By reading this, I hope that people with eating disorders feel less alone or use it as a resource to explain how you are feeling to someone else. Plus, people who have friends or loved one’s that suffer with eating disorders may reach out to them as they may not be strong enough to ask for help.
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. However, for many of us, the fear of gaining weight just overpowers any anxiety around COVID-19. I for one am willing to risk my own health as well as others to have that second run or check that shop again for ‘safe foods’. This is not because I don’t care about the population or my loved ones; this is because I am struggling. I am one of the luckier ones as I see myself as being in recovery – I have been in recovery for over a year now. However, my recovery is being tested through these difficult times with slip-ups.
Self-isolation to social isolation to complete isolation
Most people are ‘staying social’ by using social networks and I was. However, the majority of my feeds were plagued with jokes, videos and memes about weight gain in isolation as well as the best exercises to do and the best foods to eat. I was instantly triggered and found myself falling into an obsessive trap. The nation getting ‘fit’ is great for some, I am sure, but for people with eating disorders, the ‘extra’ talk on body image is just overwhelming.
So, how do I get away from these triggers? I isolate further, close down my social networks… Next, everyone is talking about exercise/food/weight loss/gain on the work daily brief, so how do I get away from this? I disengage and isolate further. You can see how I have become more and more lonely. Eating disorders by nature try to isolate and I was just giving it what it wanted but I couldn’t see the negative spiral happening.
Complete isolation to me and my eating disorder
The added triggers fuelled my eating disorder. It got louder until all I could hear is “I will gain weight from this isolation”, so I need to do A, B and C. Sadly, not the best options. Isolation put less people in the way of bad decisions, I don’t have to ‘keep it together’ for work, I don’t have to prove ‘I am well’. Loved ones have challenged me on my behaviour, but it is so easy not to reply to a text or phone call when you are not ‘face to face’. The eating disorder felt in full control, so my voice was robbed, and I didn’t have a choice in the matter now. Utter despair had swamped me, bad choices followed by mental and physical pain, shame, guilt, crying and of course fatigue… wait, how am I back in this cycle? Lack of nutrients and a healthy mind led to exhaustion so I felt like I couldn’t fight.
“The struggle you overcome today will be your strength for tomorrow”
I did say I would write about the ‘good’ and yes, there is some ‘good’. The panic buying left few ‘safe foods’ for me in the shops, which initially caused fear and anxiety, but it forced me to try different foods and meals. I have discovered I like ‘gnocchi’… maybe something little but it is an achievement all the same. The gyms closed – again initially fear and anxiety set in, but I have tried different exercises at home and discovered I like different types of exercise I would never have tried before. At first, social isolation was unbearable, but it has made me reach out to people and tell work colleagues that I have an eating disorder which I don’t think I would have been able to ‘face to face’. This has increased my virtual support network and it is there I just need to remember to use it.
I have reminded myself to try and listen to who is control and do the opposite to what my eating disorder asks me to. Starting by reaching out and breaking the silence. Text a friend, a work colleague, a family member, use the Sanctuary live chat.
You are not alone.
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!”
We asked some of our Ambassadors to consider times when they’d dealt with similar situations to what people with eating disorders may be experiencing with coronavirus.