Mind Mental Health Health Coronavirus Wellness

How I learned to heal when I lost my friend during COVID-19

Trigger warning: Trauma, anxiety, and suicidal ideation

Last March, just before my city was forced to go on lockdown due to COVID-19, I had a major falling out with a close childhood friend.

We had known each other since we were in middle school. But the two of us had grown especially close in our college years because we were experiencing similar hardships that allowed us to form a bond on a more personal level.

As a result of our new, budding companionship, we had spent the past three years building a more mature friendship, talking almost daily, hanging out often, and leaning on each other for advice or guidance through the difficult transitions of young adulthood.

Then, suddenly, at the beginning of the pandemic, our friendship just about abruptly ended, leaving me confused and hurt.

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In hindsight, our falling out was over something rather petty and could have been avoided or solved with better communication. Even so, losing a friend during an unprecedented pandemic as well as simultaneously losing my sense of normalcy caused underlying and undiagnosed mental health issues to arise, which left me feeling alone in ways I had never felt before.

In the initial stages of our falling out, coupled with the stress from the pandemic as well as uprisings and racial reckonings across the United States, I found myself crying frequently, battling suicidal ideation, going to sleep, and waking up feeling anxious.

However, despite the emotional burdens I was feeling at the time, losing my friend also forced me to address unhealthy patterns of my own behavior.

With time, I began to slowly realize some important revelations about myself.

Patterns that had long prevented me from confronting the trauma I buried under the guise of happiness.

And the isolation of the pandemic forced me to reflect on why the end of this friendship was affecting me so intensely and what could be done to improve the state of my mental health, in a substantial way, going forward.

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In turn, my process towards letting go of a friendship, of normalcy, of control, and the illusion of good mental health, required months of self-reflection. With time, I began to slowly realize some important revelations about myself.

Things like how I never truly learned how to forgive people close to me when they caused me harm, which explained why I could be quick to anger or defensiveness over a minor conflict, as I anticipated receiving the worst treatment from people.

I also realized I never learned how to move on from things that hurt me, and I never made my mental health a priority. Perhaps, even, I have never been truly mentally or emotionally healthy; rather, I was just surrounded by people who distracted me from myself.

Perhaps my former friend and I distracted each other from our own problems.

After all, part of our bond was built on our commonality of having a history of toxic, draining, or one-sided friendships with other people.

Ultimately, my healing process through coping with this loss is requiring me to acknowledge my own shortcomings and aspects of my health I should have taken care of sooner; trauma I should have allotted time to heal from a long time ago. However, I also came to realize, it’s okay to find you’re not really okay because it’s never too late to prioritize whatever you need in order to heal.

Upon realizing there is work to be done towards getting better, it’s imperative to be patient with yourself and extend yourself some grace on days that seem difficult to get through. Personally, months into the pandemic, I started journaling, I wrote a ton, and I cried when I needed to (without shame or guilt).

Part of our bond was built on our commonality of having a history of toxic, draining, or one-sided friendships with other people.

And I confided in a loved one about the things I was and had been struggling with for a long time, relieving myself of the burden or illusion of having to be strong all by myself.

That also meant admitting to myself that surface-level forms of self-care, that I’ve always performed myself, weren’t enough to manage my mental health forever. I decided, at some point, I’d like to get some potential diagnoses regarding whatever mental illnesses I may have from my doctor. I also wanted to try finding a suitable therapist who can offer more effective coping mechanisms from a professional standpoint that I can utilize.

Additionally, it’s important to note: sometimes relationships end, and sometimes things happen in the world around you outside of your control. All of which you’re allowed to grieve within a healthy space. Fallouts with friends, especially close friends, don’t have to be catty or messy, but they are admittedly hard to endure.

It’s normal for uncomfortable life changes to make you feel bad, confused, or both.

We can and should end relationships with people that no longer serve a positive purpose in our lives (even if the person on the other end of someone else’s decision to do so is you). To cope with such losses, we must give ourselves the space to let that person go, check-in regularly with our mental health, and then eventually move on.

So, ultimately, what I’m learning about healing is I don’t have to be invincible to pain or the downsides of losing someone important to me. It’s normal for uncomfortable life changes to make you feel bad, confused, or both.

As morbid as it is, if you asked me whether the pandemic contributed anything positive in my life, it would be how the weird and strenuous circumstances of the last year helped me learn how to be consistently healthy enough to withstand the inevitable ebb and flow of life.


If you’re having trouble coping with your mental and emotional health, please reach out and make use of the resources below.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.
In case of escalation, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.orgThe Trevor Project provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQIA+ youth, and can be reached at 1-866-488-7386.
You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US and UK from the Crisis Text Line. 7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and find more resources here.
And finally, the National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.


