The term "social distancing" has become part of our culture's mainstream lexicon over the past few months, but for the sake of those in eating disorder (ED) recovery (or any mental health issue, for that matter), can we please not call it social distancing anymore? The idea of creating barriers socially between ourselves and other people can exacerbate the sense of isolation or disconnection that many individuals who battle eating disorders are already too familiar with. In fact, experts within the field of public health agree the phrase is harmful and advocate that it be known as "physical distancing" instead.
No one wants a mental health emergency at any time, but having a mental health emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic showed me how neither I nor the emergency room hospital staff was prepared to deal with a mental health crisis in this unsettling--and downright terrifying--time.
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.
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.
When I finally made the decision a couple of years ago to heal from my lifelong battle with anorexia, one lesson eating disorder recovery taught me is that access to healthy food is a privilege. As I obsessed about the nutrition and ingredients of whatever I consumed—tabulating each item's sodium, carbohydrate, and refined sugar content—it dawned on me that not everyone can afford to be as selective or meticulous about the foods they eat.
There is a documented prevalence of eating disorders in biracial women--but why? In this video, HealthyPlace "Surviving ED" co-author Hollay Ghadery discusses how her experience as a half Iranian and half white woman plays into these findings.
In my experience, people in the early stages of eating disorder recovery often rush their progress. Unfortunately, this rush adds pressure to an already stressful situation, which can cause people to experience more setbacks than necessary.
I had no intention of being someone who unrolls a mat in a candlelit room and chants, "Namaste," with my palms entwined at heart's center, but this is me nonetheless—yoga is now part of my eating disorder recovery, and I am thankful for the conduit of healing it's become. I have a long, complicated—and, at times, unhealthy—relationship with exercise. I am also an intense, feisty, and energetic person by nature which means that my workouts often match this intensity, but one exercise that I never imagined I would feel such a profound, almost sacred connection to is yoga.
Traveling in recovery from an eating disorder poses some challenges. How big those challenges are will depend on where you are in your recovery. I've recently returned from a week-long vacation to Cuba with my family, and even a decade into recovery, I faced my fair share of hurdles.
I'm a huge supporter of ending the stigma surrounding all mental illnesses, which is why I support talking to your kids about eating disorder recovery. This said, as a mother of four children under nine years of age and someone who has been in recovery for a while now, there are two things I think everyone should consider before talking to their children.