I went out this past weekend for the first time since March – met some friends at a park on a beautiful summer evening, six feet apart. I was experiencing anxiety on my walk there. It’s as though this time in quarantine has left me forgetting how to relate to and converse with others.
But it was also this pressure I was feeling about this supposed “big reveal” I was walking into. Having not seen or been seen by anyone other than my core circle for the past many months felt overwhelming – like a first date on steroids, yet with people who know me well. Strange. COVID-19 has taken so much away – what we know, what we trust, how we are to behave. It was this moment which, in some ways, mirrored the time long ago when in my recovery I would step back out into the world after having been in harm with myself for so long. I remember then always feeling so anxious about what others would think about me when I resurfaced. What did I look like? How do I behave? What do I say? Where have I been? All the questions – the assumed judgements (really, the self-judgements) that would arise within.
We’re in this very interesting time of self-reveal. Everyone is. Everyone is stepping back out into the world. Everyone is going to be facing what it means to be seen again. And though it is exciting and relieving, it is also frightening. We’re also stepping back out into the world in summer now. No winter coats, no big sweaters, no scarves, no hats, nothing to protect us. Summer quite naturally exposes us all – it takes off all our literal layers and forces us to be seen – so we’re facing this time now of compounding reveal.
As a clinical therapist and founder of an eating disorder recovery centre, also as a person recovered from an eating disorder, I am on the frontlines for those facing fears around their “big reveal” – at all times. When you’re affected by an eating disorder though, summer alone is deeply triggering. Having to move around the world in less clothing, your body is exposed, feeling hot and sweaty; seeing your true reflection in all that you pass by. Summer evokes immense vulnerability and, as a result, often leads people to want to hide or want to engage in their eating disorder harm so they can remain hidden. This year summer has an even bigger bite – COVID-19 – and the isolation and hiding that it has enabled, making the reveal this summer extra challenging.
Once I found my friend-circle in the park, got seen and saw them, said my hellos, air-hugged, expressed the missing that has been. I parked my blanket down and began catching up, the anxiety settled and it all started to feel normal. I started to feel normal. Just like the way I did long ago in my recovery when I had to face a certain food again that had been “bad” for so long, or putting on a bathing suit for the first time of the season, or walking around in shorts and a tank top, or knowing how to be with people again after becoming used to not being. It’s confronting those fears – perhaps again and again and again – having those “big reveals,” until eventually, they all have less power over you.
More Insight: You might also like this insightful article on the extremes of diet culture.
Author: Kyla Fox has established herself as a visionary and innovator, when it comes to re-framing the way people think about and treat, eating disorders. As someone who struggled herself with an eating disorder, Fox identified care gaps and fundamental flaws in the treatment and recovery approach. Kyla is a Master’s level clinician with degrees from both the University of Toronto in the Master’s of Social Work program as well as an Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Women’s Studies. Kyla is a member of the Ontario Association of Social Workers and is registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. She is also a member of the Academy of Eating Disorders and the National Eating Disorders Association. You can find her online here.