Co-existing: COVID-19 and my ED
2020 was to be my breakout year. A year full of positives and good things, big steps forward, internal freedom from a brutal eating disorder. An overseas holiday was being planned for the first time in a decade. Finishing 2019 in a more positive head space than I had been for in a long time, I was excited for 2020. With my newly developed photography skills, I had prospects, many plans, places I wanted to visit and organisations with whom I was contemplating collaboration.
For the first time, I was experiencing a sense of possibility, the world was opening up to me, the sun was shining, and I was going to be a part of it in a real way. This was an exciting prospect for someone who had lived in eating disorder hell for most of her life. Yes, 2020 was to be the year I had been anticipating and dreaming about for as long as I can remember.
Enter COVID-19. Just like that, my hopes, dreams and plans for 2020 had the door firmly slammed shut on them, padlocked down with no indication of when the door might re-open. To say I feel ripped off is an understatement. It doesn’t feel fair; I’m angry. This pandemic didn’t need to happen, life as we know it didn’t have to be ripped from under our feet and 2020 could have been the year that you and I had anticipated. The anger and disbelief bubbles within and I find myself asking, how could this happen? How can life be reduced to so little? My anger is far reaching:
- towards the people who ignore self-isolation laws and potentially endanger our community even more
- at the government for not acting more quickly to place a ban on international flights coming into this country
- angry that my kids are missing out on the education they are entitled to and deserve
- angry that my children are not able to have play dates, birthday parties and holidays
- angry that this has led to the demise of many small business, some of which belong to friends, and finally
- angry at the people who continue to panic buy toilet paper which has led to panic buying of everything else on the shelves.
It’s mayhem, a world I barely recognise. Within a few short weeks, 2020 has lost its shiny, optimistic outlook, the light has been extinguished as I’m faced with a situation similar to that of living with an eating disorder. Isolation, restriction, disruption to a routine that had been working well for me, limited access to my required healthcare and to top it off, limited access to the scope of photography that I feel passionate about.
During the past year, the one vital piece of my recovery-from-ED puzzle, the piece that has been incredibly life changing, photography, had taken on a therapy type role. Spend a day with my camera and anything that was bothering me would seem far less of an issue. Now what?
My daily focus will now move from my own well-being to taking on the role of the primary educator for my children (don’t get me wrong, they are my priority, my responsibility and I want the best for them), but it’s a task I fear as much as I fear my ED returning. I feel like I’m diving into an ocean of unknowns. I’m neither qualified nor confident to take on such responsibility; why should mine or the children of others be so profoundly disadvantaged?
For the foreseeable future, all I picture is noise, frustration and lots of arguing between two headstrong little girls at my feet 24/7. Hardly a recipe for recovery and selfcare. Where will I fit in the ‘me’ time that I’ve been persuaded is not an option in ED recovery? I fear my skills will suffer, I fear my focus will move from doing what’s good for Sam and I fear my mental health and well-being will suffer immensely, inviting ED to slip seamlessly back into my world.
What can I do?
Take Home Message
None of what happening in our world is normal, life as we know it has changed in extreme ways and it’s normal to have the feelings of being anxious, lonely and scared. We do, however, need to feel empowered by knowing that these feelings are not abnormal and do not need to be locked away, as I and possibly you have always done in the past. From experience, I know that hiding or suppressing our feelings will only lead to greater internal distress and anxiety.
So, having said that, I have no silver lining to share, I don’t have the answers of how to make this all go away, of how to make that helpless victim mentality magically go away. But by sharing how I’m feeling with you, my readers, I can let you know you are not alone in this. So, we continue, each day focusing on what we can do (no matter how insignificant it feels), and where we can maintain some sense of personal power. The following strategies may be of use:
- Follow personal hygiene protocol, my kids currently sing a couple of songs while hand washing, it’s a fun ritual for them and they’re not wondering why they are constantly being told to wash their hands. Cough into your arm (again, my kids have this firmly implanted in their brains) or a tissue, avoid crowds of people and use facemasks when unsure.
- If you’ve been overseas recently, follow the law!
- Order take-away; the stress of supermarkets right now is not worth the struggle.
- Don’t fall in the trap of checking for the latest virus information every hour. It’s not helpful but rather, harmful. Get your daily information from a reputable source and forget the rest. If surrounded by fearmongers, politely tell them to go away.
- Do not isolate yourself by cutting yourself off completely; none of us are alone and we are all going through the same circumstances. Find your trusted support team and utilise them. This could be friends, family, medical professionals, the lady next door! Identify who they are and communicate; share with them your fears and talk it out, things may not seem so bad with the view of another person who may be feeling similar to you. You might have a giggle over one of the many light-hearted memes going around and humour may help pull yourself out of a state of gloom that could be as potentially dangerous as the disease itself.
- For me, acknowledging that I cannot do everything for everyone is a must. My family need to share the load. My best will have to be good enough, I am not a qualified primary school teacher and I cannot be expected to provide the same standard of education that a qualified teacher would, I also have my own needs to tend to which are equally important. All I can do is my best, it’s unrealistic and too much pressure to expect more.
- My kids are at no greater disadvantage than other children. We’re all travelling down the same scary river. Our children will come through this no worse off than other kids. It may even build resilience and they will get their formal education eventually. They have many years to grow, and to do what they want to do, knowing they have the knowledge, skills and experience of adversity behind them.
- Lastly, I will keep self-affirming that I have the right to do the things that make me feel good. Exercise, fresh air and however it may come to be, much needed time with my trusty camera.
Like most things in life, this challenging time will come to an end.