Check out Mental Health Mondays, The Tempest original series featuring stories of those battling their mental health, in all of the ways. And follow @thetempesthealth on Instagram!


Young Adult novels cured my seven-year reading slump

Growing up, I was the girl who carried a book with her everywhere she went. I spent hours in Borders (RIP), browsing books until I finally picked what world I wanted to be sucked into next— only to finish that book just hours later.

However, reading was a passion of mine that dwindled as the realities of adulthood set in. I no longer had the time to read fiction or, quite frankly, anything not related to my Journalism degree. Even after I graduated, I was too burnt out to read for fun after a day of absorbing news articles and making deadlines. Before I knew it, I hadn’t read a book for myself in seven years.

What’s more, is my reading and writing journey are practically intertwined. My love for reading nourished my creativity, and I spent as much of my teenage years writing as I did reading. I eventually lost my writing spark as well when I stopped reading. And I essentially traded in my dreams of being a published author for being a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist instead. 

In June 2019, however, I decided to dip my toe back into creative writing. Thankfully Instagram’s algorithm also showed me a peek into “Bookstagram,” and I was inundated with beautifully shot photos of young adult books with impressive cover art and compelling synopses. It brought back memories of some of my favorite YA novels as a teenager, such as “Wicked Lovely,” “Twilight,” “Vampire Academy” and “The House of Night Series.” I was hesitant though because I thought I was too old to read YA. 

On the other hand, I also firmly believed in the downright false perception that most YA novels were either problematic or didn’t have much substance to them (the discourse around “Twilight” had been enough for me to discount the whole genre). I chose to follow the Instagram account because the photos were pretty. However, I didn’t expect anything more than admiring the account’s aesthetic to come from following the page. 

Despite many of the books featured on the account being geared towards a younger audience, I started to become invested in the YA novels that were being showcased; particularly “Storm and Fury” by Jennifer L. Armentrout. So, I subsequently decided to take a chance on the other books I remembered had caught my eye.

So over the summer, last year, I was pulled into the magical world of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber and the twisted lands of faerie Holly Black created in the “Folk of Air” series. I even finished those books in one to two sittings, a feat I only thought possible in my youth. From there, my reading list only grew. I subscribed to a monthly book box and told friends and family to get me books for holiday gifts. 

For me, the benefit of reading YA novels was the fast-paced nature of the story. The plots were engaging and told the story succinctly in a little over 300 pages, which made reading feel like less of a commitment. If I carved out 30 minutes of unplugged reading time before bed, I could read 50 pages a night. And despite not every book I read being a favorite of mine, simply reading the books, even the ones outside of my comfort zone helped rekindle the joy of turning the page.

What impressed me the most about how much the genre had changed was the increased diversity. Although the publishing industry still has a long way to go, I was reading a variety of complex female characters, POC main characters written by POC authors, and books I wish I had known about when I was growing up. 

My biggest discovery was LGBTQ+ novels. Audrey Coulthurst’s “Of Fire and Stars” was the first F|F book I had ever read, and it made me feel truly seen in ways I had never experienced in a novel before. When marginalized communities talk about representation mattering in the media: listen. Diversity in stories is really life-changing for readers amongst minority demographics. 

I now consider myself an avid reader again. My girlfriend and I have three bookcases in our apartment, and I’ve become more ingrained within the sapphic bookish community on Instagram. I still love and fervently read YA books, but I’ve also branched out into reading more adult novels. 

Truthfully, as we get older, we can lose track of the things that brought us joy when we were younger. Sure, there are some things we grow out of, but embracing a hobby you used to love is something to be proud of. There’s so much complicated and often burdensome emphasis on what it means to be an adult. So, it’s easy to sacrifice pieces of who we are to become who we think we should be. It’s empowering to take those pieces back, reminding ourselves of what used to ground us— even if it’s just by getting lost in a book.

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Life Stories Life

Listening to Kpop helped me fall in love with music again

Growing up in Dubai, I only knew and listened to Hindi music. I wasn’t explicitly told not to listen to English language songs, but I always had a feeling it would be frowned upon as my parents never listened to any foreign music.

That all changed when I was in the seventh grade, and my sister introduced me to Coldplay. A little later, a friend recommended “Fireflies” by Owl City, and I was hooked. It helped me feel like I had my own personality, separate from my parents. Hindi movie music at the time was all about romance, which was not so relatable for me at 12-years-old (not that a million fireflies ever lit up the room as I fell asleep either, but I wanted them to).

