This is an enforced lockdown, but for many of us – our heads are already a prison.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and they flourish on shame and secrecy.
Quarantine and self-isolation are the optimum environment for both.
Even those of us who are quietly confident in our recovery can be triggered – being told to stay home for 2+ weeks is like receiving a get out jail free pass for all our most self-destructive behaviours to run rampant.
These are uncertain times, and that’s exactly when our go-to coping mechanisms surface. For those with eating disorders, there may also be a lot of fear and anxiety about illness and health – which is now more heightened.
We want to find comfort, alleviate stress, and calm ourselves down – which for some may look like binge eating into their food reserves even whilst worrying about food scarcity, others may find solace in occupying their time with countless workouts.
Eating disorders are a disease of disconnection; even more so during this time when we are unable to go out and be with people. Our illness wants us alone; your faithful friend, the abusive partner that we always end up going back to.
Speaking for myself and the experience of my clients – sometimes these eating disorder behaviours are so secretive we can almost hide them from ourselves. Almost.
We know what we are doing even when cannot admit it to ourselves.
We can tell ourselves that we’re watching the amount of food we’re consuming because we can’t visit the supermarket freely, or because we’re fearful of food shortages.
We can blame over-exercising on not being able to do our ‘normal’ workouts, or the other compensatory behaviours like walking x number of steps a day.
We’re no stranger to mental health and what we should be doing – but are we just talking the talk?
Ask yourself, how is your behaviour compared with how you are really feeling? We may be just going through the motions: talking to the right people, downing superfood smoothies to ward off illness, but the reality of what is going on in our heads is far from healthy.
It can be all too easy to listen to that voice but let me tell you – recovery the first time is hard enough. Losing yourself down the rabbit hole again is not something any of us want to be dealing with at this time.
So how can we contain and maintain our recovery during quarantine?
- Rigorous honesty: Only you know if you are acting out in these old and familiar ways. Eating disorders are incredibly ambivalent – the sicker we are the less we want help. Stop the rot before it’s too late. Call yourself out on your behaviour.
- Communication: Yes, reach out to friends and family, but don’t use them to pander to your illness. Tell them what is up with you, what is really up with you – the ugly worries, the anger, the loneliness, the frustration, the insane desperation to slip the eating disorder cloak on and smother yourself up in its rules.
- Seek professional help. It’s never too early to ask for help and advice from mental professionals – not just people who have been there and recovered themselves, not social media success stories; but people who have the tools, the awareness and the knowledge to get you through this time.
Did this resonate with you? Do you need to reach out? Message or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org