Living through a pandemic becomes even harder when you are working towards recovery from an eating disorder. Isolation can stir up many feelings in all of us.
The more you know about and recognize feelings and triggers, the sooner you can act and prevent relapse or prolonged struggling.
Challenges during a pandemic
Being alone can sometimes allow our minds to wander. We may fixate on the current crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic or might find our minds focusing on our previous or current eating disorder behaviors out of sheer boredom. Loneliness can also be triggering for many, as the disorder sometimes (for many people) can almost manifest as this other identity-this other thing that can keep us company or give us something else to think about.
Loss of Control
For many who are struggling or in recovery, the eating disorder has provided the comfort of the illusion of control.
“When I do X, Y happens”. There is a sense of predictability and also ability to control an outcome, at least in one’s own body or on one’s plate. In a time like this when the world around us seems to be collapsing, there is often a temptation to resort to old habits and behaviors out of sheer desperation for a degree of control in our lives.
Lack of Productivity
With many people out of work or with some degree of job uncertainty, the quarantine can often bring up that oh-so-familiar negative self talk such as “you’re useless”, “you’re not doing anything productive”, “you shouldn’t be relaxing so much.” The ED takes any opportunity to put us down. Not being able to work or having lots of downtime can be triggering.
Being stuck indoors-the same four walls and however many rooms can be mind-numbing. The human mind doesn’t generally like boredom. For some, the attempt to fill in the spaces of time can lead to acting on behaviors.
When the underlying psychological conditions often associated with eating disorders come bubbling to the surface, many people are tempted to self-medicate. This may be especially challenging given that dispensaries and liquor stores are considered essential businesses that are still open. Remember that AA meetings are still being held virtually and you need to stay in touch with your healthcare providers about any underlying addictions you may be struggling with.
Do’s and Don’ts
So obviously this whole situation can be very negative and cause some to relapse or, at the very least, struggle with the disordered thoughts and urges more than normal. So what do we do about it? Here are my tips for managing the ED during times of high stress and isolation:
Visit pro-ED websites and be very careful with social media.
Not only can our Facebook and Instagram feeds be upsetting with all the news bombarding us on all sides, but the temptation to read up on the latest diets or read over websites that the ED likes to frequent can be very strong.
Visit pro-recovery websites. Look up ideas on pinterest for self-care and ways to nourish and take care of yourself during times of stress.
Stuff your feelings. Don’t hide that you’re struggling.
We’re isolated enough without the ED making us feel even more alone.
Talk about it! Call a friend or family member. Talk to your spouse or roommate or coworker-or go online to find resources such as the NEDA helpline. ED thrives in secrecy-when nobody knows, it can continue. When others know, they may check in on you more or give you a much needed reality check at a critical moment.