I want to talk to you about Relapse today…don’t panic though it’s not because I am in the midst of one, although I still don’t know how I define where I am in the scheme of my Eating Disorder. Relapse is one of those things that scares me more than I like to admit. When I talk about the prospect of it out loud, I tell the people around me that it’ll just be one of those things. It’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. Yet despite how many times I have dismantled myself, it still terrifies me. Partly I think because I know how quickly it can happen and how within the space of a few weeks (if not less) you can find yourself back at square one trying to figure out how to eat a slice of bread. For me, it’s worse than when I initially became unwell because there is insight this time. There is the knowledge of how much it hurts physically and emotionally to come back from a damaged body, and I use that word damaged in it’s every possible implication, that’s mentally, spiritually, physically, socially…basically all the allys. There is an awareness to an extent. You’ve watched before as this illness has ravaged both yourself and your family. You know that it’s going to impact everyone yet this time it seems worse because you gave them hope that it was all over and you are well but as soon as they think they can breathe again, it turns out they can’t because they are witnessing you start the process of killing yourself all over again. They also know, just as you do that this is not some little diet gone too far or a phase that’s gotten out of hand, which is possibly what everyone (including you) was saying the first time round.
When I first became unwell, I didn’t realise how fully it was going to turn everything upside down. In the beginning I convinced myself that I was not going to suffer any consequences. I refused to believe that I was ill. I refused to consider the idea that I may have let things get out of control. Despite how long I had been living with an Eating Disorder, the reality didn’t hit until the first time I went into treatment. I was heading into the unknown that first time but I think everyone around me was hopeful that some actual treatment would fix me. We were all lying to ourselves. It’s easy to do that the first time round. There is nothing like an attempt at recovery to bring out the brutality of an Eating Disorder which is why even when you think that you have a grip on it, it’s still there creeping underneath waiting for your defences to drop. That’s when you relapse and that’s also when you start to begin to hear your lies. This isn’t a minor issue. This isn’t going to just go away. Relapse is a double blow, not only do you have to have that voice of the eating disorder raging in your mind but you also have your own inner dialogue telling you how much of a failure you are now. Physically it’s also worse. It takes less time and weight loss to throw your body out of whack. The stress of changing your shape and size takes more of a toll, you confuse your body, you don’t let it be able to trust you. You don’t even have a healthy starting baseline anymore because even if you have weight restored, your body remembers the damage for some time afterwards. It’s not as quick to forgive as you might want to believe. Reaching a healthy number does not mean that you are internally completely healed.
I think what scares me the most about Relapse is that when I am in one I feel breakable, like someone could blow on me and I would scatter into a million pieces. I feel like I am watching a disaster scene in slow motion with morbid fascination and I can’t runaway. I can’t close my eyes to it. It scares me because it always feels like I have a limited amount of times I can rebuild myself and eventually there is a belief that I will run out of resources to do so.
Yet I haven’t figured out how to stop a relapse from happening. All I do know is that for now the idea of having to refeed for a fourth time is what stops me from thinking it would be a good idea to just let go and give up. I may not know how to keep myself well yet for an extended period of time but the fear of Relapse, of putting myself through such a shit and dark time again knowing full well that the outcome will never change is something that I’m going to have to go with.
Your Eating Disorder will not change it’s game plan. I don’t care if it’s the second or the tenth time round, the sooner you realise that, the sooner you accept that every time you give in it will hurt you and not save you then maybe that’s how you stop a relapse. That’s what I am still trying to understand.
I hope your day is kind to you.