Content Warning: This content may be triggering to those struggling with eating disorders
Like any anxiety-riddled modern bitch, I experienced a nauseating thought-spiral upon hearing that I would be required to stay in my home for the foreseeable future. One of the first thoughts I had was, “Oh no, does this mean I’m going to gain weight?” quickly followed by, “Omg wtf is wrong with me? People are dying and I’m worried about getting stretch marks.” Then the spiral stopped right there, and I decided to be happy, carefree, and at peace.
Lmao, obviously joking. I swan dove into a whirlpool of panic about my morals, self worth, thigh gap, and death. But once I was able to take a step back, take my meds, and talk to my therapist, I was able to see that worrying about my body image during this crisis doesn’t make me a bad, superficial person who doesn’t care that people are dying. In fact, as someone who has struggled with eating disorders since the age of 12, my reaction makes a lot of sense.
I first stumbled upon anorexia when I gave up sweets for Lent in the sixth grade and every teacher, classmate, and their WASP mother at my small town Catholic school commented about how much weight I had lost. The attention felt good, like I had accomplished something. But with that high came what never leaves you after struggling with an ED: the fear that you will lose the control you currently have over your weight. What would people say—or worse, think—then? Being thin was *my thing* now, and being in control of that was my number one priority.
Fast forward to now. What to do you know, it’s Lent season again and I’m obsessing over my body. Life comes full circle.
Since 6th grade, I’ve always had anorexia in my back pocket, at the ready for when I’m in a bad place and need something to fixate on to distract myself from other emotional trauma (lol). I’ve made people worry about me, obsessed over making sure certain bones stay jutting out, and at most times become unable to recognize what my body actually looks like because all I see is “too big” or “gross.” Body dysmorphia is a real bitch. I’ve dabbled in bulimia but have never stuck with that one for long because I’m not very good at throwing up (brag), and at one point was doing this thing where I’d chew food for the taste and then spit it out, but I’m not really sure what to even call that. But no matter what tactic I’m using, and even at times when I can recognize that my weight is healthy or I even feel good about my body, one thing remains the same: I’m absolutely stressed the f*ck out over the idea of gaining weight.
Years of therapy has taught me that everything I do—even the destructive, irrational sh*t—I do for a reason. And while eating disorders ultimately make me miserable, they also bring me temporary solace. They make me feel like I’m in control. I mean, ironically, they are in control of me and my happiness, but they make me feel like there is a small portion of my daily life where I am calling the shots. I am in charge of the amount of calories that I take in, the amount that I burn through exercise, the amount I release by vomiting. And so, it’s no coincidence that my eating disorders are at their worst when I feel out of control in other aspects of my life.
Being confined to your home with no real end in sight is overwhelming. Knowing you can’t go about your daily routine is stressful and anxiety-inducing. Not having access to your usual workouts and being stuck inside where you’re likely to eat and drink out of boredom is scary, especially if you struggle with an eating disorder, or any type of body image issues. These reactions are normal. Unusual circumstances are going to trigger the ways in which stress manifests for you, and that’s okay.
Also, hear me out, it is possible to be upset and worried about two things at once. You can be anxious about your weight and disturbed by death at the same time. I would argue that many of us worry about both of those things at once on the regular. So, during a pandemic, it’s reasonable for both of those concerns to intensify.
Live footage of me finding multiple things to be anxious about at once.
It’s also important to note that the obsession with body image isn’t something *you* came up with. A little bitch I like to call society can be blamed for this one. I don’t think I need to launch into an entire TED Talk about how society has brainwashed us into valuing our looks and a certain standard of beauty, as we’re all pretty familiar with that concept and Jameela Jamil has me covered there. So, being concerned about your looks during a pandemic is also just a reaction that you have learned to prioritize.
Being triggered by stress doesn’t make you shallow. Wanting to have control over something while the world as you know it collapses around you doesn’t make you a self-centered bimbo. And having an eating disorder certainly doesn’t make you weak or materialistic. It all makes you a human living in this dumb world, reacting to things like anyone else.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
Images: Giphy (2); i yunmai / Unsplash