A few weeks ago, I could see other countries struck hard from coronavirus. I had just returned from a whirlwind trip to Iowa for Eating Disorders Awareness Week. As I was catching up, gearing up for a busy spring, I could see things were already changing.
Within 24 hours I had lost two major sources of income. And knew another was on the way.
Projects that I had been working on were so exciting and fun were suddenly paused. It suddenly dawned on me this was far beyond my control.
Control: This spiraled from my grasp with the realization that it was never mine to hold. This is what I learned in recovery—but when things start spiraling out of my ability to stop them, for a brief moment, I think I’m the one pulling the strings. I yanked tight like a pulling back on a horse harness, yelling “Whoa.”
But this COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped and for us in the United States; by all indications we have a long road ahead.
This was hard to take—as I was thinking things were really going well. And I was angry about the universe’s timing.
The sky was falling in a very real way. Since that week, the schools in my town closed. FOR. A. MONTH. (And probably longer). In my homestate of New Jersey there are curfews and the closure of restaurants and bars in my town. Friends have lost their jobs. Others were losing their businesses.
As I pondered this word control, I thought about the Serenity Prayer. And while, my recovery was not 12 Step based, I have always found it very useful, particularly the line asking, "To have the courage to change the things I can."
I took out my journal to start a list. This is one of my favorite things to do to find order in chaos.
I made the title of this list: Things I CAN do.
To make sure we had enough but not too much food. And toilet paper. I went back to basics, making sure I planned (like PPRE) what was going to be made for the next two weeks so I wouldn’t have to leave my home unnecessarily.
The gym was going to close so I needed a plan to battle my anxiety with a daily walk or movement. Fortunately, hiking is one of the few things you CAN still do out there.
Without my co-working space open, I’d have to find online community. I made as many Zoom calls as possible and reached out to online support systems. I found support in the online parent groups for my kids' schools (who are now navigating the role of being homeschooling teachers) and with those who have eating disorders via channels such as Binge Eating Connection
I decided I could check the news in the morning and in the evening—and NOT in between. I didn’t have to wake up and look at my phone in the middle of the night.
I made sure my mom, in-laws and friends who isolated early knew that I cared about them and was happy to help. When I took a walk, I dropped off some shelf-stable items at the local food pantry’s front door.
By making this list, I realized releasing control isn’t about letting go of hope. It is changing the things I can. And that can give me power in an otherwise chaotic time.
I hope you’re well in this chaotic time and that you also find the ways to have courage to change the things you can.
Kara Richardson Whitely
is the author of "Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds," "Weight of Being" and is an executive producer on an upcoming project.
She serves as an Eating Recovery Center Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate. You can follow her journeys on Instagram