The Pandemic Diaries: 'There's been days where I've just flipped out,' Jillian Harris says of the COVID-19 era

By Jillian Harris, as told to Sarah Trumbley

This piece originally appeared as part of The Pandemic Diaries series in Issue 728/729 of HELLO! Canada magazine.

What were you doing when COVID-19 became a fact of life? We invited some Canadian stars to answer this question while documenting their lives during the pandemic – the highs, the lows, how they coped, what they learned.

Nearly six months into lockdown, and as the summer draws to a close, our celebrity-diarists – a mix of famous faces and behind-the-scenes superstars – are sharing those stories exclusively with HELLO! Canada readers. Their revealing, touching, at times humorous personal essays, accompanied by candid photos, show just how much we all have in common as we continue to navigate these unusual days, separately yet together.

Below, entrepreneur, influencer and interior designer Jillian Harris shares how she and husband Justin Pasutto and their kids Leo, 4, and nearly two-year-old Annie, have been experiencing the pandemic.

I honestly could not wrap my head around it. I do good with change that I have control over, but the day lockdown started in Kelowna was so mind-blowing, it just didn't feel real.

Justin, on the other hand, I'm sure has been preparing for this day his whole life. He's positive the zombie apocalypse is going to happen one day, so he's the kind of guy who has water in our basement to last us six years. He was like, "Oh, we're going on lockdown? We've got everything we need!" He was ready.

Meanwhile, I'm inviting my cousins over for wine and he's looking at me like, "Are you delusional? You can't have people over." And that's when I just panicked. Because I don't go out much – we don't go to concerts, we don't really go out for dinner, we really stick to ourselves – but our house is a hub. We have friends and family and work shoots every day. And as much as I liked the idea of quiet, I think it just really scared me.

Photo: © Jillian Harris

The weeks that followed ended up being amazing, though. I learned how to make sourdough bread, which has been really fun for me. We were going on family walks in the mornings and spending more time together, it was beautiful.

Photo: © Jillian Harris

But all good things must come to an end, and after two or three weeks of that, we started to feel some of the pressures of not having childcare, not having dog walkers, not being able to go to the office, not seeing my family. I saw someone on Instagram call it "the coronacoaster" – and it definitely was, and continues to be, a rollercoaster for us, and I'm sure every family out there.

Photo: © Jillian Harris

There's this quote that my mo has often told me: "Take it one thing at a time, take it one day at a time." So that's what Justin and I began to do. We started splitting up our schedules – he had the kids in the morning and I locked myself in my bedroom and worked from 8 a.m. to noon. Nobody bugged me, he brought me lunch, coffee. I sat in there and just powered out as much work as I could. Then at noon, we would switch.

Everybody's just trying to do their best. It's hard enough trying to be the perfect mom, partner, boss, friend, etc., on the best of days - let alone during a world pandemic. So there's been days where I've just flipped out, or Justin and I got in a fight, or I broke down and cried. I remember standing in the driveway crying and Justin was like, 'What's wrong?' And I'm like, 'I just don't feel happy. I miss my friends, I miss my life, I miss people in the world being happy and feeling safe.' It's been such a crazy time. We had to cancel our wedding. Justin's grandma died. I accidentally threw out my engagement ring and my grandma's wedding band, in a recycling mix-up. There's been a lot that has happened.

Photo: © Jillian Harris

With that said, I do acknowledge that I didn't lose my job and no one close to me has died from the virus, so I have no real reason to complain. But I could see the stress in my employees' faces. I could see that a lot of them were nervous – whether it was about getting sick or losing their jobs. And mental health within my team is extremely important. So right off the hop, I was like, 'OK, we're going to work partial days. You work until you don't feel like working anymore.'

Photo: © Jillian Harris

We started taking Fridays off and focusing on things that seemed more important. Any of the big campaigns we were working on we put on hold and instead turned our energy into fundraising. Our company, while its as affected from a stress point, wasn't really affected financially – which is why charity and giving back was what I really wanted to focus on.

Honestly, if someone had would have told me prior to COVID that tomorrow I would have to continue to run my business while not having childcare or any of the other help I had before, I would have said, 'There's no way I can do that!' But we did do it. I think at some point we're all guilty of doubting ourselves, of thinking in the back of our heads, 'Can I do it? I can't.' But if this has taught us anything, it's that we're capable of way more than we think we are.

In this challenging time, it’s really hard to be separated from family and friends. It’s also a time when everyone needs a beautiful escape. Here at Hello! Canada, we’re still busy creating the magazine you know and love, to spread positivity and provide some entertainment as a gentle reprieve from all the hard news. And with our new special offer for subscribers, there’s never been a better time to have Hello! delivered directly to your front door. Why not treat yourself, or someone you love, today?

You're on HELLO!'s global site. Click to return to HELLO! India Go back