand, if she felt frightened then she experienced breathing difficulties. It became an endless vicious cycle.

To make things worse, were the news and opinions stating that the Covid19 is not dangerous. Should you get infected, you will recover. EXCEPT for those with critical underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, coronary diseases, hypertension, cancer and many more.

As a cancer survivor, that kind of statement is quite disturbing to be read or heard. It is like getting a death sentence for the second time. Maybe reading or hearing it once or twice is not so bad. The problem is she had many Whatsapp groups and that statement kept floating numerous times for days. It was very noisy.

Helen already felt very disturbed during the early days of the pandemic. She did not want that agitation to keep happening. She did not want to continuously be plagued with worry and confusion. Especially as no one knows when the pandemic will be over. She felt that she had to do something! 

The first step she took was to exit from a few Whatsapp groups. She also made it a habit to not read or open a message that was negative in tone and had the potential to upset her. If there was an unclear posting or if the posting had a disturbing title, she would immediately ignore it.

Helen’s status as a cancer survivor made her vulnerable to Covid19. Because of that, she had to think of a way to get through it. Not only to just live, but to live happily. With joy. And to achieve that, she needed to avoid the stress factors, the things that could cause her to be stressful.

Besides exiting a few Whatsapp groups, she also made another important decision. A bit of background of this decision of hers. This was still related to her status as a cancer survivor.

Prior to her cancer, Helen was a journalist. After the cancer, she decided to not work in an office anymore. Besides becoming a freelance writer and editor, she also worked as an MC (Master of Ceremony) numerous times in various functions. In actuality, her time was mostly spent working for community activities or non-profit organizations. In other words, volunteer work. She felt happier, and more fulfilled when she did not work for money.

Back to the pandemic. 

Helen knew for sure that during these times, numerous charitable work would be done among the communities. Including her own surroundings. Under normal situations, she would be very keen to be involved. But now, the situation is much different. Very different indeed.

Because of that, with a heavy heart, Helen consciously chose and decided to not take part in these charitable work actively or even overall. The most that she did was to communicate the donation information through Whatsapp groups, helped create flyers or videos once or twice, gave recommendation or information on Personal Protective Equipments for the medical workers or where to purchase cheap basic necessities for those in need, and other simple actions.

Consciously choosing to not take part in charitable activities was what Helen meant by an important decision that she took, besides exiting from a few Whatsapp groups. This was not an easy decision for her as being involved in social and charitable activities had always brought a lot of happiness to her.

She had always been more excited to do non-profit work compared to money-making work. Helen felt that being given the chance to help others is a form of gift from God. But it could not be argued that these charitable activities or non-profit work always had their own share of drama. Many problems that could then become stress factors.

She knew her limits. If she were to be actively involved in the charitable activities during the pandemic, there would be a high possibility that she could tire out physically and mentally. If that happened, then it would be more likely for her to get sick. That’s why she made the conscious decision to not be involved too much in those charitable activities.

Sounds selfish? She felt that way herself. This caused her to feel guilty for a while. Seeing the charitable activities being done and uploaded in social media by her friends, made her feel small and powerless.

But on the other hand, she also felt that it would be unfair if by wanting to join to “just” feel that she was also empowered to do something, she would be putting her health at risk. If something happened to her, the effects would not only be felt by her but also by her family, especially her beloved husband and daughter.

Finally, after considering many aspects and weighing a lot of factors, Helen was convinced that she made the right decision. A decision that she is grateful for. Many of her friends became stressful when doing charitable work but they were able to face those. She on the other hand, might not be able to. Because of that she was grateful that she didn’t have to go through that.

Besides, without having been actively involved in charitable work, her time was already well spent during the pandemic. She spent it cooking, taking care of the house and other things. She still felt tired but it could be measured. Controlled. Stable.

The good side of that measured and controlled tiredness was that Helen felt that she obtained a lot of positive energy. As proof, she felt fine even when for two months she just stayed at home and didn’t go out anywhere. She experienced no boredom at all staying at home with her husband and daughter.

Helen has a very fun relationship with her husband and daughter. They enjoy their time together, enjoying each other’s presence. They joke and laugh hysterically until they hurt their stomachs. No such thing as running out of topics to be discussed. Her husband and her sometimes even talked long into the early morning hours.

Each of them tried a new expertise or activity. Helen started doing yoga through videos on Youtube (beginner’s level). Her daughter learned to play the keyboard. Quite well, as she managed to play a few most recent popular pop songs. Her husband tried to play a wind instrument, inherited from his late father.

Every night she went to bed, filled with gratitude and woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. She was convinced that she could never achieve that condition if her physical and/or mental state were not good.

This period of “Stay at Home” has been quite long. Until this piece was written, the finish line could still not be seen. Ensuring that one has always enough positive energy becomes integral to live. Not just to live but to live happily and joyfully.

This is a story from Helen, she was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, lives now in Depok and works as a freelancer and housemom.

VOCABULARIES
Pemicunya : the trigger

Alasan : reason

Penyintas : survivor

Berdaya : empower

Kenapa-kenapa : an expression showing that something is wrong or unpleasant happens. 

Terlibat : involved

Tersita : confiscated / wasted 

Terbahak – bahak : burst out laughing 

Istilahnya: the term

Indonesian language used here is in the daily-conversation format, that has influences from the local culture and custom. Should you have questions on the more formal version, please consult with your guru Bahasa Indonesia.