Jaelyn Delos Reyes
The weight of the COVID-19 pandemic has left traumatic mental scars on Leroy Espinosa. He fought the demons that came with it as well as the shadows that hovers over his head.
The first year Cerritos College student, shared his experience and emotions from the start of pandemic to current times by talking about how he has struggled and fought through each obstacle, including the loss of his friend due to suicide.
It was frightening for Espinosa when Norwalk High School was shutting down for two weeks. “I was kinda scared that I’m not going to see my friends and not get [the same] education,” said Espinosa.
When Espinosa was only a junior, Norwalk High School announced that students were required participate in online learning. Espinosa and other students didn’t think, at the time, that COVID was going to affect their lives so dramatically.
After being in a K-12 education system in-person, its scary for students that have been so comfortable interacting with other people. Being forced to stay at home can feel like a prison with COVID-19 acting as a security guard on top of their shoulders forcing them attend school digitally.
When two weeks became a year, Espinosas’ hope of going back to school had decreased – he had to remain in his room to complete his daily classwork and assignments.
“When they extended it for more than two weeks I was kinda like disappointed and sad, cause you know, my whole junior year was going good,” said Espinosa, “I made new friends, my grades were good and then sadness came because I felt alone in my room. Most of the time, I was by myself.”
Being alone, having no one to hang out with, due to the pandemic had to be hard for Espinosa because it can make him feel like that he had no one to talk to or to go out and release some stress.
“Activities that were taken away were track meets, league meets. That kind of affected me cause running was like a form of expression for me,” said Espinosa, “I felt like I kinda lost that as well as seeing my friends.”
A lot was being taken away from Espinosa and other students such as being able to interact, participate in school activities and personal interests.
First year Cerritos College student said, “I had fallen into depression for reasons such as my friends’ passing. That really moved everything and made me realize a lot of things about myself.”
Even though the lockdown was to prevent the increase of COVID-19 cases, it created enormous damage to Espinosa and to other students.
However, he began to learn a lot of things about himself. Which can lead someone onto a positive path where individuality can change and be reborn into something better.
Espinosas’ close friend, Alfredo Valdez who would’ve been a senior in high school, passed due to suicide. Espinosa shares his thoughts in regards to Alfredos’ death and how he has coped with it while handling other issues.
Espinosa said Alfredos’ interest was online work because he didn’t want to be around people. Espinosa stated that Alfredo’s religion could’ve affected his death since he couldn’t celebrate events and the negative emotions the pandemic Brough on were most likely a factor.
Espinosa is still trying to continue on with his life even with the death of his friend and the negative effects of the pandemic weighing on him. He does multiple activities to keep himself in a positive mindset.
Espinosa surrounds himself with people he loves and gets help from a therapist. Espinosa said getting help is important because it helps to step forward.
“Getting help is really hard because it’s a step that a person needs to take in order keep going,” said Espinosa.
The things he does to help boost his mental health include going out for himself and not for others. He is using this time to learn how to enjoy life alone and learn how to love who he is and who he has become.
To keep a positive lifestyle, he runs a lot by himself, paints, occasionally bakes and goes out with his friends to remain positive.
How would Espinosa define ‘living life to the fullest’ during COVID-19?
“I’ve taken everything and learned to apply that to myself. I just try to savor the moments, take more pictures with those I love and be around others” said Espinosa.
To anyone who is currently struggling, the first year Cerritos College student said, “Getting help is important, but it’s also hard and it’s okay to feel helpless sometimes, but just know that there are people who are willing to help.”