This can be a difficult time of year for those with disordered eating or eating disorders. There is still all of that pressure that follows a holiday season, all the after-effects. And then comes the talk in our culture about resolutions and 21- or 30-day challenges; weight goals; food and weight seems to be on everyone’s minds and it’s a big topic of conversation. Then comes discouragement, self-disparagement, disappointment and consuming thoughts about what to do next.
We hear a lot of people confessing to what they perceive as “slips” at this time of year, and sometimes those lapses turn into relapse. It’s never easy to come back from a relapse. You may feel embarrassed and ashamed, especially if you’ve had a period of long-term recovery or success. You may worry that the people around you won’t understand – and for good reason, because they maybe won’t.
That’s why relapse is such an important time to reach out for professional support. Even sooner, if possible. This is not the time to try to go it alone or punish yourself by isolating or continuing to suffer. That will just fan the fire and “feed” the relapse. Now is the time for self-compassion, and allowing someone else to help you.
If you’re returning from relapse, try these suggested steps:
- Seek the professional help of a therapist. The validation you will get there is such an important first step. The other people in your support system may not fully understand what you’re going through, and their confusion can just make things harder for you.
- Get checked out by your medical team, including your family doctor. Make sure that you’re safe and ready to heal on a physical level.
- Be gentle with yourself but fight the eating disorder with everything you’ve got. Don’t give up.
- Consider signing a relapse contract with yourself. Some people commit things like: I will be compassionate with myself.
- Look at what led to the relapse. What part, if any, was your responsibility? What was slipping prior to the actual relapse? Some people take an inventory of these slips as a form of self-assessment and reflection. From there, consider if there is something in your environment that needs to change, in order to prevent this from happening again.