health

'This weekend broke me.' We asked 43 women how their mental health is right now. Really.

Six months into the coronavirus global health pandemic another emergency is picking up speed in Australia: a mental health crisis. 

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our lives, Lifeline is getting a call every 30 seconds. 

That's about 90,000 calls a month, to one provider alone.

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From lockdowns and job losses, to grief and family breakdowns, everyone is dealing with their own set of unique, challenging circumstances right now. 

Throw in the fact that we're being encouraged not to touch, socialise or be around others and it's easy to feel exceptionally alone. 

Earlier this month, Victoria announced an additional $59 million in funding to boost the state's mental health services after admitting the state's system "wasn't fit for purpose" given the current circumstances.

The federal government has also announced extra funding, providing around $500 million to mental health supports, suicide prevention services, and mental health care via telehealth services since January.

But some experts say in the scheme of the crisis we're facing, those numbers are modest at best.

In an effort to check in on the women of Australia right now, we asked 43 in the Mamamia community: How are you doing, really? 

Here's what they told us:

Anthea.

I suffer anxiety and I'm in Melbourne. How am I? Okay... but only just. I had an appointment with my psych in mid-July before it all went downhill COVID wise, and he suggested it would be okay to up my medication. 

I did at the end of July with great trepidation (I suffer bad initial effects), but thankfully the side effects were minor. 

The last couple of days I've had small attacks, but nothing overwhelming. But it's so miserable and mundane down here, and I'm not in a good place mentally.

Tamara.

I live with anxiety and depression and have done so since a young age, but this year has been a constant bubbling away of anxiety that never seems to fade. Sometimes I notice it more, other times less, but it’s always present in the background. It impacts my patience, my focus, my health and my joy.

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If I’m honest, I’m okay. If I’m truly honest, I’m scared this level of anxiety will be my “new normal” and that strikes fear into me.

LISTEN: Hear from the Victorians living through stage four lockdowns. Post continues after podcast.


Lily.

My mental health sucks right now. I feel super anxious, on edge and really uninspired and flat most of time, which makes me feel sad because I don’t feel like myself. 

I think I’ve been more stressed and affected than I realised about the whole COVID thing, being alone, and working from home - because I’ve lost weight which is a classic sign from my body when I’m constantly operating on high adrenaline. 

Heaps of my friends and family say they feel the same, but I am kind of unsure how to snap out of it.

Whitty.

I’m in Melbourne. I am a single parent in an apartment with my son, and my mental health is trash. I tell myself I’m fine, but when I have to open the front door, that’s when the s*it hits the fan. 

I had my first panic attack on Friday standing at the front door. I couldn’t breathe, but was also breathing really fast. I thought I was having a heart attack. It felt like my heart was being squeezed from the inside. Then I cried and called a friend who also has anxiety. 

What’s really killing me is my son's mental health. Every night he’s expressing huge anxiety, depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts. He’s 12. I calm him down, we talk through it, eventually he sleeps and I try for sleep at 2am. 

Then I have to work online while he tries schoolwork. We’re alive, but all the carefully placed structures that kept us as a little family unit ticking along are gone, and we are only just hanging in there.

Kate.

I have never had any mental health issues. 

I am currently 13 weeks pregnant, vomiting everyday and I can’t work. I can’t even drink water and I am crying every day. I can’t believe how much being pregnant has affected my mental health. I’m so down and upset all the time. I’m so scared I’ll feel sick for the whole pregnancy. Or what if this is just how mum’s feel? What if I will feel this bad forever? It’s such a horrible feeling losing control over your body and your mind. 

Thankfully, I haven’t been affected mentally at all by the pandemic.

Vanessa.

I'm in Sydney and I'm going okay, but I feel like I have a constant feeling of 'calm anxiety' with a touch of underlying sadness. 

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Carly.

I’m in Sydney and I have just had my first baby. Life feels pretty okay for me given I’m in a bit of a baby bubble. But I have this underlying feeling of sadness because my parents are in QLD. The unpredictability of the border closures and not knowing when they’ll see my daughter again is hard.

Nekkita.

I'm in Perth, and while we are so, so lucky with how controlled COVID-19 has been here, I have been stood down from my job in tourism. I'm so lucky we have JobKeeper, but I am trying to find a job still because we can't survive on JobKeeper forever. 

