BLOG: Coping with COVID-19 when in recovery from an ED

During this uncertain time it’s very hard time for everybody. The sudden effects of lock down and losing routine is hard for everyone, but it can be particularly challenging for people with mental health issues and eating disorders.

I have been in recovery for over three and a half years with binge eating and bulimia. Despite feeling fully recovered, I have struggled with the recent events and subconsciously let my eating disorder thoughts drift back.

As for everyone, there was so much change in a short space of time - lost work, children off school, not seeing loved ones - it all came at once  I felt really anxious, I always like to feel in control and like my routine but I felt anything but !!!!!!!!!!!

With social media being more prominent then ever and food and exercise seeming to focus so much, it seemed people had taken Instagram, showing baking, stepping up their fitness regime and body shaming too.  As I started to listen to the news of panic-buying and shortages I felt more and more that I needed the comfort of food as, in the past my eating disorder got me through any stressful times. In a weird way, it was my friend!!!!!!!!!

I felt I was surrounded by it and my worst fears of being around food all the time and not being to exercise for my mental health seemed to be looming over me. I also had horrible thoughts like “I’m going to put on weight under lockdown!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I started to have a few minor wobbles and began to find myself fantasising about bingeing again – I wanted the comfort. I’ve learnt to be able to enjoy most foods, but I started to want to eat huge amounts of these. It was this moment I realised this was not my answer, my eating disorder wanted me to use this as an excuse to get back into it and that is something that I didn’t want… it was at this moment I felt strong.

I realised this was my weight stigma calling!!!!!

My eating disorder begging!!!!!

The diet culture getting in my mind!!!!!

It was the old me!!!!!

Here is what has helped me:

Sticking to a routine - even though the control had been taken away I can still be healthy. With all the change, I lost my routine for a couple of days and I just didn’t feel like breakfast. I quickly realised this wasn’t helping and went back to trying to get into a routine again. I realised I did feel like different foods and tried to be kind to myself, but was mindful of sticking to the right amount so I didn’t start to binge. I tried not to restrict my food if I didn’t do a lot that day or exercise for calories.  

Plan ahead - meal planning is good but I couldn’t believe the foods I used to eat, I wasn’t always able to get. I thought of safe foods that have a long life, and if you have to eat more unsafe foods make sure you get support. I also have distraction techniques after eating.

If you find going to the shops distressing, again writing things down or maybe getting someone to go for you can help.

Maybe writing out a plan may help others - of meal times, snacks and including activities like fresh air and a planned exercise time of no more than 30 mins – 1 hour.  

Take time out - being around food all the time has been hard. My son is off school so there is more time spent getting meals ready and, although we haven’t been panic buying, there is more food in the house. I gently challenge myself but it’s important, when things get too much, to have a list of distractions to help.

It may help, if there are foods you don’t feel comfortable with, to put them somewhere less accessible

Have support - you may feel guilty about talking about your eating disorder as you feel its not important. It’s so important, more now then ever, that you are healthy and you get the support you need. Don’t stop medication or counselling - you may need to do it another way like telephone or Skype but organisations like SWEDA are here to help too.

Ask your GP if your check ups etc have been stopped to see what they are putting in place instead. Your eating disorder will want you to lean so much on it at the moment - don’t let it! Get as much help as you can.

Talk to people - this is a worrying time. You need to be honest about how you are feeling - I talked to my husband I told him I was struggling with the constant talk about food and exercise and he said he would try to remember this.

Try to practice gratitude everyday - I try and write down 3 things I feel positive about. I find trying to get rid of negatives really helps me and when I feel anxious, I take a few minutes to be mindful and clear my mind of worrying thoughts. I found focusing on things I could control helpful, and tried to avoid things I couldn’t control, or fight against them. You are so much stronger than you think!

 Do something for yourself - I decided to limit the time I watched the news and was really mindful of who I followed on Instagram. Instead, when I feel the need to binge, or am anxious, I focus on doing something for me. I’ve enjoyed writing a diary, doing a jigsaw, watching films - things I would never usually do.

It’s OK not to be OK - feelings will pass. I find concentrating on 1 hour, 1 day at a time, helps as well as letting go of the past, concentrating on the here and now, and not looking to the future

Keeping healthy for mental health - and being kind to my body and mind. Instant thoughts came into my head about exercising more as I knew I would be less active, and I felt myself counting calories in my head so, again, I’ve focused on being kind and not exercising. I enjoy having the time to do walks to enjoy my freedom but again I make sure my mind doesn’t overstep the mark. Self-care is important for me I find getting showered and dressed every day really helps me.

Most of all if you have a wobble or relapse it’s OK – these are such hard times for everyone. Remember all the tools you have learned and try to get back to the routine as soon as you can. The more positive we are the easier it will be.

Don’t use lockdown to let your eating disorder to come back. Stay strong and keep fighting, together we are strong!

 

 

 


“I can’t emphasise enough what a massive part SWEDA have played in my journey to finding myself again. They are an incredible charity and are brilliant at their job. Over the past two years I have really started to understand myself and I have addressed issues that I had hid away in the past and with my counsellor’s amazing listening, non-judgmental and supportive skills I have been able to take back control of myself and rationally look at my emotions in day to day life."

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