The COVID-19 pandemic has sadly affected so many lives all over the world in so many ways. It is an exceptional period of time for this generation, and the future regarding it is still uncertain. With the current advice to stay at home, the additional anxiety and uncertainty for the future and disruption of usual routine, it is not surprising that eating disorder symptoms can feel more overbearing than usual.
As someone who has recovered from anorexia nervosa, I would like to provide some advice which I think could have possibly helped me if I was still suffering during this worrying time. Especially because I am sure that I would have found this whole situation whilst suffering from my eating disorder very difficult and overwhelming. Stay positive – you have got this, and remember that this temporary phase of your life will come to an end.
Before providing some advice, I think it is important and useful to mention how lucky most of us are in the UK to have the wonderful NHS and to be able to self-isolate at home and stay safe, often with family or loved ones. It seems like a negative and scary time, but we can find positives such as spending time with those we are self-isolating with, catching up with friends and loved ones over FaceTime, practising more self-care, tidying the house, cooking, exercising, reading, and many many more.
Food shopping may have become more of a challenge as we are visiting supermarkets more infrequently, social distancing in the supermarket is enforced and there may be a lack of usual produce on the shelves. This may mean that usual ‘safe’ foods or brands are not as available. I can imagine that this could cause anxiety and make this time even more difficult. My advice would be to try to stay calm and listen to your body, think creatively and put energy into trying new recipes that nourish your body. Remember that this is all temporary and it is likely that you will have access to your usual safe foods shortly. However, please be kind to yourself and do not worry if you are still feeling anxious; acknowledge these thoughts and then maybe try to distract yourself, for example, with meditation or yoga, calling a friend or taking a walk. (While we still can, getting outside once daily can be incredibly refreshing!)
Another issue that surrounds this time is guilt. The guilt that we should be more productive during this time or guilt that we should not be complaining or worrying about our ‘less-important’ problems compared to others during this pandemic or guilt about suffering from your eating disorder during this time. I feel like many of us may be experiencing some form of guilt during right now, but this emotion is often not helpful. Whilst it is positive to appreciate how fortunate we may be and gain perspective, our own problems are unique and important to us and it is okay and normal to worry about them. Also, try to remember that you did not choose to have an eating disorder, it is not your fault, you are doing the best you can. It does not become an irrelevant problem because the pandemic is going on. So, be kind to yourself.
Some sufferers are also understandably worrying about cancelled ED appointments, which can be an incredibly supportive, reassuring and motivational space for sufferers. Whilst these appointments remain cancelled as social distancing continues, try to stay strong, and please continue to remember that recovery is possible. I would recommend reminding yourself of any advice provided by health professionals in your previous appointments. You could also seek additional support: for example, the Beat website has plenty of information and helpful advice, the Helplines are still available and there are many motivational recovery stories to read, if this can help you.
Finally, I would just like to wish you the best of luck and remind you that you can do it. Listen to and look after your body (your precious and only home) and stay safe inside your house. This worrying phase will end and hopefully it will make us all even more grateful for the little things in life. Stay positive and strong and seek help if you need it. C xxx
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.
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!”