All I think about is 'what if I can't get a job? Why does no one want to employ me? I thought I was a great employee, but I can't get past the email rejection?'

Jennifer.

My mental health is pretty low right now. 

I’ve never had such frequent and long-term periods of being so down and anxious. It's more or less sometimes even situational depression... but I want to use that term lightly because I don’t think I’m depressed. Just some things bring it on and I don’t want to leave my room or my bed. I don’t feel myself at all and I’ve been struggling for at least a few weeks now. I find myself to be a positive and happy person but I couldn’t feel further from that right now. 

Things annoy me more easily than ever before and even when I plan things they seem like an effort, and I’m just smiling through it.

Carrie.

For me COVID-19 was actually a huge wake up call that I was not looking after my mental health as well as I thought I was. 

Before the pandemic I knew I was anxious, but I would bury it with being extra busy and preoccupied with work, friends, exercising etc. I would see a therapist every now and then, but I wasn't in a routine of it. When the pandemic arrived and we were all sent into lockdown I went into the worst depression of my life. I would wake up and not be able to breathe, I could barely get out of bed, my relationships suffered and I was experiencing some really scary thoughts. Thankfully I was/am surrounded by caring people and they got me the help I needed. 

I started medication and I am getting regular therapy sessions and it was life-changing. I genuinely believe that COVID-19 forced me to get my mental health in check, and now I never want to stop taking my anti anxiety medication. I feel stronger mentally now than I did pre-COVID.

Carla.

My mental health has really gone down the toilet and out the window. At this point I really don’t know how to pull myself out of it. I’m even too tired to write about my story of s*ittiness to be honest... and access to good mental healthcare for people who can’t afford it is a joke. 

Existence is extraordinarily exhausting, which isn’t helped by one extraordinarily unsupportive person in my life. I can’t wait until this year is over but I don’t think next year is going to be any better.

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Rachael.

I’m in stage three lockdown in regional Victoria. I’m a step mum to kids we have 100 per cent of the time. I’m feeling closed in by them. I am perimenopausal and haven’t seen my family (who live on the other side of Melbourne) for six months. I also work in healthcare. Just coping is an understatement. 

Helen.

I’ve always thought of myself as fairly resilient. I’ve always been good at compartmentalising. I get through what needs to be done and then I decompress/scream/cry later when the crisis is over.

I have a terminally ill mother who I split primary care with along with a full-time job. The background anxiety has just increased and for the first time ever I’ve asked for medication to help me sleep and take the edge off.

It’s a mild sedative/anxiety tablet apparently. It’s helping. I don’t need it every day, just a couple of times a week when I can’t switch off and it feels too much.

Pip.

I am normally a strong, healthy, independent woman, but this weekend I lost my sh*t over the silliest little thing. Yes, I’m Melbourne. I live alone in a new part of the town with only one friend within five kilometres... but this moment surprised me. 

I thought I would start my weekend with a hot bath after a busy week at work, but I turned off the pilot light by mistake and couldn’t get it back on. I drove around in the cold getting wetter and wetter trying to find long matches or a long lighter so I could try myself. Four places later, no luck. And that is what broke me. The inability to help myself and the very limited physical support I have access to at the moment made me fall in a heap driving home. 

I won’t pretend to know why this was the straw that almost broke the camel's back but I am guessing that most of us have a breaking point. I took to my bed for a day and now I’m back up dressed and running three meetings today. I think all I needed was validation that my feelings were understandable. And I mostly got that over the weekend from the friends I reached out to.

Robyn.

If I'm going to be honest I'm okay at the moment although I have breakdowns regularly. My dad had a massive brain haemorrhage at the start of the year and I'm still trying to deal with that. My husband has exams for his work coming up and if he fails it could ruin his career. I have recently given up alcohol after some bad experiences with binge drinking.

Add all of that to the fact I'm a front line emergency healthcare worker in rural Queensland who is overworked. Everything is okay right now. But I could use a break from my life. I'm just taking it one step at a time.

Emma.

I'm anxious all the time, about big things and about little things. I've got two kids at school and a baby. One of my kids is dyslexic and can't afford to take five months out of schoolwork. My husband and I are both working full time from home.

I start work at 5am to try to fit it in. It's chaos, it's not sustainable, and I am barely coping.

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Sadie.