As a result of my introduction to Owl City at what was a formative age, I started listening to indie music in high school. Of Monsters and Men was a particular favorite artist of mine at the time, as were Beirut and Radical Face. The music almost defined me in a way. For instance, none of my friends listened to the same artists I did, which helped me differentiate myself from them. The music also mentally and emotionally transported me to spaces that made me feel safe and comfortable; which notably, was a feeling I would keep chasing my whole life.

In fact, this last point can be noted when I moved to India for college. So, I desperately clung to my favorite music as it was one of the only solid familiarities in light of my newfound displacement. I was both sad in India and homesick for Dubai. Overall, going through life was just more difficult in India, and I struggled to make a country that felt like I didn’t belong truly feel like home.

My way of dealing with all the discomfort I was feeling was by listening to American music, for it helped me not feel bound to India.

What’s more, is my second semester of college was even more difficult than the first. I began to suffer from what I suspect was depression; although, I was never clinically diagnosed. A strange side effect of my being depressed was I could not listen to music at all, even elevator music would make me nauseous. This strange feat could perhaps be contributed to the link between hearing and stress, and how the latter impacts the former. And although my depression got better with time, I still could not get back to listening to my own indie music, which deeply disappointed me. Sadly, I felt as though I had lost a meaningful part of myself.

Toward the end of my second year at college, I faced more life changes that made me stop listening to music again. My parents were moving away from Dubai, wherein I used to find comfort during vacations from school. Consequently, the sense of feeling as if I didn’t belong anywhere deepened. I began to understand what it really meant to be ‘uprooted.’ These feelings combined became too much for me to handle, and it showed in what then became a familiar aversion to music. 

Later, however, a miracle happened.

I was staying at my friend’s house for a few days, and I came home one evening after a particularly bad day, almost in tears. She took one look at me and gently steered me to the kitchen to take care of some milk that was heating up on the stove. I nodded and stared at the pot, willing myself not to cry until I vaguely heard some music playing through her speakers.

A minute later, I realized my foot was tapping along to the music. I paid a little more attention to see if I could recognize the song but I couldn’t put my finger on what was playing. My friend came back into the kitchen and said “It’s K-Pop!” when she noticed my confusion and intrigue. I opened the notes app on my phone to take down the name of the song: “Second Grade” by BTS. “And this one playing now?” I asked. “Boyz With Fun! By BTS again,” my friend replied.

I proceeded to ask her for a list of songs; instead, she sat me down in front of her laptop and started playing BTS music videos. I saw five videos in a row in the time it took for her to finish doing laundry. “Who’s that?” I pointed at the screen excitedly when she came back into her bedroom. She laughed and told me their names, and though I promptly forgot, I was already well on my way to becoming a big fan.

When I went back to college, I started listening to more of their songs. The same friend introduced me to other K-Pop artists, and slowly I started discovering some of them on my own. This persistent tension I had been feeling for years while in college evaporated. And I felt like I could breathe again.

That was five years ago. From 2016 to 2018 I only listened to K-Pop, as Indian and Western music caused memories to resurface surrounding difficult times in my life. And though I returned to the Hindi music of my childhood in 2018 when I moved to London, subsequently reconnecting with my childhood memories and nostalgia. Kpop was and is still my main genre of choice today.

Is Kpop easier for me because it doesn’t carry the weight of cultural expectations? Because it doesn’t remind me of versions of myself I don’t want to remember? I still endure tough times and have bad days, but Kpop has helped me cope when I’m not feeling like myself more effectively than any other genre.

It feels good to pop my earphones in and lose myself in the beats and melodies, and even lyrics that I’m slowly starting to understand without English translations. Ultimately, I’ve found a community here. A community that is so welcoming and immediately accepting of me as I am. And perhaps this was the home I was looking for all along, for this is a culture that naturally embraces me as I embrace it right back.

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Culture Family Life

A love letter to libraries

I know that I am not alone when I say that we, as humans, find a lot of solace in libraries. They are temples of knowledge, housing collections of stories and dreams alike on their shelves. Libraries are as much a part of our culture as anything else. People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries. In a way, they hold the key to all of our stories,

I love libraries, and I am terrified to see their eventual demise, especially as our world becomes almost entirely digital. They are gems from the past that have maintained vitality no matter the circumstances or happening outside of their walls. Not to mention they are the cornerstones of entire communities, maybe even countries, granting light and stability to people when nothing, or no one, else seemed able to. They offer more than just books; they offer entry into a space that seems more like a sanctuary run by people grounded in compassion, commitment, creativity, and resilience.

People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries.

