Setbacks will happen, because life happens.
Whether you are just starting recovery or have been on the the path for some time setbacks are inevitable.
It’s okay. It doesn’t mean you can’t recover, I absolutely believe recovery is possible.
But not preparing for setbacks is setting yourself up to fall. After all perfectionism is part of the issue right?!
I am happy that I will one day consider “succeeding at anorexia” as my biggest failure. A setback or relapse does not mean you have failed at recovery.
Setbacks teach you things and pave the way for what might be ahead. They prepare you for a fulfilled life without your eating disorder.
I’m hoping my latest setback will help you.
I’m not ashamed I momentarily took my foot off the recovery pedal. It happened, I’m back in control and wiser for it.
Why did it happen?
Well if you’ve read any of my previous posts you will know I am a firm believer that eating disorders have a strong neurobiological component fueled by energy deficit. Energy deficit being the match to the flame if you like. The physical and psychological symptoms that follow being the fire that is contributed by everything else such as environment, stress etc. The important thing is the match in the genetically vulnerable.
I have just finished a set of night shifts. Night shifts to the average person without a history of an eating disorder can reap havoc on health, both physically and mentally. They disrupt your natural circadian rhythms, they can be socially isolating and routine can become difficult.
I’ve worked shifts for years. I know it’s a time where previously I have allowed my eating disorder to thrive. Therefore, armed with this knowledge I planned to avoid falling into the trap of my eating disorder.
Knowing I cannot allow myself to slip into energy deficit I made preparations to attempt to combat this. I ate more before work and before I slept, I planned out snacks to take with me.
But life happened. I missed some breaks and a few snacks. I was lacking sleep and so my appetite was lacking, I hadn’t made self care and routine a priority.
I didn’t think much of it in the craziness of the shifts, but when I found myself unable to eat 3 meals a day when I came off my shifts I knew I had slipped.
I haven’t had “fear foods” for sometime.
I haven’t thought about engaging in disordered behaviors such as concealing what I was/ or wasn’t eating, for months.
I haven’t listened to the voice tearing me to shreds in the mirror for the longest time ever.
But suddenly it was all there I was right back in it. I found myself wanting to control my intake, to compensate for every “ unhealthy” choice I was making. I recognised a familiar welcome feeling of emptiness that in truth I had actually forgotten. The emptiness euphoria made me contemplate giving up on recovery. After all if I’ve fallen so easily after so long, what’s the point in continuing? The intense draw to the scales returned, I had to fight to not give in to the temptation. I know that no number on that scale would have had any importance, but to my eating disorder it would have been used as firewood.
I danced with the temptation of a full blown relapse. However, I reminded myself it was all lies. If I didn’t put this match out I’d be amidst a wild fire that only wants to destroy.
I needed help. I needed support. I’m not ashamed of that.
My eating disorder tried to make me carry the weight of shame. But that’s another reason I knew I needed to put the match out.
I enlisted support from my support network. I chose to let them in. For the few days following, making decisions around eating felt like an impossible task. The thoughts were so loud. I have now reinforced routine, I challenged the “fear foods” that re-emerged and I prioritised taking care of myself by resting, talking and eating. Instead of pulling myself apart and focusing on “failure” I’ve chosen to treat myself with compassion.
I feel back on track. Ive bounced back. With more knowledge and information for my next set of nights- I need to prepare further. I will carry more snacks on my person. I will increase my intake. Self care, such as yoga, journalling and talking each day will be a priority and not an after thought.
My tool kit is more substantial.
Recognising a slip is vital to enable you to seek help and the support you need.
Recognising it early can help you get out quickly.
It’s obvious to me these slips came from:
⁃ Skipping meals (no matter how innocent)
⁃ Eating in isolation.
⁃ Blasè attitude “no big deal”
These are known triggers for me. Knowing your triggers can help you prevent and identify potential setbacks/ relapses.
Preventing setbacks is not always possible.
But planning what to do in the event is key.
Make your relapse prevention plan. Update it with each learning experience.
Most of all- choose to get back on track. Choose to put the match out, don’t start the fire. A moment of struggle doesn’t mean failure. Be kind to yourself and keep going
Check these out:
Relapse prevention plan mirror-mirror: https://mirror-mirror.org/recovery/607-2
Relapse prevention/ recovery maintenance sheets from cci: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/-/media/CCI/Consumer-Modules/Overcoming-Disordered-Eating—Part-B/Overcoming-disordered-eating—09—Relapse-Prevention.pdf