How does an eating disorder relapse begin?
For years, my eating disorder left me starving for more than just food. During episodes of restriction, binging and purging, I was also starving to share the truth. I was coming to the realization that I was bulimic, but I lived in fear of being labelled crazy if I spoke out. So, instead, I told myself lies, which unchecked, was a secret that could have killed me in the long run. (read: Secrets in Eating Disorder Recovery)
Fighting to Prevent an Eating Disorder Relapse
An eating disorder relapse is never an impossibility, no matter how far along you are in recovery. Even though I’m recovered from bulimia and have not engaged in self-harm behavior (e.g. purging or binging) for five years +, I’m still no stranger to hitting a rough patch here and there. This past Spring, I was (and still am) grieving the loss of someone very close to me. For months, I’ve had to fight back against that little voice in my mind; that bully which started to creep up on me again. My trigger in this case was the sadness and helplessness that facing the death of a family member brought out.
In the weeks following that loss, I went back to my old patterns of trying to pretend I was okay, when I really was not. Luckily, my support network is better this time, but I still struggle to share with people who aren’t close family and friends that I’m not 100% okay. In the last few weeks, I became aware that my eating habits were becoming disorderly. You know the drill, it starts by subtle shifts: missing a meal, restricting during others or eating more than you normally would, etc. I consider these forms of self-harm and I knew I was heading down a slippery slope.
The little voice in my head was telling me I was lazy and weak for feeling the sadness I felt. I slept less, I cried a lot. I thought I looked like hell, yet I would put on a brave face. As you’ll notice, I still kept my daily routines. I went to work. I also continued to guest blog here. As before, I had become a magician, able to keep up appearances, while suffering inside. In my case, I’m almost too good at hiding how I feel inside; which delayed me obtaining the help I needed. Eventually, that disharmony only ended up feeding the dormant eating disorder.
A Humbling and Empowering Experience
Thankfully, my past experiences helped me block it from progressing to the point where I would binge and purge; I’d told myself many years ago I would never go back to that no matter what! But I’m sharing this to show that even recovered people will need to fight sometimes very hard to prevent an eating disorder relapse, but that with the right support, it doesn’t mean you have to. Actually, that I was able to face a hard event and not relapse, to me, was actually empowering.
The Key to Preventing an Eating Disorder Relapse
We’re taught from a young age to suck it up, to bite the bullet, to smile and do our best to have a good day. Yet, sometimes that works, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes life kicks you in the gut and it’s okay to be shell shocked and to not be okay for a while. And very often if you’re recovered or in recovery from anorexia or bulimia when that happens, the first thing that might be affected is your eating habits and your self-image. When that happens, I urge you to do whatever you need to avoid an eating disorder relapse. Call your mom, your dad, your husband/wife, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your friend, a helpline, ask for peer support, text someone! Just do whatever you need to do to get help and to avoid keeping your pain a secret. That’s what I did. I avoided a relapse, and the only reason I did is because I reached out to get support from my friends and family. I urge you to do the same. I would not be able to share my story with you today, at least not so soon, if I had not told others I was in over my head and couldn’t do it alone.