I used to go to the library near my grandparents’ house every other Friday. For the most part, my mom took my brothers and me there to get a new book for school or to see what DVDs we could bring home to watch that evening. But I remember roaming around, starstruck, in between the tall shelves, wondering about the people who wrote each and every single one of those books and how long it might have taken to get them all here.

Most weeks, my mother let me get two books instead of one. I could spend hours there if it was permitted. I always liked watching my mom pick her books for the week, too. She seemed so sophisticated and gentle while scanning the shelves, yet she never knew exactly what she was looking for. If it was winter, afterward we would all pile back into the car with our hardcover books and grab a slice of pizza. If it was summer, we would walk to the Italian Ice shop down the street for some cream ice – those were the best days. 

I fear that libraries have been taken for granted, even in my own life, and am always spellbound to find them chock full of unexpected people, doing unexpected things, with unexpected passions. There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling, the pure excitement in my stomach, that erupts every time I am searching in a library for the perfect tale to dig into. A trip to the library seems, to me, to be enchanted. I become whimsical, enveloped by the completeness and simplicity of the entire journey.

Even the smell of a library is impossible to replicate because of its specificity and poignance. I am reminded of sandalwood, dusk, and a particular, antiquated, dampness. Its familiarity is beyond comforting. The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination. 

I feel at home while pattering around and tracing my fingers between the shelves of books. I fall in love while blowing the dust off of the covers, revealing bright colors and exquisite lines. I spend hours crinkling through the aged, already yellowing, pages of novels wondering which I will pick this time. It is never an easy decision, and I always leave with dozens underneath my arms wondering if the others will still be there when I return the next week. But, that’s the beauty of libraries, isn’t it? Every visit is entirely different from the last and there is no telling what you might stumble upon. Yet each visit is also starkly familiar. 

The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination.

Books have changed so much of my life, with plotlines, characters, and lessons that have been woven into nearly everything I do – that is every decision, every consideration, and everything that I have grown to appreciate or even pay a little bit more attention to. Books are there to remind me of what’s important, and when I’m not so sure, they’re there for me to lean on. Without libraries, though, I might have never been allowed membership into such a world of splendor. 

Family Coronavirus Gender & Identity Life

This pandemic has robbed me of a sense of home

Four months ago, I left home with a promise to come back.

I left with masked tears, excitement for a new year marred by a prick of unease that never went away no matter how many times I had done the same thing. It is the same dance over and over again at the beginning of every semester, I would long to stay behind, have a little more time with my family, only to finally board the plane to the promise of new classes, better chances and busier days.

Two months ago, I left another place I called home, saying a forever goodbye.

My roommates had hastily moved out of our dorm, and I sat in an empty room with packed suitcases waiting for my ride. I stared at our bare walls. They were closing in on me, suffocating me until I forced my eyes away and glanced out of the window, feeling a bit like Rapunzel stuck in some tower waiting for an escape.

Two more destinations, a constant fear of ending up homeless, two overweight suitcases that now contain my entire life, and multiple teary sleepless nights later, I often wonder – where and what is my home?

People try to define “home” often. They do so in the form of cringy hallmark movies and romcoms, wall décor that you receive as housewarming gifts, and self-help books targeted at middle-aged white suburban moms. But I never really questioned it until I left my home – it suddenly feels like a label of false security.

Being able to call a place yours – whether that place is a country, building, a group of people, a community – is a privilege, and like every aspect of privilege, you never really know you had it until you lose it, or are confronted with the absence of it.

When I first came to the US as a college freshman and a new international student, I was constantly reminded that this was not my home. Every time I was asked where I am from, questioned about my accent or got my British spelling corrected, I was made aware that my home is elsewhere. But I didn’t mind. I had a home in Sri Lanka, a beautiful family, and supportive friends. It was a home where I did not have to explain myself every time I did something that is remotely “South Asian” or “non-American.” I did not have to mask my opinions with niceness, or constantly be aware of the color of my skin, the way my words sound and whether I call it the pavement or the sidewalk.

But when you live in a place long enough, it grows on you. It is like a vine that creeps up on you slowly and you never notice it until it has surrounded you and becomes a part of yourself. By the second year of college, I was not quite sure if my home was firmly in Sri Lanka anymore. Of course, I still had my life there, and whenever I went back, I had the comfort of walking around in flip flops under the scorching sun, familiarizing myself with the honking of the cars and casually slipping back to Tamil like I was speaking it every day while I was away. But I recognized that I missed Iowa. I missed the way people opened their doors for me, the cornfield jokes, the cheap pasta from downtown, and the rustic smell of fall. I had realized that while I had my home back in Sri Lanka, I had also made a home in Iowa, and while it felt strange – and a little scary – I understood that duality of my life, of what I call home.

