Isolation and the Disordered Eater

When connection is your cure, but your community is quarantined


Sara Locke and her babies
 
I understand my absolute privilege as a person with a comfortable home, enough savings to handle clients who suddenly can’t pay, an already remote and self-regulated job, and three kids I actually enjoy spending time with. I haven’t for a moment taken for granted that a lot of people are stuck in terrible situations and facing a month of really hard decisions. That’s why whenever anyone asks me with a solemn tone… “so, how are you guys holding up?” I use my perkiest customer service voice to assure them that everything is wonderful and we are just fine. 
We get out every day to some green space, have more than enough toilet paper, do you need a roll? And when I put my kids to bed, we lament over just how fast this day slipped by us.  We would just love a few more minutes, and so I climb into bed with them and we read one more story (probably three) and I watch them drift off to sleep before I do the dishes and write.
My life is everything I ever wanted, and I cannot complain.
But the assignment I was handed this week was to be a lot more honest than that. Not that the above isn’t true, it absolutely is. But while everyone talks about what “the new normal” means to them, some of us have been isolating with psychological disorders for years, and this was just one more door that closed for us.  And being stuck in a home with three weeks’ supply of food can be, while I shudder at the word, triggering for someone recovering from decades of eating disorders.  
 

Eating with the Enemy 

For six years I’ve had the honor of using these pages to talk about how much I love food. I love food like the drunk girl in the bar bathroom loves EVERYONE. I gas it up, tell it how lucky everyone is to have it, ask it where it got its gorgeous sauces.  It can be difficult to reconcile my appreciation for the art of flavor balancing with the fact of my decades of a sub-450 calorie a day diet. But most psychological disorders come with a side of WTF.  
 
By seven years old, I was well aware that I had an eating disorder. Facial scars I acquired at the ripe old age of 2 meant I had already made my peace with the fact that “pretty” was never going to be my calling. To the chagrin of early therapists, nutritionists, and personal trainers, restrictive eating was never about how I looked. There was no finish line. I had just found that counting, cutting, and burning calories was the only thing I had any real control over. 
 

A Little Help 

There was no magic day in therapy that “fixed” me, but rather the thought of my future children feeling the way I felt that helped me to make some kind of peace. It was my perfect daughter, Lily. Years before she was born, she saved her mother’s life. 
When I see myself staring back from my daughter’s sweet hazel eyes today, I wish I could hold tiny me and tell her I am so sorry. ]
 
I wish I could be the mother she needed. But I can honor her now by taking better care of myself, and being that woman for my daughter. I’m grateful that in spite of the adrenal 
fatigue, hair loss, and joint problems I inflicted upon myself, my beautiful daughter will not inherit my adversarial relationship with food. 
 
But the problem with OCD, PTSD, and eating disorders is that you don’t get fixed. You find yourself in a (hopefully) permanent state of recovery. You know your triggers and avoid them, maintain your support system, and take your steps... every day.  Today, control looks like meal planning. Meditating when I am alone and saying out loud “Don’t throw 
the food away. You can’t go back to the store this week, don’t throw it away.” And reminding myself that I didn’t actually cause this quarantine. And neither did you.  
 
My only advice is this; reach out. Phone a friend. Reframe things as often as you need to. Today, do it for your kids. Tomorrow, do it so that you’re strong enough to workout when the gyms reopen. The next day, cut your bangs. It’s ok. Do it because you have control over those bangs and whether or not they look ugly right now.
 
And today, find a specialized therapist who takes telecalls. BetterHealth has options within your budget.  
 
And if you ask the only people I care about, they’ll tell you that I’m a really great mom. If you need one, I’m here. I think you’re doing an amazing job, and I promise we’re going to be ok.  
 

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