Re-emerging After the Pandemic with Gentleness

By Kara Richardson Whitely

Suddenly, things feel somewhat normal.

But I don’t. Do you?

I saw someone in real life walking into our community pool. Even though I had spent the last several months speaking to her weekly on Zoom, when I saw her in the flesh, I didn’t know what to say. I thought I should have been ecstatic with standing right in front of me. Instead, I froze with the nervousness of a middle schooler around the cool kids. I spent the next little while, wondering if I should have sent her an apology email for stammering over words.

The pandemic has been – and still is in many ways – a wringer on many people’s mental wellbeing. I’ve been vaccinated and things have been opening up, thrusting me out of isolation and back into life. As joyful as these steps forward have been, it has also been jarring in many ways.

Barbeques. Returning to office and travel. Unmasked at times, when I had hunkered down for more than a month. This is all very strange, after a very strange year.

People (myself included) deep into their recovery have struggled in the past more-than-a-year. I have found solace in the fact that I’m not alone.

I’ve had to relearn a good number of tools – and had to use them in different ways. Community, which was one of the hallmarks of my binge eating disorder recovery, was now online. I am a speaker and am used to in-person contact and sharing of my story. And all I had  was a screen.

During these past months, when I felt stuck or struggled, I reminded myself to be gentle. That’s what I’m trying to do in these coming months, as the rules and social expectations change.

So now, as we re-emerge from the pandemic lockdowns, I’m trying to offer myself the same grace. I’m trying to be:

  1. Gentle on my body, which didn’t move the same way as it had in years prior to the pandemic.
  2. Gentle on reconnecting, as being with people outside my circle has been good. But realizing that there were some people I was kind of glad I had to distance yourself from.
  3. Gentle on eating in public. I worked very hard to overcome feeling self conscious when eating at restaurants, so I’ve had to bolster up my internal script as I head back out to eat.
  4. Gentle on my anxiety, letting myself feel and take time to process these new steps forward.
  5. Gentle on myself as I start to manage our household calendar and the activities that have flooded my to-do list all over again.
  6. Gentle as I assess where I go from here and at what pace.

I wish you the same gentleness.

Kara Richardson Whitely, an Eating Recovery Center National Binge Eating Discovery Advocate, can be followed on Instagram @kararichardsonwhitely Her book Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds is being made into a movie with This Is Us actress Chrissy Metz producing and starring as her. 

Written by

Kara Richardson Whitely

Kara Richardson Whitely, an Eating Recovery Center Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate, is the author of Fat Woman on the Mountain and Gorge: My 300-Pound Journey Up Kilimanjaro, an honest and…

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