Hi again everyone!
I asked over on my Instagram @the_recovery_bean if anyone would be interested in some posts on how I'm managing my recovery during Lockdown and lots of you said it would be helpful! I've been trying to plan it out this morning and have decided to divide it up: to first discuss some of the fears we may have during this period of uncertainty, then to offer my top tips on how to keep up recovery motivation, and finally a Day in the Life. I hope this mini series can provide some comfort to those of you who may be facing similar worries and struggles during the pandemic.
So where to begin...
I desperately don't want this post to be negative or triggering to anyone, and so bear in mind that whilst these may be fears we are having, we have the tools to overcome them (even if they seem slightly out of reach at the moment) and I will soon be sharing some tips on how to access them :)
The main concept I've struggled with so far, is that of comparison, as suddenly the only version of peoples lives i'm seeing is that shiny, filtered social media one that we all know far too well. I don't know about you, but my Instagram feed is being bombarded with videos of peoples 'At home Workouts', or their fully checked To do lists, images of all the family fun they're having, all the food they're cooking, or the courageous work they're still carrying out. Personally I feel that in everyday life I can somewhat control the urge to compare myself to peoples edited lives, as I know that behind that there is so much more going on, but now that I'm isolated from the real life versions of people, it is harder to rationalise, and so I'm struggling to do so quite as well. It's really challenging not to feel the pressure to be doing something groundbreaking with this free time we have stumbled across, as if we are not working on the front line we can feel a bit useless. Furthermore, it may seem like everyone around you is taking up new hobbies, or achieving all these goals, and especially when you might be feeling a bit low, this can make you feel somewhat inadequate. My main irk is seeing people's 'Quarantine Fitness plans', or reading how they are going to come out of social isolation 'buff' or '10 stone lighter', as whilst that may be a valid outlet for them, for me at least, I know that engaging in these hit workouts is not something I can do. I can appreciate that it's amazing that people are creating these sources to keep everyone active and in good spirits, and I am not for a second trying to knock this. My issue comes when such posts are accompanied by what may seem like throwaway comments, but that are actually promoting negative messages, enforcing diet culture, and demonising weight gain over this period.
Having decreased activity is another fear that ties into this, as it can feel like we are not doing enough, or not 'burning enough calories', and our ED's can take this to mean we are not worthy of food. Guess what though? That's Just. Not. True. It has been hard for me to accept that with my brain and my recovering body, intense exercise is just not an option for me, and whilst one day it might be again, right now I know that my ED voice is still too strong. I know that if I were to start going to the gym or something equivalent, it could quickly become an obsession, and I would be doing so for disordered reasons, not because it made me feel good. In addition to this, I know my body is not physically healed enough to be doing insane workouts, but that doesn't instantly make the guilt vanish and so sometimes I believe we just have to feel it and challenge it with opposite actions. This means not giving in to the pressure to exercise, and not restricting our intake to compensate for reduced movement. Being stuck at home is not a reason to turn to our eating disorders. Yes, they might be the option that provides us with the quickest relief from our anxieties, but once we let that voice creep back in, we're opening the door for our ED's to gain control of other aspects of our lives again, and we know that a life ruled by our ED is not one we want to be living in the long run.
Another fear I've had regarding my recovery during lockdown, is that I won't have access to all my 'safe foods', and that as a result my meals will change. I'd love to tell you that this fear will not be realised, but due to people stock piling, and some issues with supply chains, certain foods are harder to come across at the moment. This has been really difficult for me to deal with as I am still quite early on in recovery from my latest relapse, and so like many people at this stage, I have been finding it most helpful to stick quite rigidly to my meal plan. This is not something I planned on continuing forever, as I have actively been trying to challenge my fear foods, however I have found the security of a meal plan useful in ensuring I have been able to maintain my recovery mindset, as in previous attempts I have found pushing myself too hard, too soon, has triggered my ED to take over. Furthermore, I find that for me, having a plan, and handing over some control to over people, such as letting my mum cook and portion my dinners, removes the element of choice, and so in my current position whereby I cannot be certain I will always win over the anorexia voice, It prevents me from being able to make the 'Mais friendly versions' of foods (essentially those without any of the ingredients that actually make it tasty), that my ED desires.