My mental health is all in a very messed up state. I have been stood down indefinitely from my job in events, but have been lucky enough to pick up some alternative work.

The job is mind-numbing and just a toxic environment, so I am mourning my chosen career along with being cooped up alone in Melbourne's stage four lockdown. 

A cold last week had me in absolute panic mode thinking “what if...[I have COVID?]” It was highly unlikely and I did the test which was negative, but the aftermath is that I am still exhausted from being in a state of panic for a couple days. 

This year was the year I wanted to go out more and focus on my love life and absolutely nothing has worked out so far. The hotlines are good and nice to have, but none of it is replacing a hug and human interaction with people I actually like. 

Tracy.

I feel angry, frustrated, let down and I am scared of COVID-19. My child has a non-life threatening developmental condition that we ordinarily manage well. However, it can affect organs in the body and his weight is low. 

I have been phoned by the paediatrician to explain his concerns and why I should exercise more caution with our son right now, even though we live in a remote area. I experienced a total dressing down from my mother-in-law yesterday about the whole situation. She told me not to even think about COVID and completely disregarded my feelings and concern. I am angry that I wasn't seen mother-to-mother for the feelings I experienced. I'm angry. I'm scared. I'm concerned about the clusters in Brisbane. We live remotely but we have lots of people travel here. 

Bridget.

I’m in Brisbane, where I moved just at the beginning of the year. I moved to be closer to more friends but right now I feel so distant from everyone. It just seems to be an accumulation of things. My sister-in-law's mother died last week and I was really close to her. I wanted to be there for my brother and niece and nephew but they are in Sydney, so no chance. Then a potential relationship ended because he met someone else. Then as a teacher I live in fear of another lockdown... and then there is this underlying anxiety that you have no idea if tomorrow everything will change, so it’s hard to plan. You can’t look forward to anything, because it might get cancelled. It’s so uncertain all the time. And if I hear one more person say 'the war generation had it worse' I’ll scream.

I’ve had tough times in the past, but I think it’s that a lot of the solutions I have - such as spending time with certain friends - aren’t available to me right now due to closed borders.

Peta.

My mental health is suffering as I am taking on the emotional labour for my children even more than normal. Their dad lives in Melbourne and has not seen them since early March, at his dad’s (their grandpa's) funeral. He would usually see the boys every four to six weeks but has been unable to. 

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It’s been hard as we are able to get on with our lives here in Adelaide, but their dad’s life has stopped and I have to make sure that the boys understand that his life is very different at the moment. It’s also really hard to find work right now with so many others looking too. So I’m caught in the middle of being rejected for work (and it messing with my head) and not applying at all (and it messing with my head).

Kate.

I am in a constant state of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and my frustrations are unfortunately being taken out on my family (whom I am stuck at home with).

I am living in Melbourne's stage four lockdown and I have no idea when this will end. I have just completed a furlough from work after being re-deployed to a COVID-19 ward and possibly being exposed. My husband is now on JobKeeper and I am homeschooling a five and seven-year-old.

It is all very stressful, lonely and never-ending.

Reenie.

It seems to be very easy for me to cry. I am in regional Victoria and I work in aged care. It's like waiting for a bomb to go off. I struggle to wear the face shield because of sinus problems and we also have to wear masks under them. I am considering not working for a while and that just makes me miserable because I love my job.

Tristan.

I am okay at the moment, but July was really stressful. My mum moved to regional NSW the day before Melbourne went into lockdown. Everyone kept saying "Sydney will be next!" I went from living fifteen minutes up the road from my family to three and a half hours away with a possible lockdown. Fortunately it didn't happen and I got to visit in August, but July was bloody stressful. Doubly so because it felt like such a trivial thing to be going through when I had friends and family in lockdown in Victoria and people I knew were permanently cut off from their families and loved ones by state and international borders.

I am definitely a lot better now. Life is unexciting, but it looks like the numbers are coming down so I am just hoping it stays that way.

Kylie.

I’m on the outskirts of Melbourne in stage three restrictions. I am not working, and drinking 1.5 bottles of wine a day. Not good.

Kylie R. 

