Living with Bulimia during a pandemic

By the time covid reached the UK in March, I’d made massive strides in my recovery. The eating disorder had steadily loosened its hold on me, and for the first time in my life, I’d created a healthy structure around my eating and exercise habits that felt realistic and sustainable. Then LOCKDOWN!

At the start, it was fine. I was just like everyone else with the puzzles, walks, baking banana bread, taking up knew hobbies. But there’s only so long that can last for.

Frida Kahlo puzzle keeping me busy

The good news is I haven’t experienced a full relapse or fallen too far back into the old destructive patterns that to this day still beckon me with the comforting familiarity of control and stress relief.

But the truth is, mandated social isolation and an unprecedented amount of time with my own thoughts had reawakened old patterns and behaviors I’d hoped were long gone: more intense scrutiny of my reflection on every trip past a mirror. Times between showers were lengthened just to avoided looking at myself and the number of pills I was popping, crept back up rapidly.

The biggest struggle I’ve encounter during Covid is the lack of structure to my days and a lack of social support. During the first week of lockdown I lost my job, my boyfriend & my housemate announced she was moving out. These were times that I would usually fall to a friend or family member for help. But I couldn’t.

I was just spending all day every day in bed at one point

My bulimia was thriving off the isolation, and in the absence of regular, real-life social support from friends and family and consistent therapy sessions, doctor and nutritionist appointments. During lockdown I had continued to stay in contact with my therapists but it was over the phone and it just wasn’t the same.

I could tell that I wasn’t following through with things I’d promised these professionals I would do. I never did my homework’s I.e. keeping a food diary, weighing myself, stop body checking, cutting down on laxatives. I became used to automatically say “ohh I’m so sorry, I forgot” thing is, it’s accountability!—being in a room with someone somehow keeps you more accountable than talking to them on Zoom or over the phone. You can hide things on Zoom. But when you are face-to-face in the room with your therapist, it’s a different story.

Around mid May time it all came to ahead. I was spending every day in my bedroom, not eating anything other than laxatives and cups of tea. I’d become a recluse and my housemate hadn’t even noticed. I couldn’t cope with the isolation anymore & when BoJo announce that Lockdown was to be extend for another 3 weeks I couldn’t take it any longer. Everything i’d learnt in therapy just went out the window.

TW. I decided to stop taking all my epilepsy medication so that I’d have a seizure. Wait until my housemate was out and fill myself a bath when I could feel a seizure coming on. My aim was to have a fit in the bath and drown myself. When I look back now it makes me sad but I couldn’t see anyway out. Almost as if there was a brick wall right in front of me and it was NEVER coming down!

My best friends from home knew me too well and realised something was up from the way I’d been acting on Social media and not replying. They contacted my housemate and sisters! Without them, I wouldn’t be here today. My sister came & collected me immediately. As soon as I saw her I just broke down. I know it sounds stupid but when I saw her crying at the thought of loosing me, my first thought was “omg, she’d actually be upset if I went? How weird!” .

My, my sisters and my dad who all came together to really support me.

I stayed at home & with my sister for around two months before returning to my flat. I realised that at home I was starting to loose control of my actions and it was time to return. This time with a fresh mentality… plus, the new rule of seeing 6 people outside had just been announced so I wasn’t to anxious.

Looking back on my recovery journey, the biggest turning point came during my second time at rehab . The small, homey, independently run treatment center operated on an entirely different set of rules and principles than I’d experienced in my first (failed) attempt at recovery. Rather than drawing hard lines and boundaries around after-hours communication between therapists and clients, the heads of the organisation encouraged regular text check-ins and more personal, human connections cultivated through chats and meal times outside of regular treatment hours. Not to mention not being so clinical!

For me, that means reducing my time on the Instagram explore page(still working on it), which I find inexplicably filled with fitness influencers and diet tips. It means making more time and space in my life for loved ones in the only way that’s safe and responsible right now—more texts, more FaceTimes, more honesty about what’s going on in my life and theirs during a truly novel time of uncertainty, fear, and chaos. And it means actively investing in those relationships by whatever means necessary to find nourishment and fuel for legitimate happiness that the abusive reign of my eating disorder continuously promised and never delivered and learning that I’m not a burden on my family. It also means repeatedly pushing my eating disorder out the front door of our two-bedroom quarantine home, because honestly, there just isn’t room for three of us here.

Me and my housemate who’s unfortunately moving out due to Covid. She found me crying in my room and contacted my family 💕

It’s all still work in progress, especially the whole, you can’t let someone love you until you love someone yourself thing. But hey, to sum up… it’s been a pretty crappy year, losing my gran, losing a boyfriend, my housemate, my job, had a cancer scare, nearly gave my life up and being diagnosed with psychosis. But hey, we’ve all had a shit year and we’ve all been through it together! 2020’s nearly over babes <3.

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