Emer McLysaght, co-author of the hugely popular Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling series, joined Ryan Tubridy in studio on RTÉ Radio 1 to tell her personal story of struggling with her mental health.

"I had the unfortunate incidence of being released from two months in a psychiatric hospital, literally as the pandemic kicked off," Emer told Ryan.

The timing was unfortunate, to say the least. While Leo Varadkar took to the airways to plead with the nation to stay indoors and maintain social distance, Emer was being told not to isolate herself from others for the sake of her mental health.

Luckily, her co-author and long-time friend, Sarah Breen, opened her home with welcoming arms. Within a day, Emer found herself swapping a psychiatric hospital for a COVID bubble.

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But let's take a step back. From mid-January to mid-March in 2020, the author took up residence in St. Patrick's Mental Health Services in Dublin following a long standing battle with disordered eating.

"I, in hindsight, have had some kind of disordered eating / eating disorder for 20 plus year, since probably my late teens. I kind of realised this maybe two and a half years ago, I had done some research and I had just been struggling with food."

"I was very black and white in terms of food," she continued. "I was either terrified of eating it or couldn't stop thinking about eating it. It was one or the other and there was no in between."

Eventually, the obsessive thinking took its toll on McLysaght, to the point that she couldn't leave the house with the fear of food freezing her in place. Her eating habits, she says, were chaotic and her feelings toward her body would change "depending on the cycle" of binging or purging.

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Having Googled her symptoms thoroughly, the Kildare woman accepted that she likely had an eating disorder and that she needed help to cope with it. The next hurdle was finding a plan of action.

Emer explained that she had struggled to speak about health issues with GPs in the past as they would often focus on her weight first and foremost.

"If you're someone who lives in a larger body, which I have done up and down during my life, it can be very hard to get really straight, down the line medical care."

Eventually, she found a GP who heard her out and connected her with a psychiatrist who deduced that she needed to be referred to a dedicated eating disorder team. That was when the imposter syndrome kicked in.

"Part of the eating disorder and part of mental illness is 'I'm not sick enough for this, they've got it wrong. I've somehow tricked them into thinking that I'm sick enough for them to give me this care.'"

"Even when I was in hospital I was like 'I don't deserve to be here, I'm taking up a bed that someone else deserves'," she adds.

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Over her eight week stay, Emer began to accept her place on the ward, but it wasn't always easy. She told Ryan that witnessing other patients struggle with mental illness was scary at times but, over time, the institution became a safe space.

"There was a time where I was like 'I never want to leave'. It became very safe and I think that's quite a normal way people feel sometimes in those kinds of setting. It does feel very safe. You're safe from yourself. Often you can feel unsafe from yourself. If you're alone, you don't know how dark things... you know, I can't cope."

When her time to leave finally did come around, the writer said that she was ready to get home to her own bed, but that walking out into a global pandemic made the experience exceptionally lonely.

"It was like in 28 Days Later, when he wakes up and the entire of London city is gone. That's kind of what it felt like. It was so eery."

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While recovery will always be an on-going process, Emer told Ryan that she is "OK" recovery wise but that she has had to accept that she in in the early days of a life long struggle.

"At the moment, I very much feel like I'm in early recovery, which is frustrating because I've lived with this for 20 plus year and feel like I've wasted a lot of time to it or given a lot of time over to it. I don't want to give it anymore time but I don't really have an option. I would say I'm OK, recovery-wise."

To listen to Emer's "gloriously honest" chat with Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ Radio 1, click here.

If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, please visit: www.rte.ie/helplines.