During recovery, setbacks happen. An eating disorder works in the mind in such a way that to recover fully requires a complete reversal of the way in which you viewed yourself, food, exercise, etc. And that is no easy task, nor one that happens without struggle.
And while no one relishes the thought of relapse or wants to deal with it in any capacity, it is often a reality of recovering from an eating disorder.
Is relapsing with an eating disorder failure?
If you are working through eating disorder recovery and find yourself struggling with a relapse, the first thing to remember is you are not a failure. Recovery is hard, eating disorders play nasty tricks on your mind and establishing a new lifestyle is a learning process.
What it does mean is that you have the chance to reflect, make changes in your life and identify triggers.
What do you do when you relapse with an eating disorder?
While no one ever has the intention of relapsing, sometimes intrusive thoughts regarding food, weight or eating routines can arise. In these situations, it’s helpful to have a plan or resources in place that can help stop the progression of a relapse or get you back on your feet.
Don’t dwell on the relapse — Again, recovery is challenging, and while relapsing is discouraging, dwelling on it or beating yourself up for it isn’t going to help. Instead, acknowledge that the relapse occurred, do your best to reflect and learn from it and move on.
Contact your counselor — If you have relapsed, or even are just in the early stages of relapse, reach out to your counselor or therapist right away. They can offer you support, coping mechanisms and next steps that you mightn’t have thought of on your own. Additionally, they can talk with you about what caused it and help with prevention techniques to avoid future eating disorder relapse.
Take the time to reflect on your triggers — Depending on where in your recovery journey you find yourself, you might not be fully aware of all the people, places, conversations or things which can trigger disordered thinking and/or eating. One of the good outcomes a relapse might have is the chance to learn more about what you find triggering. The more aware of these triggers you are, the more likely you’ll stay away from them or simply be prepared for them.
Plaster your wall with mantras and quotes — There are so many quotes out there that you might find inspiration from. Words are powerful and have the ability to remind you of truths you want to hold on to. Tthey might remind you of your strength and courage even in difficult times. They could help you work through intrusive thoughts and provide motivation. If quotes help you, pick a few of your favorites and put them in visible places where you’ll see them frequently.
Remember why you’re recovering, not why you want to quit — During the harder parts of recovery it can be tempting to think only about the reasons you want to give it up. However, this will only discourage you further, and really it’s the ED talking, not you. When this happens, remind yourself why you started recovery and why it’s important to keep going.
Do some self care — Self care looks different for everyone, so only you know how best to take care of yourself when you’re struggling. Maybe it’s reading a book, laying out in the sun in a hammock, hiking in a nearby national forest or watching a movie with friends. No matter what it is, take the time to prioritize caring for yourself as you get back on track in recovery.
Reach out to your support system — While it’s never easy to admit to the people you love that you experienced a setback, if they’re dedicated to you and your recovery, they won’t judge you. Rather, they will likely be very supportive, encouraging you to ask them for help however you need it during this time. Therefore, when you need it most, make sure you take advantage of your support network.
Consider eating disorder treatment
Eating disorder treatment centers, including Seeds of Hope, have various levels of care that determine the proper treatment based on the needs of each client. If you feel like you need supportive care while working through an eating disorder relapse, or have never received treatment of any kind, contact Seeds of Hope to speak with an ED therapist today.