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Social Distancing and Mental Health: Week One

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At the beginning of this year I set myself a goal, a simple goal by any stretch of the imagination, but one that was important for me to achieve none the less. The goal? Push myself outside of my comfort zone. To basically do things that scare me and upset my routine and normality a little. Learn to say yes to more things and not think about the consequences (within reason). Go for it. Stop living my life like I'm wrapped in cotton wool. Be easy breezy and not a rigid mess.

We're three months into the year and so far, things were going good. I've been more spontaneous. I've been out of the country. Been to two concerts, with the aim of attending more. Opened up my social life. And all-round, just challenged myself more with everyday things.

This goal may seem pitiful to some. Non-challenging. Easy. But to me it was, and still is everything. I've lived the last five years of my life in the bubble of anorexia. And there is an extreme comfort in that. Life becomes simple. Food. Appointments. Medication. Rinse and repeat. There is no danger in it, it is safe. No expectations. No feelings. Nothing. It's monotone and grey. And then something clicked. I wanted color and HD. I craved life. I envied what my friends had. I wanted to travel. Explore the world. Hop on a train to Dublin, never mind a plane to London. I wanted messy and chaotic. A relationship and friendships. The whole nine yards. Give it to me.

Anorexia stole all this from me. I was afraid. Afraid to feel anxious. Afraid of failure. Afraid of confrontation and expectations, my own high standards and the opinion of others. Anorexia offered me numbness from all this but it stole in the process. My health. My sanity. My grace. The thing about all the above? Not compatible with anorexia. There is no room for both in your life. In the height of an eating disorder life is food, numbers, and structure. You can't think about anything else. It's consuming.

That is why my goal became so important and still is, very important. I have to challenge the rules anorexia has rooted deep within me. Go against my better judgment and close the door on my instincts. Increasing my anxiety in the process, but knowing I was going to win in the long run. The old saying of temporary pain for long term gain placed firmly in my mind.

But then I didn't factor in a worldwide pandemic. None of us did.

My New Year goal of living a life with no routine and flirting with a bit of chaos? Hello, 2020, I want a redo, this is not quite what I wanted.

Life has been turned upside down. And I know I'm not alone in feeling like this. Logically I know this. I do, I do. But sometimes, in the last day or two, it feels like it. It seems like everyone around me is adapting to our new normal. And I can't quite wrap my head around it. I count the hours until it's time to go to bed every night. Turn off my phone and hope I wake in the morning to find out this was all some bad dream. It's surreal, and I feel sick every time I think about things not returning to normal anytime soon. There is no end in sight to this.

I can't do another week of social distancing, never mind another month. This is not a world I'm comfortable existing in. And as each day ticks by, it seems more and more never-ending. Suffocating.

I have done social isolation before. In the depths of my eating disorder and anxiety, this current reality would have been my dream. Now it's my nightmare. I so desperately want to crawl my way out of this lockdown, but I can't. This is for the safety of others. I get that. But it still doesn't stop me feeling so sad and angry. I spent 14 weeks of my life last year as an inpatient in hospital. I promised myself I would never be in that situation ever again for as long as I live. That another admission had no place in my life. And I've fought. So bloody hard these last few weeks to explore and entertain a life that I am proud of. One that I can look back on in December and say yes, that was a good one. I lived life to the fullest. I made mistakes that were normal and not berated because they were eating disordered ones that affected my recovery.

And yet, here we are. No one is to blame for this. It's not usual. But it has made me realize that my motivation for recovery is dependant on so many things. That, upon reflection, my recovery is fragile, hanging on by a thread and this has thrown a spanner in the works. I know I don't want to feel how I do right now. I'm scared. Growing more depressed by the day because I can't pursue my normal life. And anorexia is whispering in my ear. Making every bit of food harder. Tempting me with numbness and distraction. A way to destress. No time to think about the impending doom of the world when you're knee-deep in anorexia. I hate that I'm vulnerable to these thoughts. That I'm not as strong as I thought I was.

Then I remind myself, this is a situation no one could have prepared for. I cut myself some slack, and try to refocus my energy elsewhere. Anywhere. I have great insight into my illness, I know my triggers well. It is both a blessing and a curse to be so in tune with myself because I'm afraid of knowing how much I know. Knowing what can derail me. But then knowledge is power. And I'm not the same girl I was last April who was being admitted into the hospital.

I've had a lot of time to think since this all went down. Reflecting. Panicking. Being. Just to 'be' is a challenge in itself for me, I'm addicted to my busy lifestyle, my eye on my goals, constantly on the go. This is alien to me and I'm just itching to get back to how things were and should be.
I know there is a more optimistic way to view all this, be grateful for the gift of slowing down, being at home etc etc. I know. Trust me. I just fear that without being able to engage in all the things that motivated me to recover in the first place, that I don't know where I'll find myself amongst all this chaos.


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