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  • Laura Ryder

The Weekly Catharsis: Coronavirus

Updated: Apr 11

Thank you so much to everybody who submitted pieces of writing and gave me permission to anonymously publish them here as part of The Weekly Catharsis. They are all so honest, which is exactly what this space is for. You can read them below.

"I was prepared for going into lockdown. I had my toilet roll ( not too much but enough! ) had food to survive a few weeks. I had devised a plan for homeschooling...set up the toy room as a classroom..we were ready for social distancing and staying home. We could do this...and we have. It's been pretty painless and I'm surprisingly enjoying staying home and just being here with my family. What I wasn't  prepared for was how without plans, without trips to the shops, without playdates, without holidays to look forward to etc...how idle my mind would become. I find myself suddenly going back in time and reliving the past and questioning my actions, relationships and checking regrets and what would I do different if anything. It's been so long since I stopped these are things I've never considered..suddenly with nothing to plan for the immediate future (beyond how to count to 100)...I'm haunted by my past. I now understand the elderly and why they constantly talk about their past they have no future plans."

"In this time of Coronavirus it feels like the rest of the world has now just caught up with me, in terms of being anxious about health and having to forcibly slow down your life.

I was diagnosed with a bowel disease, a chronic illness, 7 years ago, and one of the main side effects for me is fatigue. A good period of remission for me is 6-7 months, then I get a flare-up that usually last 6-8 weeks. Then it takes time to recover, put back on weight, build up my strength and energy again. And the cycle begins again.

So when it comes to my health, I’m always worrying about the unknown. Worrying about the medication I take and what awful side effects I might get short- and long-term. Worrying about when the next flare-up will occur, and how long it will last. The guilt when I do get ill. Worrying about my increased risk of osteoporosis and bowel cancer. Wondering should I just have surgery to “cure” it but possibly make me infertile.

When I’m ill, I have to cancel my social life and at best drag myself in and out to work every day. The rest of the time is spent resting and sleeping, hoping I get healthy again. Everything has to be planned - Avoid eating for as long as possible before taking a journey. Go for a walk in town, where there are toilets nearby, not the beach. Cook plain, simple food at home. Going to the cinema or theatre is awkward if you need to leave to use the toilet several times.

I use yoga, meditation and acupuncture to deal with this ongoing stress and anxiety. And in my periods of remission I refuse to obsess about it. I try to make the most of my life again... but it can be tough to get the balance right - I still feel like I’m limiting myself or turning down career/study options. But it’s always there, in the background. I always have to be cautious and careful.

Now that “healthy” people are freaking out about Coronavirus (and rightly so), I think, welcome to my world. I spend my time freaking about about bowel disease.

I was overly anxious about Coronavirus until the government shut the schools and introduced social distancing measures. And once that gloomy wait for virus to invade Ireland ended, weirdly I felt better. The government advice and measures were actions that comforted me that I could take and gave me a sense of control.

I’ve also switched off from constant news updates (hard as a former journalist) and only go on social media if I have to update something for work. This has helped immensely. My FOMO (fear of missing out) has disappeared - poof!

I now have time to meditate more, listen to relaxing mantras on YouTube, read, paint, and practice gentle, slow yoga - all good for the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest mode).

So I’m worrying less now. Of course I miss seeing family and friends in person but we’re all in the same boat right now. They are safe which is a comfort.

It’s a good feeling being able to allow my body to rest even though I’m not having a flare-up. I’m hoping that resting while healthy will benefit me and increase my remission.

Everyone has slowed right down to my level. And I like it.

It is true what they say; your health is your wealth."

"Since first case of Covid 19 in our little country, the world feels strange, lonely, frightened and empty. People smile and say 'Oh we'll sit it out, it'll all be grand sure '. But behind those typically Irish comments are frightened glances when you pass, pained smiles at the children. The radio, the tv, the paper, the daily conversation are full of the unknown questions. 

