When the pandemic first hit and we were unaware of how long this would go on, I convinced myself that this would be over soon and that it was just a short period of peace away from our busy lives. That clearly dwindled down as fast as I could catch my breath. As a majority of my coping mechanisms became impossible, I went into panic mode. Isolation brought along a disturbance in normal routines, accountability, and mandated schedules, which was often my one escape from unhealthy habits.
Since COVID-19 decreased socialization drastically, it's as if I was stuck with everything I thought I had pinned away and was almost forced to be left alone with one voice in my head—mine. All of a sudden, a plethora of insecurities and thoughts of self-doubt appeared out of what seemed like thin air, and within a few months, I had almost no assurance of who I was. I put things off and figured my issues were nothing compared to what was going on, and it wasn't until my eating disorder relapse that I realized I was latching myself onto habits I desperately wanted to be rid of. Despite being in a pandemic, I gave myself no remorse. Any sliver of weakness felt like a momentous defeat, and I always felt like I wasn't doing enough. I began to indulge in food and take long periods of rest, and instead of being kinder to my body and reminding myself that the body needs nourishment and breaks, I would punish myself by starving or purging to feel some sort of release from the stress that bubbled up inside of me.
Instead of pushing myself to try again the next day, I would give up and let time pass by as I stood still and thought about what I had done, like a child in time-out. I think the hardest part of it all was that a mental battle is something so internal and so hidden that I forgot people don’t actually know the mess in my head. Because of the lack of visibility, I felt like my problems weren’t real enough to admit. But as things escalated, I realized that I was putting myself through a cycle of self-harm, and in a world where it feels like we have no control over the issues that surround us, I was letting go of the one thing I should have a grounding in—myself.
Despite the fear of admitting my issues and my relapse, I am thankful that I opened up to my therapist about starting the path to getting better once again. Over the past few months, I've learned that it's normal for stressful circumstances, especially conditions that take away a sense of structure, to be triggering for anyone who struggles with mental health, especially any kind of disordered eating. Struggling with mental health issues, regardless of the pandemic, is a daily fight. And while I have only applauded myself on major achievements for the majority of my life, I realize now that simply getting through a day is an accomplishment in itself and that the smaller moments of life deserve applause just the same. I'm trying to accept that this isn’t a step back but a step forward, and from now on, I'll be focusing my recovery on a path of progress rather than perfection and shame.
In a pandemic, dealing with your mental health can seem unimportant, but I can assure you it's not. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or any sort of mental battle during this time, you are worthy of help and understanding. I know the idea of being kinder to yourself isn't as easy as it sounds. It's a grueling process that is certainly not linear, but you'll get there. I'll get there, too. A majority of life is unknown—we don’t know what will come our way or what problems everyone will face now or in the next year. But in the midst of the uncertainty, we can all give ourselves something we deserve—kindness.
In a time when it feels like we have no control over time, dedicating a part of my routine to being more mindful is how I'm trying to take back control of the whole narrative. You've got to give yourself permission to allocate time to nothing but your own inner peace. "Hustle" culture may have you thinking that you only deserve self-care after a busy week, but in reality, you deserve time for yourself every day.
Reclaiming my relationship with food:
Diet culture plays a large part in the complicated relationship I have with my body. By focusing on intuitive eating and reshifting the way I was taught about eating, I'm able to strengthen my relationship with food rather than view it as an enemy. Food is fuel, and any other way of thinking isn't true.
A lot of things on social media or TV can be triggering or upsetting for some. It took me a long time to realize that I have complete control over what I see, and picking myself apart for something I saw on social media was damage I could stop if I wanted to. I started to manage what I want to see on a daily basis, like positive reminders or people who inspire me in my journey.
Writing it out:
I tend to tuck things away in my mind without fully facing them, causing myself more distress in the future. Writing down and taking notes of how I feel has been the first step into acceptance. It's often the clearest way to translate the tangled thoughts in my head.
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