Whether you live with house mates, a partner or your family, maintaining good relationships is difficult. Add an eating disorder on top of that and you have some tricky navigation to work out. Try adding a lock down on top of that? Well it would be no surprise if things are feeling out of hand!
Stage 4 lockdown is having a huge impact on individuals with an eating disorder as well as their carers and supports. It is important that we understand why these issues are popping up and how we can help ourselves and loved ones to manage.
The re-negotiation of behaviors
Eating disorders love control, consistency, predictability and having the final word in any conversation. You may feel ruled by rituals, routines and preferences that all stem from your eating disorder. Lock down will have thrown a HUGE spanner in the works, because all of a sudden, your perfectly curated routine that caters for everything the ED desires have now been thrown into disarray.
When we find ourselves suddenly always around someone else, the secrecy of behaviors and rituals begins to be challenged. It can feel very distressing to suddenly not know how to cater to your ED and its likely your ED will be putting pressure on you to figure out how to manage. This chaos of negotiating when behaviors can occur can lead to new habits such as binge eating, alcohol use, excessive exercise or any number of things that you might feel help you ‘normalize’ some of your ED behaviors, now that someone is watching closely.
Reorganizing any routine can be challenging and your ED will be keen to take that distress out on someone. It also means you have someone to ‘blame’ your distress on. Whoever you live with is suddenly the prime target for any outbursts your ED may want to have, after all, it’s their presence forcing you to reorganize your behaviors… right? ….
Ask yourself how the change in managing your ED may be impacting who you live with? Are you grouchier? More controlling of the kitchen? Spending the household food budget more rapidly? This may feel like a challenge that you and your ED are facing alone, but your loved ones will be feeling the shift too. Bring awareness to your behaviors, how they might have changed and what impact that is having on the social dynamic within your home. See this time as an opportunity to reorganize behaviors that promote health over harm, recovery over relapse, safety over submission. This could be just the opportunity you need to step back, observe your behavior and have your friends and family support you to make some positive steps forward!
Arguments and irritability
Regardless of having an ED or not, lock down has been a breeding ground or arguments, agitation and irritability in the home. There is no direct solution to managing discord in the home but there are a few key things to consider before you start throwing down. This is hard for EVERYONE. This is not just a challenging time for you this is a GLOBAL pandemic. The tension in the house is a combination of everyone’s emotions. It’s important to take ownership of any bad behavior, negative vibes or passive aggression you are bringing to the table, but also acknowledge that it is not all your fault! Your ED may love to tell you that “you are the problem child” or “you ruin everything”, but we need to understand what is at play here! Consider the personal impact it is having on you; consider the impact it is having on the people you live with and consider the impact on the wider community. This is not just you or your loved one and it isn’t a situation we ever prepared for.
Show yourself and your housemates some kindness, give each other space, respect boundaries and when a blow up is about to occur, step back and think over some of these things first! Irritation with one another may not be avoidable, but damaging arguments, abuse and relationship break downs are avoidable.
Know when enough is enough
Challenges at home are one thing, but if the home environment becomes unsafe for any reason, you need to know that you can reach out for help. Lock down is no excuse for violence or abuse. The most important thing is to be able to feel safe in your home, where you are now spending a lot more time. If you feel that your mental health is creating an unsafe environment for you or who you live with, reach out for help, call a support line, your local triage network, emergency services or even the EDV HUB. If you feel unsafe in your home because of someone you live with, reach out in a way that maintains your safety. Below is a list of resources that might be handy!
Contributed by Amy, EDV’s Wellbeing Coordinator