“There’s a bigger picture at play here, but that doesn’t mean mental illness stops just because we’re at war with an invisible enemy”


Mental Illness & Corona Virus

By Jess McCaul

Managing my mental health over the last few weeks has been nothing short of tricky. The coronavirus pandemic has come along and uprooted my life in a way that I only ever saw in my worst nightmares. Everything I was told could never possibly happen, has, in fact possibly happened. 


Routine, the addiction of choice for many of us, has quite simply gone out the window. Getting up, going to work, doing the essentials. Trying to squeeze in everything into one short day has now gone. In its place, hours of emptiness, rumination, and catastrophizing.  


The prescribed method of minding our mental health – get up, go out, have routine, meet and connect with others. No longer an option. I, and we, are quarantined to our homes for our physical safety. For those we love, for those we dont know, and ourselves. Theres a bigger picture at play here, but that doesnt mean mental illness stops just because were at war with an invisible enemy. If anything, this current situation is throwing up a lot of mixed feelings for many of us. 

Impact on recovery

Up until two weeks ago, I thought I was solid in my ongoing recovery from anorexia. I was maintaining weight, I was pushing myself to eat out more, I was challenging a lot of my eating disordered rules and behaviours and then suddenly the safe little world I had created for myself was stripped away. The things I relied on to motivate me and maintain my recovery – gone. Going out to meet my friends. Drinking hot chocolates and being spontaneous. All replaced with social isolation and a self imposed quarantine. 


And do not get me wrong, I understand and agree with every bit of this to keep us all safe, but at the same time I fear for my mental health and that of others. I know that being at home all day is not good for me. I know that I need to be at work, getting out and about. Having an aim. I do not do well sitting at home all day, it gives me too much time to think. Im scared that without the routine of my life two weeks ago that my eating disorder will seize this as an opportunity to sink its claws in. Its already turned up the volume as it is. Tempting me with a false of security, focus on food, that will distract you. No thank you. That is not a hole I want to fall back into. 


But it is a hole that gets a little bit bigger with everyday that passes by and Im cautious of accidentally falling into it. The announcement of the schools closing just over two weeks ago sent me into an anxious spiral. I was increasingly aware of my anxiety creeping back in over the last month or two, but this set the wheels in motion. I was suddenly aware that this was getting very serious. It wasnt something I was internally panicking about anymore. Everyone else was too. And the worst part? That was when the panic buying started. I never experienced anything like it in my life. It was horrific. Everyone grabbing everything and anything out of pure fear of being without.  

 Finding A New Normal

I naively thought that because Im vegetarian that the foods I deemed safe for consumption would be okay, there would be no shortage of them in the coming weeks. Theres not that many veggies surely. I was very very wrong. This has proven to be a dream scenario for my eating disorder. But Im trying to push pass it. Im trying to push pass everything. The at home workouts. The jokes about the quarantine 15. The pressure to spend the time productively. Its all worming its way into my head. I feel like the world is more chaotic than its ever been, and yet the world is on pause. If anything I should feel calmer, but I dont and the usual healthy coping methods like going out, meeting a friend etc etc are no longer viable options. 


Im trying to put down a new routine. Yoga. Walking. Reading. Watching a boxset or two. Checking into the news once a day, rather than multiple times an hour. Practicing a little more self care than normal and, most importantly, going easy on myself. Telling myself its okay to feel anxious, to be disappointed by canceled plans and a little afraid. Im human.  


It is very difficult to navigate this new world we find ourselves in. I crave my routine. I just want back a bit of predictability or at least a glimmer of it. I desperately need to know when this will all end because although its been great at showing the massive cracks in my recovery, its not sustainable in the long run.  



If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following

Shine: phil@shine.ie


Samaritans: 116123


Pieta House: 1800 247 247


YourMentalHealth.ie: 1800 742 444

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