Alice Catherine Alice Catherine

I wanted to chat a bit about mental health today as I know it’s something a lot of people (myself included) will be struggling with at the moment, and yet it’s probably the topic that’s being mentioned the least amongst the mass media outlets. I’ve pretty much suffered with anxiety and bouts of depression since I was a teenager, and I’d say I’ve been pretty good at managing my mental health for the last few years because I’ve come to recognise the warning signs, and then implement healthy coping mechanisms that take me through the dark place and out of the other side again…

However, I don’t think anyone that suffers from mental health issues could have ever predicted having to manage their mental health amidst a global health pandemic. As we keep hearing and reading everywhere we look – these are unprecedented times. We can’t seem to escape that statement, and as with all difficult periods in history, I don’t think we even have the language or the experience to know how to sufficiently support those who need it most.

Personally, my mental health issues are linked to an ongoing female health issue that I’ve been living with since the age of Sixteen. I’ll link some of my ‘female health’ related blog posts here to avoid repeating stuff I’ve already written about in length – my treatment for which has been put on hold until the world heals and we regain some sort of ‘normality’. It’s a strange headspace to find yourself in – particularly when you want fast answers and you feel as though your body is some sort of ticking time bomb. I feel this way as a woman approaching my thirties, and it’s more than okay if you feel this way too – you are never selfish for wanting your body to work the way it should, even if we are in the middle of a pandemic that seems more significant than anything most of us have ever experienced before.

For those with anxiety, productivity can often be one of the best antidotes – it makes you feel as though you’re achieving something rather than succumbing to the tight feeling in your chest. In the recent weeks, I’ve realised just how much I rely on ‘being busy and distracted’ and just how unhealthy this is when it leads to avoidance of things that matter most in my life. Health for example is something that I’ve put on the back burner for years, so to feel as though the rest of 2020 looks so uncertain, fills me with this heightened sense of dread and frustration that’s hard to ignore. Sure, I’ll bake a banana bread like the rest of the internet and lose myself in a book for half an hour, but what I can’t seem to shake is the feeling of wasted time.

I know a lot of people will be feeling this way, and to be honest, I feel as though it’s a completely rational response – lots of things are on hold for the immediate future, and lots of people will be suffering as a result. Coronavirus has stolen top place in all of our lives, and many of us are finding ourselves feeling guilty for even whispering a personal frustration amongst the chaos because we are all more aware than ever about those that are less fortunate. Whilst this is always going to ring true and there will always be someone suffering more somewhere in the world – I do worry that this will cause people to shutdown their feelings whilst adopting the old ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude that’s personally always left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. We don’t need to lockdown our feelings just because we are in lockdown. We don’t need to handle this new wave of anxiety with grace and poise – we are entitled to be as messy and as unsteady as the world unravelling around us is.

Watching people around you take social isolation (and this new way of life) in their stride can feel particularly lonely for those that are falling apart behind the scenes. Those that are struggling to get out for that one walk a day, those that don’t have an outside spot to sunbathe in, or the guarantee of employment to eventually hurry back to. Those with loved ones they can’t see or touch without putting them at risk, and those dealing with the passing of loved ones whilst not being able to hold someone else they love close for a little while to ease the pain. It’s so tough for so many people on so many different levels and my heart truly aches for those that are being affected. My heart seriously aches for those we will lose to mental health issues because of the isolation and loneliness that this pandemic will trigger.

I’ve felt anxiety on more of a global scale this year as oppose to a personal one – whilst I do have ongoing health issues to deal with and my own personal demons that live alongside me, this year I’ve felt as though my chest has ached in a different way. I worry about the state of the world and what this means for the future. I worry about climate change and the refugee crisis. I worry that all the wrong people are in charge and we are spiralling out of control in a way that we won’t come back from. I worry about all of it. 

I read recently that the belief that things are not OK is reasonable; but the belief that nothing will ever be OK ever again appears to indicate a clinical condition. I don’t currently believe that the world is doomed forever, but I do worry that we aren’t acting fast enough and I’m uncertain what kind of future this leaves us with. Once or twice a day a sudden wave of doom will come over me and it will be so all encompassing that I just need to lie down and let it pass. I know that this has been happening to a lot of people, and I think it’s completely normal when our bodies are absorbing so much new information at once. So much life changing information that’s hard to digest. I think more than ever we need to be mindful about judging others for the way they are coping, and instead choose to lead with kindness and understanding. More than ever it’s so vital to be gentle, and to reach out to those all of those around you – especially the ones who seem invincible and especially the ones baking endless banana bread.