That was a bit of a tangent, however my point is that ultimately I will not be able to recover in the way I envisioned, as no matter how much I want to, the world is, at least momentarily, different, and so I must adapt just like everyone else. For me this means that I cannot follow my nice structure of challenging one food at a time. It means I cannot follow my procedure of facing it in different contexts as currently there is no such thing as going out to eat in a restaurant. It means that I will have to eat different lunches and food combos depending on whats on offer, It means that I might not be able to get the snacks I like, or the exact brand of something that I am familiar with. It essentially means that I will be facing different challenges constantly, and that they might not always be accounted or planned for. For me, this is really really daunting, but I'm trying my best to alter my outlook and see this as a recovery opportunity. By this I mean I am taking it as the chance to let go of my fear of change and of the unknown, and to learn how to be more carefree. This is so much harder than it sounds just writing it down, because it's ingrained in me to be scared of this uncertainty, and the change to the way I am going to tackle my fear of change is all a bit overwhelming! There is however no choice, and so regardless of how much we might hate it, the only way we can react is by accepting it and pushing forward. Again, we know that falling back into ED behaviours will only hurt us and keep us trapped in this rigid lifestyle for the rest of our lives, and I don't know about you but I want to be able to act spontaneously. I want to be able to randomly go out for dinner or drinks with a friend and order freely off a menu. I want to be able to say yes when someone offers me something to eat, and not freak out about whether it fits into my allotted calories for the day. I want to be able to enjoy doing things I love with people I care about without my first thought always being on food. This situation may not be ideal, but it's all just practice for the life I want to live.
Still relating to the food available in lockdown, another component I have struggled with is the increased amount of food we have at home. My family are by no means stock piling, however we do have more prepackaged goods such as tins and snacks like crisps and cereal bars in the cupboards at all times as we are only able to go to the shop once a week. For me this has been challenging as on the occasions that I have battled with the urge to binge - which notably has been more frequent these past few weeks, presumably due to the increased stress and emotions I am feeling, it has been difficult to know that there is so much available to eat. For me at least, I often feel a loss of control during a binge, and so it is frightening to consider how much I would end up consuming if I did fall into one. This is still a fear I'm dealing with and unfortunately I'm not too sure there is a finite solution to it as the food is there and there's not much I can do about it. I have however tried to deal with this by ensuring I'm not keeping any food in my bedroom so I have to consciously go to the kitchen to attain it. I have also been implementing the coping mechanisms I discussed in my last post by trying to manage my extreme hunger, and on top of this my girlfriend suggested we come up with a code word so that I can message her when/ if the desire to binge hits me. From there she can help me deal with the feelings and keep me distracted so that if I am going to eat, I can do it mindfully.
This next thing I've been struggling with has been triggered by what I've just written, and that is that I feel ridiculous and unbelievably selfish for being concerned about food and exercise during a global pandemic. I am still undecided where I stand on this one, because I get annoyed at myself for getting so worked up about something that means so little compared to what other people are going through, like NHS workers who are literally putting their lives at risk everyday. I want to use this as fuel and motivation to recover as it is well known that our ED's do make us these self-centred people as they remove our ability to prioritise others, because we are all consumed by food, and that mindset does not align with my values as a person. On the other hand, I think it's important to recognise that other peoples struggles do not invalidate our own, and that we must still actively work on our recovery, as in order to not have these thoughts in the future, we must tackle the thing that causes them now. Conjointly, as the physical affects of having an ED can make us more vulnerable to experiencing complications if we did contract the virus, then perhaps one of the best things we can do is to continue regaining our health so that we are less likely to add to the existing strain on the healthcare system at this time.
This may unfortunately feed into another fear - the fear of getting ill. I don't really have much to say on this one as I think everyone is experiencing this concern on some level as there is still a lot of ambiguity surrounding the virus. I do however think that it is important at this time to remember that in recovery, food is our bodies medicine, and so whether it's the heightened anxiety, or feelings of hopelessness we are experiencing, we must continue to eat unrestricted. We are still worthy of food at this time, and no matter how we are feeling, we must continue to nourish ourselves. I will elaborate more on how I am ensuring I keep up with this in my next blog post, but whether it's a case of having to set reminders so that we don't let the day just pass us by, or having a food diary to track our intake, it is essential we do.
I hope this post has provided someone out there with a little reassurance that you are not alone in how you feel during these scary times. I feel lucky that I have such a great support system around me at this time, as I know I can always rely on my family and girlfriend to help get me through when things are tough. We are all also very fortunate that there is a excellent ED community out there and so independent to your personal situation, there is always some helpful content you can access, or a new friend you can turn to.
Keep yourself and loved ones safe at this time,
More from me soon!
Mais // The Recovery Bean <3