falling into relapse and getting out
Slipping away from being in a state of recovery is a relapse. It means resorting to old, unconscious ways of coping - like over-eating, under-eating, or over-exercising (to name by a few) - to get by tough situations. To helps to numb out difficult or uncomfortable feelings. Can you relate?
In times of struggle, stress or change, the walls that you have slowly chipped away at in your efforts of recovery, slowly rebuild back again - sometimes without you even realising. Before you know it, the walls are back up and you can't see over them. The truth that was beginning to shine through is now dimmed behind a wall of defences and maladaptive coping strategies.
Or, to use another analogy as in my previous short article, you have started to peek into the box. You have been holding onto that box for years, slowly adding things into it that you don't want to deal with. It becomes heavier and heavier as you add more and more comfortable moments, experiences and thoughts to it. But you've bravely started to look inside, removing these items out of the box. It becomes lighter and who knows, maybe you're ready to put that box down and walk away without it. But before you know it, that box is heavy once more, and you're dragging it behind you, trudging along, unable to shake it off. Can you relate?
Will I ever recover? Will I ever be able to have a normal relationship with food or exercise? For how long will I be able to maintain a healthy weight with a regular period before things get difficult again and I resort to old patterns? 6 months? 12 months? 5 years? It feels like I'm constantly walking a thin tightrope and if I take one tiny step out of line, things fall apart and I'm back to square one. This usually means a loss of my menstrual cycle, weight loss, food restriction, acne breakouts, heightened anxiety around social situations that involve food, increased body dysmorphia, decreased energy levels, lower self-worth, and a lack of interest in sex. It also means increased sessions with my dietician, and being told what to eat like I am the inpatient again back in the clinic. It means my therapist is more concerned, resulting in feelings of shame and guilt like a little school girl having done something wrong.
When I moved cities, about four months ago, to a new job and home with no real friends, things were shaken up - naturally. I thought I was coping until I lost my period after the first month, indicating that maybe things weren't as hunky dory as I thought. I thought I was coping but my body was telling otherwise.
Getting back on the train of recovery hasn't been easy. Every day is a conscious choice. There were days where I just wanted to hold onto that box so badly, build up walls and never emerge again. There were days where I felt I was playing an unfair game, for I was trying to get back to a healthy weight but I wasn't seeing any results. And then there were days where I was so inspired to get my health back that I just wanted to sing and dance with joy. Those were the days I felt alive and happy, and grateful to have such an amazing network of people who have supported me over the last ten years or so to help me get to a point where I can choose recovery over relapse.
It took about three months to bleed again - and it happened on the vibrant, energetic fullness of the full moon. Getting my period meant that not only did I manage to get back to a healthy weight, it meant that the dust was beginning to settle.
My new home is starting to feel like home.
My new job isn't feeling as overwhelming.
I have found a group of people I can call friends.
Being at a healthy weight is not simply a biological thing or a science. It's a representation of how high that wall is, or how tightly you are holding onto that box. The lower the wall and the lighter the grip, the more open you are. It's scarier being more exposed but it's easier for the truth within to shine through.
If you're going through recovery right now, I hope these words help. Please share with others who you think may benefit. Also, please read my thoughts on recovery from eating disorders here and how I have healed my acne while going through an eating disorder here.