What It’s Like to Have an Eating Disorder During Lockdown
A cupboard full of canned goods triggers my deepest insecurities
When I was 11 years old, I watched the second Jurassic Park movie, The Lost World, and had a panic attack about a giant meteor hitting the Earth and causing the end of the world. I lay in bed and pushed my open eyes into my pillowcase, imagining the last moments I would spend with my family. Apart from the total and encompassing terror a panic attack brings, I sensed frustration — this imagined catastrophe was so utterly unfair. Why did this have to happen to me? Surely it wasn’t the actual end? What did I do wrong?
My feeling of powerlessness during these childhood attacks still angers me. Over time, I have trained myself to control these fears. I’ve learned to either ignore reality with self-medication (to my own detriment) or to play so deeply into the needs of the people closest to me that when they eventually hurt me and my fears are confirmed, I call it control.
Control has been high on my list of values for a long time. As soon as I become uncomfortable in a situation, I shrink into the safety of rituals that shape who I am when I am alone with myself. Ask anyone who has an eating disorder or is in recovery from one what goes on in their head, and most will describe a similar tendency. No matter how anxious I get, I know I can find refuge in those rituals—no matter what they cost me.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve fielded a dizzying barrage of information about Covid-19 from various corners of the internet. Apart from generally triggering my anxiety about the end of the world, I feel bullied into a corner by familiar fears and trace traumas.
Here’s what it’s like for someone suffering from ED: On a good day, I can eat three medium-ish meals and snacks and only have nine to 10 negative thoughts about my actions. On a great day, I can have ice cream or fast food and only once hear the growl of the thought that I’m going to balloon to the size of a planet. On a bad day, I can’t sit down for 10 minutes for fear of being called a lazy, fat bitch by the voice in my head — and proving it right.