High drama in the world requires us to respond in the most stable and healthy way possible. Not easy, but possible.
Caronavirus news and the falling global financial markets can reignite old eating disorder feelings and behaviors. If you have been living without your eating disorder and now are shocked that it has kicked in during this time of fear and crisis you are not alone. Please remember, when crisis is upon us we need to center and think clearly. We need to take positive action to care for ourselves, externally and internally.
You will be limited if your eating disorder takes charge of your decision making. Yes, it can tap down your anxiety. But it also taps down your clarity of thought and your creativity. It stifles your perceptions of opportunity and your realistic approach to real problems both in the world and your immediate living situation. (See end of article for help resources.)
Why is your eating disorder back?
If your eating disorder is back you’ve encountered more than your development growth can cope with.
It’s time to go back into therapy with a psychotherapist who has expertise in working with eating disorders.
If I’ve done recovery work, why is it failing? Am I failing?
When more than you could have possibly imagined comes into reality, your loyal eating disorder, tried and true, will rise to protect you from crippling anxiety. But, as you know from your past, this cure also cripples. Your anxiety may subside as you binge or starve or move into meticulous calorie counting or portion measuring. But your efforts to control your food, your body and the people around you have no effect on controlling what is happening in the world or in your life. More internal development is required for you to meet a world that is in an unstable state.
Eating disorders fill in developmental deficits.
The core of eating disorder recovery consists of your growing beyond previous limitations so you do not need the eating disorder to protect you from feelings or awareness. You become healthy enough, developed enough, stable enough and pragmatic enough to bear more of the reality you live in, care for yourself well and take relevant and positive action steps to cope with what is happening in your life.
Recovery gives you a new internal equilibrium based on a broader and deeper view of people and situations and a solid base integrating past wounds and crises.
This is wonderful and reflects work well done.
Why is my eating disorder back now?
The world and the people in it can throw us events and situations that are beyond what we could have imagined. In your recovery work you were dealing with the world as you knew it and the world as you imagined it could become.
You may not have considered global fear of a lethal, untreatable disease. You may not have considered a global fall in financial markets plummeting on the basis of those fears. The fears, as you are discovering, are based on concrete, specific global actions designed to limit physical danger while putting at risk economic trade and global business that affects us all. You may not have considered fears that could not be soothed away. The fact that large human gathering places are being quarantined or shut down and business is facing mammoth losses plus the unknown lethality of the virus are not figments of your imagination.
What do I need to cope?
Conflicting statements about the seriousness of these events are being made by business, medical experts, community representatives and politicians. You need to be able to discriminate among these perspectives to realistically proceed on behalf of yourself and the people you care about.
Relying on the old symptoms of an eating disorder will hinder your ability to make wise and realistic choices.
This is a time to acknowledge that your first action needs to be to care for yourself in ways that you have not.
You have not neglected yourself. You prepared yourself for the world you knew.
These new unimagined world events require that you go deeper into unexplored aspects of your own psyche to develop beyond your current limitations. To cope well, you need to be as healthy and clear as possible.
Is there real hope?
Fortunately, the human psyche is vast. It is always possible to go deeper and find new and unexpected strength, tools, creativity, courage and insight to bring to our current challenges.
Reach for your recovery tools and call for psychotherapy. Moving through your personal crisis will equip you to move through the current local and world crisis with more wisdom and clarity.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, private practice psychotherapist, E-mail for free telephone consultation.
Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder
National and International Eating Disorder Treatment Provider Resources