I thought I’d recovered from my eating disorder. I really thought I had, and I’m generally not into self-deception. But I think I was either lying to myself or I misunderstood the concept of recovery. Probably some of both.
I think I was defining “recovery” as “my ED is no longer the only thing I think, feel, or do.” See, my last bad relapse, the one that got me sent to Riggs, that relapse was all-consuming. Before that, I’d always still been functional alongside my ED. That time, though, it was my whole life. It was also the first ED episode anyone noticed (despite years of suffering before that), so I thought it was the only one that counted as a real eating disorder.
So when the ED stopped being my entire existence, I called that Recovery. I thought I’d found the holy grail of treatment: I was Fully Recovered. I was weight-restored, ate what I wanted when I wanted without a bunch of ugly feelings, and didn’t spend all day and night purging. I was Recovered.
Only I wasn’t. You can still be symptomatic even if that’s not your whole life. When I really hated myself, I restricted, even if it was only for a few days at a time. When anxiety and stress overwhelmed me, I purged. I had a full-blown bulimia relapse in Boston, but I discounted it because I pulled myself out of it after four or five mo this, without external intervention. When I moved to Northampton, I was purging a fair bit. It was intermittent, mostly in reaction to the stress of my relationship with Ex, and no one ever even knew. So that didn’t count either. I was still Recovered.
I’m not sure what exactly triggered the current restrictive relapse. Part of it was getting my back treated, being able to exercise again after six years, and the weight loss that resulted naturally from that. Part of it was having to cut dairy out of my diet. A large part of it was feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with life. And yes, a small part was my discomfort with being overweight–but only a small part.
This feels more like a “real” relapse to me. Probably in part because restriction = weight loss = attention = validation. People are worried, so that must mean my pain is real. I also have the numerical validation of dropping numbers on the scale. At least you can do THIS right, Sara. You’ve always been a prodigy at self-destruction.
Maybe I wasn’t vigilant enough when I should’ve been eternally guarding against relapse–but then where’s the time and space for living? Maybe I never had a solid enough definition of recovery to accurately define relapse. I don’t know.
I just know I need help, and in the morning I probably won’t even know that.