The world seems very scary and uncertain at the moment with Corona Virus. Everyone is dealing with the stress and anxiety in their own way. Everyone has their own coping strategies. For me? Welcome back anorexia. You had become so much quieter and I was making good progress with my recovery. But when faced with the extreme stress and anxiety over Corona and lockdown, you have leapt back into my life. Unfortunately, when you have an eating disorder, the eating disorder is a coping mechanism and way to try and control something when the world seems so out of control. When the world is making us feel so scared and terrified, the eating disorder is telling us it can help us cope and will make us feel better.
In come the thoughts of wanting to lose weight, wanting to restrict, wanting to exercise. If I focus my mind on all of this, I haven’t got to face all the terrifying things going on in reality. If all I think about is losing weight, I haven’t got to think about Corona. That is how an eating disorder works. It preys on your vulnerability. At a time when you are struggling, it promises that it has the answer to make you feel better. It has convinced me of this many times in the past. It promised me happiness and that it would make everything better. And I believed it. But it lead to nothing but heartache, misery, and complete devastation. Yet, despite that, it still creeps back so convincingly. Convincing? Yes. But truthful? No. Liars can be very convincing, but they are not truthful. So while anorexia is here trying to convince me, I am reminding myself of the facts. Anorexia does not solve anything. Anorexia does not stop anxiety and stress. Anorexia does not make me happy. Anorexia does not help me get the life I want to live.
But there is no denying that the eating disorder thoughts aren’t hard to fight right now. Lockdown is a terrifying prospect. I am scared that I can’t do the exercise I would normally and so I will gain lots of weight. In reality, my exercise is not really going to be much different to what it was before lockdown. But a new situation makes my head, makes the eating disorder, panic. And with overwhelming fears of weight gain and limited exercise, in comes the thoughts that I need to restrict my food in order to compensate. So you see, it is not just the want to lose weight to try and cope and control the situation, it is also the unbearable fears of weight gain arising from the new situation causing a drive in eating disorder behaviours.
It feels incredibly difficult to manage right now. My head is filled with all these eating disorder thoughts. Anxiety around Corona and lockdown and the effect on my weight is there every second of the day. And like I said, the eating disorder says it knows the answer. It tells me that if I exercise and restrict then my anxiety around weight gain will reduce. But the thing is with an eating disorder is that it is a quick fix. Yes, doing the ED behaviour may temporarily relieve the anxiety, but the anxiety will come back, and it will come back stronger. But you now associate the ED behaviour with the temporary relief in anxiety so you think that the only way to relieve the anxiety is to do the ED behaviour. But anxiety doesn’t increase forever. It does eventually plateau, without the need for the ED behaviour. You just have to be prepared to sit with feeling uncomfortable and stressed for a while until it does plateau. But it will. And you can cope without the ED behaviour.
So as hard as I am finding it right now, and as much as my head is telling me to exercise and restrict, I am fighting the temptation. I don’t quite know how, but I am not giving into that voice that is very convincing…but is also lying. I am reminding myself of the truths. That this situation with Corona is temporary and short term. But a life with an eating disorder is not. It can last a life time. And I am not prepared to let that happen. No matter how hard this current situation is, a life ruled by anorexia is a hell of a lot of worse. When this situation with Corona is over, I want to be able to pick my life up from where it left off. To get back to going out with friends, talking at universities, going on holiday. It has taken a hell of a lot of hard work to get to the point in my recovery that I am at now. I don’t want to have to go through all that again. That is what I am trying to tell myself when the eating disorder is trying to convince me otherwise. Don’t let this situation with Corona set you back. Don’t let the eating disorder use it as an excuse to take more of your life. This situation with Corona and lockdown is very scary. But it is also terrifying to think that in 10 years time I could be trapped by my eating disorder. And giving in to my eating disorder now makes that much more likely to happen.
I’m not saying we have to be pushing and challenging our recovery right now. At the moment, managing and surviving feels hard enough. But that’s okay. Managing and surviving is still fighting and means we are not giving into the eating disorder. We have to trust that we can cope with the anxiety without resorting to ED behaviours. And we can. Nobody said it was easy. But when Corona is over, we will be so glad that we didn’t let the eating disorder take over. I know how hard it is right now, I really do. But the eating disorder is not the answer. Believe in yourself. Believe in your strength and courage. We can and we will get through this. We are all in this together. Stay safe.