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My journal of pain: WaPo writer manages to get through an entire week of exquisite suffering during the coronavirus lockdown

April 28, 2020
Amanda Long
OMG, coronavirus quarantine is hard! Amanda Long, Washington Post Magazine writer, massage therapist, and possessor of an “eating disorder,” is stuck at home! For an entire week!
At home I grab an RXBar and a banana. We have more boxes of protein bars somewhere, but I don’t want to know where. Last week, as the self-isolation was starting to take hold, my husband, Robert, asked if he should keep backup supplies out of sight and reach. (I’m short, and we have cabinets to the ceiling.) He told me he trusted me (and I believed him) but didn’t want me to feel overwhelmed by the sight of so much food. Years past, he’d hide the Halloween candy so that I wouldn’t binge on Gobstoppers and Starbursts and skip dinner.
Husband hides the Halloween candy.
Later I go to CVS, where I often get groceries when grocery stores are overwhelming, which is often. With a new set of gloves on, I buy one more Lean Cuisine meal, some Fiber One bars, a family pack of chewy Nerds, a bottle of moscato and cleansing wipes.
And this is just Day One.
Long never tells us exactly what her “eating disorder” is, but she seems to go for a combination of revolting-sounding nutrition supplements and sickly sweets. I wonder how many “bars” of various kinds are stashed all over the Long household.
Home has never been a comfort to me. Home is where cabinets full of snacks and other trigger foods await. Home has toilets to clean to hide the evidence of how I got through each day. Home alone, I tended to go to the extremes: wake late, call in sick, binge and slog through a punishing long run — or lie in bed all day. Home has been where I hurt myself.
Call in sick and lie in bed all day. Wish I could do that–but I’m a free-lancer.

This all feels like a test of recovery. Can I take care of myself and trust others to take care of me? Did all that crafting, journaling, talking about my feelings, meditating, nutritious meal-prepping and coping-ahead strategies pay off? Will my husband see how broken I still am, or how much I want to be alive?

I have a feeling that Robert sees a lot.

As I furiously Google online workouts, a friend texts me. I tell her I’m about to order a mini trampoline. She says she has one that I can come pick up. Am I already being too obsessed with exercise, or am I wisely adding a lower-impact workout to the high-impact types that usually lead to injury? The trampoline is free, I rationalize, and since she just happened to have one, it must be meant to be. Also, my post-treatment tattoo reads “Boing,” so bouncing is very on-brand.

A post-treatment tattoo.

Robert comes home around 6:30, and we trade catastrophe notes. We usually don’t eat the same dinner at home, but we try to do it around the same time. He has a significant number of food allergies, and I have a significant lack of food-preparation skills. Recovery takes time. I’m still getting comfortable with eating a variety of foods out in public, and most nights Robert comes home prepared to feed himself, or both of us. He’s picked up dinner; I eat a healthy salad with all the foods that scare me: protein, cheese, dressing. I show him my favorite covid-19 meme of the day: “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.” We sit on the couch and share a roll of Spree candies from the secret stash.

Spree candies? Gobstoppers? Nerds? If I had a candy-binging disorder, I’d at least go in for something that tasted good, like Hershey with almonds or Three Musketeers.

Robert makes a smoothie and offers me one. I had planned on another protein bar but allow myself to veer from the plan. I add flaxseed and some organic superfood powder to mine, and immediately start counting the calories.

Flaxseed? Why do humans eat flaxseed? No wonder she’s anorexic.

I attend my first virtual wine and cheese party and drink and talk too much. I find I have a hard time waiting for my turn to talk on Zoom. I should have left the wine bottle in the kitchen. I should have had some cheese….

I wake up with a hangover.

That’s the problem with moscato, lady.

The phone rings. Another friend has hit his edge: a new puppy in the house, an expanded job description, no friends nearby, his mother out shopping and a cabinet full of his favorite wine. He gets another call from another friend coming over to help. My stomach growls, and I think about dinner — not what I should eat, but what I want to eat, what my body, not by brain, wants in it.

Finally, Day Seven arrives:

On a walk with [pet dog] Laser, I pick up some rocks to paint. Yes, this is what it’s come to. A few nights ago, I flipped through a book I got in treatment, “A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness.” It has a lesson in rock painting. When I get home I show Robert the rocks, and he orders acrylic pens.

Whew! A whole week! Now for Week Two, when Long runs out of Sprees and Robert runs off with the chick with the trampoline.

Now, I know that eating disorders–that uniquely female affliction–are real enough. Mine is Cheez-its, so I don’t keep them in the house. But you know? One way to cope with coronavirus quarantine–or any other of the First World problems you might be experiencing in your comfy home with an employed husband of infinite, saintlike patience, is to spend a few minutes every day thinking about something else besides how much and how exquisitely you are suffering.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

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