New Normal: Life After Covid
When will things return to normal? What will normal even look like? Those questions are everywhere right now. We’re living in a world far different than one year ago. Turn on the news, hop on social media, or chat with a friend and I’m sure the topic of normalcy will come up. These are unprecedented times for the world, and especially for those of us battling eating disorders and mental illness.
The thought of normal elevates my anxiety. I cannot wait to see friends again and return to the office, but I can’t help but wonder how Jason 2.0 will adjust to normal. Whatever that may look like. My eating disorder and OCD infected my life prior to the pandemic but I never realized it until months into the lockdown. My mental health struggles grew alongside the case count until I hit rock bottom.
With my recovery now taking place during these unprecedented times, how will a return to normal impact that? What will recovery look like in the new normal? We’ve all changed, whether we’re battling mental illness or not. As a planner and someone with OCD, the thought of a new normal can cause the blood pressure to tick up.
I brought this topic up with my counselor recently. I worry about falling back into old behaviors, like strict eating and heavy drinking, once we return to this so-called normal. What will eating out be like? Will I find myself facing the same judges and demons of before? Or will I embrace my new found freedom? Could I relapse since I won’t be able to devote as much undivided attention to recovery? Will I actually be able to enjoy a social gathering with friends again without focusing on food?
Yes, there is a part of me that is excited about the prospects of returning to normal but I’m untested in some ways. Like a football team in a preseason game. I’ve been able to go through all the motions and practice in this current world we live in but what about the bigger games ahead? When life returns to normal.
While the pandemic exacerbated my orthorexia and OCD, it has also provided a safe environment to focus on recovery. I’ve tackled the unresolved pain from earlier days and developed the ability to have self-compassion in the safety of my own home. I’ve been fortunate enough to devote more time to myself with lesser work and social responsibilities. What happens next when I don’t have the same amount of time at home?
Normal will look different for me, which is terrifyingly exciting. I like to refer to myself now as Jason 2.0 because I’ve overcome so many obstacles in the past couple months. I am not recovered, but I am in recovery. It’s a beautiful thing. My pain from the early deaths of my parents and associated fallout has been addressed. My unhealthy obsession with food has been acknowledged. And most importantly I’ve learned to LOVE myself again. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the bad things happening in the world right now but on a personal level I love where my life is and where it’s heading. Yet the future, like always, remains unknown.
I am delighted to see all the individuals receiving their vaccinations. We are closer to emerging from the darkness of this pandemic and reuniting with friends and family. Yet, my heart beats a little faster knowing my place in line moves up with each administered dose. Normal is inching towards us like the slow push of a syringe.
We must be there to help individuals who developed eating disorders during the pandemic because they also face a new normal once this all over. But we cannot forget about the people like myself who entered recovery during the pandemic because some of our great challenges and obstacles lay ahead.
My questions about life after the pandemic are not new for many of us. We each face our own set of questions about the new normal. This is when I turn to those sacred words on the inside cover of my recovery journal.
TRUST the process. EMBRACE the process. And eventually ENJOY the process. Life after COVID-19 is just another step in our process. Whatever that may be for you. For myself, the end of the pandemic signals an opportunity to live life to the fullest and make up for lost time. Jason 2.0 can finally accomplish the things Jason 1.0 couldn’t. I still worry about the obstacles and challenges that the new normal will present but in the end all I can do is trust, embrace and enjoy!