We are all questioning our 'normal'. We are all nervous about the length of this need to be separate from each other. We wonder when we'll see our parents again, our grandparents. We are terrified of loosing someone close. We've all heard the stories about how people die alone in the hospital. The world is a strange place and we all hope that human kind can learn something from this and we hope beyond hope that we can all return to our 'normal' soon."

"A hidden danger that can even give a false allure of leisure. On a sunny day almost forgetting it exists!

A guilty feeling for enjoying the quiet time and less pressure, mixed with the nagging fear that this horrible disease will meet my loved ones and take them away fast, to a cruel end with no chance for one more hug or to say goodbye with love. 

The anxiety heightens when I think about it and my stomach knots, so I suppress the feelings and pretend to enjoy the leisure. 

It's a daily cycle of thought, hourly even. I look forward to when it's over.

Is it ever over? I realise, before this existed, my mind already worked a similar pattern. Feeling guilty for enjoying myself away from loved ones, sometimes not even having them in my mind. Fear that they could be suddenly taken away without one last chance to be there. 

Every day has a hidden danger, today it just has a name -Coronavirus!"

"I am sitting in my back garden in the sunshine as I write this, listening to my children playing happily together – an idyllic situation at any other time.

Yet, now, there is an undercurrent of anxiety. There is a constant worry niggling at the back of my mind.

What happens if one of us contracts the virus. Weeks ago we discussed the practicalities – where in the house the person would isolate, which rooms we’d have access to, how that would work in practical terms. But, with two young children who make their way into my bedroom every night, the thoughts of being isolated from them isn’t one I really want to give too much attention to. Then, there is the bigger worry of what would happen if either of my parents, or my parents-in-law were to contract it. We are all taking the necessary precautions, listening to and heeding the advice, but you wonder if it is enough and still the worry lingers.

On top of that is the fact that I am naturally a social person and we are a family of huggers. Visiting my parents and talking to them through a window is the most unnatural thing in the world and has left me feeling incredibly lonely. The uncertainty of how long this will last leaves me feeling anxious.

All of these feelings were overwhelming me initially. I spent much of last week feeling very emotional, at times even feeling physically sick, with headaches and a near-constant knot in my stomach.

But I know that won’t help in any way, so I’ve been working on letting go of everything I cannot control and trying instead to focus on the positives.

I’m limiting my intake of news, I’ve left certain groups on Facebook and am limiting my time on it too. I’m trying, as much as possible, to live in the moment and appreciate the good things in life.

And the thing is, these are plentiful. I love that as a family we now get to eat dinner together every day, rather than just at weekends, because my husband is currently working from home. As I was writing my four year old ran over to tell me that he loves that it is the four of us at home, so thankfully this time of uncertainty seems to be a positive experience for them so far.

Our sons are close in age, are naturally close and have a good relationship, but it’s also lovely to watch them at this time, playing together and listening to their conversations and the games they come up with. That childhood innocence is a joy to watch.

I appreciate the fact that I get to talk to my parents and family daily, check in with them and see how they are doing.

I am grateful for my group of very good friends. We may not talk too regularly in the normal run of things, but given any crisis and we can always turn to each other. Our group chat is a safe place where we can say exactly how we feel, where we listen to each other and validate our feelings of stress and anxiety, while also not allowing one of us to become overwhelmed, instead suggesting ways to ease those fears and support each other through this time, sending on positive quotes and funny stories or videos.

These are definitely uncertain times, most likely a once in a lifetime event, and while there will be times my feelings threaten to overwhelm me I refuse to allow fear to be my over-riding emotion and it’s certainly not what I want my children to feel or remember of this time.

I want them to remember the time we had together as our family of four, the extra time with Daddy, the fun in the garden when the weather was shining, playing basketball, baking, painting, extra snuggles and being there for our extended family, albeit in a different way than normal.

Today, I choose to be grateful for all I have and to focus on the positives. I spend so much of my life focusing on the next thing or planning for the next project, but right now the most useful thing, and certainly the kindest thing I can do for myself, is to simply live in the moment and take it each day at a time. And to send love, light and positivity out into the universe."

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