Then the pandemic hit. When I got the official email from the university announcing that classes were going online and that the residence halls would be closing, I couldn’t think straight – I cried. Sri Lanka had gone into lockdown, and suddenly Iowa did not feel like a second home anymore. I thought I was going to be homeless. Kind friends in Iowa City, my savings, the stability of my on-campus job, and the sanity that online classes gave me kept me afloat.

I skipped houses, packed my entire life away in two suitcases and a hundred boxes that were all dispersed to four different locations, and stayed awake every night worried about the next day – of what I was going to do, what I was going to eat. For two weeks I lived alone, and one night I wondered if I did not wake up the next day, how long would it take anyone to notice?

Now I live in a room that is not mine, posters of people I do not care for adorn the walls. I’m afraid to mess up the order of things and living out of suitcases because I am scared to unpack, ready to be on the move once again if I need to. I feel like a vagrant, like a kite whose string has been cut adrift, lost in this liminal space of longing and waiting. I wonder if Iowa was ever my home – if that sense of comfort was so false that I had been betrayed into believing that I could make a home away from home in this country.

In late April, President Donald Trump announced the plan for an immigration suspension. There was a sense of panic among friends who had gone back home, of the uncertainty of not being able to come back. I stood in that threshold of being able to make a decision, when it was really a false sense of choice because my decisions were being made by governments and policies, while I sat like a puppet going back and forth between my desires, torn between two homes, questioning the security and longevity of both, the weight of the answer chasing me as the semester drew to a close.

Each day I feel like a clock is ticking, each morning I wake up to monotony. Groundhog Day suddenly feels like a horror movie. I pass my days and find solace in memes and Tik Tok videos that my friends send my way. I listen to the same songs over and over again and feel disgusted by the greasiness in my hair. I dream of Sri Lanka – of sunny beaches, sounds of traffic, and the heat of the sun. I wake up in a bed that is not mine, hurry up to check my phone to see if anything has changed and let a sense of disappointment and displacement wash over me, all over again.


The Best of The Tempest: Life edition. Our favorite 7 stories from 2019.

2019 was a year. While in the grand scheme of human history it probably won’t register as particularly significant, it was a year where womxn and femmes, and basically anyone who isn’t a cishet white man, started to find words to speak their truth. We talked about deeply traumatic experiences. We shared pain. But we also shared resiliency. So in no particular order, these are the Life Editor’s top picks for 2019.

1. “I couldn’t speak about my assault for years, until now” by

I couldn’t speak about my assault for years, until now

We all know assault sucks, but to describe it and confront it in writing? That’s something special.

2. “We’re all the victims in a world of school shootings” by  

We’re all the victims in a world of school shootings

In an America where shootings seem to happen every other day, a deep and personal narrative describing the effects of such happens is so important. Even if you haven’t been directly involved in a shooting, the PTSD hits us all in its own way.

3. “My neighborhood believes in walls and privacy, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed a week without a wall” by

My neighborhood believes in walls and privacy, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed a week without a wall

Walls are made for privacy but are they hurting human compassion and sympathy? During one week without a wall in the suburbs of Johannesburg, this author discovered an entirely new side to her neighborhood. But at the end of that week, the wall went back up and the camaraderie faded. Is privacy worth it?

4. “I wish people talked more about this depression symptom” by

I wish people talked more about this depression symptom

Brain fog is a real and horrific effect of depression that doesn’t nearly get enough attention. Brain fog refers to a cluster of symptoms that affect thinking, memory and recollection. Moreover, it affects more than just those with depression. Understanding each other is the first step to making this world a better and more accepting place.

5. “What I didn’t know about life after graduation” by

What I didn’t know about life after graduation

Moving from the freeform setup of college into the abyss of the unknown is terrifying for everyone. We think the real world will offer the same freedom but, instead, we take any and all jobs that will pay the rent and offers health insurance.

6. “Here’s why I’m done helping you with your white guilt” by

Here’s why I’m done helping you with your white guilt

It is not up to women of color to make you feel better about your inherent racism. The everyday turmoil of microaggressions and stress placed on the shoulders of POC is simply unfair and exhausting.

7. “I lost my faith in religion. Now I have to tell my Muslim parents” by

I lost my faith in religion. Now I have to tell my Muslim parents

Something changed in this author’s faith over time. Slowly, she began to listen to music, dance and lose her passion for Islam. Is she still Muslim? Why couldn’t she connect?

Life is nuts but when we share our experiences the world gets a little closer and we understand each other a little better. Cheers to 2019!