An inevitable part of recovery for most people is thoughts about relapse.
For many people that doesn’t materialise, however for a lot of us unfortunately those thoughts and feelings become too difficult to ignore and we end up back down the rabbit hole again. I get these thoughts a lot. They come and go, and I can go a number of weeks without them really entering my mind to another few weeks where it’s all I can think about, and its a relatively cyclical process for me. Although there have undoubtedly been some lapses whilst I have been in recovery, none of these have turned into a full relapse, and I am proud of myself for managing to avoid that. There are a few things that occur during the thought process that stops me going backwards, so I thought it might be helpful to share some of them for anybody who is in a similar position.
Relapse is not going to solve your problems
Whatever difficulties are going on in your life, your eating disorder is not going to fix them. No matter what it says, it’s not going to make you happier or cleverer or more relaxed or more attractive. It’s not going to cure your imposter syndrome or give you the sense of achievement you’re chasing. It’s not going to make you kinder or nicer to be around, people aren’t going to like you more as a result of it. Relapse is never going to be the answer to your problems.
If you relapse you’ll just have to start again
I know that every time I have relapsed I’ve regretted it and wished I was well again. I know that. Despite how much I struggle to believe it sometimes, I do know that it’s true. So I try to remind myself that all that will happen is I’ll be right back in the same position again. I’ll be sick and wishing I was better, and having to put all that hard work in all over again from the very beginning, and I just can’t do that to myself again.
Anorexia doesn’t make you happy
Not in the long run. Once the weight loss buzz gets shorter and shorter lived and the consequences start catching up to you, that’s when you’ll remember. I can’t deny that I feel happy when I lose weight, but it lasts for barely a few seconds before I’m chasing that feeling again the next day. And the rest of it makes me so miserable: the isolation, the anxiety, the exhaustion. I know relapse isn’t going to bring me the fulfilment that I am looking for.
You are strong
If you’re strong enough to have started the recovery journey, you’re strong enough to be able to resist the urges. Every single stage of recovery is difficult it its own way, but getting started is truly one of the hardest parts for me, and knowing I was able to do that reminds me that I can withstand whatever it demands of me now that I have some distance between me and my eating disorder.
You care about other people
This is a big one for me. I hate who anorexia turns me into, I become selfish and manipulative and unpleasant to be around. I know that I am not the person that people want me to be and it’s not fair of me to keep putting the people who care about me through this process over and over again. I care about the people around me and I don’t want to hurt them anymore, and that is more important to me than my illness.
The future you want isn’t compatible with anorexia
I spent a long time discussing this in therapy last time I was in treatment. I can’t hold onto anorexia and have a successful career and travel and do fun things with my friends if I am sick. I’ve tried it, it just doesn’t work. It’s easy when you’re in recovery to look back and think ‘it wasn’t that bad’ but I know that I wasn’t able to work, or go on holiday, or spend time with people I care about, and that’s not a life I want to live.
I hope maybe some of these suggestions are helpful. Remember, urges do pass, you just have to ride them out. You’ve got this.