TW: Discussion of disordered eating and thought patterns.
Lockdown. A word that before Coronavirus, not many of us had thought about. Now though this word is associated with frustration, financial difficulty, and emotion. It is associated with new hobbies, Skype quizzes two times a week, and the struggle to get hold of pasta. For many this word is also associated with mental health. It is safe to say that almost everyone’s mental health was affected by quarantine, and the fact that everyone was in the same boat made it difficult to ask for help. On countless occasions I asked myself, ‘if everyone is experiencing the same thing, can I justify feeling this way?’ If feeling ‘low’ becomes the norm, am I allowed to seek support?
For me, the slightly mundane issue of not having pasta and other foods, was a big problem. For a couple of years I have battled with my eating, concerned about what I was eating and if I was overeating. Body image became an increasing issue and as soon as lockdown started, I found myself falling deeper into the pit. It didn’t quite make sense to me. Why was I worrying about how I looked when I wasn’t leaving the house? Nobody would see me so why was my mind telling me I wasn’t thin enough?
With the help of therapy I came to realise that disordered eating doesn’t hold its root in what we look like but connects strongly to control for some people, or rather loss of it. The world was in chaos and my mental health was feeling the effects of this. Everything we do that gives us power over our lives, had suddenly been taken away. Plans for the future, seeing friends, working, volunteering, everything just stopped. So subconsciously I started to control what I was eating in a desperate attempt to hold on to some form of reality. During quarantine eating disorder charities reported an 81% increase in demand.
What I came to learn is that, just because everyone is struggling, doesn’t mean your emotions are less valid. I also learnt, though it may sound obvious to some, that there are different types of control. It was explained to me like this: if you’re driving a car and it’s hurtling towards a cliff’s edge, you’re in control but you’re going to crash. It was similar with my disordered eating. I felt as if I was in control, but all the while I was getting dangerously close to the cliff’s edge.
But you can put the breaks on. You can take positive control of that car and steer it to safety. You just have to take the first step and turn the wheel. For anyone facing mental health issues, please seek help. Whether they be due to lockdown or not, there are people who love you, there are people who want you here, and there are people who know how to help you. Its just a matter of taking that first step. I am proud of how far you’ve come.
For my information and support with disordered eating, please go to Beat- the UK’s Eating Disorder Charity