If we could all deal with this time in a rational and sensible way then we would probably be robots in an episode of Black Mirror. We are human and that means to fuck up, act out, and damage ourselves in ways that we only seem to learn from much later on. For so many of us, this time isn’t the scariest the world has felt – this isn’t the first time we have felt alone with our thoughts or isolated from the ones we care about most. The constant washing of hands and disinfecting of surfaces aren’t new tasks to practice, and the weight of the world seems all too familiar resting on our shoulders again. For many, this time is triggering of past trauma and a constant reminder that we can’t disinfect our own minds the way we disinfect our homes, or organise our thoughts like we frantically organise our awkwardly stacked kitchen cupboards.

Many things might be on hold right now but mental health doesn’t stop or take time out just because there’s a health pandemic. Mental health ebbs and flows with the world around it, mental health changes it’s mind whenever it feels like it, and mental health often determines our ability to cope with new challenges ahead. There’s no furlough we can offer up for poor mental health – all we can do is remind ourselves that we are not alone, we will get through this, and there will be a time when we look back at this period and reminisce in the sunshine with those that we love most sat close beside us…


A few helpful resources (please leave links to any other suggestions in the comments below)

Advice from the Mental Health Foundation 
Samaritans mental health guide during the Coronavirus outbreak 
Text Shout to 85258 (24/7 text service) 
National suicide prevention hotline 
Calm App for mindfulness during isolation 
How to utilise social media in a healthy way 
Advice on how to help someone you’re worried about 

Photographs taken on an Olympus EPL9, at home

Images taken from William Eggleston: The Democratic Forest 

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  1. Camille says:

    I needed this post. Thank you Alice, you have a way with words and an ability to express what so many people are thinking, including me. I didn’t know how to put into words what I was feeling and you just did.
    I hope you are doing fine. Sending you love from France.

  2. Simon says:

    Hi Alice.
    As a man in my fifties, I suspect I fall way out of your core demographic! The reason I do follow you is because of posts like this one. Like you, I have struggled with my mental health for many years and, whilst you are obviously approaching these issues from your own perspective, and specifically as a woman, I find your honesty, integrity and insight both helpful and very moving. There are so many problems that are unique to each and all of us, yet you seem to have a beautiful way of expressing your hopes and fears which takes on a universal significance which we can all relate to.
    The industry in which you work can so often be accused of propagating divisive, unrealistic and unnatural female archetypes which have such a negative impact on women’s self-image and self-esteem. In this context, I think what you write is so important as a positive contribution to health (men’s as well as women because the flip side of these feminine stereotypes are the masculine ones which are often formed in opposition). So thank you Alice; look after yourself and keep up the good work x

  3. ughyeah says:

    Maybe those baking bread are using that to cope. they dont deserve to get bashed. we are all handling this the way we know how.

    1. alicecatherine says:

      You’ve completely misunderstood the point of this piece. I’m one of those baking a lot (and always find myself doing so when highly anxious). The point I’m making is not not just assume that people who are being productive are fine and don’t need checking in on. Quite the opposite of bashing those people – I’m highlighting the importance of looking out for them.

  4. Maria Koss says:

    You are right, the world will not be the same, yet we can not let negative predictions (that, in fact, might never happen) allow to steal peace and harmony from our hearts.

  5. Libertad says:

    Thank you for such an honest post, I needed to read this and check that I’m not the only one thinking like this! I’ve suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life and I’m quite surprised about how well I’m managing all this situation, but I worry about those who have never treat with anxiety before and now they’re suffering from it (my boyfriend, for example, never had a panic attack until a couple of weeks ago, I was so heartbroken to see him like that!). Every person with an anxiety disorder I know have their treats and tricks for keeping it in line, it’s important to share them for those who are in need of them at the moment.

  6. Kate says:

    Lovely words Alice. We all have different ways of coping, and those can vary from day-to-day, hour-to-hour even. We have to be kind to ourselves and kind to one another, and let all emotions be felt, regardless of whether they feel ‘valid’ or ‘vital’. I’ve found being ‘productive’ to be my crutch at this time – every time I pick up a book to relax I can only read a few chapters before my mind wonders – so I’m trying to channel my energy into my blog. I have loads of posts ‘planned and prepped’, but getting the words out to finish them all is tough.

  7. Holly White says:

    Beautiful words Alice. This sums up things so perfectly. I’m also struggling with that feeling of wasted time and I keep finding myself trying to push through any struggles and suffocating them with a workload… when in reality, I probably just need to be feeling the emotions and letting myself breathe. I think it’s such a difficult time for so many people, and for so many different reasons, so thank you for putting this out there, it’s helped me (and I’m sure so many others too) feel less alone xxx

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