I told my mom I was going to write this article. “It’s National Mental Health Awareness Month, so I was thinking of putting together a little something about what it’s like to be in ED recovery while in quarantine”.
She got all quiet for a moment.
“Do you have much experience with that?” she asked.
“Well, um yes, remember when I was really sick?” I replied.
“Ohhhh that ED” she said.
She had thought I meant erectile dysfunction.
I’ve seen a bunch of articles about how triggering quarantine can be for those with eating disorders, including one in the Washington Post Magazine. It was the cover story. I refused to read it, I’m sure it was a really great article, but I just can’t read other survivor’s articles, because when I do… I recognize so much of the ED thinking patterns that I go through daily, and it stresses me out.
As such, I won’t tell you too many details about my history here. It’s important to know that I’ve been in recovery for about 4 years and am doing really well.
There’s a lot I am still working through, I still hate people watching me eat, I still hate the looks from people who knew me before recovery, always so wary – as if they are just waiting for me to spiral again, and I still over obsess about eating healthy.
But I will share some tips and tricks that are helping me cope in quarantine, because the one thing I do agree with all the articles on is that quarantine has taken all my progress and thrown it in a blender, laughing the entire time, and it feels like at any moment I will be pulled back under.
As a survivor myself, I don’t want to read about what’s not working, it makes me more stressed and feeling that I should be more impacted than I am, I’m more curious as to how other survivors are keeping going during the pandemic.
Here’s how I am staying afloat:
*please note, this is my personal opinion and not medical advice, if you are struggling with an eating disorder please please please call the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline at (800) 931-2237.
1 – Know your Triggers, and Identify the New Ones
My old triggers were pretty straightforward and easy to avoid/ talk myself through: people commenting that I had gained weight (usually meant in a positive way, but could send me into a weeks long spiral), eating junk food, being really stressed, etc… but quarantine has created all sorts of new ones I didn’t know existed – like the aforementioned articles about ED (which just make me feel worse), not being as busy as I normally am, feeling I’m not getting as much exercise as normal, and having to watch myself on zoom calls six times a day and judging myself constantly.
Once I realize these things are triggering, I am fortunate enough to be at a point in my recovery where I can realize that it’s an incorrect existential threat. The hard part is realizing that you are being triggered.
I spent the first three weeks of quarantine working out so much I hurt myself, and in the moment I didn’t realize it, but after a sprained ankle and strained rotator cuff I realized I had been letting my ED brain take over, and put a stop to it.
This is such a weird and anxious time and it is easy to fall back into old habits simply because it is something that can be controlled, but identifying that you are falling back into those habits is key (at least for my) to being able to stop the spiral.
2 – Changing my Internal Narrative to Gratitude
That sounds like utter bullshit, but it really helps. When I get a comment about weight? I just repeat in my head over and over “I am happy, I am healthy, I am here”, when I see myself in the mirror and my ED brain begins to take over? “I am happy, I am healthy, I am here”. It takes a second but you can train your inner voice to see things from a place of gratitude versus negativity, it just takes time, and you have to constantly remind yourself to do it, but the important this is that you ~can~ do it.
3 – Reaching Out
I had originally put “meditation” here but then realized I have only meditated about 4 times in the past month or so… and I didn’t want to lie. I have a few friends who I have told that I am struggling and just putting it in writing was such a great way to identify feelings I didn’t even realize I was thinking. It’s always scary to reach out and let other people know that you are struggling, but I’ve found it so important. It just put my safety net into motion, and made me feel so much more supported and not like I have to fight this on my own. I hate doing it because then it’s like “oh great, now I have to spend the next half hour talking about my stupid ED brain” but talking about it with others is so much better for me than talking about it with myself. My self talk almost always makes things worse, while talking with friends always makes it better, if only through the fact that I have put it out there.
4 – Podcasts
Since I can’t read articles that might make me feel like I maybe should be struggling in the quarantimes, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, Staying In with Emily & Kumail is not food relationship specific but I feel they do a really great job of making me feel a little less alone and being insanely relatable.
I’ve been loving anything and everything I can find from author Geneen Roth (who has written 10+ books on relationships with food – here’s what got me hooked (these chats and podcasts all feature her as a guest):
– This instagram live chat with Sculpt Society Founder Megan Roup.
– This episode of Real Pod podcast
– Part Two of the Real Pod podcast with Geneen Roth (which came out 4/22/20)
– This still relevant 2018 Oprah Super Soul Conversations Podcast
5 – Realizing It Is Okay To Not Be Okay
This is a scary and traumatic time for everyone and it is especially hard for those with emotional disorders and mental health disorders and just acknowledging that is a big step. It feels weird struggling when there’s so many terrible things happening in the world and especially if you are otherwise fairly healthy, but this is new territory for everyone and it is okay to not be okay.
One last reminder – this is my personal opinion and not medical advice, if you are struggling with an eating disorder please please please call the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline at (800) 931-2237.
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