“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller
What a weird time we are living in right now. The world is pretty chaotic, everyone is experiencing some kind of anxiety, and the fear of the unknown is overwhelming.
About a month ago, my university decided to transition to virtual learning for the rest of the semester. We were told to go home for Spring Break and we couldn’t come back. It didn’t seem real at first. Instead of preparing for our upcoming spring band tour, I was packing up my dorm room and saying goodbye to my favorite place. Like everyone, my mind was racing with what was going to happen next. I was devastated to be leaving school so soon. I was disappointed that more things kept getting canceled every day. I was curious about how to get a music degree online. But none of those things were my biggest worry. I was the most nervous about my recovery.
Things were going really well at school. I was sticking to my meal plan, I had a steady schedule with my treatment team, I was about to hit my 1 year of recovery and I was feeling so strong.
Then, everything changed. And I wasn’t feeling so strong anymore.
Change and I don’t really get along. When I experience a lot of change in my life, my eating disorder loves to swoop in and take over. It tries to convince me that letting ED be in charge will create stability and give me a sense of control. Spoiler alert – that’s not what happens.
Even though the world is falling apart, I decided I wasn’t going to fall with it. (Plus, my therapist is on maternity leave and I promised her I wouldn’t fall apart while she was gone.) This is just another bump in the path. A pretty big bump in everyone’s path, but like I have said before, recovery is not linear.
If you have been struggling with your recovery in this season, here are a few tips that I have found helpful for me.
1: Stay in close contact with your treatment team
Don’t be afraid to check in with your treatment team more often. I was seeing my team every few weeks or so, but now I am seeing them weekly. Of course it’s not the same through zoom, but they will still do everything they can to keep me on track. Their support is something that will never change. Although we have to isolate from each other right now, don’t isolate yourself from your recovery.
2: Plan ahead
Planning is everything. The more you can plan ahead, the less opportunity the eating disorder has to dive in and try to take control. When I was in school, I didn’t have to do a lot of meal planning. I went to the dining hall when it was open and ate what they served. Now that the structure is gone, I’m trying to recreate that as much as possible. Every night I look at my schedule for the next day and think about when and what I’m going to eat. My dietician and I have made a list of meals that fit my meal plan. Of course it is important to be flexible with food choices, but having a list ready when the decision seems too overwhelming is totally ok. Planning ahead can alleviate that anxiety that comes up in the moment with a tough decision.
3: Don’t Give in to Diet Culture
It is so hard to shift your mindset from non stop thinking about food, weight, and body when society is so focused on food, weight, and body. Right now everyone is talking about grocery stores, food supply, and being afraid of weight gain during the pandemic. One of my favorite Instagram accounts, @jennifer_rollin sums up my thoughts perfectly: “Weight gain is NOT something that you need to fear. If it happens, it happens. All that means is that you’ve gained weight, nothing else. But try not to blame your body for any shifts that may occur. Our bodies will change and shift many times throughout our lives – and this is ok. You’ve been brainwashed to believe otherwise.” Don’t give in to the brainwashing. When this is all over, you’re going to be thankful that you continued to fuel your body.
4: Prioritize Self Care
When this whole quarantine thing happened, I expected I would be really productive, because what else would I have to do? Being in a global crisis is actually pretty exhausting for everyone. We need more rest right now, and that’s ok. I have started planning out specific time for self care every day. I even made a list of my favorite self care activities so I would have something to choose from. If you’re not as productive as you normally are, it’s ok. Never apologize for taking care of yourself.
I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how long we’re going to be living like this. I don’t even know what next week looks like. But I do know this: Recovery is a daily action. No matter what is going on in the world, I have to keep choosing harmony with my body every minute of every day. Why? Because recovery is worth it. I haven’t worked this hard to only come this far. I deserve to stay in recovery. And you do too.
Recovery is hard. Recovery during a pandemic is even harder. When this all began I was afraid it would ruin my recovery. Then I realized that every day in recovery is still a day in recovery, and that should be celebrated. Celebrate your victories every day, no matter how small they may seem.
I’m proud of you. God loves you. You got this.