Relapses in eating disorder recovery are a very common part of the recovery process. This journey is filled with stops and starts; steps forward and steps backward; renewed motivation and giving into the eating disorder; hope and hopelessness; falls and victories. One may forge ahead for a time, then become ambivalent and give only reserved efforts. After a period of success, one may lose that initial resolve and get stuck or even relapse. It’s no wonder we get discouraged, question why we try and sometimes even give up.
Relapses in eating disorder recovery may be overwhelming, but I don’t want this article to sound negative. I just describe recovery in this fashion to assure you that if you’ve experienced relapses, you are not alone. Please be patient with yourself and understand that what you’re going through is very common. Eating disorders are complicated so it only stands to reason that breaking free of them is a difficult and sometimes perplexing process.
Relapses are something I’ve experienced myself, so I comprehend how difficult the steps backward and even the falls can be for a person. I basically went from half-hearted efforts to giving into the eating disorder during much of the time I was anorexic. Breaking free of the life of self-destruction seemed impossible to me, and I didn’t want to go to all of that hard work only to relapse again. I realize it’s different for everyone, but I’ll just say that for me, it was the determination to recover like I hadn’t had before as well as leaning on God like I hadn’t before that made recovery possible.
So, stops and starts, victories and relapses – what can be done? Here are some things to keep in mind to help you work through the challenging times.
1. Give yourself permission to have a less than perfect recovery experience. It’s okay to struggle and even to fall sometimes.
2. As frustrating as it can be, realize that the back and forth thinking is just part of the process. Going from wanting to recover to not wanting to recover is normal. If you weren’t trying at all, you wouldn’t be frustrated, so give yourself a pat on the back for trying.
3. Learn from the steps backward, the falls and the relapses. Examine what caused them and use those insights to do what you can to prevent them from happening again. You can then come out of these experiences stronger and more prepared for upcoming challenges.
4. Focus on the steps forward in your recovery. Concentrate on the positive things you’ve done.
5. Do your best not to beat yourself up when you get stuck or even when you step backward. Recovering from your eating disorder is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. Give yourself credit for the courage to try.
6. Remember that your eating disorder didn’t appear overnight and it won’t go away easily. Give yourself time to address the complicated issues that make up an eating disorder.
7. Ask the Lord to help you rise out of relapses, be patient with yourself, give you insights about what happened, and to strengthen you to face upcoming challenges.
Learn what you can from your relapses and come out stronger. Let God help you get back on track. Remember that He wants only the best for you so you can trust Him with your recovery concerns. Be gentle with yourself and celebrate your victories.
To get even more help and encouragement, consider getting the Deal with Relapses lesson in the Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course.
By Laurie Glass