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.