During this pandemic women write they fear they are having an eating disorder relapse. They report that they are binge eating. They report that they are worthless and doomed to failure. They do not recognize recovery in action.
If you are feeling eating disorder storms and believe you are in the midst of an eating disorder relapse, you can learn to respond with recovery thinking.
Eating disorder relapse thinking
Wanting to take action and taking action are very different. Feelings andthoughts, familiar from when you were dominated by an eating disorder go like this:
- "I want to quit therapy."
- "I want to throw furniture around the room"
- "I want to tear up all the loose paper in my house."
- I want to cry in the corner and not pick up my children from school."
- "I want to scream at my husband in restaurants."
- "I want to run, yelling, out of my house in the middle of the night."
- "I want to binge."
- "I want to cut myself."
- "I want to throw up."
- "I want to zone out in front of the tv with piles of food."
Not taking action means you are bearing your feelings. You are moving beyond your comfort zone partially created by your eating disorder.Every moment you feel these "wants" and don't act out you are getting stronger. You are meeting areas in your heart, psyche and soul that need TLC as you learn what helps you to grow beyond these primitive ways of finding costly relief.
Is it an eating disorder relapse if you want to act out?Just because you want to do something doesn't mean you have to. Emotional storms pass. When it does, if you can bear your feelings and not act out, you won't have to deal with a messy aftermath. You'll feel good about yourself. Plus, you'll be that much stronger and healthier for your next challenge.
Is it a relapse if you act out for a day or two?
Not necessarily. If you have recovery for a substantial period of time and then find yourself acting out you are getting a powerful signal that self understanding and psychological work is needed. Acting out doesn't have to mean you are back where you were.
Your eating disorder relapse probably indicates that during this pandemic you are experiencing new kinds of stresss. You are experiencing frustration, or anger or anxiety that comes from new and different challenges. In your past recovery work you brought yourself to where you could be stable, confident and clear of your eating disorder behaviors in your normal life.
But life is not normal now. Your psyche will reach for familiar coping mechanisims to deal with your suffering.
But the recovery work you've done is still with you. Your eating disorder thinking and actual behaviors are signals that you need to address new challenges through personal growth and understanding.
This is a time to go back to your recovery work. Journal. Write down your dreams. Get back into psychotherapy for a while.
Use your eating disorder relapse as a strong signal that you psyche wants help. And give yourself the help you need. Knowing how to respond to an eating disorder relapse means you recognize your needs and how to provide yourself with what your psyche calls for now.
This is a sign, not of eating disorder relapse, but of ongoing recovery thinking and self-care.
Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice serving California, Arizona, Florida, Utah and Oregon.
Author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder.
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