by Sarah J. Braun.

I’ve always loved my alone time. I grew up an only child, so I’ve become quite accustomed to it and being alone has always felt somewhat normal to me – I never knew anything else. As an adult I have learned to value, appreciate and prioritise my alone time amidst a busy and chaotic schedule.

At times I’ve found myself becoming anxious and irritable when I am in social situations or surrounded by others for an extended period of time. I would look forward to going home to rest, relax and recharge by myself. I needed and enjoyed that solitude, because without it my mental health would suffer.

However, time spent alone can be a double-edged sword.

When you live with an eating disorder, you are never truly alone.

There is always that voice lingering in the background, sometimes very faint and other times overwhelmingly loud. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned how to quiet that voice through various means; most of which take place outside of the house or in the company of others. Therefore as this pandemic strengthens, and more measures and restrictions are placed upon us, I find myself isolated and confined alone to my apartment.

As mentioned, I am quite familiar with living and being alone, yet this feels different, daunting almost and at times, quite hopeless. Not only is it just myself trapped inside these four walls, I also have the company of my mental illnesses, only now they are amplified.

My eating disorder is latching on to the isolation and begging to thrive in it.

Secrets keep you sick, and it is easy to keep those secrets when you have no physical contact with loved ones and the outside world. Connection is only found through a screen these days; fluctuations in weight can go unnoticed and behaviours can go unknown.

From my experience, most eating disorders stem from or involve some desire for control; so with the COVD-19 pandemic bringing with it so many unknowns and so much uncertainty, the draw to return to eating disorder behaviours seems more desirable than normal.

With countless hours spent scrolling through various social media apps, I’ve noticed a theme among posts in what is meant to be a sort of uplifting perspective. Society and governments have been placing emphasis on focusing on what we can control; our thoughts, our behaviours and our actions throughout this unprecedented time in our lives.

For those with an eating disorder or even those in stable recovery, focusing on what we can control usually involves food; what we do eat and what we don’t eat and that can quite quickly become a very risky scenario. Right now more than ever, the world feels unsafe. We are bombarded with stark numbers and statistics, told not to leave the house and if necessary, then to wear a mask, gloves and to maintain a safe distance from others.

Personally, my eating disorder has always provided me with a sense of protection and safety, therefore now more than ever, the thought of returning to my illness weighs heavier on my mind than normal.

With the isolation, lack of control and feelings of being unsafe these days, my eating disorder has been in the corner smiling warmly and waiting to welcome me back with open arms.

Motivation to continue along my recovery journey throughout this pandemic has come in waves, sometimes few and far between. I would be lying if I said keeping my head above water right now is easy, because it certainly is not.

In times like these I think back to advice I’ve received over the past of couple years; when it seems impossible to keep climbing, just pause and enjoy the view – nothing more, nothing less. I’m doing my best to take this new normal day by day and sometimes even hour by hour.

I have been working on putting a daily schedule together to provide some sense of structure and routine. My recommendations would include incorporating designated and specific times for creativity, such as writing, colouring and crafting. Next would be an intellectual activity such as reading or an online course. After that, using caution when engaging physical activity, nothing to intense that an eating disorder will cling to and push to the extreme. Perhaps something a simple as stretching, yoga or a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood.

The most important part of my schedule involves safe socialisation through online platforms such as FaceTime or Zoom. Staying connected in such an isolating times, especially for those who live alone, is crucial for mental health. I make sure to check in with at least one or two people in a day and I find that helps to really keep my mood up and feel a sense of love and belonging. However, some days all of that can feel extremely difficult to accomplish.

On those days, I’m trying to be compassionate towards myself and do what I can rather than beating myself up for what I can’t (even if that means just moving from the bed to the couch to watch Netflix – that is okay too.)

There is no handbook, no guideline and no rules on how to live through a pandemic, we are all just out here trying to do the best we can to survive.

About our author, Sarah:

Sarah describes herself as a perfectionistic, animal loving, sports fanatic. She is a coffee fiend with an enthusiasm for recovery and a wicked sense of humour. Sarah is fiercely honest, resilient and driven, embracing life one day at a time.

You can read more from Sarah on her blog, and you’ll be very welcome to follow her on Instagram.