I'm an Aussie in the US and have surpassed almost six months in lockdown. I have passed the depressed stage and I am now just plain angry. I'm angry that our thriving beauty business, that we worked so hard to build here is hemorrhaging as our industry is still closed after six months. I'm angry because people just didn't do what they should have done in the first few months. We could have weathered that financially, but six months in and with no end in sight I'm angry because some businesses can open and others can't. I'm angry at the unnecessary death toll and that the numbers don't even seem to shock people anymore. I'm angry that people still think it's all fake. I'm angry when I hear my fellow Aussies complain about masks and a couple of weeks of inconvenience (yes I know that's unfair). I'm angry I can't come home to see my very elderly sick parents, and I'm angry that someone like Donald Trump is the puppet master to millions of lives.

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Ashleigh.

In one word, I'm overwhelmed. I've just had my first baby five weeks ago and feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm in WA, so most people have essentially gone back to life as usual and I can't understand why. With a newborn and the pandemic I'm still apprehensive about attending social gatherings. I currently have my second bout of mastitis, and I can feel the postnatal depression starting to set in, but the thought of getting out to get to a doctor or counsellor appointment on time is exhausting.

But on the other hand, I also don't feel like I can vent or complain, not when people in Victoria are doing it so tough.

Lisa Marie.

I am doing okay. I am focusing on what I can control and letting go of what I can’t.

My father in-law got diagnosed with cancer in March the week lockdown first started. Five weeks later he passed in South Africa, and of course we were not able to travel. So we have had to make peace. It has given us perspective on this whole situation, and it’s brought my husband and children closer.  

I’m working from home full time now and have built in little routines to start my days strong, with a morning walk, burning oils, music, etc. I try to practice gratitude daily and look for opportunities where I can make a difference. I’ve recently started volunteering with a community centre on my day off where I have been assigned one person to contact weekly who is socially isolated. That’s really rewarding for them and myself and I’m enjoying getting to know them. It’s little things which make a big difference.

Amanda.

I am living in Sydney while most of my coworkers are in Melbourne. I am living with constant anxiety and fear of leaving the house. I am trying to be positive but it's hard. Seeing all the venues and people ignoring the rules is making me angry.

Sara.

I’m in Sydney, and the actual lockdown was surprisingly good for me. I thought I was such an extrovert, but have enjoyed getting to know my internal introvert. On the other hand I am having the worst few months of my life. I lost my father in June and my brother-in-law last week.

I’m really angry about how many stupid people are in our community. These “know it all” conspiracy theorists are making me so angry, and I am feeling so disappointed in us as a nation. 

Bec.

I live in regional Victoria on an acre block so I feel like I have spent six months not allowing myself to feel my actual feelings as I’ve been incredibly aware that compared to so many others, we are lucky. I’m crumbling now. The exhaustion of staying positive and supporting others when life actually is different and difficult for me as well, with a three-year-old and one-year-old at home, is taking its toll, As everyone is, we miss our life, our family, our friends and making memories with our children. I just feel so flat.

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Natalie.

I’m in regional Victoria with my partner. But my family are in New Zealand, and my best friends are in London. It really sucks not knowing when we will all see each other again. I’m up and down. I am trying to enjoy things, but sometimes I’ll just get struck with sadness. I get super grumpy at people breaking the rules and I tend to take it personally. I am allowing myself to feel however I need to and acknowledge that that’s okay, while taking comfort in the fact everyone is in the same boat... but I have definitely been struggling.

Natalie J.

Every day is a different place on the spectrum between okay and not okay. Having a baby during this pandemic has been the best and worst time of my life. I have enjoyed the bubble but the little joys like showing off my son to my work colleagues, seeing friends, and taking my son out and about so he can explore the big wide world have been either limited or impossible. It seems petty but those little outings and introducing your little one to your village is a rite of passage for new parenthood. Sending photos just isn't the same.

Melinda.

I'm in stage four lockdown in Melbourne, and I'm often exhausted despite doing less. I am lacking motivation and I have reduced productivity at work. There's also this non-specific or ambiguous sadness and disillusionment with our efforts to suppress the virus. An unexpected relationship ending prior to stage four lockdown has resulted in me having no human contact and being much more isolated and lonely. It's taking lots of self-coaching throughout the day to manage my anxious feelings. 

Laura.

I’m in Victoria home schooling and working in my own cake business (which is surprisingly flat out). I’m not great, but I don’t think this is due to COVID-19. I am off to see a psychiatrist next week because my psychologist and GP haven’t helped too much over the last year. It's no fault to them, I just need a clear diagnosis. But having no time alone is really, really affecting me. My daughter is an extrovert who follows me room to room (she is six), and I’m an introvert. My husband is working 16-hour days so I am alone most of the time. It’s really challenging.

