Recovering from an Eating Disorder During the Pandemic

TRIGGER WARNING: eating disorder


One of the biggest decisions in my life came last August when I decided to recover from my eating disorder. The problem? I had to face it during a global pandemic.

An eating disorder is like having a voice in your head that bosses you around so much that it affects your life. I imagined my eating disorder (ED) as a best friend that lived in my head. I named her Ana Nerva, short for Anorexia Nervosa.

Ana would constantly tell me things like my thighs were too big or that no one would accept me because of how I looked. Before recovery, Ana took over who I was. I wasn’t Mary Kay- I was Ana living in the body of Mary Kay.

My experience of recovering from an ED while being stuck at home is a bit weird, to say the least.

I chose an outpatient treatment program. I would talk to my therapist through phone calls, I’d get into arguments with my doctor and dietitian over video visits and would have an eating disorder support group meets every Wednesday night on Zoom.

Recovery during the StayAt-Home order is definitely not what I had in mind. I imagined being in a circle talking about my mental illness obstacles with people of the same problem, not on Zoom looking at my therapist’s Google Slides presentation while all the other participants had their camera off.

Every other Friday, I’d go into an adolescence clinic to have my vitals taken. The nurse checks my weight, my blood pressure, and for some reason, she tests my urine. I see the same nurse every time I go in. We’d bond over trying different acai bowls and our favorite kind of coffee.

A few hours after having my vitals taken, I would go back home to have a video visit with my doctor and dietitian. Most of the time, the meeting would be me convincing my recovery team that the relationship I have with food is completely fine and that everything I decide to do with my eating habits is a quirk I have.

“It seems like you and your ED are still best friends,” my doctor once said.

The truth is, it’s harder to separate Ana from myself when I’m stuck at home.

My ED is able to come up with excuses that I would closely follow. She says that I can’t challenge myself to eat food from restaurants because everything is closed. I’d go to the grocery store to purchase the lowest calorie version of bread, margarine and greek yogurt and convince myself that it’s enough, and I’ve found a lot of time to exercise at every chance I’d get.

I still continue certain rituals that I performed before recovery, such as daily body checks or restricting what I eat.

Recovering from an eating disorder from home is difficult because I never feel like I could hold myself accountable within the comfort of my own home.

Sometimes I ask myself whether I’m actually recovering or not.

In recovery, I’m supposed to tell that voice in my head that she’s wrong. Like an epic battle, I’m supposed to challenge Ana to a duel every time she gets in my path. I don’t fight my ED every time, however. For me, it’s a compromise between what I want and what Ana wants.

My therapist once told me that recovery isn’t linear, that sometimes I’ll take one step forward and two steps back.

I may be stuck at home in the midst of a pandemic while fighting what feels like another person inside me, but thanks to the amazing support group I have, I make the everyday decision to stay in recovery.

Eventually, the COVID-19 fiasco will be gone and so will my ED. So for now I’ll take the one step forward and two steps back.