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How can we prioritize eating disorder recovery in the midst of COVID-19? Social distancing is the newest buzzword of our culture, and #FlattenTheCurve is our latest hashtag as we all stumble through this unprecedented reality of the coronavirus, so I will be honest—it's an inconvenient, anxiety-inducing time to have a complicated history with food and exercise. But despite the shifts in my routine or the lack of control and normalcy, I choose to still prioritize my eating disorder recovery in the midst of COVID-19.
COVID-19 affects my bipolar type 2 disorder. Most of the news is about people with underlying physical health issues and how the virus is extra dangerous to them. Have no doubt, those of us with mental health diagnoses are also at extra risk, and we don't even have to be exposed to experience the fallout. Here's how COVID-19 is affecting me and my ability to manage my bipolar type 2.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting my dissociative identity disorder (DID) symptoms. Living with DID means experiencing a wide array of different symptoms, ranging from anxiety to depression. Environmental factors can trigger these symptoms in my various personalities, depending on their particular trauma. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak has been a catalyst for a series of emotions I’ve been experiencing as of late.
Alleviating COVID-19 anxiety is especially difficult for me because I'm living with a chronic illness, which means I am the weak and immunocompromised who is most vulnerable to COVID-19. Because of this, the trauma that I have endured that has mounted due to a life in medical care and life-threat has been exaggerated. Still, I'm doing my best to stay calm.
While eating disorder recovery is more difficult under stress, I also find that my recovery has left me oddly prepared for the prolonged, relentless stress that COVID-19 has placed on the world. As the news keeps coming in, and precious little of it is good, I find myself surprisingly resilient. If I'm honest, part of me thought I'd break down, but I haven't. In fact, I'm staying strong.
A common bit of wisdom when it comes to mental illness recovery is that recovery isn't linear. You won't necessarily go from "sick" to "healthy" in a straight line. You will likely have setbacks, backslides, and slip-ups and your journey might look more like "sick," "sicker," "better??" "worse," "functional but still mentally ill." In my experience, this back and forth may continue for years. I can intellectually appreciate that recovery is not a linear process, but emotionally, it often feels like I'm failing.
Self-care for anxious times, such as the changes occurring due to the coronavirus, is so important. Not long ago, I wrote about experiencing anxiety when experiencing change. The current state of affairs in our world due to COVID-19 has been a major change in everyone's lives, and thus, due to these changes and the accompanying uncertainty, has truly impacted my anxiety.
I've kept strong family boundaries in place even as the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we've known it. Stores are closed, gyms are shut down, and businesses are struggling to get by as communities across the world hunker inside their homes. While the coronavirus probably won't be much of an issue for me as a healthy, 24-year-old woman, I worry about those around me. I think about what would happen if my coaches or my friends with compromised immune systems fell ill. I worry about my sister living alone while her community is shut down. And I worry about my family members catching COVID-19 even though I've had strong family boundaries in place due to their abuse.
This pandemic affects everyone on different levels, but I have learned some lessons from COVID-19. The virus affects us not only physically, but also emotionally. Over the last week, I have found it helpful to write down important lessons that I have learned.
There's been a question on my mind concerning other people's reactions to COVID-19 as it continues to spread and as people continue to respond: am I stigmatizing reactions to COVID-19 (coronavirus)? There has been a wide range of reactions to how the virus is changing how we operate as a society, fear being a huge one. I find myself a bit of an outlier in this, which is where this question I've been thinking about comes from. Allow me to explain.

