Ever Present: The Potential to Relapse
Last June, I hit a milestone in my life with the celebration of my 40th birthday. Since then, it has been an interesting 7 months or so of reflection, soul searching, tears, and pondering how I am going to spend the next half plus years of my life. American actress Jane Fonda describes aging as having 3 acts, just like a theatre play (for more details check out her TEDTalk). I like that way of labeling these transitions of aging. I suppose that being 40 puts me in Act II of my life, where I have developed a keen desire to understand myself better, to find my life’s purpose (yes, I’m still searching), and to ultimately live up to my potential (whatever that may be). But in the corner of my mind, while I reflect on the meaning and next steps in my life, lurking in the shadows are some familiar voices – those damn eating disorder thoughts.
I have been in recovery for almost 20 years and have been calling myself a survivor ever since. Honestly, I thought I had put to rest any unhealthy attitudes and behaviours towards food and exercise when I retired from the sport that was a catalyst for my eating disorder and received help (for more on my ED story, click here). Then I hit this milestone and I started to review and notice that life has presented a few challenges in this second act:
- Career transition from corporate work to entrepreneurship in the Health and Wellness industry
- Significant changes and dietary restrictions to family meals due to one of my children having allergies to gluten, dairy, and egg
- Seeking alternative approaches to my own health issues, which involves restricting certain foods
- Registering my children, at their request, for the same sport that spurred my own problems with eating, exercise, and weight (LOTS of conflicting feelings with this one)
Looking at the above list, it is no wonder that those eating disorder thoughts have resurfaced and yet, I am still surprised by them. I have come a long way from my initial breakdown when I first admitted I had a problem, to getting help, to now being able to function as a mother-wife-daughter-sister-friend-coach. But I find myself asking:
- At what point can you call yourself an eating disorder survivor?
- At what point, can you say with 100% certainty that you will not relapse?
The potential to relapse, I am discovering, is ever present no matter how much time has passed, no matter how much you have removed yourself from the identity of being someone who has an eating disorder. I guess the difference is in the fact that I am not acting on those thoughts, that I am resisting the illusion of what the eating disorder behaviours can do for me. Perhaps that is a victory in itself. Perhaps that is the work I need to focus on in my 2nd Act.
Michelle Pitman is the founder and head coach at Define Me, where clients are encouraged to find their own path to personal health and wellbeing. Using her 10-plus years of corporate management experience, certifications in personal training and a RYT-200 hour yoga instructor designation, Michelle teaches weekly classes at a local studio, offers private and small group coaching and can also be found facilitating workshops in professional settings on topics such as self-care, stress management and an intuitive approach to wellness.
Michelle currently serves as Vice President International for The Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) - the founding organization of the Health at Every Size ® principles. It is these principles that encompass Michelle’s professional and personal experiences.