Wendy.

I’m in Melbourne in stage four lockdown. It’s been very up and down. Some days it’s been hard to get out of bed. I had a meltdown yesterday and cut all my hair off. Today I feel great, I went for a nine kilometre walk and now I am listening to a podcast. 'Day by day' is my mantra at the moment.

Lara.

I’m in regional Victoria and struggling with a heavy depression. I’m married to a farmer and we have three kids. I went back to university five years ago so I could have a career and be more independent. I am so close to finishing, but because I am studying by distance through a NSW university, I won’t finish on time thanks to COVID-19 and border closures. I think I’ve put all my self worth and value as a human into having a career and it’s soul destroying for me to just not be able to get there. It feels like the finish line is moving away from me as fast as I’m moving towards it. 

I also don’t love where I live but I had come to terms with this by making sure we had weekends away and regular holidays. That was how I managed my mental health. All these measures I put in place to manage my mental health have been taken away from me and it’s taking a while to find new ways to manage.

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Sandee.

I’m a hospital worker working in COVID-19 wards in Melbourne and I’m currently furloughed and being tested due to outbreaks. I've had a lot of anxiety and concern around that. I have a toddler and a child in grade six homeschooling, so that’s been challenging. 

Today I arranged counselling for my 11-year-old who is also having a hard time not seeing her friends in person and being stuck at home all day, every day, for weeks on end now.

On top of everything I had an old friend of 24 years dump me today because he’s gone deep into the conspiracy theories. I explained to him that I work with COVID patients, so I can't be convinced it’s fake and I asked him to please 'agree to disagree' because I don’t want to fight. Gone. Just like that.

I kinda feel like if someone touched me on the shoulder and asked me if I was okay, I’d burst out crying. We’re hanging in and trying to be strong and resilient but the sadness is just lying underneath the surface ready to break free at any moment.

Jen.

I’m eating Nutella out of the jar as I’m typing this. I’m in Melbourne and have been doing pretty well so far. I’m super grateful to still be working and to be healthy. My husband and I don’t have kids so there’s no pressure of homeschooling. Exercising (walking, yoga) daily has definitely helped my mental health, but over the past week or so I’ve been feeling really flat and feel like I am just kind of pushing through. 

Bronnie.

I am great... fine. We work from home so it's been business as usual for us. We are lucky to have good immunity so we are not living in fear. I would love to go to festivals, markets, and to travel overseas again soon but I realise this could be the new normal for a while. I've actually enjoyed slowing down, there's been no more rushing kids to extracurricular activities and I've enjoyed being home more this year.

Lisa.

I’m struggling. My mum is 89 and in Canada. I've visited her every year for the past 23 years. She’s diabetic and in a retirement home, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again.

My cousin in Canada is dying of lung cancer, I may not see him either. I also just became a great aunt but I can't meet my nephew.

I lost my beloved dog in May and I couldn’t be with her in the vet surgery and we had to sit in the parking lot to say goodbye to her.

There’s not been a lot of cases in Queensland but I’m scared. My heart cries for the people in Melbourne and for the elderly. I want this to be over, will it ever be over?

There seems to be so much hate on social media, so many angry people. 

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I don’t sleep well, I worry about the future...

Ramona.

I am living in Melbourne now, after coming back after 14 years of living in Mumbai. When COVID-19 hit we really worried we may not see our Melbourne family again, so we took a repatriation flight and left our lives behind. We thought the situation here would be better, but it feels relentless, especially with online schooling and my business coming to a standstill. I keep questioning if we made the right decision. I feel like I am grieving for the life we had. It's such a confusing and stressful time.

Julia.

I’m a junior doctor in a women’s hospital. I know I’m lucky to be leaving the house for work, but I had an exhausting shift yesterday and came home and just had a breakdown. Usually I can deal with the stress but not being able to blow off steam makes it so much harder.

Christine.

I'm okay. Yoga, meditation, family and friends are keeping me in a good frame of mind. My heart goes out to those who are isolated. It's hard not knowing what's ahead but then again we never have, really. Control is an illusion.

Feature image: Getty.


If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Kid's Helpline is also available on 1800 551 800.

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