My whole life cancelled when I’d just started enjoying it

Written on
Contribution by
Olivia Burney

When the lockdown started in March 2020, I was a final year languages student in Manchester. I also have a history of anorexia nervosa and I was still in active recovery at this point. I kept a diary throughout the pandemic, but I have selected a few days from the beginning of the pandemic to share how I felt at the time.

March 16, 2020
It’s all real today. The government has announced that we shouldn’t go to bars, clubs, restaurants. University is closing and we’ve had our first case here in Fallowfield, Manchester. I’m so unsure what will happen over the next few months, but I just want to go back home. I can’t wait for it to all be clearer.

March 17, 2020
Today was my last day of final year. I said goodbye to my friends, who I have no idea when I’ll next see, and they closed the university library. It wasn’t what I’d imagined, no pub crawls or parties or exams. It was just a normal day and now we’re going back home – what an anti-climax! It’s also St Paddy’s – what a weird combo – so we made a cake and drank at home to a coronavirus playlist.

March 18, 2020
The supermarkets are scary. There’s no food there… It’s just empty aisles where things used to be. I’m scared about this, as if we don’t have food, we might have to restrict a bit and I can’t let the food-side of this affect my eating disorder. I have to keep fighting and eating enough. This whole situation is a huge potential trigger, but I am strong enough to overcome it. This is what I have been practising so hard for, to deal with uncertainty, to be okay regardless of the situation.

March 23, 2020
Tonight, Boris announced that we’re in lockdown. We’re not allowed to leave our houses except to exercise once per day. It was terrifying.

March 29, 2020
There is so much beauty in the little things – or are these the big things – the blue skies, running down a hill, staying in and dancing to your favourite songs. These are the things I will hold on to when everyone tells me I should be scared, that I should be worried and anxious. Yes, everything is changing, but the beauty is still in the world. The world isn’t over, and I won’t let this stop me being happy when I can.

March 30, 2020
Everything just seemed to get on top of me today. The injustice of having my whole life cancelled when I’d just started enjoying it, that I’ll never be able to do final year again or graduate “properly”. With the added noise of my eating disorder, it just felt like too much. But I don’t think its bad to acknowledge this. It isn’t always easy and I am allowed to be upset.

April 1, 2020
I can hear my eating disorder saying that I’ll gain weight because most of the day we’re just at home, but I have to remember what I give up if I give in. It’s not a choice between restriction and normal, if I pick restriction, I lose everything with it: my brain, the relationships I’ve built, my health, my happiness, being an honest person – being me. So really, it’s not a choice.

I have used the extra time in lockdown to put more effort into recovery from my eating disorder. A year on, I have recovered so fully that I barely recognise the thoughts I had at this time. I no longer have to reason with myself over why I should eat or shouldn’t exercise; I am no longer scared of weight gain and I have addressed many of the issues that activated my eating disorder.

I suffered from an eating disorder for over six years, and although at times I have felt frustrated that I have recovered into a world where I can’t make up for the time that I lost to a half-life with an eating disorder, I can’t wait to enjoy the world post-lockdown without having to share my life with it.

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