I woke up on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 ready for my first day at work in three years. I rushed through my shower to spend my extra time styling my hair and doing my makeup. “I want to look my best for my first day,” I told myself, and I did. I adorned my body with black lipstick, mascara, and my grandmother’s ring, before giving myself a final look in the mirror. But this time looking in the mirror, I saw something different. I see a person no longer ruled by their inner demons; a person that’s confident in themselves and what they wanted with their life; somebody who had worked hard to get to where they were; and was ready to place the past three years of treatments and hospital visits behind themself.
After today, I will no longer be “the one with the eating disorder”. I’ll no longer be defined by my mental health. I’ll be in control of defining who I am or who I want to be, and I can learn who I am without struggling in the restraints of my disorder. Today is the first day of a whole new life for me – a life without Ed. Today, I am on top of the world.
I sit down with my breakfast – two fried eggs and a sliced pear – and turn on the news. “We are facing an unprecedented time in our history,” said Premier Ford. “This is a decision that was not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions. We are taking this extraordinary measure because we must…”, and all of a sudden, there was this ringing in my ears. I couldn’t hear anything else, just this intense ringing. It felt like I was frozen in time. I don’t know how long I spent like that.
My cell phone’s ring pulled me back into reality. “Hello?” My voice was small.
“Did you see the news?” My boss’ voice was even smaller.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 became the day that Ontario, and eventually the world, shut down due to the novel coronavirus. We had to completely change how we live: those who could work from home did; we rationed flour and toilet paper, and we learned how to communicate with those we loved that we could no longer see. Everything about how we lived our lives changed.
I fell into a deep depression in the first weeks of lockdown. I lost days playing Sims on my laptop and binge-watching Netflix. I had no motivation or energy to do anything. I was insistent on keeping the outside world out and building up this bubble that I believed would keep me safe. I was careful to make sure that I was following the new laws and regulations to protect myself and everyone else. I did whatever I could to protect myself from the world.
I wanted to feel the way I felt the morning of Tuesday March 17: hopeful and excited. So I did what I could to pass the time: I dyed my hair to resemble a Kraft Dinner box; I started making and selling wooden signs; I went on long walks with my partner exploring our neighbourhood; I started doing yoga; I organized my storage unit; I read a book I’ve been dying to read for years; and as the months passed, these activities began to make me feel more empty than ever.
On August 7, 2020, I opened my laptop to find an email from Twyla Osmond, of Marca College, containing a registration form. Marca College was reopening to allow students complete their hours. I was given the opportunity to finally graduate and take back what my eating disorder stole from me. And I did. As of October 14, 2020, I graduated from Marca College with a diploma in Hairstyling. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to go back and complete my diploma the right way. Graduating Marca gave me the strength to fight my depression through the next lockdown, but that strength didn’t last me long. Two weeks into the second lockdown I started spending days in bed. I didn’t have the energy to pull myself out of bed except to eat. I did the bare minimum to keep myself in recovery.
I want to say my perspective has changed over the duration of the second lockdown. I want to say that I kicked depression’s ass over the course of the lockdown, but I can’t say that. I can’t lie. It’s taking everything I have inside of me not to fall back into the grips of my eating disorder because that feels safe in a world of dangerous microbes and self-isolation. I have to fight myself to eat every single day because it is the one thing standing in between myself and death, and I don’t want to die. I truly don’t want to die, and that’s the choice I’m making if I choose ED. I want to live, not die. Choosing ED is a complete contradiction of everything I believe and I have to believe that something good is going to come out of all of this shit.
When I look back on this past year in lockdown, I feel a mixture of emotions. I’m sad because I miss what our world used to be like before COVID. I’m anxious when I leave my house or come into contact with somebody outside my household. I’m terrified that I’ll get sick or I’ll get someone else sick. Underneath all of this sadness, anxiety, and fear, however, I’m thankful to have had the time to cry, shake out my anxieties, and face my fears without risking my recovery. I’m thankful to have been given the time to work on my recovery because as awful as this pandemic is, I believe I needed this time. I’ve learned that I have a fierce determination to recover. I’ve learned that I have wants and needs that I’m allowed to take care of. I am proud to have held onto my recovery amidst this year of life’s highs and lows: I held onto my recovery after nearly losing my parents; after graduating college; and during a global pandemic that called for self-isolation. I fought off an eating disorder that thrives on what our government is asking us to do. This is my greatest achievement in my recovery and this is what I will hold onto for the duration of this pandemic.
My days are different now. I still struggle daily with my depression and I work hard to be as honest with myself as possible. I’m able to recognize when I’m doing something that isn’t going to benefit me. I’m learning to give a voice to my anxieties. I’m able to eat without the control of my eating disorder. I’m exploring who I am and what I like. I’m coming to terms with the state of the world and learning to accept what I cannot change. I’m learning to forgive myself for my past mistakes and to move forward with knowledge. I’m giving myself the opportunity to have a life outside of my eating disorder and while it is trying, it is beautiful.
I’m just trying to make the best out of a bad situation.