In the last few days I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post discussing how disabilities and mental health issues can lead to isolation and a general feeling of being ostracised in the community but there’s something else that’s come up in these last few weeks and even more so in these last few days that I feel is a more pressing issue to write about.
Obviously, everyone is pretty aware of the current situation regarding COVID-19. It’s a scary time for many, particularly those who are the most vulnerable. We’re conscious of not being too close to people, we’re aware of minimising contact, people are feeling anxious about touching coffee cups and handling money, sitting on trains and buses, going to church, entering shopping centres. There’s huge financial burdens and stresses on people which is just adding to the anxiety. Grocery stores are empty, broccoli is $11.90 a kilo (wtf) and everyone is panicking. Honestly, it took me 3 days and 6 grocery stores to find a bag of oats (shout out to Aldi). People are rationing and hoarding; walking around our local Woolies is genuinely really distressing and depressing. Every second shelf is empty and a lot of people are somehow managing to get by without the basics. Life has enough stress without this. There is still rent to pay, dogs to take to the vet, appointments to attend. There are children to protect and teach and work to be done. There are weddings and funerals and other sicknesses to be managed. Just generally, there’s a great deal of tension around. COVID-19 is constantly on peoples minds.
Obviously there are people who are more vulnerable to getting sick – REALLY sick from Coronavirus. The elderly, those with chronic illness (things you might not even think of – diabetes, heart or lung disease, cancer, various autoimmune diseases, HIV and AIDS, Down Syndrome and eating disorders, for example) are particularly more at risk than your average Joe.
So: eating disorders. It’s taken me awhile to get around to the main point of this post (soz fam, but thanks if you’ve read until now). I’ve been worried the last few days about people I’ve met in hospital who might be freaking out with all this food hoarding and panic buying going on and just today a conversation surrounding that has happened amongst a few of us. It’s going to trip a lot of us up. People who might not have an entirely clear understanding of eating disorders may not realise that some of us really struggle to be flexible with foods we eat or with specific brands that we buy. And it’s so easy to use that as a reason to forgo our meal plan or to restrict our intake. I don’t know how to address this because it obviously is what it is and some of us will certainly find ways of adapting, but not all of us are in a place where we can. What’s the point of posting about it if I don’t have a clear solution? I don’t know. But I just want people to be aware, I guess. It’s not so easy for someone to just eat pasta if they only feel they can manage rice. It’s not so easy for us to choose a different brand of yoghurt or have a different snack or have a different muesli bar than usual. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense even to me but the anxiety that comes up is real and there and undeniable. I’m worried about people with eating disorders because we’re already more at risk of getting very unwell were we to contract this virus but even MORE vulnerable if it shakes up our meal plan or routine and things become or seem unmanageable. I know for myself I’m already freaking out about the prospect of what might happen if I’m unable to be outside and exercise and how that might impact my meal plan. It all has a flow on effect. I do want to acknowledge also that there are people with allergies or intolerances who are also restricted in their food options, so it’s important to be mindful of this as well.
Please be aware of this. Those who know people with eating disorders, those who have family members with eating disorders – please know we might need some extra support with foodstuff at this crazy time. There is likely to be greater anxiety and we might need extra encouragement. We might need you to swap muesli bars with us if you don’t really give a shit what flavour you have. We might need you to grocery shop with us so we don’t have huge panic attacks in the cereal aisle, or even shop for us. This is a crazy time for everyone but there are different layers to this for different people and groups.
And for those who this is an issue – reach out. Share with people what’s going on in your head; share what the eating disorder might be shouting in that head of yours. Maybe you feel undeserving of food, or feel like you need to leave it for others but this is not the case – you deserve it. You need it. You need food just as much as anyone and you are so worthy of that.
So. Here ends the blog post.