Responding in a time of Crisis
Today I woke feeling not quite right. I’ve come to know these familiar symptoms well:
- Physically and emotionally drained
- Extreme nausea
- Lingering headache
- Dehydration to the point it feels impossible to dehydrate myself.
If I didn’t know better, I would think I’d come down with an illness. Therefore, follow doctors’ orders, rest and eat chicken soup. But no, I know my body and I am not sick, I don’t have COVID-19, you don’t need to avoid me, I don’t need to be isolated. You see, these symptoms have become a part of my life, popping up and hanging around for days, weeks or sometimes months. They generally show at the most inconvenient times; when something is causing me a lot of anxiety and I have a sense of no control. My ED is the creator of these symptoms, yet they feel undeniably real and debilitating.
I suspect I’m not alone this time because everyday life right now is scary, sad and suffocating. Sad and scary enough to feel like 9/11 all over again, yet maybe more impactful this time because the whole world has been hit and hard. It feels like we’re getting ready for a war, there are no planes this time, but rather a nasty pandemic called COVID-19; no-one is safe, everyone is vulnerable and at risk.
Communities are living in fear, just go to the local supermarket, the evidence is clear and undeniable and keeps the cycle of fear going. It reminds me very much of Boxing Day sales where people eagerly await in the early hours of the morning for the shops to open, it’s race to buy before the shelves are empty and at whatever the cost. I never go shopping on Boxing Day!
The big department store sales are somewhat similar to where we find ourselves today, only now we buy rolls of toilet paper out of fear, mayhem and sense of having no control. Workplaces are shutting down, big events cancelled and schools most likely to close early. We’re being told to stay in our homes, avoid crowds, become isolated like I have always previously done with my ED.
People fear for their jobs, their future, their very existence; crippled with a fear of what might be, we are in a battle with an enemy we cannot even see! It may be standing right next to us in the shopping line, on the bus, at work and we wouldn’t know. The fear and anxiety this pandemic has brought to the entire world is immense and real. To add greater weight to the stress, social media is going crazy with a countless stream of disturbing and terrifying stories related to the virus. I rarely watch TV, but if I did, I’m sure it would be much the same, story after story about how dangerous or not this COVID-19 actually is.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, isolation means no photography! Will my fire and passion that has drawn me out of the ED hole be extinguished if forced into self-isolation at home? I’m being weighed down by everything I’m seeing and reading, and it could easily lead me back to a place where I’ve worked so hard to move away from; that is a terrifying thought for me and my family.
So, what should one do? What should I do? I’ll admit, along with the physical discomfort brought on by the anxiety, I’ve turned into the hand washing, arm coughing, no kissing, clean–every–surface ruler of our household. My kids will be getting sick of me! I’m telling my parents not to go shopping, I will do it for them (which I don’t mind), I’m determined to look after everyone close to me, even if I come second or third in my list of priorities. Is this ED trying to sabotage myself or is this Sam looking out for the people who mean the most?
I’ll always put family before myself; countless conversations with my psychologist have taught me that this what I do, a lifelong behaviour that I learnt as a child. It is a behaviour I struggle to change. However, in this case, is that a bad thing? I’m confused and I’m not sure if my ED is in charge here. Yes, my food intake has taken a slight back step, skipping meals because I’m too busy, preoccupied (having a sick child at home hasn’t helped) and all over feeling worried. I think my ED is trying to take advantage of a horrible situation by making it worse for me; in ED’s eyes, I’m waiting for a disaster to strike and panic to take over. I sense ED is secretly using his influence and power during a vulnerable time, to drag me down with him, trying every trick in the book. Yet, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling the way that I do, and neither should you.
We all have two options, your details might look slightly or considerately different to mine, but the options are straightforward, you just need to look within.
- Allow the fear to takeover and control our lives, never open our curtains to see the sunlight. Fear that life, as we know it, is doomed.
- Or, choose how we are going to react in the face of great adversity and do the best we can to get through.
My Take Home Lesson:
This lesson determines the direction I choose to take my life, my journey towards a healthier self. The words “I choose” are important here. This needs to be my decision of mine and your decision, Not ED’s decision, and not stories we get bombarded with every day. Shall I wallow in fear and helplessness or will I use the opportunity to my advantage? We all have the power to take back the control, get a hold, and bring back a sense of rational thinking.
When I think about being out taking photos, there are many elements to consider. For example, looking for the best angles, light, composition. When I look through the lens of a camera, I get a specific view, and analyse it for what I like or dislike, what will the focus be, the wow factor. Likewise, I consider which composition rules can be applied; basically, during this process, I evaluate everything that makes or breaks a picture and nine times out of 10 not everything is going to work. Still, that doesn’t mean that the photo is not worth taking. A bit of post-processing might bring out the true beauty and focus, together with a touch of cropping to get rid of what I don’t like.
You may wonder how this relates to the current crisis facing the world? I’m mentally preparing myself (and purchasing the toilet paper when I can find it!) and am determinedly turning it into something positive to avoid unbearable anxiety. This means I will scroll past the majority of news stories, most of which are likely to have been exaggerated or not the truth. Don’t invite me to anymore COVID-19 Facebook pages, I’m not interested. What’s the point in scaring myself and my children with that stuff? Get the facts I need to keep us safe, educate my kids without scaring them and myself and apply it in the best way that I can. This won’t be easy, but we’re all going to have to find a way through.
Looking for something positive? How about planning how to take advantage of possible periods of isolation? For me, this looks like online photography courses, writing blogs, editing or deleting some of the 16,668 photos I have sitting in my processing program, taking more photos of my kids and being a much needed mum for my kids. In the longer term, I’ll look forward to being out and about, photographing the world around me.
This is my choice, my vision. What will you choose?