Like many of you, I too am battling an eating disorder during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, I also lost my mum to end-stage MS two weeks ago. Battling mental illness and dealing with bereavement, all at the same time of a global pandemic is literally taking everything I have got right now.
But I have made a promise to myself not to let my recovery efforts of the past two years slip just because the outside world has gone to pot.
Here’s what I plan to do:
Stay in touch with my treatment team
I have recently been discharged from my local Outpatients ED Team, and have enlisted the help of a recovery coach to help me continue along my journey. My sessions with my coach have always been via online video call, and I would strongly encourage all of you to stay in touch with your treatment team whichever way you can, whether that’s on the phone, online or even via email.
Not all eating disorder services will be able to offer remote services for various reasons so it is unfortunately possible that for some of you, treatment will be put on hold. Some of the suggestions below might be able to help if this is the case for you.
Use my recovery apps
At various points throughout my anorexia, I have found myself without a treatment team and have had to draw on other resources. Recovery apps are small discreet ways of me monitoring my behaviours and triggers and have helped bridge the gap a bit when I was waiting on support. Recovery Record is really good at keeping you accountable and has lots of cute animal pics, and Rise Up is really good at recording your emotions and behaviours. Both can be used with or without professional help.
Read over my therapy notes and self-help books
Safe to say that the mix of grief over the loss of my mum, and anxiety over the pandemic has led to a lot of overwhelming emotions for me. As part of my treatment, my therapist and I spent a lot of time looking at emotions and how to cope with them and I have lots of notes on this.
Hopefully you too have a decent stack of reading material related to your recovery, whether it’s therapy notes, or self-help books. Start flicking back through to the bits which are most relevant to your situation right now. If you don’t have any, Beat have a lot of blogs you can start reading through on their website.
Post affirmations all over my room
I already had a few recovery affirmations up in my room, but I plan to add to these as well as some tips for coping with anxiety in uncertain times. You can just write them on normal paper, print them out, or perhaps order some nice card and write them on there.
See this as a chance to challenge myself around food a little bit
Due to stockpiling, a lot of the foods I would normally feel comfortable eating aren’t available right now. It’s making an incredibly difficult situation even worse. However, perhaps this is a chance to finally challenge myself a bit and learn to deal with slight variations in nutritional content, brand etc.
If something you want really isn’t there, see if you can challenge yourself to try the nearest alternative. It is brave, and with so much going on in the world right now it takes real guts to stand up to your eating disorder, but those tiny steps might lead you to a better place in your recovery.
Dealing with the compulsive exercise mentality
This is probably the biggest challenge for me- I am still working on the compulsive exercise element of my eating disorder. I am trying to remember that rest is good for my body, and will help strengthen my immune system. My body is also probably working overtime already with all the anxiety and grief I am experiencing, and it needs downtime. Instead of exercising in secret, I have let my family know that I plan on doing a few short workouts a week, and I am doing some daily stretches. Please be very careful with exercise during this period, and ask for support if you need it.
Using online social support
I have been checking in to some of Beat’s online chat rooms to talk to other people who are in a similar position to me and have been somewhat reassured that a lot of people have the same questions and concerns I do. I suspect Beat’s services will become much busier over the coming weeks. I am also already scheduling in some Google Hangouts and WhatsApp video calls with my friends to help me stay connected. Eating disorders are very isolating, so make sure you reach out for the support you need during this difficult period.
Good luck and hang in there.
If you're worried about coronavirus, you can look at our guidance addressing some of the questions around the impact of the illness on eating disorders. You can also join our new online support group, the Sanctuary, set up to support anyone with an eating disorder who may feel worried and isolated right now.
In the coming days and weeks, we'll continue to produce more content to support you during this time, so please do keep an eye on our blog and main site.
Self-isolation is hard for everyone right now; everyone with an eating disorder is aware that there is pressure on every single person’s mental health.
These two posts, written two years apart, show how Mel managed to overcome a lot of the anxiety she felt around shopping for food.
Covid-19 is doing strange things to my perception, my lungs, my mind. And strangely, I am also thinking… “Phew, I’m glad I’ve been locked up before!”