IN March 2020 when the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that Ireland was going into lockdown it felt like a scene from a Will Smith movie. I remember feeling scared and anxious, the fear of the unknown was terrifying. I was worried about family members, friends and myself.

I was diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease at the beginning of 2020 and the medication I was (and still am) taking suppresses my immune system leaving me feeling extremely vulnerable. 

Leaving the house to go to the corner shop felt like a scene from Mission Impossible. If I spotted someone in the distance coming towards me, I would quickly scramble onto the road to avoid them. I washed and sanitised the hands off myself. I scrubbed and cleaned every corner of my home. I washed the packaging on things I bought while doing the weekly shop, then the doomscrolling began. (Doomscrolling: the act of consuming a large quantity of negative online news at once.)

I was addicted, I would spend my days scrolling through my Twitter feed, then switching to Facebook, then reading Covid related articles online, I would never miss an Executive briefing and I absolutely put people’s heads away with the latest Covid statistics. 

I noticed I became very irritable, I would snap over the slightest thing. I couldn’t understand it myself – and then the tears began. It was at this point I decided that enough was enough, I knew my mental health was deteriorating and I also know I was largely to blame for it.

Before Covid I filled my days with work and the gym. I also always made sure I was doing some sort of educational course on the side as well, for some unknown reason I always had to keep myself busy. So, when I went from never having a second to myself to having all the time in the world I completely crashed. 

The hour would feel like ten minutes and it was so relaxed it felt completely natural to open-up. My counsellor was amazing, she never once made me feel silly for being a neurotic mess, she listened, she understood, she got it. 

We’ve all had this fantasy at one time or another of not having to go to work, but when it’s taken away from you, you really miss it. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do. I made the effort for the first week or so: I got up at my normal time, got washed, dressed and even put my make-up on. That routine quickly faded and soon I was the pyjama queen of West Belfast!


Every day felt like Saturday and it got tiresome very quickly. The highlight of my week was going for a drive to Tesco in Crumlin, but for someone who already suffered from anxiety pre-Covid, seeing people queuing up outside shops and trying to follow a one-way system round the supermarket stressed me out like never before. I could almost tolerate it until it was time to pay for the shopping. Fear and panic would set in, my mind would be racing, freaking out, wondering if I was in the right queue, did I bunk anyone? Am I two metres away from people? I would leave the supermarket shaking like a leaf and on one or two occasions I left in tears. It was at this point when I realised I wasn’t enjoying life at all, I needed help and I knew it.

Through my GP I was put in touch with the Falls Women’s Centre. A counsellor called Mary contacted me by phone and we embarked on a six-week period of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Initially, I was nervous, but after that first phone call I genuinely began to look forward to my Tuesday morning CBT sessions.We talked about everything. I’m a very organised and regimented kind of person, I thrive with routine, I absolutely need routine and structure.


I couldn’t fathom how I was going to speak to a complete stranger, with no particular subject in mind for an hour a week.  I need not have worried, once I started I couldn’t shut up! We talked about everything, things I didn’t even know were bothering me.

The hour would feel like ten minutes and it was so relaxed it felt completely natural to open-up. My counsellor was amazing, she never once made me feel silly for being a neurotic mess, she listened, she understood, she got it. 

Mary taught me the value and importance of self-care, something I always found to be a bit indulgent to be honest. She made it clear from the get-go that Tuesday was “Brónach Day”. I wasn’t supposed to do any mundane tasks like cooking or cleaning and believe me, that suited me fine!

So every Tuesday for six weeks, I stayed in bed until 9am, then I had my CBT session, after that I would spend the day lazing about watching my favourite films or TV shows, reading books and taking a long bubble bath after a lovely walk – God I loved those Tuesdays. The old cliché is true, you cannot pour from an empty cup. These days I make self-care a priority, and I’ve learned that self-care is not selfish or an indulgence, it’s a necessity.

I can honestly say that I felt quite emotional when my CBT came to an end, but Mary gave me the tools to cope and taught me techniques to put in place when I felt myself slipping. I cannot recommend CBT highly enough, it was the best thing to come out of this pandemic for me (that and Tiger King on Netflix!)