How to Handle a Relapse

I have been recovered from my eating disorder for 15 months. I have not had bouts of starving myself. I haven’t restricted myself in any way. And before this weekend, I had dodged all thoughts of a full on out-of-control binge.

I am here to tell you that even though you may be completely recovered from constant dieting or disordered eating, it is very possible (and maybe even likely) that you will have some sort of relapse at some point. It’s normal. It’s probably pretty much expected. I am shocked that it has taken me 15 months to get to this point actually. The key to handling a relapse is how you get out of it. How you recover. And even more importantly, how long it takes you to realize that this doesn’t mean the eating disorder has control of you again.

Let me tell you what happened. The other night, I was feeling down. I had disappointed my partner for something I didn’t have a whole lot of control over. I was feeling very overwhelmed by the fact that I had disappointed her once again, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I would have exercised or done something similar to divert my attention somewhere else, but I just wasn’t feeling well. So the low feelings I was experiencing had nowhere to go.

So I turned to food. And a lot of it. It’s what I’ve always known. Without exercise, I have no other coping mechanisms. I didn’t actually realize I was going through an out of control binge until I was standing in the kitchen eating without tasting the food. I didn’t taste it. I couldn’t stop eating. I just didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling anymore, so I tried all I could to replace that feeling with food. Let me tell you – it didn’t work. Not only did I feel like absolute crap for all the food I had eaten, but I still felt guilty for disappointing my honey.

I will admit that the night of the binge, I don’t believe there was anything I could do about it. I got through the binge. I ate as much as I could, and finally I passed out around 3:00am. Yes, it was a long night filled with a lot of negative feelings. I couldn’t believe I was in that place once again.

Waking up the next morning brought on some horrible memories. I thought about going the whole day without eating to counteract the binge, just as I would have done in the past. I started off with a couple cups of coffee. My honey had to get them for me, as I couldn’t face the mess I had made in the kitchen the night before, and also I was afraid it would trigger another binge. I told her what happened so she would understand and not just think I was being a spoiled female who couldn’t get her own coffee.  Around 5 pm, I still hadn’t eaten. She told me I had to eat at some point. Regardless of how I felt, I couldn’t do the whole day without eating. That would just feed into my old habits. I knew she was right.

I was in no way in the mood to eat, but I forced myself to do it. I forced myself into the new healthy habits I had learned to adapt to in the last 15 months.

I’m so glad I did. Sure, maybe I don’t feel great about it physically, but mentally, I’m happy to have eaten dinner when all I wanted to do was skip all food for the day. And this morning I will workout. I will go to the gym like normal. I will eat my oatmeal for breakfast. And I will have a mid-morning snack and lunch. Life will be back to normal.

In the middle of a relapse, you have to ask yourself these questions:

* What was my life like back when I was engaging in these bad habits before?

* Do I want that old life back?

* Was I happy with those poor habits?

* Is this temporary “happiness” something I could live with on a long-term basis?

It’s just not worth it, is it? I could have easily fed into it all. Could have rounded off my night of bingeing with a day of starving. Just like the “good ol’ days.”

A relapse is not the end of the world. It is to be expected after years and years of bad habits and rituals. For me, maybe this is a wake-up call that perhaps I need an alternative way to divert my attention for when I’m not feeling well enough to workout.

Have you ever relapsed back to a bad habit? How did you get back on the bandwagon?

*Note: In no way am I claiming to be an expert on this topic. This is my first relapse since I have been recovered, so I actually don’t know a lot on the subject. I don’t pretend to know a lot. I only speak from my one experience. Please offer feedback in the comments down below about your experience with relapsing and how you were able to turn it around and get back on the right track. Like I have said before, this is our journey. We are in this together, as I am still learning.

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