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Cordell, there is still hope for you. You have youth on your side. I am 58 years old and have suffered through my whole life with social anxiety. Never getting help the mental problems just kept building all my life. I never had friends or a relationship with anyone and still don't today. I to never have been able to learn to believe in God so I don't have a church to turn to. While I was young I was never offered any help or sought it. Now that I am old I look back at maybe if I would have talked to someone, parents, uncles or aunts, a canceller at school, a doctor, maybe they would have helped me figure out who I needed to talk to to get the right help I needed. I bet that you know what your problem is. I did. I felt that there was no hope for change. Now that I look back there may have been if I could have gotten help. I want to blame my parents for not helping me but I never talked to them about what was going on. Maybe from their view, they didn't see the problem I was suffering through. So if you are still around. Seek out help. What's the worse thing that could happen? Maybe there is something about you that you feel you won't be accepted by the people you know. Family will care no matter what. It may be that the people you've grown up with may not accept you but if that's the case you eventually lose contact with them anyway as you grow up and as you finish up school and start your own life, and they start theirs. If you feel you can't face the people you know anymore, maybe you could start over with your problems out in the open, maybe at a new school. Hang in there, and good luck.
bob
I appreciate what you said about laughing to counter anxiety. I always get anxious at night and my leg starts bouncing. I may need to get a therapist to help me control it and deescalate during the bad moment.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Hi Joshua,

Thank you for reaching out with your comment. In response to your inquiry about research to support the quote above, I would refer you to this article from The Counseling Psychologist Journal and the American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/education/ce/sexual-objectification.pdf.

In this study, the researchers posit, " SO [sexual objectification] occurs when a woman’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from her as a person, and she is viewed primarily as a physical object of male sexual desire. Objectification theory posits that SO of females is likely to contribute to mental health problems that disproportionately affect women (i.e., eating disorders, depression, and sexual dysfunction) via two main paths. [...] Evidence for the SO of women can be found practically everywhere, from the media, to women’s interpersonal experiences, to specific environments and subcultures within U.S. culture where the sexualization of women is cultivated and culturally condoned. For example, the APA’s review of studies examining depictions of women in the media including commercials, prime-time television programs, movies, music lyrics and videos, magazines, advertising, sports media, video games, and Internet sites revealed that women more often than men are depicted in sexualizing and objectified manners (e.g., wearing revealing and provocative clothing, portrayed in ways that emphasize their body parts and sexual readiness, serving as decorative objects). In addition, women portrayed in the media are frequently the target of men’s sexists comments (e.g., use of deprecating words to describe women), sexual remarks (e.g., comments about women’s body parts), and behaviors (e.g., ogling, leering, catcalling, harassment) [...] Turning to women’s interpersonal experiences, research indicates that being sexually objectified is a regular occurrence for many women in the United States. For example, in a series of daily diary studies, Swim and her colleagues found that 94% of undergraduate women reported experiencing unwanted objectifying sexual comments and behaviors at least once over a semester, women reported more SO experiences than men, and SO emerged as a unique factor of daily experiences of sexism. Other researchers have also found that SO experiences are common among other samples of women. Similar levels of interpersonal SO experiences have been reported by White and racial/ethnic minority women, as well as heterosexual and sexual minority women. In addition, women’s self-reported experiences of SO have been empirically linked to adverse psychological outcomes, including self-objectification, habitual body monitoring, body shame, internalization of the thin ideal, lowered introceptive awareness, and disordered eating among both lesbian and heterosexual women. In addition to these everyday commonplace forms of SO, many women also experience more extreme forms of SO via actual sexual victimization (i.e., rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment). For example, research indicates that one in four women have been victims of rape or attempted rape, and more than half of college women have experienced some type of sexual victimization. Females’ self-reported experiences of sexual victimization are related to more self-objectification and body shame and adverse psychological outcomes, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The intersections of gender with other sociocultural identities may place some subgroups of women at increased risk. For example, several studies have found that sexual minority women report more experiences of sexual assault in adulthood than their heterosexual peers, and that the majority of perpetrators are male."

Please understand that I do not blame all men as a group for the perpetuation of objectifying, sexualizing, and harming female bodies. This article is meant to be a critique of systemic patriarchal ideologies and institutions as a whole and how they affect women of various identities. Hopefully, the data provided in this comment will offer some clarification, and I do apologize if this came across as an indictment on men as individuals.
Mahevash Shaikh
Thank you for your support as always, Ravi. If I can do it so can you :)
Joshua
"Patriarchal institutions have a deep-rooted history of normalizing the mistreatment of female bodies."

I sympathize with your position, but I'd be curious to see some examples to support the above claim you make.